Front Page Titles (by Subject) Natural Law Vocabulary - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1
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Natural Law Vocabulary - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1982, vol. 5, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Natural Law Vocabulary
“Lexicology of Jus Naturale Concepts.” Vera Lex (Natural Law Society Review) 3 (Winter/Spring 1982): 3–4.
Historically, culturally, and philosophically we encounter complex and shifting meanings and concepts in the use of jus naturale (natural law, natural right). This presents us with various problems and opportunities in reflecting upon these different historical developments of jus naturale as it has been translated or used in later languages and vocabularies.
First, we face the problem of historical determinations of jus naturale. Certain central concepts (such as jus, lex, natura, etc.) are connected with various theories of jus naturale. We need to know, for example, that in French, “droit romain” was used in the sense of “Roman law” in order to appreciate connotations and denotations of terms associated with the natural law tradition.
Second, the history of word forms brings up a second problem of logical and semantic discrimination. The same word in a given language may convey diverse meanings. Thus in neo-Latin culture at one time jus became a synonym for lex. This raises philosophical issues since to determine the boundary, say, between the French droit and loi, always implies a philosophical choice.
Besides the problems of determining the meaning of jus naturale related terms in historical usage or in the context of the linguistic culture at large, we also need to comprehend how an individual author is using a natural law concept in his own philosophic system. Sometimes an author will shift and revalue the meaning of a jus naturale concept from its earlier meanings. Thus Thomas Aquinas elaborates on Roman law and the Aristotelian concept of nature to “tear the semantics of jus out of juridical Augustinianism.”
These are real philosophical problems and not simply semantic quibbles. The author recommends that the Natural Law Society should develop “a historical and comparative lexicon of Jus Naturale.” We cannot get rid of these problems, however, by constructing a formal language theoretically free from ambiguity. The semantic differences point to “real problems in the elaborations of thinking.”