Thomas Hobbes From Classical To Modern Natural Rights

A discussion of the ideas of Thomas Hobbes:

For many centuries, natural law was recognized as a type of higher law that spelled out universal truths for the moral ordering of society based on a rational understanding of human nature. As a higher moral law, it gave citizens a standard for determining if the written laws and customs of their nation or any other nation were just or unjust, right or wrong, humane or inhumane. Today, natural law is not discussed very much, at least not explicitly. When mentioned at all, it is usually rejected as dangerous because it undermines existing laws or as intolerant because it is contrary to “multiculturalism,” which requires the non-judgmental acceptance of other cultures.

This negative view of natural law can be traced to Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), whose writings are largely devoted to showing the anarchy and civil wars caused by appeals to natural and divine laws above the will of the sovereign. Hobbes rejected traditional higher law doctrines and encouraged people to accept the established laws and customs of their nations, even if they seemed oppressive, for the sake of civil peace and security. His critique has been a leading cause of the demise of natural law and the acceptance of positive law as the only reliable guide for political authority.



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