Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) is a theory that posits the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere. The phrase natural law is opposed to the positive law (which is man-made) of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law. In natural law jurisprudence, on the other hand, the content of positive law cannot be known without some reference to the natural law (or something like it). Used in this way, natural law can be invoked to criticize decisions about the statutes, but less so to criticize the law itself. Some use natural law synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin ius naturale), although most contemporary political and legal theorists separate the two.
Natural law theories have exercised a profound influence on the development of English common law, and have featured greatly in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Suárez, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, John Locke and Emmerich de Vattel.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
- Aquinas on natural law
- Natural Law explained, evaluated and applied A clear introduction to Natural Law
- Catholic Encyclopedia "Natural Law"
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry 'Natural Law' by Kenneth Einar Himma