By: Paul Murano – Sept. 2021
The question of natural law is a very important one. It has the potential to bridge the large intellectual and political gap that exists between the Christian and secular world views. In fact, it did just that throughout most of this nation’s history.
Natural law is simply morality that corresponds to human nature. It is the way that enables individuals to attain happiness, families to thrive, and societies to prosper. It is common sense morality of right and wrong stemming from truth and justice, which everyone of sound mind inherently understands.
Despite the common misunderstanding, ‘natural law’ does not mean the laws of nature, nor does it apply to any other species. It may be unnatural for a dog to fly, but natural law relates strictly to humanity and the behaviors that lead to human fulfillment. It is only through discovering and living the natural law that humanity can flourish.
Everyone seeks fulfillment and happiness. Aristotle said no one can NOT seek happiness. It is the end or goal of all human behavior, the purpose for which all human action is chosen. One seeks money, fame, chocolate, sex, etc. in order to attain happiness. But one never seeks happiness in order to attain something else. Happiness is the goal, the end, consciously or unconsciously, for all. Natural law, properly understood, clears the way for true happiness.
Now let’s go beneath the surface. Although much of natural law is intuitively known in every human heart and discernable through reason, there can be obstacles to accessing that innate knowledge. The most common one is our own selfishness and disordered desires. This obstacle is often fueled by another common obstacle – the entire media and education establishments being anti-natural law for decades.
To embrace natural law and attain happiness we must reject our irrational disordered desires, and rise above the media and its message that has formed us. Sounds like a tall order, but it’s the only way to being truly human. Living according to your nature is proper self-love.
Another challenge that blinds people to the natural law is the two extremes of human nature the world models. One extreme tends to collectivize humans to the point of seeing them as depersonalized machines that, to be content, must all live the same way. Far Eastern cultures tend to accept this model of human nature.
The other extreme is that of the West, which tends to see human beings as radical individuals with little or no commonality. Hence, there can be no common moral code. This falsehood sees the individual as the arbiter of his own morality to the point where each is almost like a species of his own.
The collectivist error and the individualist error cloud our vision of human nature, since neither strives for the good and human digniity is sacrificed.
It is important to note that natural law has gone out of style not because it has been proven irrational. Quite the contrary, it corresponds to the truth of our being, and that makes many uncomfortable since they’d prefer to think they can fool mother nature and Father God.
Natural law predates Christianity. We see it spoken of in Cicero and the ancient Greek philosophers. Yet, it is also summed up in the Ten Commandments, whose primary precepts speak of morality in relation to legitimate authority (4), human life (5), sex and family (6 & 9), property rights (7 & 10), truth-telling (8), and religion (1-3). Natural law holds that acts which fulfill these each of these six dimensions of human nature lead to true happiness.
Put another way, behavior that responds to natural human inclination by choosing goods and acts that satisfy our natural ends, leads to fulfillment. Violating human nature, on the other hand, and its intellectual, familial, social, and spiritual components, will always lead to unhappiness.
[For more specific information on this topic, check out Charles Rice’s book, 50 Question on the Natural Law.]
Paul is producer and host of Beneath the Surface video and radio podcasts, taught college philosophy & theology, and is a staff writer/producer for St. Michael’s Media. Check out his website at Paulmurano.com, and e-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com.