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At the same time, it is important to see that in Aquinass account of the matter, positive law would remain necessary even in a human society in which people could always be counted upon to do the morally right thing.This is because any societyeven a society of saintsneeds law, and a system of law making, to provide authoritative stipulations for the coordination of actions for the sake of the common good.
For the sake of the common good, then, the relevant law making authority must stipulate that from among the various possible schemes shall be given the force of law.
In selecting a scheme, the law makers operate not by any process analogous to the deduction of demonstrable conclusions from premises, but, rather, by a process of choosing between reasonable, yet incompatible, optionsa process that Aquinas refers to as Although it is the case that but for the laws enactment no one would be under any general moral duty to behave as it requires, and despite the fact that the law maker(s) could, compatibly with the requirements of natural law, have stipulated a different requirement or set of requirements, its directiveness derives not only from the fact of its creation by some recognized source of law (legislation, judicial decision, custom, etc.), but also from its rational connection with some principle or precept of morality.
In performing this function most of the doctrines entangle themselves in a highly characteristic contradiction.
On the one hand they maintain that human nature is the source of natural law, which implies that human nature must be basically good.
Nor does the ability of human beings to understand certain ends or purposes as humanly fulfilling, and, as such, good entail that human beings cannot choose in ways that are incompatible with the integral directiveness of the human goods, viz. Indeed, one can, for the sake of a certain good or the instantiation of goods in certain persons, choose in ways that unreasonably damage or shortchange other goods or treat other persons unfairly.
Any such choice will be unreasonable inasmuch as ones reason for it was in truth defeated by a conclusive (moral) reason against it.
Faced by the existence of a just ordering of society, intelligible in nature, the activity of positive-law makers is tantamount to a foolish effort to supply artificial illumination in bright sunshine.
[N]one of the followers of this doctrine had the courage to be consistent.
The contributors discuss natural law theories of morality, law and legal reasoning, politics, and the rule of law.
Readers get a clear sense of the wide diversity of viewpoints represented among contemporary theorists, and an opportunity to evaluate the arguments and counterarguments exchanged in the current debates between natural law theorists and their critics.