Talk:Natural law

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Vandalism? Acquinas' theological virtues[edit]

I'm pretty sure that someone vandalized this article:

"His theological virtues are:

Drew Whisler
Jay Pichler
Bob "

But i'm not sure what the correct virtues are. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 17:19, 6 December 2006 (UTC).


(There should be a more exact history of the natural law, e.g. that the idea first appeared in the Roman Law.)

other view[edit]

Should probably also mention that natural law is used by people such as Thomas Hobbes to justify political absolutism... the article right now doesn't cover that aspect. ~ Booyabazooka 01:26, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

transcendental or immanental? or both?[edit]

serious questions worth an answer:

considering that the unified field of all the laws of nature (the constitution of the universe) is exactly what theology calls holy spirit (god) which is the source of all, and is omnipresent (in the nucleus of every atom in the universe), omniscient (possessing total knowledge and wisdom), and omnipotent (able to manifest infinite creative potential), is there then any real valid difference between transcendental and immanental? and why not call the technique "transcendental meditation" by the term "immanental meditation" since everything is from within the mind anyway?

i personally like the sound of "nature's meditation", since the laws of nature and of nature's god is the fundamental basis for our own existence. what thinkest you?



I was curious as to whether there would be consensus regarding a reorganization of this page. I think we might gain additional clarity by treating the topic historically, noting what natural law meant to the stoics, the Thomists, the early moderns, legal scholars, contemporary theorists, etc. This might help avoid the trend to say what natural law "really is," or provide additional defenses/critiques of it in he article. The most recent addition of a long meditation of what it means to be a person, how this relates to nature, and to sexuality, for example, seems alien to natural law tradition of, say, the stoics. Noting that the concept has evolved might avoid such distortions. In some theories, it is inseparable from theology, in some it is very separate, and in some it is oblivious to theological questions. It might also be good to note that natural law legal theories have diverged from their philosophic roots; this would avoid the cross-disciplinary confusion that can oftentimes result. -RJC 02:20, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The article as it is now it is all over the place in some parts and is not very reader friendly so a reorganization, I would imagine, would be well received. -- PullUpYourSocks 02:46, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)


Law of nature (precept) seems related. --Truman Burbank 09:09, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

you're right. Should be merged. Natural law is closely related to the social contract school, of which Hobbes is the first representant. Santa Sangre 13:54, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
If they should be merged, it should be to the Natural Law article, as that is more of a term for a movement that has existed as an umbrella term in social philosophy through many permutations. Nagelfar 15:42, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

I disagree with a merge. It seems to me that LON(p) contains entirely Hobbes stuff; but if included in its entirety into LON, would make that article unbalanced; and would then inevitably be cut down. So its better left where it is. William M. Connolley 16:06, 26 February 2006 (UTC).

I agree with a merge, or a retitling. The more fundamental page is the other one, this sociological page is derivative; that is, the "sociological" natural law is just another example of general "laws" derived by induction (empirical facts, observations). And: when I went hunting for a Wikipedia page after I encountered the following in Hans Reichenbach, Elements of Symbolic Logic, Dover, 1947 (Dover edition 1980, unabridged), I landed on the "wrong" page. In fact both should be connected with the other page the lead, including e.g the following definition:

"Tautological implication is used in mathematics; it is a relation between structural forms and can be established without reference to the particular empirical meanings of the terms involved. In physics, however, we find another type of implication which is not determined by structural form, which holds only between sentences of particular empirical meanings, and whose estabilishment in any particulare case goes back to experience. This synthetic connective implication is what we usually call a natural law, i.e. a physical law, or a biological law, or a sociological law.... it is only a matter of fact that this implication holds [etc]" (bold-face added, italics in the original: Reichenbach, VIII Connective Operations and Modalities, §60. Practical reasons for the introduction of connective operations, p. 355)

This echoes writing by Bertrand Russell, which I will need to investigate (it's in one of his later works, where he discusses natural law in terms of induction. Induction bothered Russell, big-time).

No matter what the decision re a merge, I will do some work on this and add this stuff somewhere on the other article page. wvbaileyWvbailey 14:43, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

How can Natural law be the same as the law of nature? The law of nature is an metaphysical entity that confines our actions within it. As Locke used it, the law of nature determines how far we may exercise our liberties. Natural law, however, is confined to morality. Instead of supplying a framework, it merely is used, by the likes of John Finnis and Lon Fuller, to legitimate laws that are passed. Natural law, in this sense, is consequentialist in effect - Daniel Wilmot, 04 April 2006

No (modern) philosopher would agree that there is, in the singular, "THE Law of Nature" but rather various "laws" and means by which the "laws" are determined, some considered "legitimate", some "inherited", e.g. "laws of nature" determined by observation/induction, by "belief", by "consensus/codification", by "searching ones soul" (Platonism), by "inherited wisdom of the tribe/religion", by "what your mommy told you", etc. Read the quotations below. Unless you are a Platonist, these words are usually used in context of "repeated observation", as in "induction". The words "law of nature" and "natural law" seem to be used interchangeably. E.g. is it a "law of nature" or "a natural law" that a man shall treat another man with respect? Is it a "law of nature" or a "natural law" that the sun rises every morning in the east? wvbaileyWvbailey 14:40, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

I would suggest that it is unnecessary to merge these two articles because Natural Law focuses on Aristotelian philosophy whereas the law of nature precept is focusing on something else.

I disagree with the merge because they are two somewhat different theoretical concepts. The Law of Nature is a material law, as described by Hobbes and utilized by others to depict almost the social laws of pre-societal nature. Natural Law, however, differs from this in the eyes of many thoerists. For example, for Thomas Aquinas, Natural Law is those aspects of the Eternal Law (the laws of the Universe) that apply particularly to mankind. This is like prudence, or practical reason, through which the paricipation of a rational creature can result in a higher form of self-direction.

I also disagree with the merge. Natural law proper is a term of art inside the specialized field of jurisprudence, and should remain its own entry with a link to the "law(s) of nature".

Political party[edit]

What about the U.K. political party of the same name? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

completely unrelated. similar parties exist around the world. some disambiguation may be necessary.

Holding place for more philosophy quotes for later addition[edit]

-- a work in progress -- [some bold-face has been added for emphasis]

Hume's take on "natural law":

"But to convince ourselves that all the laws of nature and all the operations of bodies without exception, are known only by experience...[an argument follows-- in particular Hume disavows a priori knowledge]...In vain, therefore, should we pretend to determine any single event, or infer any cause or effect, without the assitance of observation and experiment... the utmost effort of human reason is to reduce the principles, productive of natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many particular effects into a few general causes, by means of reasonings from analogy, experience, and observation [Hume then asserts that when we arrive at this knowing: "These ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry" (Hume, Section IV Part I, GBWW p. 459)]
"It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event"(ibid, Part II p. 462)

David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, reprinted in Great Books of the Western World Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 35, 1952, p.449ff. This work was published by Hume in 1758 as his rewrite of his "juvenile" Treatise of Human Nature: Being An attempt to introduce the experimental method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects Vol. I, Of The Understanding first published 1739, reprinted as: David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Penguin Classics, 1985. Also see: David Applebaum, The Vision of Hume, Vega, London, 2001: a reprint of a portion of An Inquiry starts on p. 94ff

Bertrand Russell did not agree with this utter denial of a priori knowledge, in fact he expends great energy to convince us otherwise. [source attribution necessary here, plus quotes.] wvbaileyWvbailey 18:49, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

Reichenbach invokes both Hume and Russell:

"We agree with Hume that physical necessity is translatable into statements about repeated concurrences, including the prediction that the same combination will occur in the future without exception. 'Physically necessary is expressible in terms of 'always'."(Reichenbach p 356)
['always' invokes the "all-operator" of logic, usually symbolized as an upside-down A-- Reichenbach uses the older (x) of Principia Mathematica to designate the "all-operator"]
"Russell has suggested that natural laws be expressed as general implications." (Reinchenbach p 356) [Again "general" invokes the "all-operator" he gives the example: (x)[f(x) -> g(x)] where 'f(x)' is 'x is a metal being heated' and 'g(x)' is 'x expands'. Thus the "general implication" reads: "Whenever (any) metal is heated it expands".]

But Reichenbach notes "...some difficulties remaining." [p. 357]

Reichenbach makes great pains to discriminate between two types of logical "connectives" used in speech, and he moves his discussion toward induction and away from deduction, the primary focus of his work:

"...we speak of adjunctive operations and connective operations. An adjunctive operation can be verified by one observation; a connective operation can only be falsified by one observation, whereas in the positive case [a connective operation] can only conform with it. We may also say that the connective operation can be confirmed by one observation, if by 'confirming' we understand 'conforming with', i.e., 'not contradicting'. ... A discussion of this confirmatory evidence belongs in inductive logic, since its use is based on a special form of inductive inference." (§7 Truth Tables, pp. 28-29)
"Since adjunctive operations are verified or fastified by the truth values of the propostions they combine, these operations are also called truth-functions. Connective operations are not truth-functional in this sense; but they can be called truth-functional in a wider sense if they are translatable into other statements that contain only adjunctive operations ... such as hold for repeated observation of events of the same kind." (§7 Truth Tables, pp. 30-31)

Reichenbach asserts that in these cases of connective operations (e.g. that result in "laws of nature") we must read the truth tables from right to left, that is, from the "compound statement" back to the "elementary propositions".

Thus the assertion (the "connective" implication) "IF more than three inches of rain falls THEN we're going to flood" should be read this way:

"Yes my assertion is true, this time: Indeed, more than three inches of rain fell, and indeed it's true that we are flooding."

Thus we have merely confirmed the assertion, rather than proven its "truth". To disprove the assertion we need to demonstrate, at least once, that:

"Oh oh, guess my assertion is wrong: four inches of rain fell and we are not flooding."

Reichenbach further adds distinction between "tautological adjunctive operations" and "nontautological connective operations".

"We showed... that [the analytic connective operations used in deductive reasoning] can be interpreted as tautological adjunctive operations.... [whereas the] synthetic connective implication [used in inductive reasoning] is what we usually call a natural law..." (§60 Practical Reasons for the introduction of connective operations, p.355)

Reichenbach asserts that all tautologies can be reduced to the Law of excluded middle or tertium non datur i.e. P V ~P: "This is its shortest form. It is clear that we can do the same for every tautology. All tautologies have [this] same shortest form ..." (§11 Derivations, p. 52). Dispite the beliefs of Aristotle and Hilbert and Russell excluded middle is not a settled "fact", see more at the linked page. wvbaileyWvbailey 21:04, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

Reichenbach has given the following meaning with regard to so-called nomological formulas: "The term 'nomological', derived from the Greek word 'nomos' meaning 'law', is chosen to express the idea that the formulas are either laws of nature or logical laws. Analytic nomological formulas are tautological formulas [e.g. always true: P V ~P, the tertium non datur, more below], or logical laws; synthetic nomological formulas are laws of nature. The term 'nomological' is therefore a generalization of term 'tautological'" (Reichenbach, p. 360?)

