The question has more than academic interest, as noted in Lloyd Weinreb's Natural Law and Justice, in which he argues for a return to natural law's ontological basis.' Tracing its roots in Greek expressions of natural law that allowed for free will in an otherwise determinate natural order, Weinreb surveys the history of natural law only to find that what began as ontological became deontological, which led natural law theories away from nature and reason and towards a focus on concepts of morality. He argues ultimately that such deontological theories fail to answer the question of human freedom within a causal universe in the same way that the original versions of ontological natural law also failed. In seeking, however, a return to some ontological basis for natural law as the preferred way to accommodate antinomic notions of liberty and equality, desert and entitlement, and freedom and cause, he stresses the role that an understanding of nature can provide, particularly since "[i]ncreasing control over nature by the discovery of its laws increases human freedom in one sense."
Richman, Steven M.
"William Cullen Bryant and The Poetry of Natural Law,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 30:
4, Article 3.
Available at: https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol30/iss4/3