Difference between rules of conduct and natural laws

The rules of conduct and natural laws are two commonly used concepts that have to do with the set of criteria that govern human life or that guide their actions. In this article we are going to define the rules of conduct and natural laws, so that readers understand their applications and implications and can make proper use of these terms, to later point out the differences between the two concepts.

Standards of Conduct

The norms of conduct can be defined as prescriptions, criteria, guidelines and rules that guide the behavior of people in various situations. Norms of conduct can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Therefore, they are of intrinsic origin when they come from the person’s habits, that is, the set of habitual behaviors of a person becomes the rules of conduct for her. Likewise, they are extrinsic when they are learned or acquired according to social norms or values.

The purpose of the rules of conduct is to guide the behavior of the person, in addition, they are mandatory and attributive because they generate rights and duties. The norms of conduct are derived from the value system that the person possesses. Additionally, among other characteristics we can find that they are subjective because they may or may not be practiced by all individuals in a society and are unilateral, since they arise from the individuality of the person. Similarly, they are internal because they derive from the individual based on his or her ideology, values, and beliefs, and they are autonomous because each individual creates and regulates his or her own behaviors.

Natural Laws

Natural laws can be defined as the set of criteria and principles of human behavior from the individual and social point of view. It includes judgments and statements whose main purpose is to explain the constant relationships that exist between different phenomena. Next, natural laws are related to truth, since they are valid only when they can be verified.

Among other characteristics, natural laws are explanatory because they seek to make known all the aspects that occur in a phenomenon, therefore they cannot be valued as positive or negative but rather obey the verification of certain facts. Finally, natural laws are imperative and obligatory because they have to do with the real existence of a phenomenon.

As can be seen in the definitions presented, it is not the same to speak of moral norms than of natural laws, because these concepts differ from each other in attention to different aspects. The fundamental differences between these concepts are:

  • The rules of conduct depend on an intrinsic (value) or formal (official) extrinsic criterion while natural laws depend on the phenomena that occur.
  • The function of the rules of conduct is to guide and guide human behavior while the function of natural laws is to explain the phenomena that occur in human nature.
  • The rules of conduct are free, since the person can decide whether to carry them out or not, while the natural laws are mandatory because they have to do with the real presence of natural phenomena.
  • Norms of conduct admit exception because they can be executed or not, while natural laws do not admit exception because they occur simply because they do.

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