Since Thomas Aquinas, most arguments concerning natural right and natural law find their way back to Aristotle. Indeed, Aristotle pioneered a new concept of rights that were never discussed before his time. Whereas Plato bound the individual to his duty within the organ of the state, Aristotle argued that the individual deserved the right to enjoy an equality based society (Miller 87). Each individual had rights that existed within nature by definition (natural law). In addition to the discussion of natural law, Aristotle is credited for giving a detailed account of positive law as well.
Many common interpretations of Aristotle’s theory on natural right, natural law, and positive law are seen through the eyes of Aquinas; however, this approach has drawn much criticism. There is no question that Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle, but there are several convincing arguments that question whether an accurate view of Aristotle is seen through the lens of Aquinas’ interpretation; in other words, “we must be wary of reading back into Aristotle Aquinean doctrines” (Shiner 188).