Natural Law, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"Natural law, natural justice, [is] the only standard by which any controversy whatever, between man and man, can be rightfully settled; being a principle whose protection every man demands for himself, whether he is willing to accord it to others, or not; being also an immutable principle, one that is always and everywhere the same, in all ages and nations; being self-evidently necessary in all times and places; being so entirely impartial and equitable towards all; so indispensable to the peace of mankind everywhere; so vital to the safety and welfare of every human being; being too, so easily learned, so generally known, and so easily maintained by such voluntary associations as all honest men can readily and rightfully form for that purpose --."10 (Lysander Spooner.)Scientific law (natural law) is a "theoretical principle" deduced from particular facts as are gathered according to the sciences of observation, and is "applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by the statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions be present." (OED.) It is, as Blackstone said, "the laws of motion, of gravitation, of optics, or mechanics." It is "a fixed correspondence of cause and effect."11 They are laws that are derivatively obtained by watching the orderly sequences of Nature and applied to achieve a desired sequence of Nature. They are as George Meredith described them, "Those firm laws Which we name Gods."
Let me give two examples of scientific law: Boyle's law, the principle, published by Robert Boyle about 1662, that the volume of a given mass of gas (the temperature being constant) varies inversely as the pressure; and Charles's law, the law discovered by Alex. César Charles (1746-1823) that for every degree centigrade of rise in temperature, the volume of a gas increases ... etc. There are many, many scientific laws, only some of which have been discovered. These are laws on which we daily depend and which, for the most part, we do not understand; we follow them; we do not question them.
Natural Law is a species of scientific law; it is a law implanted by nature on the human mind; Natural Law is a set of instinctual rules which we follow though we have no more understanding of them than we have of the scientific laws to which we have referred; and on which we daily depend; and, I shall say again, we regularly follow without the least understanding of them.
As it relates to man, it was Berkeley, who, in 1712, said, "Self-preservation is the very first and fundamental law of nature." Sir Thomas More, 1568, "The lawe of nature wylleth the mother to keepe the childe." Jeremy Bentham gave natural law a wider meaning than it in fact has, when, in 1780, he said, "Instead of the phrase, Law of Nature, you have sometimes Law of Reason."12
There was a time when natural law was profoundly revered, while conventional, legislated law hardly yet existed. It was a time when the common law13 reigned supreme. As a preacher of the day would say: "The Lord endued Man with the Spirit of Understanding, by which he might be a Guide and Law unto himself." So, the principle that there is no need for men on high to lay laws down for the social organization of human kind, is a principle of long standing; and, there is absolutely nothing which has come out of the great social experiments of the 20th century to indicate, to any well-informed person, that this ancient principle need be different; indeed, the results show that the principle of law as we are here dealing with (that there is no need for written laws in respect to social organization) is a principle firmly rooted in immutable law, natural law.
This subject of natural law -- its existence and its extent -- is a subject which fills a considerable number of shelves in any law school library. It should be sufficient, for now, to say, that if we can identify a body of positive principles and precepts which a good citizen cannot deny or ignore, then we have discovered natural law; and, by doing so, begin to understand that there is a way to deal with the great social problems at hand without turning to intrusive man-made law.
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[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]