Blogs » J.Q. Tomanek of Victoria » Positive vs. Natural


Gravity has its laws. Those laws of gravity are not positive laws. Don’t worry, they are not negative either. Rather they are natural laws. Positive laws are those fiats that are determined by lawmakers. The traffic and litter laws are examples of positive law. It is called positive law not because it is better or always in a state of smiling, rather they are laws that are set or posited by a governing person or body. This means that they could have been otherwise. The state could make a law that said the speed limit is 59 miles an hour.

Converse this with the laws of nature which are set in place according the nature of things. Gravity has laws that you must respect. No matter how hard you try, jumping from a building without aid results in falling. A governing body can make a law that says differently, but it will not change the fact that gravity is the force that pulls you to another object.

Because man is a certain type of creature, we also have certain laws that fit us. The lex naturalis of man is based on the fact that man is a rational animal. Because we can reason, certain laws apply to us that do not apply to pure spirits, non-rational animals, plant life, and inanimate objects. Pure spirits are not bound by time because they have no bodies. We have bodies, therefore we are bound by time. Non-rational animals are not free to choose between moral goods, so we don’t hold them accountable when it does something we don’t want it to. We don’t prosecute dogs for stealing property. Take the universal and immutable law of murder. If a person murders another person, he is held accountable for taking another’s life. Even if the government decides to make its own law that murder is mandated, it would be considered an unjust law which should be avoided. The government cannot justly change natural law with a positive law. The natural law protects the human person.

Let’s assume for the moment that natural law does not exist. This makes the basis for any law just positive law. Those with power will make laws that the rest will have to follow. If all laws are changeable, then what one lawmaker mandates today can be judged illegal tomorrow. This is where fiat moral laws are like fiat money; you can make it up as you go.