In our example [flying pigs], "Q = P V ~P" is called a "tautology" because it is always true-- either (1) some of the objects are flying pigs or (2) not true that some of the objects are flying pigs or (3) both statements are true. In fact Reichenbach defines "tautology" as the tertium non datur P V ~P:

"All tautologies have the same shortest disjunctive normal form namely [P V ~P] (cf Reichenbach p 52).

wvbaileyWvbailey 15:28, 4 March 2006 (UTC)

Holding place re Bertrand Russell: quotes etc for later addition[edit]

--a work in progress: complicated enough to warrant a new holding place --

Thread is: a priori knowledge exists, as do "universals", and what he calls "general laws".

Russell's essay The Art of Drawing Inferences: > 2 types of logic--

> (1) deductive-- conclusions as certain as the premises
> (2) inductive-- uses deduction but conclusion only probable
"A deductive inference, if it is logically correct, gives as much certainty to the conclusion as the premises, while an inductive infrence, even when it obeys all the rules of logic, only makes the conclusion probable even when the premises are deemed certain" (The Art of Philosophizing, p. 38)

> Induction is "immensely strenghten[ed]" by "general laws" [he means, e.g. mathematical formulas in his sense of p. 57] which can show "the presence of regularity"(p. 50).

> He makes a bold assertion that:

"...general laws cannot be discovered unless they exist."(p. 51)

> That induction is "valid" cannot be proved by induction [reference?]. At the end of the essay he throws up his hands and invokes Reichenbach (!)

."..roughly speaking, his answer is this: If induction is valid, science is possible; if it is not, science is impossible, since there is no other imaginable principle to take its place. Therefore you will do well to act on the assumption that induction is valid, since, otherwise, you can have no reason for doing one thing rather than another. This answer is not fallactious, but I cannot say that I find it very satisfying" (The Art..., p. 75)

Russell avows the existence of "universals" and their existence beyond our minds:

"Having now seen that there must be such entitites as universals, the next point to be proved is that their being is not merely mental. By this is meant that wheatever being belongs to them is independent of their being though of or in any way apprehended by minds." (p. 97)

In the two paragraphs just prior he states his oppostion to Berkeley and Hume's denial of "universals" (universal laws, universal qualities such as "whiteness"). In particular he casserts: "The relation of resemblance, therefore, must be a true universal".:

"Berkeley and Hume failed to perceive this refutation of their rejection of 'abstracct ideas', because, like their adversaires, they only thought of qualities, and altogether ignored relations, as universals" (p. 97)

He goes on to assert that

Every thing that can be apprehended by the senses or by introspection exists at some particular time" (p. 98)

whereas relations such as (his example) 'north of' (as in: "Edinburgh is nort of London" is "...neither in space nor in time, neither material nor mental; yet is something." (p. 98)

Russell eventually asserts that certain "relations" between [sensations? what exactly?]such as "similar to" ("same as"), "above", "below", etc. are "a priori". Because of philosophic abuses he moves away from [eschews, wishes to avoid] the word "innate" but does derive "a priori" from "innate". And "universal" seems to mean "always" or "always within reason" when applied to multiple observations [true?? Verify.]] Thus:

"Edinburgh is above London."

could be interpreted to mean:

"Edinburgh and London exist and always it is true that: 'Edingburgh is north of London'."

The reader may develop certain anxieties around this example: They may start with "What does "north" mean? The statement implies the existance of a "South Pole" and "true" measurements that indicate Edinburgh "is farther from of the South Pole than London", and the premise that, For all X and Y, "If X is "farther from of South Pole than Y" then "X is north of Y", but the reader will can troubles if one were to go the wrong way over the North Pole, etc. etc. wvbaileyWvbailey 21:20, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

Anarchist law[edit]

Anarchist law should be merged here because it's the only form of law compatible with anarchism. Anarchism necessarily rejects positive law because positive law is the construction of a government. Anarchism rejects government and any authority with the capacity to create formal law. When anarchists talk about law in anarchy, they appear universally to mean natural law. Sarge Baldy 00:11, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

why have Anarchist law then, when Natural law already exists? Why pick different terms for concepts that have existed already for centuries on end? Intangible 02:49, 21 April 2006 (UTC)
it would be inappropriate to merge Anarchist Law with Natural Law. The Natural Law page is bad enough already without being made more confusing by including Anarchy. The concepts are distinct. It may be appropriate for the Anarchist Law page to refer to Natural Law but it would not be especially appropriate for the Natural Law page to include a section on Anarchist Law, whatever that might mean.


This page should not be merged with natural law because while natural law is a broad and extensive topic in many disciplines, this page only discusses the concept of "law of nature" as it applies to Hobbes' political theory. Instead, this page should be titled something like "Law of Nature (Hobbesian)" as opposed to "Law of Nature (percept)." Zschaps 18:36, 26 April 2006 (UTC)


This theory is NOT Teleological. Teleological ethical theories are concerned with concequences, Natural Law is not.--Tellebug 14:54, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Alternate spellings[edit]

Should not Ius naturale redirect here? 08:14, 10 October 2006 (UTC)


I think Daoism should be mentioned somewhere on this page. The base idea of the Dao is that there is universal, not written laws, which seems to fit well withen the ideas of natural law.

Hobbes' natural law[edit]

"There are nine Laws..." is that so? In my book of Leviathan there are nineteen laws! Golf Bravo 18:24, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

There seem to be only 3 theological virtues. I deleted the obvious vandalism


Religious and secular natural law theories[edit]

The page as it stands has a religious bent to it that is appropriate to only some strands of natural law. The Stoics, for example, had a secular natural law, one that was distinguished from divine law rather than an expression of it. It was Thomas Aquinas who connected them, and it is only in his system that natural law and natural right are one and in which Aristotle stands as the founder of natural law. I will rework the page to account for this. RJC Talk 18:33, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Having begun the editing process, I became aware that I was making too many changes to summarize and justify in the edit summary, and will list them here. In general, I have removed those references which have the flavor of "we ought to accept natural law because it forms the foundation of the thought of such-and-such, someone we all recognize as a great man," or "natural law underlies all that is good and valuable in our tradition."
  • I have rewritten the opening paragraph to make it more accurate and comprehensive. I have moved much of the material from the initial lead section to the body of the article in order to comply with wikipedia style.
  • I was unable to understand As a genre, natural law is the law of nature—that is, the principle that some things are as they are, because that is how they are. This use is especially valid in Scotland, where "natural law" operates as a genre of law parallel to both civil and criminal law, and its discussion is not limited to human beings. and so removed it; if anyone can make sense of this, please clean it up and put it somewhere below the table of contents.
  • I think the opening paragraph of the "History" section was slapdash, and so have deleted it. It had the flavor of someone trying to say everything they thought important about natural law, rather than of an introduction to the section on history.
  • I have added a section on Aristotle in the natural law tradition, as there seems to be considerable agreement among the editors of this article that Aristotle belongs in it.
  • I have expanded the section on the Stoics in the history section, contrasting them with Aristotle to a greater degree.
  • I have put most of the section on "Hobbes' natural law" into the historical section.
  • I have put the discussion of contemporary Catholic views into its own section, and have put most of the details about Aquinas' system here rather than in the historical section. I did this because I cannot verify any of the information here, and thought that whoever initially wrote this was stating their own understanding, which would have been gained by contemporary Catholic education. I have left the assertion that Protestant churches buy into this, though I downgraded the number that do so from "most" to "some", and asked that this fact be verified. Considering that Luther railed against Aquinas' synthesis, a synthesis that at bottom involved the incorporation of natural law as distinct from yet compatible with divine law, I'd think it strange that most Protestants actually agree with the Pope on this one. I know that Anglicans had a natural law teaching, but does it really play a large role anymore? Not being a Christian myself, I'm not the one to check this fact.
  • Under contemporary jurisprudence, I have restored that "natural law" theory which opposes positivism as an adequate understanding of what we mean by the word "law", and have tidied things up a bit.
RJC Talk 22:04, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Natural Law is from God[edit]

RJC, first of all, in the following sentence, the antecedent of the word its is number: "Despite its pagan origins, a number …" The number does not have pagan origins, so this wording is improper. If you meant that natural law has pagan origins, then say, "Despite the pagan origins of natural law, …" Secondly, natural law is not of pagan origin. It comes directly from God. Blackstone, Aquinas, Locke, et al. believed and taught this. Emote 05:31, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

You may be correct about the antecedent of its. However, to assert that we cannot say that natural law has pagan origins because it comes directely from God is a flagrant violation of NPOV. The article is discussing a theory, and the theory has its origins in Stoic philosophy, which was conducted by men raised in a pagan society. That Blackstone, Aquinas, et al. thought that natural law comes from God is a fact, and is noted in the article; that this is true is contested, and in any case beyond the scope of the article. RJC Talk 21:33, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

I marked my changes as minor edits because they were in fact minor edits. I made grammatical alterations to the sentence. Now that you have corrected the grammatical problem and reinserted the phrase, it would no longer be a minor edit for me to delete that phrase.

I would like to point out that I did not make any assertions in the article about the origins of natural law, so I have no idea why you're accusing me of violating NPOV. Also, supposing that it is a violation of NPOV for me to say that natural law originates with God, it would correlatively be a violation for you to say that it has pagan origins. If anyone is violating NPOV, it is you because your ideas are the only ones represented in the article. The fact is that neither of us is guilty of an NPOV violation because there is no Wikipedia policy against presenting opinions in an article. What the policy says is that opinions must be presented from a NPOV.

As far as the actual content goes, I am content to leave the phrase as it currently stands. However, I intend to add my own paragraph in the article in order to balance the presentation of the issue. Fair enough? Emote 23:03, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Your grammatical alteration to the sentence was supported on the talk page with reference to your opinion that the source of natural law is God, which is a substantive reason for deletion. Therefore, according to Help:Minor edit, you should not have checked the minor edit box. A minor edit would have been for you to reword the clause in question to its present state. Second, if a change you make to the article can be supported only by your POV, you have not abided by NPOV; cf. Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/FAQ. Third, my saying that the natural law tradition predates Christianity, coming from the Stoics, does not violate NPOV if it is a fact — which it is. The ideas represented in the article are not mine, which can be verified by the fact that there are citations; cf. Wikipedia:Verifiability. As to your final point, there is an official policy against presenting opinions in an article: Wikipedia:No original research. I encourage you to modify the article as necessary, and to improve it. I agree with you that it could certainly use it. I presume, though I may be entirely wrong, that the view of natural law you feel is missing would fall under the heading of Contemporary Catholic Understanding, and you can no doubt find reliable sources that suggest that the details of your view are widely held. RJC Talk 00:13, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

When I first made the deletion, I stated my purpose in the summary as follows: "removed clause containing ambiguous pronoun." I didn't know what the antecedent was, so how could I have changed the wording to its present state? You then reverted my changes without actually fixing the problem. In your summary you clarified the antecedent to me, but you apparently saw no need to change it in the article. I once again deleted the phrase and posted my reasoning here on the talk page. You will notice that I even suggested a possible rewording for you to use, but I didn't want to make the change myself since I had no clue what its was. If you had a good guess as to what it was referring to, I would let you make the change. My secondary comment about the origin of natural law was for your own personal edification, as is the following Blackstone quotation:

As a man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.

