natural moral law


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Natural moral law
What is natural moral law?
There is a natural order to our world that should be followed
Determined by some supernatural power
Started by Aristotle and developed by Thomas Aquinas
Absolute theory of ethics
Happiness and fulfilment
Aquinas considered that by using our reason to reflect on our human nature, we could
discover our specific end telos or purpose and, we could then work out how to achieve this
Based on nature interpreted by human reason
Not always straight forward
Some flexibility
The natural law of Thomas Aquinas
1. Human beings have an essential rational nature given by god in order for us to love and
flourish- Aristotle and the Stoics
2. Even without knowledge of god, reason can discover the laws that lead to human flourishing-
3. The natural laws are universal and unchangeable and should be used to judge the laes of
particular societies- Stoics
Natural inclinations
Aquinas thought that gad had instilled in all human inclinations to behave in certain ways
which lead us to the highest good and by using our reason we can discover the precepts
which express gods natural law built into us
The most fundamental inclination according to Aquinas is to act in a way to achieve good and
avoid evil
We will have fulfilled our end telos when we are perfect
Primary and secondary precepts
Aquinas sees the primary precepts of natural laws as always true and applying to everyone
without exception
1. The preservation of life
2. Reproduction
3. The nurture and education of the young
4. Living peacefully in society
5. To worship god
Primary precepts always true
Secondary precepts are dependent on our own judgements
The secondary precepts make Aquinas' understanding of natural law realistic and quite
Takes into account humans limitations and weaknesses
The doctrine of double effect
Aquinas saw the primary precepts as true for everyone
There are times when we have moral dilemmas in which we cannot do well without a bad
consequence. To solve this the doctrine of double effect was devised
It's always wrong to do a bad act intentionally in order to bring about good consequences,
but that it is sometimes all right to do a good act despite knowing that it will bring about bad
Summary of natural law
The universe is controlled by laws of nature
These laws work in harmony in a rational structure
The laws of nature also express purpose

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The laws of nature always express values
The laws of nature are rational so we can understand them by using our reason
Morality then is independent of religion and both the believer and the non-believer have to
find out how to live a moral life by listening to reason
Strengths of natural law
Based on reason
Links ethics to the general structure of the universe
Not based on feelings and emotions
Making a moral judgement means listening to someone's reasoning
Clear cut theory
No need…read more


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