Okay, so we’re back to a bit of thinking in the philosophy of law today. Consider that there are two major definitions of what a law is or can be. Natural Law theories tend to define a law as something that must inherently be moral. This is not to say that a law cannot be amoral (as in laws concerning how laws are made), but that a law cannot be immoral. For instance, Thomas Aquinas defines a law as ‘a rule or measure that moves towards the common good.’ Now, Aquinas makes the distinction an an unjust law has the appearance of a law but does not have the nature of a law. Thus, a ‘bad law,’ such as Nazi laws or (in the opinion of many) President Obama’s health care plan, is essentially half a law. It can be called ‘law’ because it has the appearance of a law (being a rule or measure enacted by an authority), but it is not a real or actual law because it does not work towards the common good.

However, Legal Positivists have, in the past century, argued that this conception of a law is incoherent because it makes bad laws ‘fake laws’ or non-existent. Thus, on their argument, one could not really speak of the Nazi laws a ‘bad laws’ because they do not exist as ‘laws’ in a real sense, which makes it difficult to critique them. Thus, Legal Positivists have argued that we should consider both bad and unjust laws and good and just laws as being equally ‘law’. This makes it easier to critique bad laws, but also sacrifices Aquinas’ focus on the ‘true nature’ of a law, and essentially presents the argument that any rule or measure enacted by an authority is a law in a true or complete sense.

So, today I’d like you to take a side in this debate. Write a 1000 word story presenting and defending your view of what defines a law.


One thought on “Philosophical Plot Challenge of the Week

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