I suggest to you that natural law predates Christianity because it predates humanity. The Stoics may very well have influenced natural law theory, but they did not create natural law itself. I have no clue where you got such an idea (i.e., I've never heard it before), and I see no citations in the article to support that claim.

With regard to the NPOV question, I refer you to the five pillars of Wikipedia: "We strive for articles that advocate no single point of view. Sometimes this requires representing multiple points of view." Notice that, contrary to your understanding, the policy does not prohibit presenting points of view—only advocating points of view. --Emote 08:22, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

I see. I seem to have misunderstood the purpose behind some of your edits. I agree that any natural law, to be a natural law, would have to predate the first articulations of the natural law — were such a thing to exist. But we are not discussing the truth about natural law, any more than an article on angels would be the proper forum for discussing the truth about angels. "Natural law comes from God" violates NPOV; "Thomas Aquinas said that natural law comes from God" does not, especially when discussing his theory of natural law. Regarding the Stoics, the claim is not that they created natural law (which would be true only if natural law did not exist), but rather that they were the first in the West to articulate a natural law theory. This claim is cited in in the article, currently note 13. But, this said, I look forward to seeing the kinds of edits you think necessary. RJC Talk 14:09, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
I've reverted an edit that changed "Despite the pagan origins of natural law theory" to "Despite the supposed Stoic origins of the articulation of natural law theory in the West," which was made following the above conversation. I did so for a couple of reasons. First, the origins of natural law in the West are not supposedly pagan or Stoic, but simply are. Natural law itself may extend back before the Big Bang, but natural law theory does not. Second, the significance of this theory's adoption into Christian theology by the Church Fathers is concealed by replacing "pagan" with "Stoic." My third reason was a matter of style: the new version was cumbersome. I hope this meets with common approval. RJC Talk 21:58, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

You look forward to seeing the kinds of edits I think necessary so that you can simply revert them over and over and over again—how original. You claim to know the exact time that natural law theory first appeared on the earth, so I ask you to prove that it never existed in any form whatsoever prior to these non-Stoic pagans who you think invented it. In the mean time, I dispute your unsubstantiated assertions. --Emote 23:13, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

I think we have a major misunderstanding here. The Stoics were pagans: I'm not speaking of non-Stoic pagans here. Anything said by the Stoics was by definition said by pagans. The fact that they were pagans is the important thing in this sentence; otherwise, there would nothing interesting about the fact that the Church fathers adopted natural law terminology. If you desire evidence that scholarly opinion is that natural law theory was developed by the pagan Stoics, please read the section of the article on Stoic natural law: it cites the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences as a reliable source. You can also check the Encyclopedia Britannica entry for natural law. You, on the other hand, have provided no explanation for your edits, and you deny the only explanation I can think of that describes the tenor of your edits (viz. that you believe natural law to come from God, and insist that the article reflect this). I gather this from the fact that the only thing you seem to be objecting to is the linkage between natural law and pagans. Please correct what I hope is my misperception on this point. RJC Talk 23:46, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

And, unsurprisingly, you revert my changes once again. No one is allowed to delete, add to, or otherwise challenge your unverified statements. That, my dear, is a violation of NPOV.

The section on Stoic natural law reads as follows: "The development of this tradition of natural justice into one of natural law is usually attributed to the Stoics" (emphasis mine). In other words, it's a disputed issue. Also, you will notice that the sentence lacks a reference and is therefore also unverified.

You palpably refuse to substantiate your claims. You like to throw out vague references to sources like Encyclopedia Britannica as if they support your position, yet you never seem to know the specific quotation or the page number. If you were to cite a reference correctly, you might have a little more credibility than when you say things like, "Check the Encyclopedia Britannica entry."

Yes, I believe that natural law comes from God. However, although I intend to do so in the future, I have heretofore not once made a change to the article that even slightly hints at the idea that natural law comes from God. Nevertheless, you falsely accuse me of "insisting" that the article reflect my views.

The Stoics were "pagans" but they also (like Plato and Aristotle) were monotheists who believed in God. Wikipedia article on Stoicism states: "According to the Stoics, the universe is a material, reasoning substance, known as God or Nature." This same article states that Stoicism was the most popular philosophy of the educated classes in Rome, and that virtually all the emperors adhered to it. Both the Stoics and the later Christians believed that Natural Law came from Nature. Doubtless, both believed Nature came from God or was God (in the case of the Stoics). That is why the Christian Fathers were so easily able to incorporate Stoic thought into Patristic thought. Christianity could be seen as completing, not contradicting, Judiaism and Stoicism. Most Christians believed the Roman Empire and its laws came from God as well, just as did the Old Testament. The later Roman jurists (who developed Natural law theory) would have been Christians, anyway.
The point is that Christians believed that Natural Law held true for non-Christians (whom they believed were also created by God.) and Christians alike, and was accessible by reason (which also came from God). That is why it is called Natural Law and not Divine law. This is a foolish discussion. We are not supposed to be describing what we believe on Wikipedia, but historical facts about what people in the past believed. (talk) 15:50, 5 April 2009 (UTC)
Explanations for all of my edits to date[edit]
  1. Grammar: removed ambiguous pronoun phrase
  2. Grammar: removed ambiguous pronoun phrase
  3. Content: added qualifiers and words like "supposed" in order to bring the article into conformity with NPOV policies
  4. Content: requested sources for statements which RJC stated as undisputed fact

You have objected to all these changes. I am curious to see whether you are audacious enough to revert my challenge of the neutrality of the section on Christian natural law. --Emote 01:18, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

Introduction is not an easy read[edit]

The introduction needs a major rework:

  • The readability scores of the introduction are no where near expected levels of an encyclopedia. It is probably perfect for a legal textbook.
  • The second and third sentences of the first paragraph and the second paragraph do not further explain what natural law is. These would be better moved to a new section below in a title like "relationship to other laws".

That leaves us with the following:

Natural law or the law of nature (Latin lex naturalis) is a law whose content is set by nature, and that therefore has validity everywhere. Natural law can be used synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin ius naturale), although most contemporary political and legal theorists separate the two.

If the above is explained further, I'd say the introduction would be moving in the right direction. Mbubel 16:59, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Mediation request[edit]

Is this case still active or can I close it? --Ideogram 01:54, 16 February 2007 (UTC)

The dispute remains unresolved so far.—Emote Talk Page 21:51, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
One of the mediators suggested that the opening sentence of "Christian Natural Law" be rewritten to "Despite pagan associations with natural law theory …" instead of (1) "Despite the pagan origins of natural law theory …" and (2) "Despite the supposed pagan origins …" This would resolve the problem that even the first alternative has been read by some to deny the possibility that natural law itself may come from God, without calling into doubt, as the second does, that the Stoics spoke of something called natural law before it was spoken of by the Church Fathers and that the latter were familiar with this tradition. I think this is workable, and have altered the article accordingly. RJC Talk 20:32, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
I accept the suggested compromise wording. However, before the case is closed and while we still have a mediator involved, I should bring up the fact that the following phrasing seems to violate NPOV: "the early Church Fathers sought to incorporate it [natural law theory] into Christianity …" This wording implies that natural law theory originated with the pagans and later was added to Christianity, whereas I contend that it originated in the Jewish culture (with Moses, Elijah, David, et al.) and naturally flowed into Christian thought from Jewish background. I bring this up now only because we are likely to disagree on how it should be rephrased.—Emote Talk Page 03:43, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
Okay. It's good we got this resolved. Regarding the passage on "incorporation" you refer to, is there any source that says that natural law theory began with the Israelites, and that it was this that influenced the Church Fathers rather than Stoic tradition? I ask because the law of the Torah is explicitly divine, and every theologian discussed in this section (with the exception of Gratian) distinguishes between natural and divine laws, as does the article in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences from which the definition of natural law used in this article is drawn. Also, there is no Biblical or Talmudic Hebrew word for nature, and the account of creation in Genesis has been read as an explicit denial of the existence of "nature" at all, so I would be surprised to discover a natural law teaching. But, if there is a reliable source that supports an Israelite pedigree for natural law theory among the Church Fathers, I agree that the article should be rewritten in some way or another to reflect the fact that there is disagreement regarding the relative influences of Stoic and Israelite thought on Christian natural law. RJC Talk 17:53, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
I have closed the case as it seems a resolution has been reached. --Mechcozmo 01:54, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

Natural Forum[edit]

Is Natural Forum part of Natural Law? 01:16, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

True natural law

My gosh it looks like no one can truely define Natural law, I wish all the idiots would go into a bag and go away.

Natural Law was founded by Aquinas with his christian theology and also Aristotles Effective and Final cause, the theory it self takes a very legalism stance (Such as Kant), and implies Primary and secondary principles, the primary are called the God intended purposes and include:

Reproduction Worship Learning Living Harmoniuosly (sp)

The secondary follow what is called ratio recta, which are basically conditions whic must unhold such laws which follow Catholic laws such as the primary, such as Marriage means not having an affair, althought Jesus said it was ok when the partner was dead while St John said you can only marry once as when you did you formed a covernt.

That is a brief summary for A level students and people who want to know what Natrual law is basically abount, and it has nothing to do with actual nature. NOTHING!!

--Unsigned comment by 16:32, 13 April 2007.

