Philosophy of Law

Philosophy of law involves questions about the nature of law and our relationship to it. Various forms of legal systems have emerged in the Western tradition. There is also such a thing as natural law, which assumes that the rules are not man-made, but present them-selves to us naturally. According to Plato, for example, law is based on objectively valid standards. Religions also believe in natural law, insofar as it can be derived from revelation.

There are differing views on law and how it should be implemented in a society. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), for example, assumes a naturally immoral man (egoist) who can only be brought to some civilization by a social contract through possible sanctions. Locke and Rousseau, on the other hand, do not see the state of nature as a negative state. And although Locke still recognizes the importance of an objective arbiter in conflicts, Rousseau believes that such a ruler can easily abuse his power. Hence, Rousseau prefers to place the common good at the center of a social contract.

In the maieutics school, the primordial principle of Unconditional Love is central. This is therefore the metaphysical axiom on which law must also be based. From this premise, one must say that ‘right’ and ‘just’ are linked to love, while ‘wrong’ and ‘unjust’ have to do with lovelessness. So this means that the nature of justice is closely related to the degree of love. A just person might then be defined as one with a genuine love for truth, human beings and animals. ‘To judge’ means to look at a case as fairly as possible and to say on that basis what is the most loving solution for those involved. Of course, these propositions deserve expla-nation and elaboration, a fine task for the philosopher of law.

The Norwegian island of Bastøy (Wikimedia Commons)

It is clear that the conception of law within the maieutics school differs from that of people like Hobbes. This starts with Hobbes’ negative image of man. Such an image calls for a philosophy of law that assumes a repressive government with sanctions. The old legalists in China are a striking example of this, where harsh punishments seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Experiments with prisoners on the Norwegian island of Bastøy, however, have shown that humane treatment of offenders is far more adequate to keep them from the criminal path than punishment. Every human being, including a criminal, is inherently good and loving, according to the maieutics school. This humane approach can lead to a completely different penitentiary system than the current one. This new approach would no longer be based on hate, revenge and fear, but on lovingly correcting one’s inauthentic behavior. In a sense, the criminal is sick, estranged from his original core. Thus there is a kind of healing of the person, rather than destruction. These propositions also need further study.

Incidentally, in a society where Unconditional Love is the starting point, the chance that really serious criminals will grow up and consequently commit crimes will probably be much smaller. The philosophy of love has a preventive function, because the whole human attitude and upbringing will be different from what we are used to now. Children then no longer grow up with the awareness that they must behave selfishly in order to succeed in life (survival of the fittest), but with the insight that they themselves are in the core loving and respectable beings and that love in all its facets, including healthy self-love, leads to the only true happiness for all. This brings an end to justice as we have known it until now – often in horrific forms. Judging’ then means analyzing what went wrong in the upbringing or later development and subsequently helping the derailed person to return to himself. Not hate and revenge, but compassion and care are the motto here.