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CHAPTER X: The Structure of the Sciences - Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy 
The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy, trans. Thomas R. Hanley. Introduction and Bibliography by Russell Hittinger (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1998).
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The Structure of the Sciences
The realistic theory of knowledge is the basis both of the unity of knowledge and of the internal coherence and organic structure of the sciences. Despite all distinctions of objects or ways of experiencing and looking at the one reality, and notwithstanding all the differences of methods, the sciences form an integrated system. Not only do they all rest upon metaphysics as the foundation of knowledge in general, but they also find their crowning in metaphysics as the philosophy of being, the science which affords the deepest knowledge concerning the principles and causes of being itself. The individual sciences deal with being from specific viewpoints. For instance, ethics deals with the norms which determine the deeds and actions of free persons, with the oughtness which springs from being; and physics treats of material things in their causal connection, their mode of existence, their motions. At the end of every science, moreover, there stands, not the value of the science for practical use, but its discharge into knowledge as such, the most profound impulse of the human spirit. Indeed, man is so dominated thereby that we must affirm that his deepest urge is to know as much as possible about everything. Wherefore Genesis has quite rightly designated pride, the desire to be like God (“You shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil”; 3:5), as the greatest sin. And the modern age merely betrays its shallow, vulgar, and unphilosophical mentality when it ascribes the temptation of the first human pair to concupiscence, as though sexual love itself were not at bottom a kind of impulse to know.1
Metaphysics is the logical foundation of all science. All science is a system of general, necessary judgments touching the existence or essence of their objects, and to that extent they constitute true and genuine knowledge. Thus jurisprudence is a systematic formulation of judgments about the general and particular positive institutions of the legal order: their existence, essence, sources, principles, normative coherence, validity in space and time. The history of law is a systematic exposition of judgments relating to legal arrangements that were formerly in force. International law is a system of judgments about the legal ordering of the community of states. But the formal element of every judgment is contained in the verb “to be”: jurisprudence is a normative science. Hence the science of being (of its forms, principles, and modes) is the basis of every other science. Being is universally “given” simultaneously with every act of knowledge: knowledge is true knowledge through its agreement with a being. Being, however, is reality differentiated according to act and potency, according as being is determined or is capable of determination. Being is reality before the intellect and truth in the intellect; it is goodness before the practical reason and in the will.
Certain fundamental laws result from being: the principle of contradiction (nothing can both be and not be at the same time under the same respect), the principle of sufficient reason, the principle of causality. They are absolutely universal; they are always valid, even in regard to purely conceptual possible being, provided it is something conceivable by reason. Yet this does not mean that metaphysics as the first science must necessarily be also the first in time, as though the cultivation of other sciences were rendered possible only through it. It merely means that its essential principles first render science possible. In this way we positively hold in our secure, habitual possession the principles of contradiction, causality, and differentiation between being which determines and being which is capable of determination: and this possession is unconscious because it is continually experienced. These principles guide our entire thinking. They are valid for every object of knowledge, so far as it must possess a minimum of being in order to be apprehended or known at all. The first principles of theoretical reason are self-evident. Even an actual theoretical doubt about them proves their axiomatic validity: to doubt them is to affirm them in the very act of doubting.
“Philosophy does not inquire about particular subjects in so far as each of them has some attribute or other, but speculates about being, in so far as each particular thing is. … Physics studies the attributes and the principles of the things that are, qua moving and not qua being (whereas the primary science … deals with these, only in so far as the underlying subjects are existent, and not in virtue of any other character).”2 The various kinds of being, participations of universal being by the many particular beings, particular reality in contrast to universal reality: all this conditions the diversity of the sciences. Nevertheless the different sciences are interconnected and they have a single object: that which is, and a more and more comprehensive and profound knowledge of it. How well and aptly, then, the creative spirit of all languages speaks of the craving for deep knowledge, for what lies beneath the surface, for the obscure that lies under and behind the clear and obvious! Realistic philosophy has no tendency to separate the sciences in place of distinguishing them; it has no tendency toward a fanatical excessive specialization.
Just as the speculative intellect by extension becomes the practical intellect, so metaphysics becomes moral philosophy. That which is, so far as it is, also ought to be. The essences or natures of things ought likewise to be the goal of the development and active formation, through the secondary cause, of the existing organic thing as well as of the thing to be produced by art. And the order of the world, as it exists ideally in the natures of the things ordered, is for the free will an order that ought to be realized. Likewise the essential nature of rational and free man ought to be. Realize your essential nature: such is the primary norm of moral action, the perfecting of the idea of man.
There are in man, however, as the slightest reflection makes plain, different modes of being. Man belongs to the corporeal world, to the world of sentient creatures, and to the world of rational, free, and social beings. To this complex reality correspond various sciences which concern themselves with man inasmuch as he belongs to these worlds. But as a rational, social being endowed with free will, he is the object of the sciences that are properly human: of psychology, as a rational being; of social philosophy, as a being that is essentially social; of sociology, as a being that exists in concrete social forms. Yet as a creature that shapes his own rational and social life and being in freedom and not through compulsion, man is the object of the moral sciences which lay down norms of action in the light of the idea or essential being of man.
