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Natural Law - Divine Natural Law, Secular Natural Law, Historical Natural Law, Further Readings

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The unwritten body of universal moral principles that underlie the ethical and legal norms by which human conduct is sometimes evaluated and governed. Natural law is often contrasted with positive law, which consists of the written rules and regulations enacted by government. The term natural law is derived from the Roman term jus naturale. Adherents to natural law philosophy are known as naturalists.

Naturalists believe that natural law principles are an inherent part of nature and exist regardless of whether government recognizes or enforces them. Naturalists further believe that governments must incorporate natural law principles into their legal systems before justice can be achieved. There are three schools of natural law theory: divine natural law, secular natural law, and historical natural law.

Divine natural law represents the system of principles believed to have been revealed or inspired by God or some other supreme and supernatural being. These divine principles are typically reflected by authoritative religious writings such as Scripture. Secular natural law represents the system of principles derived from the physical, biological, and behavioral laws of nature as perceived by the human intellect and elaborated through reason. Historical natural law represents the system of principles that has evolved over time through the slow accretion of custom, tradition, and experience. Each school of natural law influenced the Founding Fathers during the nascent years of U.S. law in the eighteenth century and continue to influence the decision-making process of state and federal courts today.

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