[NOTE: This is the second in a series of posts intended to work out the principles of Natural Law. It builds off of the posts that have come before it. If you have not already read Free Will: the First Principle of Natural Law, I strongly suggest that you do so before reading this post, as this post is a continuation of the former. I also ask that you understand, while this is not technically a formal argument, neither is it a casual argument. Thus, it is not necessarily the easiest thing to read, but then, this is because I am trying to explain some difficult concepts in a manner as easily understood as I know how. I trust that you will bear with me. In return, I will break the whole into smaller, more easily digested posts.]
Now that we have established that the first principle of Natural Law is our free will, we need to develop our definition of a Natural Right. As a matter of habit, where matters of definition are concerned, I start by citing the definition of a natural:
2a : being in accordance with or determined by nature
b : having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature
5: implanted or being as if implanted by nature : seemingly inborn <a natural talent for art>
7: having a specified character by nature <a natural athlete>
b : formulated by human reason alone rather than revelation <natural religion> <natural rights>
Next, the definition of right:
1: qualities (as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval
2: something to which one has a just claim: as
a : the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled <voting rights> <his right to decide>
3: something that one may properly claim as due <knowing the truth is her right>
Using these two definitions, let us define a Natural Right. First, we exist in corporeal form, and as such, are subject to the laws of physics as they govern mater in this universe. Thus, whatever form we take is a matter of what we call nature. Second, as our free will is a part of our total make up, and is – at least in some way – connected to or dependent upon our corporeal form, it is a matter of nature that we have free will. Additionally, our free will is unique to each of us – indeed, it defines us as individuals. We cannot be separated from our will for, without it, we cease to be us, our unique, individual self. In other words, our will is inalienable to who we are. Therefore, we can say that our free will is a natural part of our being. So, in every sense, our free will meets the definition of “natural:” both because it is a natural part of this universe, and because it is inalienable to who we are as individuals.
Next, as our free will is unique to ourselves, it is not subject to control by any outside influence — unless we allow it to be (in which case, it would still be an act of free will: the act of surrendering to that outside control is an act of free will). Our will is the very essence of who we are, and as we are given free will by our Creator, this imparts a just claim to control over our will. We are sovereign over our will because the Creator says we are. Thus, we have a right in our free will. And since that will is a natural part of this world and who we are, we can say we have a Natural Right to our will. What’s more, again, because our will is a gift from our Creator, our claim to our will cannot be said to be greater or less than the claim anyone else has to their own will. Nor can they make a just claim to ours. We are all equal in our claim to our own will. Jefferson explained it this way:
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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
And thus, we have our definition of a Natural Right:
A Natural Right is that to which one has a natural and just claim as a function of their being – both in physical existence, and in will.
Next in this series:
32 thoughts on “Defining Natural Rights”