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Leaping Back to the Founding, Part 3: If Natural Law is the Basis of America Then How Come No One Can Explain It?

Posted on October 27 2009 1:37 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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Part 1: The Left Really Reveals Its Hatred of the American Idea

Part 2: Is This a Christian Nation Theory?

I was a tad put off with W. Cleon Skousen’s first point of the Founders’:

First Principle: The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law.

I’ve never really liked — or even fully understood — the concept of “Natural Law.” (And as someone with a BA in Political Science and English I like to think that I’m usually able to read something and analyze and understand it. That’s what I’ve been trained to do and what I do for a living.) Whenever I read about “Natural Law” I never feel like it’s very well defined. And Skousen is no different:

To Cicero, the building of a society on principles of Natural Law was nothing more nor less than recognizing and identifying the rules of “right conduct” with the laws of the Supreme Creator of the universe. History demonstrates that even in those nations sometimes described as “pagan” there were sharp, penetrating minds like Cicero’s who reasoned their way through the labyrinths of natural phenomena to see behind the cosmic universe, as well as the unfolding of their own lives, the brilliant intelligence of a supreme Designer with an ongoing interest in both human and cosmic affairs.

Cicero’s compelling honesty led him to conclude that once the reality of the Creator is clearly identified in the mind, the only intelligent approach to government, justice, and human relations is in terms of the laws which the Supreme Creator has already established. The Creator’s order of things is called Natural Law.

A fundamental presupposition of Natural Law is that man’s reasoning power is a special dispensation of the Creator and is closely akin to the rational or reasoning power of the Creator himself. In other words, man shares with his Creator this quality of utilizing a rational approach to solving problems, and the reasoning of the mind will generally lead to common-sense conclusions based on what Jefferson called “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (The Declaration of Independence).

“Natural Law” is the conclusion we come to based on our logic and reasoning… Yet we all come to different conclusions on issues. Perfectly good, reasonable people come to polar opposite ideas on issues.

More from Skousen:

The Law of Nature or Nature’s God is eternal in its basic goodness; it is universal in its application. It is a code of “right reason” from the Creator himself. It cannot be altered. It cannot be repealed. It cannot be abandoned by legislators or the people themselves, even though they may pretend to do so. In Natural Law we are dealing with factors of absolute reality. It is basic in its principles, comprehensible to the human mind, and totally correct and morally right in its general operation.

Simply put, “Natural Law” refers to our natural sense of what is right and wrong. It’s not written down anywhere. No one defines it. It’s just innate. It’s what we come to when we put our heads together and reason what to do. Maybe it’s just me but I tend to think the word “Law” implies something written down.

Even though I’ve become politically conservative I still very much have my radical temperament. (Heck, I had it when I was a child — it’s something you’re born with.) I still have a tendency to continually dig further until I reach the root of an idea, the root of an argument. And the idea of “Natural Law” does not allow this. With “Natural Law” there’s nowhere to dig. With “Natural Law” it’s as though someone says, “Well that’s just the way it is” in answering an argument. It has a religious sensibility. Someone might as well be saying “It’s true because the Bible says so.” And because of that I have a hard time taking it seriously at an intellectual level.

But maybe one of our commenters can help get my head on straight about this subject. Any takers? Who wants to correct my understanding of “Natural Law”?

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