Actually, Aquinas got his ideas for natural moral law from Isidore of Spain (quoted in Summa Theologica); natural moral law originated with the Stoics from Persia, and were introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great. They probably originated in Zoroatrianism. It seems a section should be added re: Locke, also on the US Constitution (all writers of it believed in Natural Moral LAw in one way or another), and on Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism, which rejected Natural Law; this is of importance since Natural Moral Law is never mentioned in Law Schools in the US today. Comments? A E Francis 19:08, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Well, I'm not sure about the link between Stoicism and Zoroastrianism — have you got a source for this? Also, I thought that Locke was dealt with under Liberal Natural Law. I'm not sure what Bentham's arguments against natural law were, but that should probably be in the page. As it stands, it is something of a hodge-podge. RJC Talk 23:32, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi[edit]

A conception of "natural law" was promoted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and indeed, the Natural Law Party article links back here; should this particular take on the theory be discussed in this article? B7T (talk) 19:45, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

I would say certainly not. The ideology of a now-defunct political party, one that never achieved more than fringe status, is not significant in contemporary or past issues involving natural law. Including references to it here would grant undue weight to that particular viewpoint. Those views have pages of their own to describe them. RJC Talk Contribs 07:06, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Hobbes: 19 Laws,or 16?[edit]

Does it bother anyone else that the article says that Hobbes proposed 19 laws of nature, but then lists only 16? Nineteen does seem to be the correct total (from what I remember of Leviathan, which I studied way too many years ago), so is there a way that someone could complete the list with the missing three laws, but *without* doing original research? Thanks in advance to anyone who can solve what looks to me to be an insoluble problem ... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:51, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

Darwin and Natural Law Darwin's Theory of Evolution has had a profound affect on how nature's laws are preceived both in the academy and among the general public. Where natural law once was thought to provide a source of enduring priciples (for example in the Declaration of Independence), it is now understood to be an arena for constant change. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:57, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Not only that, but the triumph of technology and British imperialism, along with evolutionary theories (not only Darwin's) of inevitable cultural progress seemed to prove that nature's law was "red in tooth and claw" (and "shrieked" against mans' belief that God was love [in memoriam, 1849). In this view, the "weaker" and less fit were doomed and not only that, deserved extinction. This seems to me to be an entirely new idea in human history. Previously, the purpose of government authority had been seen as to protect the vulnerable (e.g., widows and orphans), not to exterminate them. (talk) 18:25, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

Merger proposal[edit]

Oppose. Aside from the fact that no reason for the merger has been given yet, I think it is important to distinguish between ius naturale and lex naturalis, or between natural right and natural law. This merger would render this distinction invisible. RJC TalkContribs 02:59, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

Seeing how little discussion this has generated, without an initial reason even having been given, I've removed the tags. RJC TalkContribs 18:31, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Noahidic Law[edit]

Why is there no section on Jewish natural law? Why is there no link to the page on Nohidic Law? Vegasprof (talk) 11:22, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

The laws given to Noah were the direct revelation from God, not the discovery of reason. They had no place in pre-Christian natural law thinking and did not (so far as I am aware) play any role in the natural law traditions that sprung up in the Christian world. If anything, they are problematic for the natural law tradition (or the tradition is problematic for them); for example, Locke made the eating of meat a natural law, but man was not permitted to eat meat until Noah. As to Jewish natural law, I'm not sure that there is such a thing. The distinction between חוק and משפת suggests that some commandments are simply rational, but this is never really developed and doesn't characterize all Jewish thought. It also would be odd to call this "natural" law, since Biblical Hebrew lacks a word for "nature." RJC TalkContribs 15:02, 28 May 2009 (UTC)
Natural Law, as defined by Christians today, is supposed to apply to all men, not just to Christians. Similarly, Noahidic Law is supposed to apply to all men, not just Jews. That seems very similar to me; similar enough to have a link to that page. Vegasprof (talk) 15:04, 3 June 2009 (UTC)
It is not the mere universality of natural law that makes it distinctive; in Aquinas it is distinguished from divine law, which also applies to all men. Noahite law is a law of positive revelation, not discoverable from nature. And the analogy between Christians and Jews breaks down: Christians do not recognize any law that applies only to Christians. That is why non-Christians are damned—God's law still applies to them. Noahite law is sensible only in contrast with a particular law, something absent from Christianity. At the same time, the contrast between natural law and divine law is largely absent from Judaism. The two are very dissimilar, I would say. RJC TalkContribs 16:18, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

OK, maybe I'm just stupid, but...[edit]

Considering that in this page, there are several religious interpretations of the concept of natural law, and that the most influential individuals behind the concept (Paine, Locke, Hobbes, perhaps in turn Pufendorf, as well as others) were also highly influenced by the scientific principles of Isaac Newton, as well as being prominent intellectuals, scientists and philosophers themselves - is it such a stretch of protocol to perhaps include how quantum physicists might interpret natural law? Now, hear me out: this page defines natural law as a theory which "posits the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere". According to quantum physics, as I understand, the laws of gravity exhibit differences between the macro and micro levels, for example, between collapsed stars and biological viruses; essentially in different places, the laws of nature are different. Perhaps I might be braindead, and I see natural law in this article is defined mostly by legal terms. But it seems to me that natural law is more than simply legal concept, and that is verified by the fact that it is intertwined with numerous religious systems. I don't deny the religious aspects behind the concept, but I think there are more scientific principles that can be verified here.

My point is that the philosophical and scientific principles behind natural law seem to be lacking in this article compared to the religious ones. I think I can get enough source material from both the original theorists behind the idea, and contemporary physicists to make a section about it. Just let me know if I'm completely off the wall here. MisplacedFate1313 (talk) 03:36, 18 July 2009 (UTC)

The article you are looking for is physical law. RJC TalkContribs 19:55, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Classical Natural Law and Ethnocentric Ties[edit]

Something should be added about classical natural law and its relationship to ethnocentric ties. Although Greeks and Romans understood natural law as universal, they thought it manifest among a particular people and their particular traditions. Here's Cicero's quintessential take on natural law and such ties:

"But what forbids them [from doing wrong] is the moral law which nature itself has ordained. As I have said before - and it needs constant repetition! - there is a bond of community that links every man in the world with every order. Though is bond is universal in application, it is particularly strong as a unifying link between people of the same race: between actual compatriots the link is closer still." ~ Cicero, On Duties, XVI, 67. --Daniel090909 (talk) 22:24, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

Another great quote for this section would be:
"A State cannot be constituted from any chance body of persons, or in any chance period of time. Most of the states which have admitted persons of another race, either at the time of their foundation or later, have been troubled by sedition” ~ Aristotle, Politics --Daniel090909 (talk) 16:37, 9 September 2009 (UTC)
I haven't heard this thesis before. WP:OR and WP:RS discourage using primary sources to prove assertions, so I think the inclusion of this thesis would have to rely upon published, peer-reviewed secondary literature. Some greater specificity in the Aristotle quotation would also be appreciated: where in the Politics does he say this? RJC TalkContribs 18:46, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

This debate is somewhat political. American neoconservatives want to assert modern natural law is race-neutral, while paleoconservatives and European conservatives assert that CLASSICAL natural law at least allows for one to have preferances for one's own ethnicity/race. I think there should definitely be a section for "Classical natural law and ethnocentric ties." Also, the Cicero quote should be allowed to stand. It's a quintessential quote in natural law. But I think the Aristotle quote is too vauge and should be dropped. I'll make these changes. --Mrfeebles (talk) 19:12, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

That may well be true—we can leave that question aside—but everything on Wikipedia must be verifiable: "verifiability, not truth," as the policy says. And I tried to find the Cicero quotation: it seems badly sourced. XVII (or § 69) is the proper place. I would also say that it is a gross misinterpretation to say that this is Cicero's statement on natural law, since it is adduced to show that the civil law is not the universal law. Wherever a primary source is open to interpretation, it cannot be used as a reliable source (see WP:PRIMARY). Until a reliable secondary source says these things, the material must be removed. RJC TalkContribs 20:17, 9 September 2009 (UTC)
I would have never guessed that Natural Law had any racial constituent in it. Live and learn. --THE FOUNDERS INTENT PRAISE 13:14, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Natural Law and Laws of Nature[edit]

Seems there is a little debate going about whether they are the same or different. I thought they were different. I always considered Natural Law to be more man-made (philosophical) and Laws of Nature to be, well not man-made (i.e., physical). Like the Laws of Physics they are what they are, and unchangeable. We just discovered them. An example of Natural Law would be that if you could take a survey of people from all over the world (who had never met), and they all agreed that murder was wrong, then murder being wrong would be a Natural Law. A Law of Nature would be like gravity. Now, apparently I am wrong based on what I've read here and elsewhere that they are one and the same, but can be subdivided. So maybe there are various dimensions of Natural Law or Laws of Nature (e.g., physical, philosophical, religious)? Do most people think they are interchangeable at the top level? --THE FOUNDERS INTENT PRAISE 13:25, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

I think the decisive thing is that the two phrases have historically been used interchangeably; Thomas Hobbes, Richard Hooker, and John Locke, for example, use "law of nature" to mean what you suggest is the "natural law." At the same time, gravity was called a natural law in addition to a law of nature. No one within the natural law tradition claims that it is man-made; rather, they say it is a law just the same as gravity (or take advantage of this assumption). Moreover, when contemporary scholars discuss Locke and the "law of nature," for example, they do not say, "And Locke means by law of nature what we would call natural law," as though there were any confusion that might have to be dispelled. If someone wants to maintain that natural law differs in kind from the law of gravity, fine. I would agree and have published articles on why there is no natural law. But those who speak of natural law also speak of the law of nature and this semantic fact is reflected in the introduction. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions#Treatment of alternative names. RJC TalkContribs 16:22, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Let's redirect natural law to science! Everything else is pre-Enlightenment history, which could live under Philosophy of natural law. Jeremy Tobacman (talk) 05:37, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps you could give some reasons for this? This move seems to run against the spirit of WP:NAME, WP:REDIR, and WP:DAB. RJC TalkContribs 15:22, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
My comment was obviously flip, and I can't quote policy, but the Age of Enlightenment article confirms that during that time science generally supplanted philosophy as a source of knowledge about the natural world. Jeremy (talk) 06:22, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
Except that the subject of this article is not, despite the similarity in titles, about the "natural" world, in the sense of the physical world, which the (natural) sciences concern. It's about moral laws which are "natural" in the sense opposed to "artificial". Laws which do not originate from man; rather than laws which are about physical things. Different sense of "natural" entirely. The natural sciences do not even purport to say what ought or ought not to be; they are concerned solely with what is or is not. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:09, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

Jefferson, Locke, and the Declaration of Independence[edit]

I removed the un-sourced and deeply controversial statement that Jefferson "echoed Locke" in the Declaration of Independence. I think that a neutral point of view demands that claims of Locke's influence on the Declaration of Independence be balanced with the perennial scholarly opposition to such claims. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Other Choices (talkcontribs) 00:57, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

You don't think "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is an echo of "life, liberty, and property"? Tb (talk) 16:43, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Tb, apart from what I think, the view that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is NOT an echo of "life, liberty, and property" is well-established in the scholarly literature. Regarding what I personally think on this issue, my paper is currently being peer-reviewed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Other Choices (talkcontribs) 22:21, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Let's leave your paper aside. Since it's well-established, can you please give some citations? Tb (talk) 23:07, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Note as well that the mention of Jefferson says the point is arguable, and is cited. Can you do as well please? Tb (talk) 23:12, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
The problem we face is that two irreconcilable views are well-established in the scholarly literature. This will not be changed any time soon, especially as the camps are in different (but both competent) departments, which means that not even a down-and-dirty decades'-long tenure war will result in one side's emerging victorious. Neither view is covered by WP:FRINGE, so WP:NPOV means that both sides have to be presented. This usually means not bringing them into dialogue, with each person's assertion answered with a competing article. Rather, we just have to hedge our language and avoid giving undue weight to either view (or to the debate between them, in general). RJC TalkContribs 00:54, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

