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POSITIVE LAW AND NATURAL LAW Historically two quite different kinds of law have been invoked in rights discourse POSITIVE LAW The kind of law that is enforced by institutions such as the police judiciary On this count a citizen can enforce hisher claim rights through the civil or in some circumstances the criminal courts Whether or not these rights are adequate or easy to enforce is of course debatable the key point is that they are the rights of a specific group of people NATURAL LAW To establish human rights a different kind of law is necessary some version of natural law The most developed version of natural law was established in the Middle Ages by Catholic Schoolmen philosophers and jurists One of their most distinguished modern successors has described the idea of natural law as being based on the existence of 1A set of basic practical principles which indicate the basic forms of human flourishing as goods to be pursued and realised and which art in one way or another used by everyone who considers what to doand 2a set of basic methodological requirements of practical reasonablenesswhich distinguish sound from unsound practical thinking and which when brought to bear provide the criteria which enable us to formulate 3a set of general moral standards If human beings have rights by virtue of their common humanity it can only be because there are some general moral standards that are universal in application these standards must in principle be discernable by everyone and therefore less obviously but still necessarily must refer back to some kind of common notion of human flourishing These are the characteristics of natural law thinking and thus natural law is the basic foundation for rights discourse other than positive law
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