Aquinas' Natural Law Theory

Aquinas' Natural Law Theory

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George O'Keefe Aquinas' Natural Law
Explain Aquinas' Natural Law theory.
It is believed that there isn't a sole natural law theory but there are many, but St Thomas
Aquinas' is the most highly regarded because of his influence on the church. Natural law is the
concept of pure morality, the belief that God himself (or a team of gods) ordered the universe in
a certain way. An orderly and function universe that is not accidental, thus giving us the theory
that the universe was created. This could strengthen both the existence of the JeudoChristian
God as it provides more support for him creating the universe "God created the heavens and the
Earth" (Genesis 1:1). It is thought that human beings have a duty to abide by Natural law as a
source of moral goodness, so to go against natural law would suggest moral imperfection.
Natural Law is mainly a system of ethical decision making for religious people but it is not
exclusively so, atheists who are without knowledge of the Bible or other religious scriptures can
still be morally good by following natural law even though to do not know that they are following
it. This could be for a number of different reasons that both include and exclude the existence of
For example an atheist can still be morally good by conforming to natural law because God
does exist. Just because a person is atheist does not mean God is not true, "God created man in
his own image" (Genesis 1:27). God has created everyone everyone is created by God in his
image. However not everyone looks the same, every person is unique and nonidentical, we
may share the same norms and have a value consents but we are still different yet God has
made us in his image. How so? Everyone is different because God means different things to
everyone, people have a unique relationship with God thus we look different. An atheist was still
created by God so God's love is within them thus they have a naturally occurring knowledge of
natural law. Plato would agree with this, that we are born with a priori knowledge. On the other
hand people can still conform with the natural law theory because it's just there, part of our
society and we've been socialised into accepting it.
Aquinas looked for Aristotle for inspiration, a Greek philosopher and a student of Plato. He
believed not in a priori knowledge, that everything is has a perfect form and that true knowledge
can be gain through reason and thinking alone, but instead a postpriori knowledge. Whereby
knowledge and understanding is only gain by physical evidence by what we observe. Aquinas
changed the way the Western world thought and he developed Aristotle's concept of
Teleology, (designed for a telos/purpose). He gave the universe order and society accepted this,
mainly because it didn't questions Gods existence or omnipotence and it still showed God as a
creator. Natural law set order within Gods universe. It is important to note that Aquinas
supports and develops Aristotle's ideas because the Bible can still support them, St Paul
created more biblical support for natural law in his letter to the people of Rome and it's viewed
as his most important work, it focuses on how people will be save from sin.
The Bible informed Aquinas that God created the universe with order and for a purpose, said
purpose is debatable, Aristotle thought that the universe consists of concepts of justice, beauty
and true along with physical objects. Rational forms and material substance. He believes that the
two are entwined and are as one and cannot properly exist on their own. An example of which
is a person. A body and a soul, the soul is the rational form and it compliments the body, the
material substance. Aquinas himself gave an example, the human eye. Who made it? God? He
January 2011

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George O'Keefe Aquinas' Natural Law
believed that the idea of sight must have preexisted the physical eye as why would an eye be
created if there were no need for it. This suggests that everything in natural has a telos. A
function, a purpose and an end. Things that are created by humans normally have a specific end,
to meet the need of the user. Eudaimonia is the final end of all things and is happiness.…read more


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