Tb and RJC: there are different but closely-related issues at hand here. First of all is the question of whether the phrase "life, liberty, and property" is "Lockean." Second is the question of what was meant by "happiness" in the Declaration of Independence. Third is the question of who influenced Jefferson's choice of language. For future reference, here is a quick summary:

  • "Life, liberty, and property" are three natural rights well-established in English jurisprudence going back to Magna Carta. John Phillip Reid, deploring contemporary scholars’ "misplaced emphasis on John Locke," has argued that American revolutionary leaders saw Locke as a commentator on established constitutional principles. See John Phillip Reid, Constitutional History of the American Revolution: The Authority To Tax (Madison, Wis., 1987), pp. 135-36. See also Reid, Constitutional History of the American Revolution: The Authority of Rights (Madison, Wis., 1986), p. 34, pp. 132-33.
  • Ray Forrest Harvey stated in 1937 that Jefferson and Locke were at "two opposite poles" in their political philosophy, as evidenced by Jefferson’s use in the Declaration of Independence of the phrase "pursuit of happiness" instead of "property." See Harvey's Jean Jacques Burlamaqui: A Liberal Tradition in American Constitutionalism (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1937), p. 120. This particular element of Harvey's book was well-received by two scholarly reviewers, Benjamin F. Wright and Charles F. Mullett, both of whom found faults in Harvey's book.
  • In 1959, Ursula von Eckardt claimed that "The right to property is in no way equal to the right to the pursuit of happiness; it is merely an extension of the minimum right of survival. No more than survival, Locke implies, can or should be guaranteed by civil society." See von Eckardt's The Pursuit of Happiness in the Democratic Creed: An Analysis of Political Ethics (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959), pp. 5,6,225. Von Eckardt argues that Jefferson followed Burlamaqui and that they both followed Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, not Locke's Second Treatise on Government.
  • However, Burlamaqui's recent editor (Liberty Fund edition, p. xviii) associates Burlamaqui's thought with Leibniz and the medieval natural law tradition. Some very sticky wickets here, calling for careful phrasing in wikipedia articles!
  • In 1978, Garry Wills argued that Jefferson's use of the phrase "pursuit of happiness" was influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment, in particular Francis Hutcheson. I realize that Wills has been roughly handled by the reviewers; but, as I documented in the Hutcheson article, there are several other sources arguing for Hutcheson's influence on the American revolutionary generation.
  • Contemporary political scientists (RJC has mentioned Pangle and Zuckert) follow Von Eckardt in attempting to argue that Hutcheson and Burlamaqui were somehow "Lockean," but this view is, to say the least, not dominant outside the political science department. I suggest Knud Haakonssen's Natural Law and Moral Philosophy: From Grotius to the Scottish Enlightenment as a starting point for that particular discussion.--Other Choices (talk) 03:59, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
I do not doubt your grasp of the scholarship or of the issues involved. Were this a forum for the discussing the truth of anything I would advance counterpoints. But Wikipedia editors, especially expert ones, must adopt a set of blinders. In order for the articles to reflect the views you advance, it is not sufficient that they be shown to be right. In fact, that it irrelevant. Instead, you would have to show that anyone who disagrees is so far outside of the scholarly mainstream that they are fringe theorists. That simply isn't the case. RJC TalkContribs 05:52, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
RJC, thank you for your reminder that, given the present state of scholarship, wikipedia articles discussing the Declaration of Independence cannot favor the views that I presented above. However, all of the above scholars either represent the mainstream within their specialty (Reid and Haakonssen) or represent significant minority views that, according to the wikipedia guidelines, prohibit all-encompassing blanket statements such as "Jefferson echoed Locke". I believe that my initial deletion of that statement was in accordance with wikipedia guidelines. I will be the first to admit that I am still learning what can and can't be properly done around here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Other Choices (talkcontribs) 08:15, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
This would be relevant if the article make a blanket statement that Jefferson echoed Locke, but it does not. What it says is, Thomas Jefferson, arguably echoing Locke, appealed to unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence. That expresses the appropriate level of caution, it seems to me. (I'd say as well that examination here shows that Other Choices is quite wrong. The to say that Jefferson echoed Locke does not mean they said the same thing. Certainly "happiness" is a momentously different word than "property"; the word "echoed" does not imply they are the same. Thus for von Eckhardt, Harvey, Wills, etc. And, that Locke reflects well-established constitutional values in England is clear, what is new in Locke is the view that these are natural rights, and not simply "constitutional principles". But the point here is that Jefferson seems to be alluding to Locke's phrasing.) Tb (talk) 17:08, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm the one who added the word "arguably," and then I deleted the phrase. If you want to add it back, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, but I think that it's a bit ridiculous given the context, so that's why I deleted it -- I wasn't satisfied with my earlier revision. If Jefferson "echoed" Locke, then he also echoed John Dickinson, as well as Burlamaqui and Hutcheson. Perhaps we should mention all of them. My personal view is that Jefferson was absolutely not alluding to Locke's phrasing, but I realize that for the moment there is nothing in the secondary literature to prove that point. I am inclined to disagree with your statement that "what is new in Locke is the view that these are natural rights." I realize that this is a good summary of the position of John Phillip Reid, but Reid completely missed the crystal-clear fact (well-known to specialists in this area) that traditional English constitutional principles are firmly grounded in natural law. In passing, I'll mention Bracton, Fortescue, St. Germain, and Coke in this regard, not to mention the trial and execution of King Charles I. Here's a quote from chapter 5 of St. Germain's Doctor and Student (which was "thoroughly annotated" by Thomas Jefferson), relating natural law to both "life, liberty and property" and the language of Magna Carta. Please keep in mind that in traditional English jurisprudence, echoing Cicero, "reason" is an explicitly acknowledged synonym for "Law of Nature":
"There be put by them that are learned in the laws of England two degrees of the law of reason, that is to say, the law of reason primary, and the law of reason secondary. By the law of reason primary be prohibited in the laws of England murder (that is, the death of him that is innocent), perjury, deceit, breaking of the peace, and many other like. And by the same law it is lawful for a man to defend himself against an unjust power, so he keep due circumstance. And also if any promise be made by menace to the body, it is by the law of reason void in the laws of England. The other is called the law of secondary reason, the which is divided into two branches...The law of a secondary reason general is grounded in the general law, or general custom of property...therefore all things that be derived by reason out of the said law of property, be called the law of secondary reason general, for the law of property is generally kept in all countries." Other Choices (talk) 11:46, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say that there are no sources that doubt that Jefferson meant to echo Locke. Rather, the scholarship that has questioned this connection has not convinced the entirety of the historical and political science fields, although it has attracted significant support (and perhaps majority support in history departments). I'll also add that there is considerable debate (and not just by Straussians or Pocock) over whether Locke broke significantly with the English tradition. Resnick argues that Locke did not appeal to the ancient constitution in opposing Charles and James, unlike Tyrell, Sydney, and the like, for example. RJC TalkContribs 14:55, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Aristotle and natural law[edit]

I agree with User:RJC's reasons for removing the recently-added bit on Aristotle. As RJC put it, "removed extended discussion of why Aristotle believed in natural law; primary sources count as original research, and articles have been published on why the passages quoted do not add up to natural law". It was disruptive of User:Other Choices to restore the text saying "reverted unexplained deletion"; User:RJC gave a cogent explanation. If User:Other Choices disagrees, this is the place. It is certainly disruptive to leave a misleading edit summary as User:Other Choices did. The existing section on Aristotle is quite sufficient; if there are additions to be made, let's discuss them here (and not depend on primary source interpretation). Tb (talk) 23:11, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

  • User:Tb: it appears that both you and User:RJC are guilty of jumping to conclusions. For the record, I have never held or advanced the opinion that Aristotle "believed in natural law," and I was not trying to advance that view with my addition to the article. User:RJC failed to explain (down here in the discussion page, for example) why he jumped to that groundless conclusion, especially given my final paragraph which sharply differentiates Aristotle's view from natural law theory. It was User:RJC's summary, not mine, that was misleading. I am willing to assume that he made an honest mistake.
  • Furthermore, User:RJC's statement that primary sources count as original research is only relevant if primary sources are being used to advance an editor's personal point of view. To quote WP:OR: "Primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them." My intention, as evidenced by my final paragraph, was to present a brief, neutral summary of Aristotle's statements that was RELEVANT to the later development of natural law theory. Before I came along, the article notably lacked a concise summary of what Aristotle ACTUALLY SAID; I provided such a summary. Without such a summary, the existing section on Aristotle is NOT sufficient, because it does absolutely nothing to inform the ignorant-but-curious reader. I think that the existing discussion of the debate about Aristotle's inclusion under the "natural law" umbrella, coming as it does at the very beginning of the article, serves to discourage readers and is best moved elsewhere, perhaps to a new section devoted to Thomas Aquinas. I would like to suggest that READABILITY is an important goal for a wikipedia article!
  • Finally, under the circumstances, your free and easy use of the word "disruptive" can be construed as evidence of irrational hostility. I sincerely hope that this is not the case, and I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you and I and User:RJC can find a way to communicate honestly, we can bring our three very different perspectives together to help develop an excellent article. In the meantime, while we work out our differences, I insist that my addition remain in the article.
  • Moving forward from here, I have no problem with adding a statement to my summary of Aristotle, clarifying that Aristotle's views do not add up to natural law (citing relevant secondary sources). I thought that what came before and after what I wrote made this point very clear, but perhaps, to satisfy yourself and RJC, it is necessary to put a fine point on the issue. In addition, at the end of my addition, I mention Cicero: I intend to post a similar summary of Cicero's natural law philosophy before the end of the week. I think this is vital to the article, because of Cicero's seminal importance to the western natural law tradition. Later on (next week?), I intend to add a section summarizing the use of natural law in medieval and renaissance English jurisprudence, which is directly and immediately relevant to the use of natural law in revolutionary American argumentation. Beyond that, sections summarizing the thought of Hutcheson and Burlamaqui appear relevant, because both philosophers have been repeatedly associated with both Cicero and the Declaration of Independence. By the same token, a section contrasting Locke with Leibniz on natural law appears to be urgently necessary.--Other Choices (talk) 10:01, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
This looks like OR to me, taking it to WP:NORN. Also reverted it. Dougweller (talk) 14:23, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
It is disruptive to use misleading edit summaries. You said that the text was deleted "without explanation" which is clearly false. I am not interested in discussing it further with you unless you can address this lapse. Tb (talk) 17:09, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
Tb, I actually said "unexplained." You seem to be assuming that I am not acting in good faith. I hope that I am wrong in this, and I hope that you can allow yourself to imagine the possiblity that you and I are having an honest disagreement about the use of words. In the future, I will phrase my edit summaries more carefully to avoid a repeat of this little misunderstanding. --Other Choices (talk) 00:32, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
Are you aware that "unexplained" means "offered no explanation"? Were you thinking it meant "offered an explanation I disagree with"? Moving on to the substance: you are doing original research. I'm an academic myself, I understand what it looks like. Wikipedia is very different. Many of the suggestions you make are not crazy, but you so far have shown a strong disagreement with a core policy of Wikipedia: no original research. Where there is scholarly dispute, however ill informed the dispute, Wikipedia is not the place to advance the correct interpretation, but instead the place to summarize what the dispute is. Often experts in an area (where there is dispute) are the worst people to write Wikipedia articles, because they start explaining the way they would teach a class or write an article, and those are entirely different genres. Here, you must put aside your own convictions, and your urge to cite primary sources, and instead, try to represent what others--however ill-informed--are already saying. Tb (talk) 00:43, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
I can't give an adequate defense of my choice of words without appearing to criticize another editor. I think that an honest mistake was made, and I prefer not to stir that pot any further. Regarding your opinion about original research, I have tried to be careful (and I admit that I'm new around here and still coming up to speed on this issue) to avoid adding original research into any of the articles. I thought that my summary of Aristotle was thoroughly, completely mainstream. Three editors have disagreed, but up to now, nobody has bothered to say what was "original" about what I wrote! Other Choices (talk) 11:51, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
"Original research" is a term of art: there doesn't have to be anything particularly original. You do present a widely-accepted reading of Aristotle. That reading is also widely criticized. What makes it original research is the reliance on primary rather than secondary sources to explain why a particular view is reasonable (I'm sorry if I thought you were explaining why that view was simply correct). Essentially, if it begins to look like you are speaking to a reader interested in getting to the truth of the matter, you will probably be accused of running afoul of WP:NOR or WP:NPOV or both. RJC TalkContribs 14:43, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Thank you for that explanation RJC; I begin to understand why other editors found what I added objectionable. Perhaps now is a good time to explain the actual intent behind what I added. I had no thought of weighing in on the scholarly debate over whether Aristotle is properly considered a natural law theorist. However, one fundamental concept of classical natural law -- the idea that the natural human state is social (not an isolated "state of nature") goes back to Aristotle, and reappears in Cicero and the medieval natural law tradition; as well as the thought of Burlamaqui, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. By contrast, Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Locke (and the dominant view in 18th-century Virginia) invoke a primordial "state of nature." Vattel employs the "state of nature" to anchor his argumentation for the proper relationship among nations. Cicero alludes to such a state, but for Cicero, men in such a state are little more than animals, without the developed capacity for reason. My point here is that "natural sociability vs. state of nature" as the starting point for natural law philosophy is an important issue, and I think that the article would benefit from a neutral presentation of this opposition of views. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Other Choices (talkcontribs) 00:18, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

