So, I’ve been reading a bit of philosophy of law lately (specifically Berman’s The Interaction of Law and Religion and Golding’s The Philosophy of Law). This has a somewhat complicated philosophical problem on my mind and I thought that I’d share it with all of you. So, here is your question for today: what makes a law… a law? Is it simply a command that is enforced? Is there some moral obligation to obey a law that isn’t enforced? Are laws an attempt to represent some higher moral order? And if so, are citizens justified in disobeying those laws that don’t effectively represent said higher moral order? There are quite a few places you can take this question but the two major theories responding to it are legal positivism and natural law theory. Legal Positivism essentially (and in a variety of different ways) argues that a law is fundamentally a command that comes with binding power. This is a command from a human authority, and the binding power might come from a social contract, a threat of coercive force, etc. The key is that a law is a human command with binding power. Natural Law theory, on the other hand, argues that positive law (i.e. created human law) is an attempt to express the fundamental laws that govern human nature (i.e. that express what humans should be and how they should develop). Natural Law theory normally relies on theological doctrines to provide normative force to its tenets (i.e. the natural laws of human nature are the human expression of some version of the concept of the imago dei or image of God in man). It also generally argues that positive laws are only valid insofar as they effectively express the inherent tenets of the natural or divine law. There are other theories out there. Feel free to use them if you want.

As always, write me a 1000 word story that presents and defends your response to the question.

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One thought on “Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

  1. No 1000 words here, I like it short and sweet. Law defines the minimal acceptable behavior in a society. Ethics should approach the best reasonable behavior to expect in that society.

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