The idea that it is possible to identify standards that correspond to fundamental facts about human beings and may thus be described as ‘natural’ has played an important role in a range of theories that have implications for the regulation of political authority. In order to understand the regulatory role of an appeal to ‘nature’, it is necessary to distinguish theories that rely on the idea of ‘natural law’ or ‘the law(s) of nature’ from those that focus on ‘natural rights’. Theories of natural law identify a structure of expectations and norms that are not themselves the product of human intention or human will. These norms serve to legitimate human action and to justify the exercise of political authority (Finnis, 1980, p. 23). Natural law is held to be ‘natural’ in two related senses. In the first place, it is so fundamental to human life that its binding force is a matter of moral necessity rather than choice: to recognize that there is such a thing as a ‘law of nature’ and to fail to abide by it is to fly in the face of a standard that is intrinsic to humanity. Second, and as a consequence of this, it is claimed that adherence to natural law is supremely appropriate for human beings.
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- The Sanctions of ‘Nature’
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- Chapter 8