The following message by Atmoz was posted at the "no original research" notice board. I'm re-posting it here for convenience as editors continue to re-work the Aristotle section. --Other Choices (talk) 23:29, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

If you can't find secondary sources discussing some particular point about Aristotle and natural law (or really, Aristotle and anything) then it shouldn't be in an encyclopedia, because Aristotle has been done to death. The purpose of an encyclopedia is to summarize secondary sources, not primary ones. But to the question at hand, the material removed in the diff supplied above is unquestionably original research. Some of the second and third paragraphs of the current revision of the Aristotle section are as well. The third paragraph talks about "the best evidence of Aristotle's having thought there was a natural law comes from the Rhetoric..." referenced to the Rhetoric. "Aristotle notes that natural justice is a species of political justice, viz. the scheme of distributive and corrective justice that would be established under the best political community;[8] were this to take the form of law, this could be called a natural law, though Aristotle does not discuss this and suggests in the Politics that the best regime may not rule by law at all.[9]" You can't state something from a primary source—"...natural justice is a species of political justice..."—and then form conclusions—"...were this to take the form of law, this could be called a natural law". This is original synthesis. Of course this doesn't mean it any of these statements aren't true or widely accepted analyses of Aristotle. It's just saying they runs afoul of Wikipedia's original research policy. I'd suggest finding sources which support the text. If it's as mainstream as RJC says it is, this should be relatively easy. -Atmoz (talk) 23:35, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

Jus vs Lex[edit]

This article (and other related ones) suffers from the problems of established English usage with the word law, which encompasses two separate concepts that are more precisely differenciated in other languages and traditions by the words jus vs lex, droit vs loi, Recht vs Gesetz, δίκαιο vs νόμος. Despite the unclear introduction, and mingled references to Latin equivalents, the article concerns what all other languages call φυσικό δίκαιο, Naturrecht, droit naturel, jus naturale, and you just need to check those other languages in Wikipedia to ascertain this. In Latin in particular, natural law is jus naturale, not lex naturalis. There exists a similar, but much less common expression lex naturæ, which refers just to any specific law of nature; but, as far as I can tell, the expression lex naturalis, which the article quotes, is used neither in classical Latin (1st century BC) nor in the whole of the classical legal corpus in Latin (2nd century AD). Although much later writers like Aquinas (13th century AD) and others do introduce that substandard form, it is misleading to offer it as the rightful equivalent of English natural law and then contrast it with an allegedly different concept called jus naturale a few lines later. It is no conicidence that the article on so-called natural justice (a ghost concept apparently indistinguishable from procedural fairness) has no counterpart in other European or world languages (other than a French translation of the English page produced by a Canadian, and a couple of mysterious Hindi/Urdu and Hebrew translations), and that there are natural rights but not natural right in Wikipedia in the sense this article presents it as something somehow related but distinguishable from natural law. I don't understand how an article that can't distinguish law from laws or justice from rights, and makes up (along with other related articles) ghost concepts out of basic linguistic ambiguities of the English language can have been given a quality scale grade B.--Other Choices (talk) 03:21, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

Aggfvavitus (talk) 17:39, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

My own Latin is minimal, so I will defer to experts like yourself concerning proper usage. I think that the basic question here is whether to privilege classical Latin over late medieval Latin. As Aquinas was the most famous and influential medieval exponent of natural law, perhaps it makes sense to give priority in this article to his usage. If you want to add a separate paragraph explaining Latin terminology, I think that would be a good idea. I share your opinion that this article doesn't deserve a "B" grade; I have been doing what I can to improve parts of the article where I have some knowledge. Regarding the difference between "natural justice" and "natural law," I think that is rooted in a very real difference between the thought of Aristotle and Cicero, but the terminology has become a fine point for English-language scholarly disputation, so I suppose the article should reflect that in some fashion.--Other Choices (talk) 03:22, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
This problem dogs scholarship on natural law, so I don't think we can resolve it. A major component of the scholarship distinguishes natural right from natural law, ius naturale from lex naturalis. Another major component does not. I don't agree that everyone on this page is discussing what would be called φυσικό δίκαιο or jus naturale, since some (like Aristotle) might agree that there is justice by nature but not that there is a law by nature. Some have argued that Aquinas argued only for what we would call natural jus, not lex, but this demonstrates that the consensus against which they are arguing is that he argued for lex naturalis (moreover, I haven't seen this argument progress beyond conference papers). RJC TalkContribs 15:29, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

English jurisprudence[edit]

I have begun a new section on English jurisprudence. So far this section includes paragraphs on Bracton and Fortescue; I will be adding St. Germain and Coke later, and some mention will have to be made of Blackstone. This brings up the question of the proper order of the sections. I have added this section following the section on Christian natural law, but this is not the only or even necessarily the best choice.--Other Choices (talk) 01:29, 16 June 2010 (UTC)


I am new to wiki and just looking around. Always been interested in natural law. The basic ideas of Natural Law in the west can be traced to Plato. I would like to put something in about this. Any comments from anyone? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Oxford73 (talkcontribs) 09:45, 28 March 2011 (UTC) Oxford73 (talk) 19:50, 28 March 2011 (UTC)

Even given what he says about law in the Statesman? The policy against original research means that we cannot write about what we know, only what we can verify through reliable sources. Even then, just because we have a source for something doesn't mean that we can present it as fact, given that sources contradict one another and the encyclopedia strives to maintain a neutral point of view. RJC TalkContribs 20:40, 28 March 2011 (UTC)

There is no danger of original research from me - not capable of that, but I have a book by Harvard Professor of Philosophy John Wild which is called Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law. Basically all the ideas of the Stoics can be found in seed form in Plato and it seems to me that is worth a mention. Shall I run a couple of sentence by you before doing a post? Oxford73 (talk) 09:35, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

When I have a little more time I will have a look as I need to bone up on this. Oxford73 (talk) 05:27, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Please do; it is well-known that Cicero was an admirer of Plato. However, I have never seen any claim that Plato expressed a coherent natural law theory.--Other Choices (talk) 00:18, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

That is correct. Plato has no coherent theory of natural law. I don't even think he uses that expression but the core ideas of natural law theories are found within Plato and it does seem a bit of an omission not to at least briefly refer to this. Oxford73 (talk) 08:59, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

Plato is mentioned in passing in the section on Aristotle, but without any discussion or footnote. Perhaps it would make sense to insert a reference to Plato in an additional clause at the end of the first sentence in the section on the Stoics. (maybe: "...usually attributed to the Stoics, who developed concepts that they found in Plato", with an appropriate footnote.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Other Choices (talkcontribs) 23:35, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

I added section on Plato. Any comments? Oxford73 (talk) 13:05, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

Most of the section is original research, interpreting Plato rather than relying upon an interpretation of Plato. I would say you have the wrong interpretation of some of those passages. Moreover, you present one scholar's view as though it were true. RJC TalkContribs 14:09, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
Oxford73, I'm going to guess that your references to Plato are also references to points that John Wild brings up about Plato. If this is the case, and if you include the reference to the secondary source in your footnotes, that might overcome the "original research" objection. In addition, it would be a good idea to re-phrase the sentence to say something like, "One scholar has argued that..." and then present the list. Of course, if this scholar's interpretation of various passages from Plato is not the academic norm, it would be a good idea to mention that. In my opinion, even if this scholar's interpretation of Plato is off base, the summary that you have added (with a bit of adjusting) is basically a good way to start off the article, because it introduces general natural law concepts.--Other Choices (talk) 04:17, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Thanks to RJC and other choices for the comments. Well it was original research in 1953 and was motivated as a response to Karl Popper and subjectivist ethics. To put it in context Wild is arguing that Popper misinterprets Plato and I would say that the concensus is that Popper did over egg the Plato pudding. A quick google search seems to show a current concensus that Plato is defintely part of the Natural Law tradition and that my comment that a lack of a Plato section in the wiki natural law page as other editors agreed was an omission that needs rectifying.I just lifted this from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy "The texts that are earliest (e.g., the Platonic or pseudo-Platonic Minos: Lewis 2006) and most foundational (e.g., Plato's Gorgias, Republic and Laws, and Aristotle's Politics) in the tradition of natural law theory remind their readers of the evident evils of anarchy". This web site also supports Wild In Sandbach's 1975 book The Stoics he refers to Stoic views being derived from Plato. Some support for Wild's interpretation also comes from •Moore, Michael. 1982. “Moral Reality.” Wisconsin Law Review [1982], pp. 1061-1156 and from and •Murdoch, Iris. 1970. The Sovereignty of Good. New York: Schocken. So my main point is that there definitely should be a Plato section.

