Source of natural law


#1

Hello

A proof for the existance of God is that the source of natural law can only come from something above us and that natural law must be the voice of God within the soul. My question is why can’t the source of natural law be something material rather than immaterial? I’m not talking about something like an instinctive desire but something that has been inherited in each one of us to give a sense of obligation to do good rather than evil.

Any thoughts?


#2

[quote=Brown10985]Hello

A proof for the existance of God is that the source of natural law can only come from something above us and that natural law must be the voice of God within the soul. My question is why can’t the source of natural law be something material rather than immaterial? I’m not talking about something like an instinctive desire but something that has been inherited in each one of us to give a sense of obligation to do good rather than evil.

Any thoughts?
[/quote]

Hello there.

I just wanted to offer a clip from the philosopher Bertrand Russell on this issue of natural law and the existence of God. It is from his work, “Why I am not a Christian”. I don’t espouse his views, just thought you might find this related to your question. Here it is:

“…We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them…”

Peace…


#3

There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design.

I have never been able to follow Russell’s logic. If there is design, there must be multiples of forms and numbers. If doubles and sixes came up every time, there would be no multiples, and therefore no design.

Let me emphasize: if every atom in nature were identical to every other atom, how could a complex sytem of life evolve in which each part seemed to depend upon every other part. There would only be the dead monotony of repetition without the variety that is the spice of life.

To labor the point no end, no artist could design a picture if there was only one color of paint … white … and only one color of a surface to paint … white. If everything is white, it might be a law, but it would be hard to see any design behind it, or any reason for it…


#4

Interesting question.

Perhaps on a materialist/athiest/evolution level, one can attribute the origin of natural survival instincts such as maternal, herding or hibernation to sources outside of the existence of God because those organisms exist and replicate in a material world. In other words, those attributes are necessary for survival.

But on a spiritual level the “obligation to do good rather than evil” is most often antithetical to personal survival, falling outside of the natural or the survival of the species. I would say this points to the proof of the existence of God.


#5

Hi Brown,

I have always heard natural law justified by the existence of God, not the opposite.

Natural law presupposes a purpose in the world, and what goes against that purpose is said to be against natural law. Purpose can only come from a mind, such as God’s.

Verbum


#6

[quote=Brown10985]Hello

A proof for the existance of God is that the source of natural law can only come from something above us and that natural law must be the voice of God within the soul. My question is why can’t the source of natural law be something material rather than immaterial? I’m not talking about something like an instinctive desire but something that has been inherited in each one of us to give a sense of obligation to do good rather than evil.

Any thoughts?
[/quote]

Your question is actually much closer to the reality of what Natural Law is. We can only speak of “the voice of God within the soul” at a theological level, not a strictly philosophical one, and certainly the first proponents of natural law (Aristotle and Cicero) did not believe in God as we think of him.

Natural Law is perfectly compatible with Catholic teaching, and why St. Thomas was able to “flesh it out” with a deeper theological understanding, but it is not primarily a religious view, and certainly not immediately a proof for God.

Natural Law, as you correctly guess, IS derived from our experiece of the natural, material world. We see that everything that exists seems to have a purpose, (what Aristotle called an “end” or “finality”), a natural trajectory of development that is tied up with what the thing is. Thus, because a tree is a certain way, it fulfills that way of being by growing from a seed into a full-fledged oak, for example.

With humans, however, we can discover that a far “deeper” purpose seems to be at stake. Our fulfillment is not merely tied up in being a complete physical human being (like a full-grown tree), reproducing, surviving and taking in food, but we crave a spiritual, non-material happiness. Unlike trees and animals, we are intelligent, rational creatures; this is what makes us human, and so it is only by seeking to know, and contemplating Truth that we can be truly happy.

Natural Law derives its ethical structure from this finality that we have as humans. Right and wrong are measured against this “end,” and thus killing, cheating, adultery, etc. etc. (all the sins you can think of) are wrong because they go against our purpose and our nature. They lead us away from being full, complete humans. Becasue we are rational creatures, we can discern what is right and wrong based on this, and make the right choices.

To speak of a conscience placed in us by God is something we can say theologically, but not philosophically, even though the two are compatible. We know as Christians that God is the source of Natural Law, and he is also the source of all theological revelation and the source of our intelligence/rationality.

I don’t know if this makes sense, or even starts to answer your question. But you have to be careful in talking about Natural Law as “the voice of God” because Natural Law is a philosphical system, which uses reason alone, and not faith or religious beliefs. That is why the ethics we can discern with Natural law are the same for all people, everywhere, regardless of their religious beliefs or culture; they are discovered with human reason alone based on our experience.


#7

The ACLU is proof that the natural law comes from something material.:banghead:

:smiley:


#8

[quote=Absalom!]The ACLU is proof that the natural law comes from something material.:banghead:

:smiley:
[/quote]

ACLU?


#9

[quote=Brown10985]ACLU?
[/quote]

It was a joke . . . sorry, most of the time people don’t get my sense of humor. It’s the American Civil Liberties Union.

But hey, the head-banging smiley is hilarious isn’t it? I try to use it every chance I can.

:banghead:

:rotfl:


#10

Natural law isn’t really an inner voice because the latter differs among individuals, while natural law is only one. For Catholics, natural law is the way got set up the world in creating it and the order that subsequently comes from nature. Essentially, that would be the natural order of the world. In fact, it doesn’t take a Christian to recognise it. I’m pretty sure you could find agnostics or even atheists believing in natural law.

Natural law is above positive laws, i.e. the laws made by authorities, except divine positive law which is commands given by God. The laws of men are all below natural law and it’s not legitimate for them to go against it.


#11

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