Natural Law Philosophers


(idealism) human law should reflect universal truths, law should imitate nature (which is inherently good)


(rationalism) through reason, humans should seek to discover the ideals which should then guide their actions


human law should be based on the "reason of intelligent man" - but this law must never be in conflict with the laws of nature.

St. Thomas Aquinas

(eternal law, natural law, and human law) eternal law was divine, natural law "imprinted" eternal law on humans, and "human law" trained people to follow natural law.


Idealism: in philosophy, any view that stresses the central role of the ideal or the spiritual in the interpretation of experience. Different forms and applications of idealism are discernible in the history of philosophy. In its most radical and commonly rejected form it is the view that all reality is nothing but the activity of one's own mind and that nothing really exists but oneself.

"Idealism," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.


Rationalism: (Latin ratio, "reason") in philosophy, a system of thought that emphasizes the role of reason and logic in obtaining knowledge, in contrast to empiricism, which emphasizes the role of experience, especially sense perception. Rationalism has appeared in some form in nearly every stage of Western philosophy, but it is primarily identified with the tradition stemming from the 17th-century French philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes. He held that by means of reason alone, certain universal, self-evident truths could be discovered, from which the remaining content of philosophy and the sciences could be deductively derived. He assumed that these self-evident truths were innate, not derived from sense experience. This type of rationalism was developed by other European philosophers, such as the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. It was opposed, however, by British philosophers of the empiricist tradition, such as John Locke, who believed that all ideas are derived from the senses or experience.

Rationalism in ethics is the claim that certain primary moral ideas are innate in humankind and that such first moral principles are self-evident to the rational faculty. Rationalism in the philosophy of religion is the claim that the fundamental principles of religion are innate or self-evident and that divine revelation is not necessary. Since the end of the 1800s, however, rationalism has played chiefly an anti-religious role in theology.

"Rationalism," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.

Positive Law

Positive Law: the body of legal theory which views law as the product of human thought and will.

Positive Law Philosophers:

Thomas Hobbes

law must be made by man to protect man from his own natural brutality, law must maintain order and strength in a society

Jeremy Benthem

(founder of Utilitarianism) the purpose of law and government is to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people

John Austin

(supporter of Utilitarianism) the purpose of law and government is the greatest advancement of human happiness

H.L.A. Hart

law as a system of coercive orders; Primary Rules, Secondary Rules (rules of recognition, change, and adjudication)


Utilitarianism: (Latin utilis, "useful"), in ethics, the doctrine that what is useful is good, and consequently, that the ethical value of conduct is determined by the utility of its results. The term utilitarianism is more specifically applied to the proposition that the supreme objective of moral action is the achievement of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This objective is also considered the aim of all legislation and is the ultimate criterion of all social institutions. The utilitarian theory of ethics is generally opposed to ethical doctrines in which some inner sense or faculty, often called the conscience, is made the absolute arbiter of right and wrong. Utilitarianism is likewise at variance with the view that moral distinctions depend on the will of God and that the pleasure given by an act to the individual alone who performs it is the decisive test of good and evil.

"Utilitarianism," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.