Natural Law

Natural Law

A set of rules inherent in human behavior and human reasoning that governs human conduct. Natural law is preexisting and is not created in courts by judges. Philosophers and theologians throughout history have differed in their interpretations of natural law, but in theory, natural law should be the same throughout time and across the world because it is based on human nature, not on culture or customs.

An example of natural law, as interpreted by Thomas Hobbes, is that judges should be impartial. Other major philosophers of natural law include Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and Lysander Spooner.

The opposite of natural law is "positive law" or "man-made law." Positive law may be based on natural law, but not the other way around. Positive or man-made laws include laws such as the speed at which individuals may drive on the highway and the age at which individuals may legally purchase and consume alcohol. While natural law typically applies to philosophy, it is also extensively used in theoretical economics.


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  • Natural law — Natural Nat u*ral (?; 135), a. [OE. naturel, F. naturel, fr. L. naturalis, fr. natura. See {Nature}.] 1. Fixed or determined by nature; pertaining to the constitution of a thing; belonging to native character; according to nature; essential;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • natural law — ► NOUN 1) a body of unchanging moral principles regarded as inherent in all human beings and forming a basis for human conduct. 2) an observable law relating to natural phenomena …   English terms dictionary

  • natural law — n. 1. rules of conduct supposedly inherent in the relations between human beings and discoverable by reason; law based upon man s innate moral sense 2. a law of nature: see LAW (sense 8a) 3. the laws of nature, collectively …   English World dictionary

  • Natural law — For other uses, see Natural law (disambiguation). Natural law, or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis), is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal.[1] Classically, natural law refers to the use of… …   Wikipedia

  • natural law — a principle or body of laws considered as derived from nature, right reason, or religion and as ethically binding in human society. Cf. positive law. [1350 1400; ME] * * * In jurisprudence and political philosophy, a system of right or justice… …   Universalium

  • natural law — The ambiguity of the term natural law rests upon a metaphorical link between regularities in nature and the authoritative regulation of human activity. In its latter use, ‘natural law’ refers to principles of law and morality, supposedly… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • natural law — noun a rule or body of rules of conduct inherent in human nature and essential to or binding upon human society (Freq. 4) • Syn: ↑law • Hypernyms: ↑concept, ↑conception, ↑construct • Hyponyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • NATURAL LAW —    a term borrowed from STOIC PHILOSOPHY used by CHRISTIAN philosophers to argue that a RATIONAL order can be detected underlying the universe which enables individuals to make informed judgements about RIGHT and WRONG on the basis of REASON. It… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

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