The Legitimacy of Positive Law Versus Natural Law

Unit 9 Assignment
Final Assignment
Kristen Fellows Walker
LS490 – Legal Philosophy

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Legitimacy of Positive Law Versus Natural Law
For King, the freedom he spoke of under the “symbolic shadow” (King, 1963) of the Lincoln Memorial (reference to the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln 100 years earlier in 1863) was not a metaphorical freedom or an idealistic freedom; the freedom he demanded that August afternoon was the freedom promised to all American’s, including blacks, within the text of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.   A freedom promised but not yet delivered. (King, 1963)
From a legal philosophy perspective, King was asserting that the promise of freedom meant very little if it went unfulfilled.   In order to fulfill this promise, society, through its government, would require the obligation to recognize its moral duty and act accordingly.   Of the legal philosophers we have studied, Kings views seem to resonate more evenly with the natural law theorists, especially, as this essay will relate, with Aquinas.   There is, however, evidence from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and other writings that indicate some positivist views, as well.   With that said, it is evident that King’s education and personal experiences have not only shaped his personal philosophy of justice but have allowed him to consider that the struggle against discrimination and the fight for   freedom and equality was not just about civil rights for blacks, it was about human rights for all.   As illustrated by Aquinas, “justice is the steady and lasting willingness to give to others what they are entitled to … [it is a] concept of [justice] ... impos[ed] on me and my communities, [and is due as] a duty to everyone without discrimination’ (Aquinas, 2011).  

A Subjects Duty to Obey the Law
King’s views on peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience go straight to the heart of what King believed was morally required...