Friday, February 11, 2011

Jurisprudence 2010 Q1

Explain key differences in views on natural law by St Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

Natural Law is a law consistent with nature. It has a close link with religion and God since the civilization of mankind. This is because the history of it could be traced back to the classical era such as Greek and Rome, more than 2500 years ago. It has been assumed that human being always live in accordance nature and those who live against the natural, were deemed to be wrong. Thus, early philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero etc have attempted to incorporate the natural law within the live of early human beings.

Be that as it may, one, most notable, jurists of medieval time was none other than St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a Dominican monk and had learned under the guidance of Albertus Magnus. In his most celebrated work, titled Summa Theologica (c 1266), he set out a fully,  systematized approach to law. His approached was that law to be understood as part of God’s plan for mankind – this belief become central to his arguments. Aquinas put forward a fourfold division of law as follows : -

Eternal Law (“lex aeterna”) – This is divine Intellect and Will of God directing all things by a divine reason. God’s rational guidance has the character of law and it is not subject to constraints of time.

Divine Law (“lex divina”) – Is part of Eternal Law governing man and may be known by him through scriptural revelation such as the holy scriptures (Old and new Testament). Divine law comes, through revelation, directly from God. Revelation is the guide for man’s reason. Example of Divine Law is Ten Commandments.

Natural Law (“lex naturalis”) – which man’s participation in the eternal law governing him, as it is known through reason. Because of man’s possession of God-given reason he may enjoy a share in divine reason itself and may derive from it ‘a natural inclination to such actions and ends as are fitting’. Basic principles for human guidance will emerge, such as that ‘good’ is to be done and evil is to be shunned.  The natural law is ‘promulgated’ by the very fact that God has instilled into man’s mind so that it can be known ‘naturally’. According to Aquinas, the God’s divine intellect and will is the main precept. He explained that human beings has several natural instincts for survival known as secondary premises. Aquinas synthesis is in fact, the promulgation of the main precept and the secondary premise to form a conclusion, which is also known as secondary precept or Lex Naturalis which is Natural Law.

Human Law (“lex humana”) – According to Aquinas, the concept of human law established from the relationship he sees between human law and its moral dimensions. Man is guided by simple moral truth – to do good and to avoid evil. Thus, rules underlying human laws must derive from a moral system – a sort of ‘natural law’. Declares Aquinas, human beings must draw from the precepts of the natural law answers to problems which emerge when they live together in society. Where human law conforms to the law of reasons or natural law, it conforms to the law of God. If human law does not follow the natural law, it is not a law but a perversion of law.

Aquinas declares that laws that do not conform with the natural law and moral law, no law at all. He is, of further view, that unjust laws do not bind conscience unless observance of them is required in order to avoid turbulence and disturbance.

Thomas Hobbes on the other hand observed natural law and its application via two notions, i.e.
a.       man in the state of nature; and
b.       man in the state of the contract.

According to Hobbes, man’s life is nasty, short and brutish. Man in the state of nature selfish and motivated by self - interest. In this condition, people live in a climate of fear and are hostile towards each other. Their selfish nature of wanting seize control of the rights or properties of others, had always led to the war. At the same time, however, man desires to live in peace rather than war due to his natural characteristics. According to Hobbes, in order to maintain peace and security, men entered into a pact or agreement among themselves.

This pact / agreement is called Pactum Subjectionis and the parties in the formation of this social contract are members of the society and rulers called Leviathan. Under Pactum Subjectionis, subjects of the society agree to transfer their right to the ruler or Leviathan to govern them and it only binds a particular group of people who have agreed to it.

Further, under Pactum Subjectionis, obedience is a duty. People must be obedience to Leviathan and all its orders and laws. The main task of Leviathan is to maintain peace and security. Leviathan has absolute power and its commands must be complied with. People have the right to refuse to obey if they fail to preserve peace and security. When Leviathan fails to carry out its part of contract, it might be abdicated, defeated or replaced by another.

In terms of legal obedience, Hobbes theory states that individuals have agreed to comply with all the laws that are ordered by the Leviathan. Although it look like the demand for compliance is absolute. Hobbes has laid down the condition that legal obedience would depend on the Leviathan government continuing to perform its responsibility under this contract.

It has been argued as well that Hobbes’s theory is not about giving full power to an authoritarian sovereign. Instead, what he meant is an absolute obedience to a system of government (including the legal system within) in order for the system to work in the interest of peace and stability of the society itself.  Hobbes think that Sovereign is answerable to God. The State as the sole source of law. Acceptance of the Sovereign means acceptance of the law and no such things as ‘unjust law’. Priorities are to maintain the legal order. Legal order means civil society where rule of law prevails. Order is preferable to chaos.

Locke has a slightly different view from Hobbes though the fundamental idea of social contract is a model from Hobbes idea. Locke’s synthesis of natural law was revealed in his writings known as  Two Treaties of Government (1689) which is regarded important when come to the relation between government-citizen. According to Locke, man in state of nature enjoys complete freedom and equality. Man entitles to life, personal freedom and property. Thus, fear of non protection, they felt the need for rules and modes of adjudication to protect their rights. The key different was the introduction of pactum unionis. Locke proposed man entered in pact or agreement to form sovereign body. They form this agreement with each other or pactum unions to protect their natural rights. This then followed by a pactum subejectionis – an agreement to subject themselves to a sovereign entity. Locke rejected the concept of a ruler of sovereign with an absolute power because he felt that the citizen continued to enjoy inviolable natural rights. The function of ruler is to protect the individual. As long as the ruler faithful to this pledge, the ruler cannot be denied his power but when he fails to do it, his law have no validity and the he may be abdicated. So Locke is essentially a great opponent of Hobbes. Hobbes supports authority whereas Locke supports liberty. He rejects the concept of ruler with absolute powers proclaimed by Hobbes because human being have natural rights to life , freedom and property which cannot be taken away by any ruler. Locke’s theory provides that citizen can change the ruler and this is the beginning of democracy and clearly Locke emphasizes natural law compared to human law.

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