Tuesday, February 14, 2017


What were the basic tenets of the island? Was there a governing system of fundamental rules or beliefs that no one could change?

We are aware that "laws" are created by governments in order to protect basic individual freedoms, like property and person, from harm. But the source of the power to create laws, and the corresponding "order," is not clear cut.

Natural law is among the oldest philosophical traditions. Some of history's greatest geniuses, from Aristotle to Thomas Jefferson, devoted their most brilliant arguments to it, often differing about details but agreeing on the broad outlines. Natural law was the basis on which America's founders wrote the Constitution.

Among other things, it holds that politics isn't just a matter of agreement. Instead, principles of justice, or the idea that murder or theft are wrong, run deeper than government's mere say-so. Those things are actually wrong, aside from whether or not they are legal—and that means government itself can act unjustly and even impose rules that don't deserve the name "law."

That's a view many on both left and right share. The greatest spokesman for natural law in the twentieth century was probably Martin Luther King, who denounced segregation not because of its technical complexities, but because it betrayed the natural law principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Today, most American judges—including liberals and conservatives—reject natural law. They embrace a different view, "legal positivism," which holds that individual rights or concepts of justice are really manufactured government fiat. The late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was viewed as a strict constitutional constructionist,  rejected natural law arguments. "You protect minorities only because the majority determines that there are certain minority positions that deserve protection," he said, not because everyone has basic rights under natural law.

Still, even those who embrace natural law, including Justice Clarence Thomas, have their differences. For example, while Thomas and his allies see natural law as a basis for attacking legal protections for abortion and euthanasia—because they contradict the sanctity of life—others believe that natural law theory actually supports these rights, because it prioritizes individual autonomy.

That debate arises from a central natural-law question: What is the source of the good? Are things like life or freedom good because they relate to human purposes—such as the pursuit of a fulfilling life—or are they just intrinsically good, without any deeper reason? This debate matters because if life is just inherently good, then even someone suffering a terminal illness who wants to end his own life should be barred from doing so because life is good, period. On the other hand, if life is only good because it serves the goal of happiness, then someone whose life has become a burden of suffering should be free to end it if he chooses.

How we act between ourselves is a complex system. Where does one get their moral bearings? From their parents? From their friends? From their experiences? From their genes which may program one's personality traits? From successes or from failures?  Or is there something inherit in every person's mind that sorts "right" and "wrong" before we act?

If it is truly an individual decision, then the will of the community is irrelevant. The community can only assert its philosophy after the fact towards someone for their actions. There is individual free will but societal consequences.

But the LOST characters on the island rarely, if any time, had their personal wrongs vetted by a community judge or jury. The island was a moral soup of contradictions. Ben was a mass murderer, but he was allowed to live and eventually go to heaven (the sideways world) while petty diamond thieves Nikki and Paulo were buried to rot in island purgatory. If you try to reconcile these two outcomes, one could argue that Ben was luckier than the criminal couple. Or more popular with the writers and viewers. The latter would diminish the LOST mythology as the foundation of the stories, the character morals and actions are not subject to rules but whims. Did natural law influence the decisions and framework for any island visitor? Or was it merely a game of fiat by the supernatural beings that inhabited the island?