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Physis and nomos

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A087-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 03, 2024, from

Article Summary

In the fifth and fourth centuries bc a vigorous debate arose in Greece centred on the terms physis (nature) and nomos (law or custom). It became the first ethical debate in Western philosophy. Is justice simply a matter of obeying the laws, or does it have some basis in nature? If the laws conflict with my natural needs and desires, why should I submit to them? Is society itself ‘natural’, and what difference might the answer make to our evaluation of it? Both nomos and physis had their supporters, while some tried to dissolve the antithesis altogether.

Citing this article:
Hobbs, Angela. Physis and nomos, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A087-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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