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The Place of Natural Law in Society Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jun 29th, 2022

Introduction

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of natural law for a healthy Christian society. Its significance for people is explained by the role it plays in creating a moral underpinning of the present-day communities providing them with guidance for their behavior.1 This influence can be explicitly traced when assessing the grounds for the emergence of basic regulations in the political, economic, and cultural lives of citizens around the world. However, it is still unclear if the ideas elaborated by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas are compatible with the continuously changing environment.2 Therefore, this paper aims to consider the place of this theoretical instrument in the world, its impact on major institutions, and the compliance of these entities with the standards of the natural-law tradition.

The Perceptions of Natural Law Developed by J. Budziszewski

One of the scholars illuminating the subject of the philosophy applicable to the development of Christian morality is J. Budziszewski. His views are confirmed by this field’s benefits in complementing sacred writings. Thus, according to him, the concept of natural law in society takes the central place since it serves as an instrument preparing people for the appropriate interpretation of God’s teachings. In other words, the scriptures should be viewed through the lens of conscience inherent in humanity, even though it is not easy to reveal. This idea implies using the presented theory from pre-Christian times to grasp the meaning of the guidance provided by God. It does not make the natural lawless valuable compared to the essential religious writings. On the contrary, the approach proposed by J. Budziszewski emphasizes its importance for understanding biblical descriptions of virtue and fairness.

Natural Law and Political, Economic, and Cultural Institutions

Political Institutions and Their Modern Versions

The first aspect of evaluating the influence of philosophical thought on the establishment of societal order is politics. It is directly connected to the natural law theory due to its interrelation with basic human rights.3 The importance of this notion for institutions is explained by its effects on the legal formation of equality and independence based on morality inherent in the mentioned approach.4 As it was written in Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”5 From this perspective, it can be concluded that the emergence of a truly fair government for the benefit of citizens is possible only if there is a solid foundation such as the one provided by natural law. It allows avoiding the specified issues resulting from the lack of agreement. As for the compliance with theoretical standards, the existing entities involved in the political activity do not fully conform to them since they are characterized by passivity and the neglect of human motives.6 Thus, the concept’s recovery is needed to align their decisions with the population’s critical needs.

Economic Institutions and Their Modern Versions

The second area of influence of the theoretical principles implying people’s inherent propensity to form morality authentically is economy, and it can be revealed through business operations. As follows from the works of Franz Böhm, a scholar in the field of legal considerations of transactions, the significance of natural law in this regard is conditional upon two factors. They are the connection between patterns in human behavior in establishing the mechanism of economic activity and the correspondence of organizational norms to justice examined by the theory.7 Moreover, this stance is confirmed by Proverbs 19:17, which states that “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”8 In this way, people’s actions within institutions related to countries’ economies are advantageous for humanity only when guided by moral regulations under the given framework. In the present-day society, they do not necessarily comply with natural law standards as this rule is frequently violated when profits outweigh other concerns.9 Therefore, such a breach is typical not only for politics but also for the economy.

Cultural Institutions and Their Modern Versions

The third type of institutions assessed within this paper’s scope is cultural organizations, and they are characterized by the explicit link with morality as a foundation for principal activity. According to the scholars, this feature is common for all enterprises dealing with human identity and, more specifically, such notions as fairness and caring, which reflect norms.10 Their importance is defined by the applicability to any culture and the role in mitigating the differences between representatives of various population groups.11 The Christian viewpoint in this relation is added to natural law’s relevance as guidance capable of covering the gap in morality in the mentioned situation. It is presented by the words from Luke 12:23: “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”12 Similarly, one can think of culture as more than a characteristic and morality as more than a set of rules. Nevertheless, in practice, modern institutions from the field do not respect the identified concepts.13 As a result, there is no unity, whereas the considered philosophical theory could make a difference.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the central place of natural law in society following from the perspective of J. Budziszewski is explained by its usefulness for interpreting sacred writings. However, these principles’ implementation in political, economic, and cultural institutions is complicated by passivity, neglect of human motives, the emphasis on profits, and the lack of respect for cultures contrasted by ethnocentrism. Therefore, people will benefit from this theoretical instrument only once the mentioned obstacles are removed.

References

AlSheddi, Mona, Sophie Russell, and Peter Hegarty. European Journal of Social Psychology 50, no. 1 (2020): 97-110. Web.

Bible Study Tools. “Luke 12:23.” n.d. Web.

Bible Study Tools. “Proverbs 19:17.” n.d. Web.

Bible Study Tools. “Titus 3:9.” n.d. Web.

Budziszewski, J. Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1997.

Nientiedt, Daniel. “Metaphysical Justification for an Economic Constitution? Franz Böhm and the Concept of Natural Law.” Constitutional Political Economy 30, no. 1 (2019): 114-129. Web.

Sison, Alejo Jose G. Business and Human Rights Journal 3, no. 2 (2018): 211-232. Web.

Storey, Jenna Silber, and Benjamin Storey. “Natural Law and Human Action.” Perspectives on Political Science 49, no. 4 (2020): 202-208. Web.

West, Thomas G. The Political Theory of the American Founding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Footnotes

  1. Jenna Silber Storey, and Benjamin Storey, “Natural Law and Human Action,” Perspectives on Political Science 49, no. 4 (2020): 204. Web.
  2. J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1997), 16.
  3. Alejo Jose G. Sison, “Virtue Ethics and Natural Law Responses to Human Rights Quandaries in Business,” Business and Human Rights Journal 3, no. 2 (2018): 216. Web.
  4. Thomas G. West, The Political Theory of the American Founding. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 25.
  5. “Titus 3:9,” Bible Study Tools. n.d. Web.
  6. Sison, “Virtue Ethics and Natural Law Responses to Human Rights Quandaries in Business,” 217.
  7. Daniel Nientiedt, “Metaphysical Justifcation for an Economic Constitution? Franz Böhm and the Concept of Natural Law,” Constitutional Political Economy 30, no. 1 (2019): 114. Web.
  8. “Proverbs 19:17,” Bible Study Tools. n.d. Web.
  9. Nientiedt, “Metaphysical Justifcation for an Economic Constitution? Franz Böhm and the Concept of Natural Law,” 120.
  10. Mona AlSheddi, Sophie Russell, and Peter Hegarty, “How Does Culture Shape Our Moral Identity? Moral Foundations in Saudi Arabia and Britain,” European Journal of Social Psychology 50, no. 1 (2020): 97. Web.
  11. AlSheddi, Russell, and Hegarty, “How Does Culture Shape Our Moral Identity? Moral Foundations in Saudi Arabia and Britain,” 102.
  12. “Luke 12:23,” Bible Study Tools. n.d. Web.
  13. AlSheddi, Russell, and Hegarty, 106.
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