What is Natural Law Origin Features and positive law

Natural Law

Natural law is the universal idea of ​​justice . It is the set of norms and rights that are already incorporated into man, such as the right to life.

It can be understood as the principles of Law and is also called Jusnaturalism .

Different from what is understood by the name, it is not only the laws of nature that are part of the set of natural legal norms. It has its values ​​established by divine order, as well as by reason.


The study of it had its first manifestations among Greek philosophers. These dictated natural law as the ideal and unwritten norms, constituted in the world of ideas. For the Romans, it was the natural order of things, determined by the laws of nature.

During the Middle Ages, the relationship between State and Church influenced the conception of natural law, being recognized as the laws of God. Whereas with the arrival of the Enlightenment, the source of natural law becomes reason.

For Enlightenment thought, it would be the discovery of the reason behind nature. That is, the perception that actions hitherto understood as animal instinct, such as breastfeeding the baby, for example, are actually part of a set of norms of nature rationalized by all beings. It is the reason why the female feeds the young because she knows what he needs to live.

The origin of the set of natural law norms has been discussed over many centuries, but its content is permanent and absolute. Its implications are among the discussions of the Philosophy of Law as an abstraction of the discipline itself, a way of thinking about a type of ideal order.

How did natural rights arise?

The current that studies and uses natural rights as a source of knowledge is also called Jusnaturalism. It arose, primitively and in an unfinished form, with Greek thought.

In this context, Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who was born in 540 BC, said that there was a type of Law founded on human nature, which was eternally and permanently valid. Aristotle also formulated ideas about it.

Later, during the Middle Ages, it began to be used by the Catholic Church and its scholars — such as St. Thomas Aquinas. According to them, natural law would involve the laws of God, valid in all scenarios.

The evolution of this thought occurred with the Enlightenment and rationalism, when natural law became based on reason and not on the divine. This current of thought began to form with Hugo Grotius, who was born in 1583.

It was at this time that people began to think about the reason behind nature. Natural law would be a set of norms of nature itself, which would be rationalized by humans and which could not be revoked.

After this period, in the middle of the 17th century, there was a change in political systems and liberal revolutions . The theories of John Locke and Montesquieu began to prevail over natural law.

According to these thinkers, the natural rights that should be preserved by the State were life, liberty and private property. The Government would only intervene in these areas, protecting thought and economic freedom.

In another phase later on, it began to be studied from a democratic perspective. Jusnaturalism began to consider the majority decisions of the people as a source of this right. In this scenario, the most prominent thinker was Rousseau.

Features of natural law

The main characteristics of Natural Law are stability and immutability. That is, it does not undergo changes throughout history and the development of society, unlike later theories of law.

It precedes all other theories of law, it must even be greater than the power of the State, and no law can go against this order.

Natural law and positive law

It is the set of norms that establishes by reason what is fair, in a universal way. It is prior and superior to all other theories of law. Positive Law, on the other hand, is the set of laws instituted by a State, considering variations in social life and States as influencing laws created by men, based on Natural Law.

It is the same anywhere and for anyone. That is why the laws of Positive Law should not be superior to natural law norms.

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