Role of Period of Renaissance in the development of Natural Law

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The renaissance period in the history of the development of natural law can also be called the modern classical era, marked by nationalism and the emergence of new ideas in various fields of knowledge. The main exponents of natural law during the period of renaissance leading to the development of natural law are: –

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)

Grotius believed that however bad a ruler may be, it is the duty of subjects to obey him. There is an apparent inconsistency in the natural law proposed by Grotius because, on the one hand, he says that the ruler is bound by natural law. On the other hand, he argued that under no circumstances should the ruler be disobeyed. His main concern was the majesty of political order and the maintenance of international peace which was the necessity of the time. He was firmly convinced that man by nature is peace-loving and wishes to live for specific reasons. He therefore treated natural law as immutable which cannot be changed by God himself. According to him, natural law is based on the nature of man and his desire to live in a peaceful society. He treated divine law like the grandmother, natural law the parent, and positive law like the child.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Thomas Hobbes used natural law to justify the absolute authority of the ruler by giving him the power to protect his interests. He proposed the theory of the social contract relating to the evolution of the state. According to Hobbes, before the social contract, man lived in a chaotic state of constant fear. A human life in the rule of nature was lonely, poor, unpleasant, short and brutish. Hence, for the purpose of ensuring self-protection and avoiding misery, people voluntarily made an agreement and surrendered their freedom to a most powerful authority who could protect their life and property. This led to the emergence of the institution of rule which later took the form of the state.

John Locke (1632-1704)

John Locke came out with the new interpretation of the social contract rejecting the Hobbes concept of the nature of the state. He said life in the wilderness was not as miserable and brutal as Hobbes portrayed it, but rather good and pleasant, except the property was not secure. In order to ensure adequate protection of property, man has concluded social contracts which waive only part of his rights and not all of his rights as envisaged by Hobbesion’s theory.

Jean Rousseau (1712-1778)

Jean Rousseau stressed that the social contract is not a historical fact as seen by Hobbes and Locke, but that it is simply a hypothetical conception. Prior to the so-called social contract, life was happy and there was equality between men. The people united to preserve their rights to liberty and equality and to this end they gave up their rights not to a single individual, i.e. sovereign, but to a community as a whole that Rousseau called as a general will.