Relationship between nomos and physis

Nomos and Phusis |

relationship between nomos and physis

Nomos and physis in ancient Greek philosophy are two sides of a coin. the two forces of rationalism and chaos, or between law and nature. Is society itself 'natural', and what difference might the answer make to our evaluation of it? Both nomos and physis had their supporters, while some tried to . One key issue was the distinction between physis and nomos that the Sophists made. Here is an entry from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Due to this it is up to each person to follow the natural law to obtain what they need to survive. Through this, Democritus underlines the importance of self-preservation as being the highest motivating factor in respect to instinct and natural law.

What are nomos and physis? Greek philosophy

But a man who ignores justice…is distressed by the memory of his actions. This comment can be applied to both those higher and lower on a hierarchal scale. While justice and legality Felber 6 are not always mutually inclusive terms, they sometimes can be. Natural laws must be followed to preserve the life or liberty of each individual person and these laws are immutable. A natural law is something which conventions cannot alter, they are universal, instinctive and therefore higher or stronger than conventional laws.

The notion of natural law being stronger than conventional law becomes ever clearer when the work of Hippias of Elis is examined. Hippias asserts that conventional laws are useless and meaningless insofar as they often change to suit the needs of the ruling elite.

However, the description of conventional law being useless and altogether inferior to natural law is quite dangerous and would prove to be problematic for the Athenian law courts. The appeal to nature would become so commonplace that eventually the Athenian law courts had to ban any motion to the appeal to natural law as a legal defense.

Here Antiphon manages to provide a universal truth in respect to natural law, that all humans are people, and it is only human constructs or conventions that separate them into Felber 8 varying cultures, ethnicities and nationalities. Antiphon suggested that the only reason to follow conventional laws was to avoid punishment, but that otherwise people should follow natural laws first. His disdain for conventional law was great, as he believed that conventional law is what creates disunity and disharmony among different people.

This has led to our behaving like foreign savages towards one another, when by nature there is nothing at all in our constitutions to differentiate foreigners and Greeks. His remarks on justice are similar to those on conventions. Justice, therefore is conforming to the rules and regulations of the community…The way to gain maximum advantage for yourself from justice, then, is to treat the laws as important when other people are present, but when there is nobody else with you Felber 9 to value the demands of nature.

Antiphon suggests that men form into groups and make up laws conventions that suit their needs which might or might not be at the expense of other people. He says that since these man-made laws are not natural, that they can be broken without much detriment to oneself unless a person is caught in the act. He explains that if someone were to break man-made laws and not get caught, that the individual will go unpunished since there has been no authentic transgression against nature. Empedocles, Democritus, Hippias and Antiphon had ideas and notions on physis and nomos and the difference between natural and conventional laws.

They concluded that natural law was the stronger. Felber 10 Through an examination of their views and positions on the subject, it is Antiphon who makes the strongest case for natural law over conventional law.

Physis - Wikipedia

Empedocles was rather vague when discussing the concepts of nature and convention when it came to laws and how human beings interact in response to them.

The breadth of his focus was too narrow, and thus he fails to make as meaningful an impact on the subject as Antiphon who understood that people prioritize things differently and place different values on things outside of Greek culture.

On the other hand, Democritus acknowledges that many things are subjective, such as values and perceptions. However, he was unwilling to take a staunch stance against conventional laws when compared to Antiphon.

His lacklustre commitment to the superiority of natural law over conventional law might have stemmed from a fear of reprisal from the ruling elites.

relationship between nomos and physis

Though this is mere conjecture, the fact is that Antiphon had the courage to speak the truth in that there are conventions that categorize people into groups. Where Hippias falls short is that he is too radical. His belief that all conventional laws are meaningless is problematic in that some conventional laws and natural laws can exist in union with one another.

For instance incest - regardless of his belief that it is not forbidden by natural law - goes against natural and conventional law. This is apparent in nature through the production of offspring with birth defects resulting from incestuous intercourse. He acknowledges that natural laws are universal and inherent for the survival of each human being. In Plato's Gorgias, Callicles argues, with an appeal to animal behavior, that it is a matter of "justice according to nature," as opposed to convention, for the strong to prey upon the weak.

However, the same conceptual framework, including the assumption that nature represents an authoritative norm, could be used to support the opposite stance.

relationship between nomos and physis

The Anonymous Iamblichi argues that law and justice should be obeyed as having "kingly rule" among human beings—a rule established by human nature itself. So the nomos-phusis contrast was a framework for discussion rather than a theory in itself. It allowed for fruitful debate as to where the testimony of nature might be observed, what guidance it could provide, and how the norms of law and morality might relate to it.

Far from being restricted to justice, nomos-phusis is best understood as a catch phrase for the general sophistic inquiry into the institutions of human society. Thus various Sophists seem to have applied the concepts to slavery, gender roles, language, and religion.

Physis and nomos - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

For instance, the Sisyphus fragment by either Critias or Euripides argues that religion was invented by ancient sages as a device for social control, implying that the gods exist only by convention. The contrast could even be extended to questions of general epistemology.

Democritus usually classed as a pre-Socratic, but associated by sources with Protagoras summed up his atomism by claiming that sensory properties, such as colors and tastes, are merely conventional; in reality there are only atoms and the void. Here, conventional seems to be tantamount to mind-dependent, or merely apparent.

The adoption of nature as a normative standard is the most powerful legacy of sophistic thought.