Natural Law

Natural law is perhaps the oldest school of legal philosophy. Until the rise of legal positivism in the 19th century, natural law reigned supreme as the dominant theory.

Natural law theory primarily rests on the idea that there is, or must be, a relationship between law, ethics and morality. Any law which fails to be ethical or moral is not a valid law, and therefore is not required to be followed. This is often seen as the polar-opposite of legal positivism which requires a more strict adhesion to the law.

The theory of natural law is first recorded in Ancient Greece and has maintained an influence throughout history, including Christian jurisprudence (which rests largely on the principles of natural law and justice) throughout the world, the English legal system, and more recently in the US Declaration of Independence.


Prominent Thinkers:

Aristotle     Plato     Marcus Tullius Cicero     St Augustine of Hippo     St Thomas Aquinas

Sir Henry de Bracton     Sir John Fortescue     Christopher St Germain     Richard Hooker

Sir Edward Coke     John Selden     Sir Matthew Hale     Sir William Blackstone

See Also:

Rule of Law     Positivism