Aristotle and His Role in Legal Theory
Today’s legal theory is founded upon what Aristotle had to say over two millennia ago.
I am not a lawyer and the extent of my legal training is I used to religiously watch Law and Order during my formative years.
Despite this ignorance, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with what Aristotle discusses in his book, Rhetoric, and the language lawyers use today during trials. “Drawing a parallel” assumes some analysis on my part. More accurately, lawyers today are using the same legal language Aristotle used when he wrote this treatise.
One of two things is true here: either there has been no innovations in legal thought since Aristotle OR Aristotle just knew what he was talking about. The latter is likely the case. Aristotle’s Curriculum Vitae is untouchable. He wrote about anything and everything.
Here are a few concepts that have stood the test of time.
- The Written Law and the Unwritten Law. The former is legislation. The latter, natural (moral) law. The unwritten law is a natural understanding of moral and ethical conduct. We don’t need a law to tell us that we shouldn’t steal. It is ethically and morally wrong to do so. But yet, we do have these laws because there are those who operate mischeviously within the letter of the law.
- Man’s natural inclination to truth. Because man has this natural inclination to truth, if a judge decides against this, it is because the orator was skilled at deceiving the jury. This is no different today. Today, most westernized nations operate with prosecuting counsel having the burden of proof. That said, they usually have a tougher job than defense. This is why you feel a pit developing in your stomach when an alleged murderer (who fits a well-established profile) gets of scot free.
These are the two concepts I’ve found so far. I’ve only read Book I so far.
Although Aristotle did not invent these concepts, he did capture and codify man’s natural inclinations.