Natural Law


The School of Natural Law Philosophy was an intellectual group of
philosophers. They developed new ways of thinking about religion and government.
Natural law was based on moral principles, but the overall outlook changed with
the times.
John Locke was a great philosopher from the middle of the 17th century.
He was a primary contributor to the new ideas concerning natural law of that
time. He argued that humans in the state of nature are free and equal, yet
insecure in their freedom. When they enter society, they surrender only such
rights as are necessary for their security and for the common good. He also
believed that each individual retains fundamental prerogatives drawn from
natural law relating to the integrity of the person and property. This natural
rights theory was the basis of not only the American, but also the French
revolution. 1 During his lifetime, he wrote many essays and letters to his
colleagues on a variety of topics:2

Letter on Toleration (1689)
Second Letter on Toleration (1690)
Two Treatises of Government (1690)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
Some Considerations of the Consequences of Lowering of Interest,
and Raising the Value of Money (1691)
Third Letter on Toleration (1692)
Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)
Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money (1693)
The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695)
A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1695)
A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1695)
A Letter to the Bishop of Worcester (1697)
Discourse on Miracles
Fourth Letter for Toleration
An Examination of Father Malebranche\'s Opinion of Seeing All Things
in God
Remarks on Some of Mr Norris\'s Books
Conduct of the Understanding

Locke\'s greatest philosophical contribution is his Essay Concerning
Human Understanding. In the winter of 1670, five or six friends were talking in
his room, probably in London. The topic was the "principles of morality and
revealed religion," but arguments arose and no real progress or serious
discussion took place. Then, he goes on to say, "it came into my thoughts that
we took a wrong course, and that before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that
nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our
understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with." At the request of his
friends, Locke agreed to write down his thoughts on this question at their next
meeting, and he expected that a single sheet of paper would suffice for the
purpose. Little did he realize the importance of the issue which he raised, and
that it would take up his free time for nearly twenty years. The Essay is
divided into four books; the first is a debate against the doctrine of innate
principles and ideas of that time. The second deals with ideas, the third with
words, and the fourth with knowledge.
Locke\'s ideas center on traditional philosophical topics: the nature of
the self, the world, God, and the grounds of our knowledge of them. He addresses
these questions at the end of his Essay. The first three sections are an
introduction, and Locke saw that they had an importance of their own. His
opening statements make this plain:
Since it is the understanding that sets man above the rest of sensible
beings, and gives him all the advantage and dominion which he has over them; it
is certainly a subject, even for its nobleness, worth our labour to inquire into.
The understanding, like the eye, while it makes us see and perceive all other
things, takes no notice of itself; and it requires art and pains to set it at a
distance and make it its own object. But whatever be the difficulties that lie
in the way of this inquiry; whatever it be that keeps us so much in the dark to
ourselves; sure I am that all the light we can let in upon our minds, all the
acquaintance we can make with our own understandings, will not only be very
pleasant, but bring us great advantage, in directing our thoughts in the search
of other things.

Category: Music and Movies