I took John Wild's points and put them into simpler non academic language as he can be quite tricky. To what extent John Wild's interpretation of Plato and natural law is the norm would need some comments from others. The problem is that most academics are not interested in natural law so are not interested in whether it originates with Plato or the Stoics. I will put in a caveat as other choices suggest. But open to other suggestions to improve this section. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Oxford73 (talkcontribs) 13:45, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Otherchoices: I made change. Was that what you had in mind? RJC: Which of the 6 points I made which were taken from Wild do you think is an incorrect interpretation? Could you also supply references which support an alternative interpretation. Thanks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Oxford73 (talkcontribs) 13:54, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Apologies keep forgetting to sign. Oxford73 (talk) 13:56, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

I would say that, given what the Stranger says in the Statesman (that "law could never accurately embrace what is best and most just for all at the same time, and so prescribe what is best" [294b], that it "resembles some self-willed and ignorant person, who allows no one to do anything contrary to what he orders, not to ask any questions about it, even if, after all, something new turns out for someone which is better, contrary to the prescription which he himself has laid down" [294c]) that we cannot pick-and-choose quotations and assemble them together. At least part of what is said is not Plato's view, given that what is said is flatly contradictory. At points, there are signals that what is said is not presented as true, although useful myths may of course also be true. Laws 716a is emphatically what will be said to the colonists, in a context that we know from the Republic calls for noble lies. Strauss and Pangle argue that the whole of the Laws must be scoured for irony, given that neither Clinias nor Megillus are capable of or interested in philosophy. Stauffer and Bartlett would argue against taking what Socrates says to Callicles in the Gorgias at face-value—he is exaggerating his moralistic credentials.
Some of the passages cited seem to require a great deal of interpretation to support their point, to put it lightly. Laws 642a talks about why drinking will be discussed at length, not that an act is right when it accords with nature. Laws 714c introduces the idea that justice is the advantage of the stronger; 715a, Pindar's justification of using force; Symposium 205a that people want happiness; 206a that they want to possess what is good forever—none of these says that the cosmic order is inherently normative and fulfillment is achieved by following these norms. Laws 906a says the word is full of good and bad and that the latter outweighs the former; not only does this call into doubt the inherently-normative-world-order thesis, but it doesn't say anything about an action's being wrong when it is unnatural. Timaeus 69c-d says that the god created human beings, not that all human beings are the same in an ethically interesting manner (aside from the fact that Timaeus begins his story by saying that he doesn't know that it is true, cannot know since he is an astronomer and only a prophet could know these things, is improving upon the city-in-speech of the Republic which is built upon noble lies, etc.). If this is the evidence that Wild came up with for his thesis, then, to put it mildly, he has a very different notion of what counts as acceptable evidence from what now prevails in academia. RJC TalkContribs 14:47, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Points noted. Lets break this down. RJC are you comfortable with their being a Plato section? Are you also comfortable with the idea that some key elements of natural law theory appear in Plato? Assuming you say yes to both of those we then need to refine what exactly those elements are, how typical they are of Plato and what are the references. I am busy for a few days and John Wild is not easy to read. Obviously if you are not happy with the first two points then we need decide where we go with this. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Oxford73 (talkcontribs) 15:35, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure there needs to be a Plato section. Aristotle is invoked more often regarding the origin of natural law; since that thesis has been rendered untenable (or at least unpopular), scholars have moved on to finding it in the Stoics, not in Plato. Now, Plato is not irrelevant to the story, and he is mentioned, but I wouldn't go so far as to say he is vital enough to require his own section. Natural law also presumes a distinction between convention and nature, but I don't know if we need to speak at length about Xenophanes, for example—yes, what he says is opposed to natural law, but so is Plato, and he did say something that is important for natural law. If by key elements of natural law theory we mean simply natural justice, then yes, I do think that Plato advances this idea. This is said in the section on Aristotle. Saying more than this requires we get into muddier waters. What exactly it means for their to be a natural justice is disputed regarding Plato. So, spelling this out to include a cosmic order that is normative and that man finds fulfillment in living with harmony with this cosmic order—I think that is both false (which is irrelevant) and violates WP:NPOV (which does matter). Listing all the ways in which some people think he might say these things seems to give undue weight to that position. It would also privilege the view that there is a deep affinity between natural justice and natural law, that natural justice is simply natural law lite. Them's fightin' words where I come from. RJC TalkContribs 18:01, 6 April 2011 (UTC)
Oxford73, when I started editing at wikipedia, it took a while to grasp various wikipedia policies governing "original research" and "undue weight" and "neutral point of view." RJC is bringing up these issues in regard to a separate Plato section, and I am inclined to agree with his reading of wikipedia policy. My exposure to Plato is superficial, precisely because in academic treatment of the natural law tradition, Plato is generally mentioned as an introductory footnote. For that reason, proper balance would seem to preclude a separate Plato section in this article. However, I will be the first to admit that I'm not up to speed on Plato scholarship. If there is a significant minority in the academic community that emphasizes Plato's importance to the natural law tradition, then this should be mentioned in the article. If Wild is a "lone wolf," then perhaps mention of his views should be put into a footnote at the point where the article mentions Plato.--Other Choices (talk) 00:24, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

Yes I see where you are both coming from. I don't think Wild is a lone wolf but I don't have enough expertise, time or interest to find the rest of the pack. Are you able to give me a couple of days to have another go at improving the section as I do have a more modern book which comes at it from a slightly different angle but I haven't looked at it in ten years? The point that is going through my mind is that the basic reality for Plato is the Form of the Good and if the Good is not normative I don't know what is, but I need to read up on it. Oxford73 (talk) 08:05, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

I have modified it. What is challenging is that because Plato does not have an explicit theory of natural law it is difficult to show that he uses the same concepts using other terms in just a few lines. But it does seem very clear that the vision of the Good is related to virtuous behaviour. In natural law speak this would be acting in accord with the laws of nature leads to right action but Plato never talks like that but does say things that are very similar. I am not an expert on this so would have to defer to others if you still do not agree as I have now given it my best and final shot. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Oxford73 (talkcontribs) 09:36, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

Dharma and Hindu natural law tradition[edit]

I came to this page because I was interested in finding out about the Hindu natural law tradition (in particular the tradition on which S. R. Ranganathan based his Five laws of library science). Although the Hindu version of Dharma is mentioned on the Dharma page as being a variant of natural law, I haven't find anything more about it in Wikipedia. I imagine there is likely to be a distant historical connection with Stoicism, but there must surely be something written about later developments of the idea in Hindu thought, I just can't find it. Could anyone add something? Marinheiro (talk) 21:39, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Judging from the links in your post as well as the mentioning of natural law in the Dharma article, I am not quite sure the two concepts are the same. --Saddhiyama (talk) 21:48, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Two points here; firstly to refer to my previous post above, dharma is similar to the concept of doing one's duty in Plato. Secondly, in recent times Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was a hindu monk, wrote and spoke a lot about natural law and dharma so you might want to look into that in his translation and commenary on the first six chapters of the Bhagavad Gita published by penguin. Oxford73 (talk) 09:07, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

I'll try to find a copy Marinheiro (talk) 18:23, 1 April 2011 (UTC)

As I was saying above, the "natural law" of dharma does not seem to have anything to do with jurisprudence in particular, but seems to be instead something akin a religious "law of science". If further information about this is needed outside the dharma article, it would seem prudent to perhaps create a separate article for it. --Saddhiyama (talk) 09:15, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

There is a link with jurisprudence. Jurisprudence is concerned with the foundations of law. Is law a purely man made social construct or something more? War crime trials are an indication that there is something more; that even though an action was the law of the land it violates some higher law. Similarly behind the concept of dharma is the idea of some higher law. But this also relates to modern scientific and pre scientific conceptions of natural law. Dharma does not fit in with the modern scientific conception of natural law but is part of a more traditional and spiritual understanding of natural law so one would need to make a clear distinction in edits. Oxford73 (talk) 21:18, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

Not all people think so. For example:

The First Law of Library Science ... is so self-evident that one may be inclined to say it is trivial. But that is an inevitable characteristic of all first laws. Take, for example, the first Upanashadic law of conduct (Satyam Vada, or speak the truth), or the first law of motion

S. R. Ranganathan at least wanted to emphasize what the scientific and moral aspects of natural law have in common. Marinheiro (talk) 18:23, 1 April 2011 (UTC)

If we were to try to discuss the "truth" about natural law, this article would be the mess of WP:NPOV and WP:NOR violations it was some years ago. Discussing a tradition that has contemporary resonances permits us to avoid those problems, but it does mean that we discuss only that tradition. If there is something similar in Dharma, great, but Dharma is a separate tradition from what Aquinas wrought. Dharma belongs in the article on Dharma; natural law in the article on natural law. RJC TalkContribs 14:17, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

the new Judaic law section: undue weight?[edit]

I am inclined to be suspicious of the new Judaic law section as it is now written, because most of it doesn't have anything to do with natural law, and what is left doesn't seem to warrant a section of its own. However, perhaps there is more to it in Paul Johnson's work, which I haven't seen. On the other hand, Johnson has a journalistic background; he's not an academic. If this guy makes a passing statement about "natural law" in relation to Judaic law, I don't think that warrants a section in a wikipedia article. My basic questions are these: Did Judaic law apply reason to human nature in coming to judicial decisions? If so, was reason considered to be superior to the "Law of God" (the Bible)? Did the Judaic legal tradition cite natural law (or "reason") as authority for judicial reasoning? For the English common law tradition, the answer to all three questions was an emphatic YES.
--Other Choices (talk) 03:30, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

I concur. The source does not support the statement: Jewish law may have an importance analogous to the natural law, but the point is clearly that it is important, not that it is natural law (any more than the U.S. Constitution is natural law). RJC TalkContribs 15:08, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

Initial reply[edit]

Obviously, its addition and accompanying edit comment (Add new section 'Judaic law', notable, relevant and ref'd; provides for better understanding of what followed and follows-on. The older testament predates the newer ones; is that not a notable gaff?) seems to have upset some, and resulted in specific questions here concerning its validity measured on weight and context. I will address those questions and points, offer some rhetorical ones of my own, and illustrate its validity based on what was already on the page; in doing so I believe such an insufficiently considered and therefore unjustified removal might be self-reverted, rather than making me do it. We can BRD it if you choose, or we can get through this more collaboratively and considered.

