natural law | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

Natural law is a philosophical and legal theory that posits the existence of a set of universal moral principles that are inherent in the natural order of the world.

These principles are believed to be discoverable through reason and logic and are thought to apply to all individuals, regardless of their culture, religion, or political affiliation.

According to natural law theory, these moral principles are not created by human beings or governments, but rather are discovered through observation of the natural world and reflection on human experience. Natural law theorists argue that these principles should form the basis for a just legal system, and that laws that violate these principles are inherently unjust and should be rejected.

Some of the key principles of natural law include respect for human life, protection of individual rights, and promotion of the common good. These principles are believed to be universal and unchanging, and are often contrasted with positive law, which refers to laws that are created by human authorities and may be subject to change or interpretation.

Natural law has had a significant influence on Western legal and philosophical traditions, and has been invoked by many thinkers throughout history to argue for the existence of certain rights and freedoms. However, the concept of natural law remains controversial, and there is ongoing debate over the validity and applicability of its principles in contemporary legal and political contexts.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2023


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