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Jeff (or anyone else), a philosophical / political question (Read 382 times)

Scout7


CPT Curmudgeon

    If you happen to know, what is the generally accepted definition of Natural Law? I know what I have generally found to be a definition for it (that it basically springs from our natural state or being, and is therefore a commonality amongst all people), but I've run into slightly different descriptions of it. Also, if you're bored or have the time, I'd be interested in your take on Natural Law and the self-evident rights as laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Now, people, I'm not trying to rabble-rouse (for once). I'm just looking for an interesting conversation on a topic that I find to be interesting.
      Scout, I'm in the middle of writing a paper on this. I don't have much time now, but briefly: the natural law philosophers were inspired by the advances of modern science and emboldened to discover in human nature what science was uncovering in physical nature: universal laws. The hope was that if these laws could be uncovered, then they could serve as the foundation of just political law. If the laws of politics mirrored the laws of human nature, then they would be legitimate and not coercive. The self-evident truths of the Declaration were taken to be statements of natural law, and the idea of democracy was founded on the idea of a state whose laws would be founded on human nature, instead of, say, divine right or coercive power. The question today is: is there such a thing as "universal man" or "human nature?" Many critics of the notion of natural law have shown that what the founders took to be natural principles were inherited from religious traditions like Christianity. It also seems clear that in a global and pluralistic society, very few principles hold true across the board, so looking to the universal characteristics of man may be a kind of fantasizing that keeps us from noticing important particular differences, like race, class, gender, etc. The universal man of the enlightenment has none of these characteristics and so tends to cover over political struggles based on these ideas. So, what I would say is that the move to natural law was an advance in that it began asking political questions in democratic ways; the just state responds to the way folks are: their human nature. However, it has its dangers, particularly when one conception of human nature (i.e. the dream of the autonomous rational man) comes to dominate over actual, living people, most of whom care about different things than being rational, autonomous, or a man.
      Scout7


      CPT Curmudgeon

        Thanks, Jeff, I appreciate you taking the time (it's a full-time job being a hippie these days, I'm sure). And what you said makes perfect sense to me, especially the context of the when the document was written versus modern day issues. You laid out what my thoughts were, too, in terms of arguments against Natural Law. If we were at a bar together, we would have a great time, I can see it now. It'd be like my undergrad days all over again.