The first principle of ethics, that good is to be done and evil avoided, obtains its material content (the determination of what is good) from the essential being of the rational, free, and social nature of man. Thence result a natural social ethics, which also rests upon social philosophy, and, as part of it, a natural law, the natural law in the strict sense. When they were not treating of law in the narrower sense, the Scholastics and their successors frequently called their entire moral philosophy institutiones iuris naturalis. This served a good purpose: the unity of morality and law was thereby safeguarded. Moreover, law, through its inclusion in moral philosophy, was given its metaphysical basis. The science of law received its foundation, the philosophy of law its objects, and positive legal institutions their legitimation in the natural law, which in its turn rested upon social philosophy and hence upon the metaphysical doctrine of man. The oughtness or obligation of legal norms also obtained thereby a material foundation in the essential being of man’s social and rational nature. Thinkers thus escaped positivism, which believes that it has to acknowledge and recognize only a factual willing of the norm by a lawmaker who has force at his command. Positivism has always originated in philosophical skepticism, or it is a purely arbitrary short cut in the matter of determining the structure and interconnection of the sciences. It renounces inquiry into the reason of the norm.
The essentially social nature of man means that his mode of being is social being, and that the idea of man is perfected in the community and its gradations. This is not a requirement of some impulse or other, but a reality which in ever increasing human experience shows itself as “given.” Social being, the necessary communities of the social animal, is the object of social philosophy. Social being is in reality. Therefore continual contact with reality and observation of social life are needed in order to be able to make assertions and form judgments about the nature of social being. Only then can we discern what is permanent amid the changing situations, amid the alterations of outward forms in the course of history. With regard to social science, then, social philosophy plays a role similar to that of metaphysics in respect to the sciences in general.
It follows, consequently, that in this case also essential being becomes oughtness to the practical reason. In this case, too, essential being becomes the goal and norm of what is taking shape through the free activity of the human will. Social ethics and the philosophy of law are extensions of social metaphysics. As the mind by cognition draws out or abstracts the nature of social being from the social data, from reality, it discovers the first social ideas and principles. It does not itself construct them or postulate them from some abstract principle or other, such as freedom.
There is a philosophy of law, a doctrine of juridical oughtness, to the extent that law and every legal order constitute a peculiar order of social oughtness, a coordination of the various social relations and connections among men from the loose and ephemeral to permanent and firmly established forms of community living, since there exists a legal form of social being. The philosophy of law cannot be detached from ethics, since it is part of the latter. Furthermore, to the extent that it exists, it is as oughtness and norm grounded in essential being, in the nature of social being. Its first principles and the further conclusions form the content of the natural law. The laws of being become norms of doing and acting for the creative will. The eternal law, the law of the world’s being, becomes the natural law in relation to the rational and free creature. Whatever necessarily appertains to the perfecting of a nature which is essentially social ought also to exist and to be realized by the will. What necessarily belongs thereto, no more, but also no less, is by nature right and moral.
As social philosophy is distinguished from sociology, and social ethics from historical moral systems or codes of an epoch or class, the positive science of law is distinguished from the philosophy of law, and the positive law from the natural law. The natural law embraces the contents of both the science of law and the philosophy of law. As in metaphysics the first ideas of being in general are presupposed, so here the ideas of individual person, community, morality, and of law are “given” beforehand. “The individual legal experience depends for its clear comprehension upon the universally valid concept of law, not vice versa” (R. Stammler). Moreover, this concept of law is immediately present to us who grow up in the legal community of family and kindred-group, of professional group and village or town, and of the state with its officials, judges, and courts. This holds true even if only in the form of the general normative appurtenance of certain things, and in the form of the relation of certain persons and their action to us as individual equal or unequal members of the community. Indeed this concept of law is so present to our minds that, upon attaining the use of reason, we at once become immediately conscious of the basic juridical and moral principles and we apply them in practice. Such fundamental principles are: Good ought to be; what is mine ought to belong to me, what is yours, to you; no one may molest me in what is mine. It is precisely the same as in the case of cognition where we immediately possess the intuition of certain principles, such as the principle of contradiction.
The science of law and the philosophy of law accordingly differ in their specific objects. The science of law views its objects, legal ordinances, from the precise standpoint of their positive validity and practical application in the administration of justice, their historical evolution, their logical coherence and consistent interpretation, and their positively established legal institutions. The philosophy of law, on the other hand, has for its object the necessary universal norms; and the legitimation of every positive legal ordinance implies an attempt to realize such norms. Hence its object is what has for centuries been known as ius naturale. For this reason, too, every attempt to philosophize about law bears willy-nilly a natural-law character. For without this going back to ultimate, necessary, and permanent norms, there exist only empirical generalizations, systems of legal types, genetico-historical explanations of the factual development of a legal institution (e.g., the loan), but not knowledge of the real grounds for the universally existing principle that what is borrowed ought to be returned.
The essential nature of man, the idea of man as a rational, free, and social being is, as the normative goal, the principle of social ethics and of the natural law. The legitimation of all law must ultimately be a moral one. This is possible, however, only if the normative oughtness of practical reason is ultimately being perceived by the theoretical reason. The circle of the mind and the sciences is thus closed. The given reality and the ideal core in it, as measure of man’s knowledge and the object of theoretical reason, appear now to the practical reason, the extension of theoretical reason, as a valuable good and end, as a task to be realized. But the concrete realization does not get its legitimation from the will that does the realizing, but from the end or goal of the realization, the idea. Metaphysics is the presupposition and the crown of the philosophy of law, whose object is the natural law.
[1.]The very Hebrew idiom for denoting sexual intercourse, “to know a woman,” lends color to this view.
[2.]Aristotle, Metaphysica, K. 4, 1061b 26–32 (trans. W. D. Ross).