Essays On Thomas Aquinas Natural Law

The idea that the concepts of law and morality intersect in some way is called the Overlap Thesis.

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Though there are different versions of natural law theory, all subscribe to the thesis that there are at least some laws that depend for their "authority" not on some pre-existing human convention, but on the logical relationship in which they stand to moral standards.

Otherwise put, some norms are authoritative in virtue of their moral content, even when there is no convention that makes moral merit a criterion of legal validity.

First, moral propositions have what is sometimes called objective standing in the sense that such propositions are the bearers of objective truth-value; that is, moral propositions can be objectively true or false.

Though moral objectivism is sometimes equated with moral realism (see, e.g., Moore 1992, 190: "the truth of any moral proposition lies in its correspondence with a mind- and convention-independent moral reality"), the relationship between the two theories is controversial.

At the outset, it is important to distinguish two kinds of theory that go by the name of natural law.

The first is a theory of morality that is roughly characterized by the following theses.

There are a number of different kinds of natural law legal theories, differing from each other with respect to the role that morality plays in determining the authority of legal norms.

The conceptual jurisprudence of John Austin provides a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of law that distinguishes law from non-law in every possible world.

Indeed, Austin explicitly endorsed the view that it is not necessarily true that the legal validity of a norm depends on whether its content conforms to morality. Here it is worth noting that utilitarians sometimes seem to suggest that they derive their utilitarianism from certain facts about human nature; as Bentham once wrote, "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.

But while Austin thus denied the Overlap Thesis, he accepted an objectivist moral theory; indeed, Austin inherited his utilitarianism almost wholesale from J. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.

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