Although the boundaries of law affect our lives on a daily basis and o
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Although the boundaries of law affect our lives on a daily basis, and our own society continually uses legal coercion as a means to modify human behavior, the very notion of such binding human guidelines is testament to the evolution of secular thought. The evolution of “legal positivism,” which can be defined as tangible procedural law, created by man, codified and conventional, has emerged with mankind’s ability to distinguish between secular and divine authority. To understand the differences between secular and divine law, we must first realize the different species of law that have bound man throughout history. These are, specifically, divine law, natural law and human law. The concept of divine law; higher law extolled through religious belief and doctrine, as I will explain, characterized the legal authority of ancient Egyptian pharaohs to a degree to which their subjects were willing to submit. The absence of inalienable human rights in Egyptian society is also characteristic of ancient Egyptian divine law. The actual concept of “human rights,” as we have come to understand them, is an understanding that has evolved with legal positivism, along with man’s ability to distinguish between the spheres of the secular and vernacular. To prove these points, I also intend to explore Hammurabi’s codification of natural law, and Socrates’ interpretation of the state of legal positivism in ancient Greece.
Although misguided, the ancient Egyptians systemically subscribed their lives to divine authority and law. This is due to their culture’s unique co-habitation of secular life and vernacular authority. The source of authority in Egypt, pharaoh god-kings, were the embodiment of human body and divine spirit, hence, no distinction existed between secular and human coexistence in ancient Egypt. Because “gods” and humans both existed on the same earthly plane, ancient Egyptians were unable to distinguish between the disparate concepts of secular and vernacular authority. Egyptians believed their pharaohs to be gods, and worshipped them accordingly.
“Oho! Oho! Rise up, O Teti!/ Take your head
Collect your bones/ Gather your limbs,
Shake the Earth from your flesh!/ Take your bread that rots not,
Your beer that sours not/ Stand at the gates that bar the common people.”
Human Record, Source 3
Because pharaoh edict was the word of god, and no codified legal reference is known to have existed, the “divine” whimsy of Egyptian pharaohs likely determined the fates of many. With the precept of divine rule, the concept of human rights is impossible to recognize. The concepts of divine authority, and human subjugation based on equal footing are mutually exclusive philosophies. Human rights, as we have come to understand and expect, were willfully discarded in favor of “divine” countenance. As such, the system of divine authority in ancient Egypt was marked by an inability to distinguish between secular and vernacular existence, a non-existent degree of legal positivism, and no provision for “human rights.”
By contrast, a primitive understanding of “natural law,” compiled from generations of insecurity following brutality between Mesopotamian rulers, led to Hammurabi’s code; the earliest recorded example of positivist intervention. Natural law, subjugating man to mere biological specimen, is in sorts the absence of law, or rather the law of social order. Natural law subscribes to the predictability of human nature, and to the belief human nature is fundamentally unchanged and universally applicable. A state of natural law exists when no legal authority or divine law is in place to modify human behavior or impulse. Natural law is contrasted with legal positivism, tangible and procedural laws created to modify human behavior, which can be considered the proactive enactment of civilized society.
Hammurabi’s code, compiled to curb natural law, became the first form of procedural justice recorded in human history. These judgements, which sought unified temporal retribution for various grievances, were the first examples of secular influence toward the roles of government and law.
“142. If a woman hates her husband, and says ‘you shall not posses me,’ the reason for her dislike shall be inquired into. If she is careful, and has no fault, but her husband takes himself away and neglects her, then that woman is not to blame. She shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house.
200. If a man has knocked out the teeth of a man of the same rank, his own teeth shall be knocked out.”
Human Record, Source 2
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Philosophy of law, Codes of conduct, Legal ethics, Criminal law, Positivism, Law, Code of Hammurabi, Hammurabi, Natural law, Jurisprudence, Legal positivism, Crime
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