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Still, it is one thing to say that in any natural law doctrine, ethical and political standards are objectively grounded, or that they literally have a status as laws of nature, and thus are knowable and rationally determinable.It is yet another thing to understand just how such natural norms and standards may thus come to be known, to say nothing of how they can have an actual ontological status in reality.Professor Crowe has even remarked that "the natural law, as an idea, is almost as old as philosophy itself."  He thinks he can find the origins of a natural law doctrine even among the pre-Socratics.
And now just as suddenly, and seemingly no less unpredictably, there has been a dramatic revival of interest in so-called "rights theories" - and this just in the last ten, perhaps even in just the last five, years.
True, such recent rights theories have not always involved an effort at reinstating anything like "natural" rights, and certainly not "natural law." Yet many of them have.
And it is just such points that we need to be clearer about, if we are ever to find our way around in the contemporary literature, particularly as it surrounds the newly emerging contemporary rights theories.
To this end, we would make reference to an exceedingly illuminating article published in a few years ago by Vernon Bourke, entitled "Is Thomas Aquinas a Natural Law Ethicist?
 Quite obviously, the doctrine is aimed at affirming that such things as human responsibilities and obligations, as well as human rights and "entitlements," are more than a mere affair of human convention or human agreement, and this no matter how enthusiastic or how widespread may be the acceptance of those conventions and agreements.
Thus whether it be Antigone in Sophocles' drama, Socrates in Plato's , or Shcharansky and Ginzburg of today's Soviet Union, the mere fact that a person has been convicted of a crime does not necessarily mean that hers or his was really a crime at all.
By contrast, in the other view of natural law, namely, that of Thomas Aquinas, a natural law theory of ethics or politics stresses, as Bourke puts it, "the rational discernment of norms of human conduct, working from man's ordinary experiences in a world environment of many different kinds of things." Bourke's way of characterizing the Thomistic understanding of natural law may appear to be a bit of a mouthful.
But why not consider ethics and politics, as construed in the light of this conception of natural law, as analogous to certain arts, skills, and crafts?
There is presumably some reason - a real reason - for his doing it that way rather than another.
In this sense, we should scarcely say that the rules of good surgical practice are mere agreed-upon conventions with no natural basis at all.