Spring 2010

Natural Law

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-29


Ethan H. MacAdam (Section 01)


What is meant by "Natural Law"? This course will explore this strange legal category from the medieval period through the present day.  What connection did (or does) natural law have to the will of a God or other deity? And yet how has it become something separate from "divine law"? What is "natural" about natural law, and does this quality make it somehow more primitive than, or prior to, or better than, positive (government-made) law?  In modern secular societies, what are the post-religious understandings of the natural law idea, which is still thought by some to encompass our intuitions about justice or to frame our conceptions of positive law?  In exploring the history and present state of this order of law which, in different moments, seems both to found positive law and to go beyond it, we will also ask:  how easily does natural law coexist with positive law?  If they conflict, which are we bound to follow?  Does natural law jurisprudence have any role to play in actual legal proceedings?  Can it govern conduct between governments?  Can natural law be a justification for disobedience to the laws of governments, or even for revolution?

Spring semester.  Visiting Lecturer MacAdam.


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2011