Titvs Classics delivers the Latin word of the week along with questions to engage with your kids on how the word is used, what it means, and how it influences our English Language today. Sign up for our Newsletter today!
This week’s word of the week is Natura. Natura is singular, feminine, nominative and first declension. It means “nature”.
Roman thoughts on Natural Law
I apologize to my subscribers who may not be as in love with the political contributions of the Romans as I am. But I do believe that now more than ever, it is very relevant to what we are experiencing in our world today.
As a quick review: Our country was founded during the age of a classicism. This was a renaissance of sorts of all things classic. There was a new found love of the Greeks and Romans. Artists enjoyed painting gods and goddesses and their mythology, builders tried to emulate the temples of Rome and Greece. And philosophers, lawyers, policy-makers steeped themselves in Roman and Greek philosophy and thought. Our Founding Fathers made citations and references to the ancients on multiple occasions.
Cicero, a popular Roman Philosopher strongly held the belief of Natural Law. Natural Law is the belief that all law has it’s origin or root in nature – and in this time, by nature, Cicero meant the gods. Laws were passed down to people from the gods. This makes it supreme, true, and provides genuine justice. Cicero goes onto say that justice does not exist at all, if it does not come from nature or right reason (that being divine).
Sound Familiar? — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” (Declaration of Independence)
Cicero continues to explain that the law is outside of the bounds of time. He calls it eternal and everlasting. It has origins before any writing or any State was created.
I think what I love most about this, is that Cicero came to these conclusions around 50 years before the estimated time of Christ’s Birth. (Cicero was assassinated in 43 BC and it is estimated Christ was born between 4-6 BC). These principles are really written on the hearts of every man.
So what exactly is natural law?
According to Cicero, Natural law permits us as individuals to pursue self-help. To protect ourselves. It also forbids harming others either aggressively or through fraud. Other Philosophers like Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, John Stuart Mills, and John Locke have also contributed to definitions and theories of Natural Law.
Ernst Levy writes succinctly puts it this way: “For nature ordains that anyone desire to promote the interests of a fellow-man, whoever he may be, just because he is a fellow-man.”
This is different from Man’s law which is bound by time, different amoungst different people, and largely based on expediency rather than justice.
You may be asking, why then do we have man’s law (i.e. the Government). In his book, Written on the Heart J. Budziszewski addresses this when talking about natural law.
A key purpose of government is supposed to be to protect natural law, better than we can protect it on our own. Any purpose of government that conflicts with the protection of natural rights, is illegitimate. Let’s finish the quote from our Declaration of Independence…
“…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles”…”
Source: Natural Law in the Roman Period – Ernst Levy
Natural Law Today
This newsletter is turning out to be about much more than a word. But I do hope this sparks something in your heart. We have been given rights by the nature of who we are – human beings. Those rights should not be infringed upon and must be eagerly protected.
The world continues to spin, and men continue to seek power. As we still have a voice and a power and a legal system built upon the premise of protecting our natural rights – it is important we deeply understand them.