Natural Law Essay Research Paper Natural Law

Natural Law Essay, Research Paper Natural Law The School of Natural Law Philosophy was an intellectual group of philosophers. They developed new ways of thinking about religion and

Natural Law Essay, Research Paper

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.

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