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a young boy named makato was an orphan, and didn't have any way to support himself, so he worked hard doing whatever jobs that he could to survive. makato was a very hard worker, and people noticed that. he would dream of going on an adventure to a bigger place where the land was fertile and the people were kind, and he was encouraged to do that.
one day, when he had prepared enough, he set out. it took him a month to get to the bigger town, and when he arrived he asked a woman for water. he told her that he had come such a long way because he wanted to see the king, who he had heard was kind. he worked with the king's elephants and he started working for her. after some time working, he did encounter the king, and during the encounter he picked up a cowrie shell that was lying on the road and offered it to the king (cowrie shells were used for money, but just one was practically worthless).
when makato offered the shell to the king, the king said he could keep it, and so makato pondered what he could do to honor the king's gift. he saw some lettuce seeds at a stall in the market and thought that he could grow them. he asked the woman about them, and she let him have as many as would stick to his finger in return for his treasured cowrie shell. he grew the lettuces, and next time he saw the king, he gave one to him, telling him he grew them from the shell the king had given him. the king was impressed, gave him a job in the castle, and he eventually grew up and married the daughter of the king.
‘natural law theory’ is a label that has been applied to theories of ethics, theories of politics, theories of civil law, and theories of religious morality. we will be concerned only with natural law theories of ethics: while such views arguably have some interesting implications for law, politics, and religious morality, these implications will not be our focus here.
this article has two central objectives. first, it aims to identify the defining features of natural law moral theory. second, it aims to identify some of the main theoretical options that natural law theorists face in formulating a precise view within the constraints set by these defining features and some of the difficulties for each of these options. it will not, however, attempt to recount the history of the development of natural law thought. (for a very helpful detailed history of natural law thought up to the beginning of the modern period, see crowe 1977. for a very helpful detailed history of natural law thought in the modern period, see haakonssen 1996. for an article-length recap of the entire history of natural law thought, see haakonssen 1992.)1. key features of natural law theories1.1 natural law and divine providence1.2 natural law and practical rationality1.3 the substance of the natural law view1.4 paradigmatic and nonparadigmatic natural law theories2. theoretical options for natural law theorists2.1 natural goodness2.2 knowledge of the basic goods2.3 the catalog of basic goods2.4 from the good to the right