Do principles of natural law depend on conceptions of human nature?

Jasmina Nedevska


This article deals with the “is” – “ought” question in the Thomist natural law tradition. The 20th century revival of natural law theory, in jurisprudence and political theory, has placed its foundations under scrutiny. Do principles of natural law depend on conceptions of human nature? If so – how?
    Two central claims are made in this article. First, I put forth that there is no obvious position on human nature among contemporary natural law theorists. Some thinkers argue that a natural law doctrine must not rely on accounts of human nature at all. Such is the view of John Finnis, who has been particularly influential in shaping a present understanding of natural law. Several theorists of the tradition, however, find a certain kind of dependence necessary and vehemently argue against Finnis’ interpretation.
    I suggest, secondly, using a distinction made by David Miller, that the disagreement on human nature is not substantial, but rests on whether one speaks of “dependence” as a matter of logical entailment, as Finnis’ does, or as presuppositional grounding, which seems to be the concept employed by his critics. I argue that one may safely deny that normative principles are derived from accounts of human nature (rejecting the former kind of dependence), while also presupposing that human nature conditions those principles (assuming dependence of the latter kind).
    Lastly, I put forth two questions that arise for natural law theorists, if they wish to maintain this position.

Słowa kluczowe

prawo naturalne; natura ludzka; Finnis John; Miller David

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