It has been a human endeavour to know how things work. Humans have had the interest in understanding how the world works, how the universe works, and how humanity or human life works.
To simplify this quest for knowledge, humans have formulated laws in every area, or every science.
The science of Sociology talks about three kinds of laws – Natural Laws, Moral Laws and Civil (municipal) Laws. The natural law tells us what we CAN do. The moral laws tells us what we OUGHT TO do.The civil law tells us what we MUST do.
The Natural Law gives us an understanding of our current existence as a society. It explains to us why things are the way they are, how they got to be. Natural laws give us the explanation of historical events – how and why the past events might have taken place. They give us an explanation of how things might have developed starting from the past events, i.e. the chronology of the way things were then, in the past, until now. The natural laws are the Universal Truth, so to speak! ‘What goes up, comes down’, for instance is a universal truth that explains gravity (which itself is another universal truth).
In the social context, the natural law tells us what we can do. For instance, when it rains, there are floods. “What we can do” is evacuate or dam the rivers that cause flooding.
Moral law tells us what we OUGHT TO do. The human society appears a little different from the animal world in that humans have definitions for things which distinguish us from animals who follow their instinct. Humans have the civil society which has laid down rules for the advancement of the society, rather than just following instinct for individual survival. A civilised person has a clear understanding of doing the morally right thing. The morally right thing complies with their own, individual standard of morality. They might inherit their moral standards from their family, social, cultural or national backgrounds. Their background determines for them as an individual what is right and what is wrong.
The civil or municipal law tells us what we MUST do. In the human society individuals, communities, groups of diverse backgrounds and needs live together, though not necessarily harmoniously. Civil society, shares the regional boundary, resources and infrastructure therein for every individual and group of individuals to live without conflict. An individual’s instinct to survive combined with their group’s or community’s need to exist puts pressure on the civic system for itself to exist.
Natural Law takes precedence over the civil law which, in turn, takes precedence over the moral law. If civil laws fails, so does the moral law, and both of them fail to exist because now the Natural Law prevails.