• Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

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Jurisprudence – Natural Law Theory

Jurisprudence – Natural Law Theory – According to Friedman, the history of natural law is in fact only the story of man’s search for pure justice and his failure in it.


 The concept of natural law originated from ancient Greece.

 According to Sophocles, there are some unwritten laws which apply equally to all beings.

Stoic ideology (Philosophy) gained momentum in Greece after Aristotle. According to the supporters of this ideology, there are some such rules in the world which are equally applicable to all nature, creatures and humans. He termed these universal and eternal laws as ‘natural law’. He believed that the whole world is bound by such broad basic laws.

According to the Stoics, these laws are based on reason or conscience and can also be called divine laws because they are such orders of God that are applicable to human beings. Man can create such rules on the basis of his intelligence.

 There has also been an ideology with respect to natural law that just as the ruler rules a certain community and creates certain orders by his practical discretion, in the same way God rules the whole universe and some things are born out of divine intelligence. There are natural laws which apply equally to all living beings. Orders made by the government are called real or formulated laws while divine laws are called divine or natural laws.

Development of natural law theory

The development of natural law can be studied in the following periods.

1. Greek period –

The philosophy of natural law is first found in the ideology of Greek philosophers. Heraclitus gave three main features of nature which are – the ultimate goal (destiny), order, logic or reason.

In the view of Heraclitus, nature is not just a scattered pile of things, but there is a mutual relationship between the things of nature and there is a system in them, just as there is a definite order in nature, in the same way humanbeings  should also establish order in human society by following natural laws.

 The Greek philosophers were of the opinion that as a result of following the self-made law by man, high order and malaise has arisen in the human society, which can be ended only by following natural methods.

2. Stoic period – The name of Socrates is foremost among the followers of Stoic ideology. Socrates gave two types of justice ‘natural justice and legal justice’. Natural justice is the same in all places, whereas legal justice is always of the same type, but its form changes with time and place.

 The meaning of natural law was further explained in the Stoic period. Now it was not only knowledge of universal and final laws related to be acquired by the sight, examination and experience of external things – but was related to the inner thinking-power of man,  Aristotle was the architect of the new interpretation of natural law.

According to Aristotle, man being a conscious creature, two natural tendencies are found in him, first, that being a part of nature, he follows natural laws like other creatures and secondly that due to the power of reason in him, he can test natural laws on the basis of justification.

 This theory of the dual nature of man, propounded by Aristotle, gave a new direction to the Stoic ideology of natural law, in which natural law is considered equivalent to moral order. In his view, moral command is the voice of the conscience of man which originates from the soul of man and not from his mind.

3. Roman period

Natural law principles were given a new form in the Roman period. With the help of natural law, two types of methods were adopted in the judicial system of Rome. Which were called civil law and public law. Civil law was applied only to Romans while public law was applied equally to Romans and other foreigners residing in Rome.

4. Dark Ages – After the disappearance of ancient civilization, even in the dark ages, Christian priests like Ambrose St. Augustine and Gregory, etc., maintained the ideal of natural law in the social system. But these thinkers considered ‘also god as the original source of natural law.

5. Middle Ages-

 In European history, the period from the twelfth century to the beginning of the fourteenth century is considered a period of the Middle Ages. Cicero, Cineka and St. Thomas Aquinas are prominent among the promoters of this era.

 The contribution of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages is noteworthy. He tried to separate the natural law from the divine method.

Saint Aquinas was of the view that the entire human community is governed by Goddess Shakti. It is undeniable that the divine method is the best, but it is beyond the capacity of man to get the knowledge of the complete divine method. Man can know only some part of the divine law which we can call the natural law. From this point of view, Aquinas has given the following four types of method –

  • the divine method,
  • the natural method,
  • the human method,
  • the method written in religious texts.

6. Renaissance Era-

 Now Instead of the supernatural power of divine law, the rational intelligence of man was considered as the basis of natural law. In this new ideology, the principle of dual nature of man propounded by Aristotle was accepted again.

Aristotle, while explaining the natural law, expressed the idea that man is a part of nature in two forms. One, being a creature like other creatures, he is bound by the laws of nature and secondly, because of his intelligence, he is different from other beings and because of his reasoning power, he can decide good and bad on his own.

According to Hugo Grosius, man is by nature peaceful. This desire of his is in accordance with his logical nature. In his view, if the law made by man is not according to the natural law, then it will be inadmissible.

Jurisprudence – Natural Law Theory