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The Natural Law-Natural Rights Tradition


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Title: The Natural Law-Natural Rights Tradition

TheNatural Law-Natural Rights Tradition
History of Economic Thought Boise State
University Spring 2005 Prof. D. Allen Dalton
The Ancient Foundations
  • Stoicism
  • God (supreme intelligence) is the beginning, the
    middle, and the end
  • Human science is working out of that which is
    determined by the supreme intelligence
  • Cicero
  • By nature, human beings possess reason, which
    enables man to discover the principles of justice
    and, therefore, just law
  • Any valid law is rooted in nature, and any law
    not rooted in nature (such as a law made by a
    tyrant) is no law at all
  • The gods share in reason because of this they
    can be said to be part of a community with

The Ancient Foundations
  • In Stoicism, the natural law includes both
    natural philosophy and moral philosophy, both
    science and the humanities.
  • In Ciceros interpretation, however, natural law
    comes to concern mans relationship with one
    another that is, moral philosophy is emphasized.

The Medieval Transition
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • The Natural Law is nothing else than the
    rational creatures participation in the eternal
  • All law, including natural law and human law, if
    derived from right reason, is derived from
    Gods eternal law reason can add or subtract to
    natural law

The Medieval Transition
  • In Aquinas formulation, Natural Law returns to
    include both moral and natural philosophy, but
    the emphasis is upon moral philosophy the
    rational creatures participation in the eternal
    law. (emphasis added)

The Age of Scientific Discovery
  • Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
  • argues for experimental, empirical science
    natural laws induced from collected facts
  • René Descartes (1596-1650)
  • science built upon the foundation of axioms,
    self-evident truths emphasis on deduction

The Age of Scientific Discovery
  • Natural law returns to its Stoic basis, without
  • Natural laws are viewed by both Bacon and
    Descartes as primarily having to do with natural
  • Basis of natural law differs between Baconians
    and Cartesians
  • Bacon has a more Stoic view, emphasizing
  • Descartes has a view closer to Cicero and the
    Scholastics, emphasizing reason.

Moral Philosophy and Natural Law
  • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
  • Men in a state of nature are in a war of all
    against all social contract gives sovereign
    absolute authority to end disputes and allow
    peace and economy to reign
  • Sir Robert Filmer (1588-1653)
  • Argued that family was natural form of
    government that Dominion Covenant passes through
    Adam to all kings

Moral Philosophy and Natural Law
  • Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)
  • On the Law of War and Peace (1625)
  • natural law as perceptive judgment in which
    things are good or bad by their own nature and
    those things that by themselves are good are
    associated with the nature of man
  • break with dominant Calvinism of Dutch republic

Moral Philosophy and Natural Law
  • Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694)
  • On the Law of Nature and of Nations (1672)
  • conception of natural law based on the notion of
    humans as social animals, and he argued that each
    individual had the right to equality and freedom
  • viewed natural relations of nations (as of men)
    are peaceable, and war is justified only to
    punish an infraction of international law after
    attempts at pacific redress have failed

Moral Philosophy and Natural Law
  • John Locke (1632-1704)
  • political activity from 1666 onward after meeting
    Ashley Cooper (later First Earl of Shaftesbury)
  • Letter on Toleration (1689) Two Treatises of
    Government (1690) Essay concerning Human
    Understanding (1690)

Moral Philosophy and Natural Law
  • John Locke (1632-1704)
  • using reason to try to grasp the truth, and
    determining the legitimate functions of
    institutions, will allow human flourishing with
    respect to both material and spiritual welfare
  • government is founded by social contract to
    protect the natural rights of individuals to
    life, liberty, and estates, which they do not
    give up in forming civil society

Natural Law and Economics
  • Three notions of Natural Law
  • Natural Laws are statements concerning
    regularities in the world Natural Laws are the
    'principles' which govern the natural phenomena
    of the world (laws of Nature)
  • Natural Law ethical theory that moral standards
    that govern human behavior are objectively
    derived from nature of human beings
  • Natural Law legal theory authority of legal
    standards derives from moral merit of those

Natural Law and Economics
  • Economy and Commercial Activity
  • Understanding of economic interactions as
    regularized behavior self-regulating system of
    natural order
  • Commercial actions are natural to man moral
    content to peaceful commercial activity
  • Mutual beneficence of exchange
  • Economy as voluntary cooperation
  • Human laws that prevent the natural commercial
    actions of man are themselves unnatural and void

Natural Rights and Economics
  • Natural Rights and Natural Law
  • Natural Rights as moral claims of individuals
    upon each other arising from their nature as
    human beings
  • life, liberty, and estates (Locke)
  • life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
  • Natural Rights and Possessive Individualism
  • Central feature of nature of man is
  • Radical renunciation of divine right of kings,
    feudalism, slavery
  • Self-ownership and property ownership as central
    institutions of the commercial society

Further Reading
  • General History
  • Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Reason Begins,
  • Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Louis XIV,
  • Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Voltaire, 1965.
  • Economics/Philosophy
  • Hugo Grotius (Armitage, ed.), The Free Sea, 2004
  • Thomas Hobbes (Tuck., ed.), Leviathan, 1996
  • Samuel Pufendorf, (Hunter and Saunders, eds.),
    The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of
    Nature, 2002 (1673).
  • John Locke (Laslett, ed.), Two Treatises of
    Government, 1988 (1690).
  • C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of
    Possessive Individualism Hobbes to Locke, 1990.