The Differences Between Naturalism and Positivism

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The world is wrought with dueling philosophies and principles. From political parties to legal ideologies, the world seems destined to be divided into some type of dichotomy. The legal philosophies of Positive and Natural law are no different. Many of us notice these differences, as most of the time they are quite obvious, but most of us do not, however, take the time to ponder and mull over in our minds just why these distinctions are important. It is not enough to say that two things are different or are simply opposed. Rather, the ability to truly understand the philosophical and jurisprudential underpinnings of each school of legal thought, one must engage why this distinction must be made in the first place and what effect this has on our legal understanding. It is my intent to show in this paper, on top of explicating the basal differences between the two ideologies, why making the distinction between the two is important. Various pieces of legal literature will be used in order to convey this point, such as pieces by Lon Fuller including the infamous debate between himself and H.L.A. Hart. To better understand the background of these jurisprudential philosophies, we will first explore their histories and explicate the details of their respective precepts. When one first thinks of natural law, the first word that often pops up in the mind is morality. The concept can be delineated all the way back to Aristotle, who stressed that just because something was seen as being just in the eyes of the law did not mean that it was necessarily just in the eyes of nature. Indeed, natural law can be seen as a body of moral principles that are said to help guide human conduct. These laws are said to derive from nature it...

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... take hold of the responsibility that comes with making and obeying laws. Having a better understanding of a positivist and a naturalist perspective, each in their own regard, will enable us to engage with the legal system and with each other with greater fairness and efficiency. On top of respecting these philosophies in their individual realms, we must also recognize how they coincide and what this convergence means to the way in which we live our lives.

Works Cited

Fuller, Lon L. Positivism and Fidelity to Law: A Reply to Professor Hart. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law Review Association, 1958. Print.

Hart, H. L. A. The Concept of Law. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

Fuller, Lon L. The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law Review, 1949. Print.

Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980. Print.
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