Natural Law Theories

Jonathan Crowe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers natural law perspectives on the nature of law. Natural law theories are united by what Mark Murphy calls the natural law thesis: law is necessarily a rational standard for conduct. The natural law position comes in strong and weak versions: the strong view holds that a rational defect in a norm renders it legally invalid, while the weak view holds that a rational defect in a legal norm renders it legally defective. The article explores the motivations for the natural law position, before considering three lines of natural law argument found in the literature. I conclude by examining the arguments offered by John Finnis and Murphy in support of the weak natural law view. I suggest that these arguments fail to impugn the strong natural law thesis. Indeed, the functional argument outlined by Murphy provides a plausible route to a hybrid natural law view that incorporates both weak and strong claims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophy Compass
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


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