Concerning the question perhaps there is more to it in Paul Johnson's work, which I haven't seen: The specific cite was noted as ref'd to p.154; I will add that his next chapter/period of development starts on p.168, and in the mid-12th century. Quite a bit more history and law obviously preceded his specifically quoted material; it includes specific mentions of both Plato and Aristotle with Jewish problems and interactions and tensions with such polytheistic 'reason' versus their strict religious God-mandated morality, which did not change, but the adherents were influenced. Maybe now its relative position can be seen more neutrally as a concluding statement, rather than the passing statement about "natural law" in relation to Judaic law that was noted. I will note that many other words of the addition are also ref'd to him, but not quoted. I must ask, however, if you considered looking for the ref somehow blue, or just gave up seeing because it wasn't formatted that way; I ask that because I found my copy in pdf format freely available on the web, and yes, I downloaded it. Concerning the other hand, question about Johnson's background: I note that I had a similar question and asked it one place, just before I added the new material here. If this is of continuing concern, maybe you should ask at a different-subject noticeboard, but please keep me in that loop. Concerning the three basic rhetorical questions in rapid succession at the end: No point to repeat them, they end in a full-caps 'yes' concerning overall acceptability; this is then concurred with, but similarly questioned concerning degree of support from the ref, as then cited.

The Tanakh or the more-or-less is equivalent Old Testament speaks of events older than the Mishnah and that should have been included also, because it contains some basic moral concepts behind the law we have, for example the Ten Commandments. Now let me ask my rhetorical questions for you to consider. Are these not basic today, even if some are more loosely followed now than originally proposed and intended? Natural law as we know it was not generated by 'reason' alone from the Classics; there also existed the initially Judaic religious, moral, mandated law and stricture that very much understood human nature and set limits and bounds based on it. They came not from 'reason', they emanated from 'on high' for lack of a better term and as original thought compared to other religions of the time. Is there really more than one set of these Ten Commandments, without going to the dab-page? Should we exclude first mention and leave the article to just 'reason' and Christian or Islamic re-uses, as it now appears? Was there more than one original Moses who received and delivered those strictly faith-based commands in stone and passed them farther? These words are not describing rights as you mention, they are describing wrongs. While all are not specifically amenable to law, most are after the fact. If these examples from Judaic law are of such little importance, please provide the classical law references concerning such subjects as killing (5), adultery (6), theft (7), and lying (8) which seem natural law-type examples, so we may discuss. Where did we get our 'eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' conception for law and punishment? Between the Classical Greek and Roman pagans and Judaic monotheism of that time, which better survived throughout and until today? Didn't these religious moral mandated basics continuously predate natural law as it developed? Of course they did, and they remained all the while the classical interpretations were largely lost and forgotten after the 5th century and until the 15th century, when the Renaissance rediscovered and started to discuss them. It naturally took some reason to get to where the major lines were already drawn, and it is where they arrived much later and by a different route for natural law.

Concerning the addition's validity based on what is already on the page, ahead of where the addition was placed, we only have the lede and the Classical interpretations of the Renaissance and later. I placed it there because Judaic law and its adherents had to deal with the reasoned thoughts of Classical hegemony that dominated the world, adjusted to that rule and that law and its relatively harsh implementation, or not, as well as because it must precede Christianity in presentation. It left little choice, do you suggest another place? So just the lead material and the short history intro should include the justification for this addition; here goes. The lede notes the Classical 'nature' side for the use of reason "to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules", but it doesn't include that they used similar reasoning to help understand the sciences too; and I will point out that is is much easier to consider such, when a religious consensus of some sort arrives as those ancients disappear. It notes differences between (it really is not 'opposed' to it) natural law and positive, man-made law of a given "community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law." Judaic law also includes natural law, but also both positive law and jurisprudence based on it; the addition noted these as "so that the resulting multi-layered body of writings constituted not just a work of continuing research into the true meaning of the Bible [natural law], but a living body of communal law, dealing with actual cases and real people" [for the other aspects]. The next sentence reads: "In natural law jurisprudence, on the other hand, the content of positive law cannot be known without some reference to the natural law (or something like it)." Given the universal acceptance of Abrahamic religion of all stripes in Europe, prior to and at the time the article notes these were debated and discussed, as well as considerations by those who debated them; wont you consider that the Judaic basics and generic follow-on interpretations ' into the true meaning of the Bible' are very much a 'something like it' natural law consideration? How many of those mentioned were either clerics or knowledgeable laymen? Few were not.

I will also add two other seemingly basic considerations of Judaic law, quoted from Johnson, and linked for context. "As men are all equally made in God’s image, they have equal rights in any fundamental sense. It is no accident that slavery among the Jews disappeared during the Second Commonwealth, coinciding with the rise of Pharisaism, because the Pharisees insisted that, as God was the true judge in a court of law, all were equal there: king, high-priest, free man, slave. This was one of their prime differences with the Sadducees. The Pharisees rejected the view that a master was responsible for the actions of his slaves, as well as his livestock, since a slave, like all men, had a mind of his own. That gave him status in the court, and once he had legal status, slavery could not work."( p.156) "Man was not only equal before the Law, he was physically free. The sages and rabbis were extraordinarily reluctant to use imprisonment as a punishment (as opposed to a restraint before trial), and the notion of man’s basic right to roam freely was very deep in Judaism, another reason why it was the first society of antiquity to reject slavery. But if a man was free physically, he was certainly not free morally."(p.158)

It is long as it stands now so I leave it there and await comments, and hopefully deeper consideration. Regards, CasualObserver'48 (talk) 15:53, 16 April 2011 (UTC)

CasualObserver48, in addition to clarifying my own position, I will try to address what I perceive to be the key points in your post. If I miss something essential in my attempt to avoid participating in the creation of a verbal labyrinth of Talmudic complexity, please don't hesitate to repeat it. By the same token, if in the pursuit of brevity I fail to explain a point thoroughly, I will not hesitate to elaborate later if necessary.
1) As a preliminary general precaution, I would like to say that I don't necessarily accept everything in the article as it stands now. This means that, if you quote a sentence from the article to support inclusion of a section on Judaic law, this might be usefully taken as an argument for changing the relevant sentence in the article.
2) My three questions about the natural law content of Judaic law weren't meant as rhetorical -- I honestly wanted to know the answer. I cited the English common law as an example of something that is unquestionably relevant to the subject of the article. But now that you've brought up the subject, I think that the section on English jurisprudence should be pruned considerably; I'll focus on that soon.
3) Concerning Paul Johnson's academic background, I am concerned to establish some scholarly support for his association of the edifice of Judaic law with natural law. Otherwise, on this particular subject, he's just a guy with an opinion, a very thin reed on which to base a section on Judaic law in this article.
4) I'm not sure if you are arguing that there was some sort of seminal ancient Hebrew influence on the Ciceronian natural law tradition. If so, perhaps you could mention a reliable source that puts forth that argument.
5) I question the relevance of your point that Judaic legal scholars cited Plato and Aristotle, because these two Greek philosophers are generally considered to be precursors of the natural law tradition, not an actual part of it.
6) You pose the question of whether we should "leave the article to just 'reason' and Christian or Islamic re-uses, as it now appears?" My initial inclination is to say yes, with the understanding that if you can provide reliable sources that discuss Judaic (or any other) re-uses of 'reason' in the Ciceronian tradition, then such material deserves inclusion.
7) I found the PDF copy of Paul Johnson's book and checked the index, which does not contain a single listing of "natural law" or "law of nature." To be thorough, I did a search through the text of the book for the terms "natural law" and "law of nature." I found exactly ONE reference -- the one from p. 154 that you already mentioned. In other words, Johnson provides no discussion whatsoever of natural law in his book. For that reason, I have to reaffirm my evaluation that Johnson's reference to natural law in relation to Judaic law is nothing more than a passing reference by a guy with an opinion.--Other Choices (talk) 09:24, 18 April 2011 (UTC)


It seems to me that the second two paragraphs on Cicero are completely irrelevant to this article. It is true and appears to be well referenced that he was a household word in 18th Century England among the educated and that Jefferson called him the father of philosophy and poetry, but how does that help anyone's understanding of Natural Law theory? The first paragraph is relevant, the second paragraph is about his influence and not his actual works, then the third and fourth paragraphs are out of place - that information should go on the main page about Cicero. This page isn't about Cicero being generally revered. If no one objects I'm going to delete the two paragraphs in a couple of days. I'll paste them here on the talk page so it's easy to revert if the consensus ends up being that they should be here. If anyone has read Cicero extensively and can flesh out what exactly he said about Natural Law, that would really help this article, because Cicero is such an important writer in this topic and it's a shame that we have so little relevant information on this page. Omgplz (talk) 06:35, 22 June 2011 (UTC)

"liberal" natural law?[edit]

The article currently contains a section entitled "classical liberal natural law," which was recently modified from "liberal natural law." I would like to suggest that both phrases are inappropriate unless we can find a reliable source that uses them. I think the section should be re-titled. The central focus of the section is on John Locke, so perhaps a better title would be "From Natural Law to Natural Rights."--Other Choices (talk) 02:08, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

I reverted the recent addition of "classic" since the linked article classical liberal obviously is not connected to the use of "liberal" in this article. However I think you are right in questioning the use of "liberal" at all in this connection, since we have no cited source that actually uses this term. I would support your suggestion of renaming the section. --Saddhiyama (talk) 09:23, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
While it is true that Locke was not a natural law theorist and that he followed Hobbes in replacing natural law with natural rights, most Locke scholars haven't yet caught on to this fact and seem to show no aptitude for doing so. There was a natural law tradition within liberalism (just look at the second half of the Liberty Fund natural law series), and it is not surprising that a discussion of Locke would feature prominently in it. I don't think that "liberal natural law" is a misnomer. RJC TalkContribs 12:11, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
John Locke is an important figure within classical liberalism, and the section in question seems to revolve primarily around Locke and his ideas. Modern day "liberalism" while takes its roots back to classical liberalism, does not feature Lockean ideas as prominently. Some of the aspects of Lockean ideals include the right to private-property, whereas modern day liberalism holds social-democratic values to be more prominent, private-property not playing as a prominent right role. This classical liberal tradition has instead been taken up by the "libertarians", and we can see examples of that in the section in question with references to Rothbard and Mises. This is why it's important to affirm that what the section represents is "classical liberalism" – which modern liberalism may or may not affirm – but which classical liberal and libertarians definitely affirm. DA1 (talk) 13:47, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Introduction is a little USA-centric?[edit]

As an English reader the end of the second paragraph gives a reasonable amount of reference to the formation of the United States. Are there other countries that are founded on these principles and ought to be mentioned as well? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:48, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Hobbes Revision Proposal[edit]

I think a revision to the Hobbes' portion of the article is due. In particular, I think we should change this section of the article to reflects recent scholarship on Hobbes' legal philosophy. Here are two articles and that argue for the view that Hobbes is a natural law theorist of a unique kind rather than a positivist. This view, if included in the article, would be in strong contrast to the traditional view (that Hobbes is a legal positivist). Before I make any changes I would like to hear what others have to say on the matter. I would especially appreciate help with crafting language that adequately captures both views while retaining a NPOV. Catfax 23:23, 29 January 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Catfactory (talkcontribs)