In a lot of the books I ready the concept of “natural law” comes up. For a lot of people the idea of “natural law” justifies certain socially accepted behaviors or is simply used to explain the necessary moral code of a civilized society. I wonder to myself is the “natural” law really “natural” or is it simply a concept of morality developed in the minds of men.
One one hand I would say that it is obvious that natural law is a man made concept and that basically all laws are when it comes to governing morality. For example, we can look at the use of drugs. Some societies praise the use of certain drugs, even in excess, and see it as an attemp to connect with God. Other societies, such as our own, view drug use in excess as generally immoral. (Though some may disagree) There are other examples of man made morality – such as homosexuality, gender roles, sexuality, greed, etc. For each of these topics people have varying and changing understandings of what is right or wrong. This isn’t natural – since natural implies an idea is biologically programmed into us.
Even the most extreme sins do not always seem to be naturally accepted as universally immoral. Many ancient tribes (the US today?) considered murder in the form of military conquest as perfectly acceptable. If the sin is justified – it seems that almost anything can deemed moral. Natural law seems to go right out the window.
However, while I would for the most part argue that Natural Law is basically man made that doesn’t mean that there is no truth found in them. Also, just because people have broken and skewed the natural law deosn’t mean they still do not exist. While perhaps not naturally, that is biologically, programmed within us – perhaps the natural law does serve as a best practices guide for a civilized society to flourish.
I guess what I’m getting as is: Who cares if the “natural law” and our since of morality is man made? It is no less valid as a behavioral governing system in either case. Many modern inventions are not “natural” to us biologically, but our no less significant, important, or valid because so. However, a deeper and more important question lingers – which set of laws, which set of moral guidelines do we accept as truth? Buddhist or Toist Principals, western ideals, Christian values, US law? Which and why?
Varying Code of Ethics
The fact is that human beings code of ethics differ. Personally, I often preach the concept of individual and personal freedom (personal property rights), but others argue a Zeitgust movement is more appropriate. Ask a Buddhist monk and he may tell you that minimalism and ridding yourself from earthly desires is the path to enlightment and the cure for all suffering. People could argue all day about why one method or ideology is better than another or which would be more effective, etc.
For example, I would truly love to live in a world where everything was equal, we all shared resources, and we all lived together peacefully (as argued by proponents of the Zeitguist Movement); however, I think this system fails to take into the flawed nature of men – tendancies toward greed, excess, ambition, laziness, and incentive. Some people would say that I’m wrong and people could change if they were only raised to think differently – I can’t say either way for sure.
All I’m Saying
All I’m saying is that I don’t think any of us know for sure. What human nature really is, how much of it is natural and how much is learned behavior. Which set of guiding principals are closest to perfect – or is the perfect world one in which we can choose the one that is right for us?