True Law and Genuine Justice

“For there is a fellowship that is extremely widespread, shared by all with all (even if this has often been said, it ought to be said still more often); a closer one exists among of those of the same nation, and one more intimate still among those of the same city.  For this reason our ancestors wanted the law of nations and the civil law to be different: everything in the civil law need not be in the law of nations, but everything in the law of nations ought also to be a part of the civil law.  We, however, do not have the firm and lifelike figure of true law and genuine justice: we make use of shadows and sketches.  I wish we would follow even those! For they are drawn from the best examples of nature and truth.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Duties III. 69. eds. and trans. M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins (Cambridge 1991), pp. 126.

Here Cicero expresses the Stoic idea that human beings share a common nature.  However, he does note that people of the same nation or city are closer in fellowship with one another.  Natural law rests in the minds of human beings by nature.  Civil laws are the precepts established by the ancient Romans (or Athenians) that seek to put natural law into practice.  Yet, similar to the inhabitants of Plato’s allegorical cave, citizens in this world only have ‘shadows and sketches’ of natural law.

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