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Natural Law Theory

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Natural Law Theory & Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics, & Recent Theories of Rights: Rawls & Nozick.

Natural Law Theory:

Natural Law theory in ethics is not to be confused with the laws of nature as put forward by physicists or other natural scientists, but they are related and do overlap. In moral domains, we are not concerned to give a mathematical, experimentally based theory of ethics or justice, but we are concerned with the general order of nature and how human life is nestled in and depends on that order. For example, life (& its preservation) depends on observing the necessities and limitations of nature, how we are dependent on food, shelter, parents and a community and the satisfying of other natural needs for life to exist, continue and prosper. The most prominent philosophers & political thinkers in this line of thought include the following: ancient - Plato, Aristotle, & later Cicero & other Roman statesmen; medieval - St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas & other thinkers in the Judeo-Christian tradition; modern - John Locke, & of course Thomas Jefferson & the “founding fathers” of the American republic. According to almost all of these authors, the natural order ultimately depends upon a first ordering principle that established the relation between man and nature. That first principle is commonly referred to as God or Creator, as indicated, for example, in the opening of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

One line of reasoning introduced by Plato is based on the law of the Division of Labor. This law holds that given our natural needs, it is most efficient, effective & conducive to our flourishing for each of us to specialize by developing our skills & talents, and exchange the product of our labors with one another for the overall good of the community. This presupposes an order in nature & between man and nature that exhibits a universal,...

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