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Updated: Jul 18, 2023


• This school of interpretation of legal principles has left its impact on the fields of Ethics, Politics and Law in the years reaching back to centuries BC and in modern times it has become an integral part of Political and Legal ideologies.

• It is often considered as a law made by divinity which the positive law must follow. Furthermore, it was believed to be a law made for preservation of human beings from unjust laws and abuse of freedom. Natural Law encompasses principles which ensure Legal development and management.

• Moreover, it facilitates the implementation of Perfect Law and bridges the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’. These principles are derived from human reasoning and consist of essentials which are needed for the Perfect Law to exist.

• According to Dr W. Friedmann, Natural law has history of human being's quest for Perfect law. Even though these principles underwent changes because of everchanging environment, there is one thing that stayed the same and that is the continuous search of finding superior law than Positive law.

• These principles were made a weapon for both to justify the present authority and to stand against that authority. These Principles not only transformed the old Roman Civil Law, but also played a vital role in the quarrel between Medieval Church and German Emperors.

• These Principles validated International Law and the Ideal of these Principles is that there is one law which regulates all people and gives due importance to the rights of all.

Evolution of Natural Law:

This school of Jurisprudence evolved in 4 stages which are:

1. Ancient Period

2. Medieval Period

3. Renaissance Period

4. Modern Period

In this blog, Ancient and Medieval Period have been discussed. Stay tuned to learn about Renaissance Period and Modern Period in the upcoming blog.

Ancient Period:

• During this period Natural Law had a great influence on Greek Legal system and it also affected Roman Legal system. Heraclitus is said to have given the foundation of Natural Law which he discovered in the series of events which he regarded as destiny, order and reason of humans.

• According to Grecians law should be in compliance with the Order of nature and this became the foundation of the Greek School of Enlightenment in 5th Century BC. According to this school, Law of Nature applies to all humans without any discrimination and this Law has come into existence to protect humans from the unjust authority.

• Some of the prominent thinkers of this period were Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoics and Cicero.

1. According to Socrates, Insight is the knowledge of what is good and what is bad. Moreover, he believed that one of the Principles of Natural Law is that Authority and Positive Law in adherence to the Natural Law is to be abide by all humans.

2. Plato’s Ideology dictates that all humans have been presented with an equal sense of what Justice is, so that in case of adverse situations all humanity is able to create unions in order to ensure their preservation.

3. Aristotle saw humans as a part of Nature in 2 ways. In one way, humans are the creation of God and learns from experiences. Humans have also been endowed with a sense of what is Right and what is Wrong which sets them apart from other parts of the Nature. When humans live according to reason then they are said to have been living ‘Naturally’.

4. Stoic took inspiration from the Ideology of Aristotle and gave Aristotle’s theory and Ethical outlook. The Postulates given by him are Universally applicable.

5. Romans were Influenced by Stoic’s Postulates of Natural Law. They used these principles to give their rigid and narrow system, a worldwide view. They divided law in threefold i.e., Jus Civile, Jus Gentium and Jus Naturale.

Jus Civile: Civil law that applied to only Roman Citizens.

Jus Gentium: Those rules which are similar to foreign law being applied on the foreigners by Roman Magistrate.

Jus Naturale: Natural Law derived from human reasoning.

6. According to Cicero, when the human mind fully and firmly uses reason, which he derives from order of Nature, in order to decide what is ought to be done what should be forbidden or one must refrain from doing then that becomes Law. Humans are considered as the most developed creations who are capable of developing reasoning and their preservation is the main aim of Nature and hence no rock should be left unturned when it comes to protect humans


Medieval Period:

• During this period the authority to effect Public Opinion was in the hand of Catholic Church and the whole world yearned for stability. Unity and Supremacy were the most emphasized principles of Natural Law of this period. Supremacy of law was considered as a unifying force for the whole world.

• God was the source of Unity, and it was believed that there should be one faith and one church for one nation. Theological version of Natural law was given in this era which was relatively more logical and organized.

• Some of the prominent thinkers of this period were as follows:

1. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, there was a need for Church to win the fight from State in order to gain authority by putting a logical argument and unifying the Christians and their Philosophy. In his view, there is a means to every end and the person in authority should strive to achieve those ends by searching and using proper means. Such means are find by legislators and those means are laws. He said that laws are made and promulgated by people in authority which derive them from the reason of common good of the community and this notion, according to him, came into existence because of some Godlike lawmaker. He divided law into 4 parts, i.e.., Law of God, Law derived from human reasoning, Divine Law/ Law of Scriptures and Human Law.

Law of God: Christianity, which was considered as Supreme divine reason was considered a source of this law and it is the bases of all institutions. By this Aquinas emphasized the position of church as the sole interpreter of Eternal law. According to this law, if the reason is the source of law, then there is an obligation to abide by it, but if the law is unjust then such duty automatically dismisses.

Later on, the people who rebelled against the authority of church gave the argument that humans have a direct connection to God through their reasoning therefore authority of Church was denied by them. Aquinas combined the system of power of Church with the Ideology of Aristotle and aimed for establishment of Social Stability.

2. Hugo Grotius not only propounded the classical version of Natural Law but also laid the basis of modern Internation Law. According to him, the society which the humans desire is a peaceful one, governed by natural law without divine intervention. He gave 2 way to analyze the principles of Natural law i.e., By examining the sensible human reasoning in a society and by checking the acceptance rate of principles made from such reasoning by nations. Pacta sunt servanda which means honoring promises made and treaties signed, and Freedom of the seas are the main principles of the international law given by Grotius. For him, law is something which even the God can't alter and is based on need and reasoning of humans living in a society.

3. Pufendorf gave the notion that one should self-preserve but should not affect the discipline, order and tranquility of the society. He was inspired from Grotius.

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