The following is excerpted from the book To Tell The Truth… Ethics Unwrapped. We will continue to provide excerpts from the book in future posts. In the meantime you may wish to read the entire book (?!)
THE LAW THAT MATTERS – NATURAL LAW
There’s a universal standard that must be upheld by each and every one of us because we’re interdependent. This standard applies to humanity as well as to all groups whether or not they acknowledge, endorse or even know about it. Like our lives, the sunrise and gravity, it’s a given. It is integral with ethics, part of the system of universal moral principles, and it is implicit in our legal system. Natural Law puts the irrefutable law that matters on your side.
Our civil and criminal laws are inventions to satisfy particular needs of our society. Moral law, on the other hand, consists of basic ethical principles that describe generic right conduct by which our actions conform in our dealings with each other. These ethical standards are constant and immutable. They are givens.
And all law–including moral law and positive law–is rooted in Natural Law. Natural law includes fundamental ideas of right and wrong that exist in and of humanity and implicit in moral law, even if not explicit in positive law. It precedes our very being, valid whether or not we or our society approve of or even acknowledge it. It is analogous with First Principles like truth. And it represents the ultimate weapon of the individual.
Natural law is immanent, a given, an integral part of humanity. Individuals, groups, whole societies and mankind itself are subject to it. Its power is such that a person not only has a right to ascertain the virtue of institutional law, ethically he must do so. Conscience and intuition, unequivocally personal attributes independent of anyone else’s influence (and anathema to many groups) are the ultimate deciding ethical factors. Such is the power and the responsibility of the individual. This is your power.
Remember, our society’s system of laws grew out of necessity, trial-and-error, precedent, and the agendas of those drafting them. And while it may have its roots in the system of universal moral principle, it’s been pruned and grafted in keeping with society’s changing wishes and whims. The idea of posited law rests upon the utilitarian democratic principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. This admirable goal would indeed satisfy an ethical precept if “the greatest number” included everybody. It doesn’t. What may represent the greatest good for the greatest number of our society in terms of the current values of our society does not represent the greatest good in terms of humanity as a whole, much as we’d like to think that it does. It can’t always achieve the “right” results with regard to all mankind, no matter how we build on it. (And we usually modify our law by adding to it; seldom do we delete from it, resulting in a cumbersome and ambiguous product with lots of excess baggage.)
Sometimes, however, groups (including society itself) may try to circumvent natural law in their own interests. In doing so, they risk taking part in their own eventual demise.
The fact is that no group, our state-of-the-art society included, may speak for the whole of humanity. And while it may be the stated goal of our laws to achieve the right results for our society; that goal may not always be realized. On the other hand, moral law and natural law must, by the fact that they are givens, achieve the right (true, good, ethical) results for not only our society but the entirety of humankind, and this law is available to each one of us, individually, without benefit of any group. A given, it numbers among our immutable rights.
It is this primal moral and natural law that provides our first line of (ethical) offense. It provides the means by which any individual, including you, can speak for humanity itself, and can ethically and legally resolve any problem.
One reason why each of us individually is here in the first place is to reaffirm those universal truths that give meaning to humanity and in so doing, move mankind forward.
This simply means that as you move toward your good life, you are at the same time moving forward the entire human race! In the process of improving yourself, you are making the world a better place for everyone. Further, since individuals have the tacit backing of an ethical whole– mankind in its entirety–via the vital connection, when you decide to accept your sole responsibility as a human being (to move mankind forward to the next level), you can’t lose.