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NATURAL MORAL LAW
Natural Moral Law is an ethical theory that attempts to teach people how to make
moral decision using reason, the Bible and examination of natural order in the world.
Natural law is absolutist and deontological as it refers to the use of reason to analyse
human nature to deduce binding rules of moral behaviour.
Aquinas pioneered the the theory maintaining that it is a universal theory as
everybody with reason is able to see how the universe works according with
regularity. The theory is best known as a Christian way of dealing with ethics and its
moral teachings can be linked closely to the Bible.
Aristotle final purpose
NML drew from Aristotle's idea that everything has a purpose or 'final good'.
For Aristotle this is 'eudaimonia' which means happiness or flourishing. This good life
involves not only the flourishing of an individual but the flourishing of society as a
Cicero unchanging laws + reason
Cicero a stoic philosopher used reason and observation of nature to teach that there
is one ideal way for everyone to live. 'True law is right reason, in agreement with
nature. It is one of universal application .. one eternal and unchangeable law'.
St. Thomas Aquinas a 13th century monk is most notable for developing NML theory.
In Summa Theologica Aquinas argued it is the destiny of humans to achieve union
with God and NML helps them achieve this. Aquinas noted a very basic law is evident
in nature and known through reason 'good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be
avoided'. For Aquinas this is a moral code that humans are naturally inclined towards
and all moral precepts can be drawn from this, humanity was given reason by God
and and freedom to follow the good (God's final purpose).
Biblical basis -
Romans 1:20 'Ever since the creation of the world .. his eternal power and deity
has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So people have no
excuse .. they knew God but did not honour him'. Since NML is so clearly evident in
the universe man has no excuse for wrongdoing.
Real and Apparent Goods
Aquinas assumes that human nature is essentially good. However, if humans all
naturally seek what is good, then why do they sometimes choose what is bad? He
solves this problem by drawing a distinction between `real' and `apparent' goods:
what is actually good and what only seems good. A moral error involves choosing an
apparent good, mistakenly supposing that it is really good. If I eat ten hamburgers, I
may think it's good because I'll enjoy it. However, it is not a real good, because
rational reflection will show that it will make me fat and depressed. The same would
be true for stealing cars, adultery, etc. They might seem good, but they're not.
Interior and Exterior Acts
As with other deontological theories, intentions are important in Natural Moral Law.
Aquinas described the action itself as the `exterior act' and the intention as the `interior
act', so that both are part of the ethical action. Accordingly, actions are only truly
moral if they are good in both interior and exterior terms. The ultimate interior
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God. So, I should not give money to
charity just to make people like me. I should do it to serve God.
Five primary precepts -
If humans are to flourish they need to follow the five primary precepts that can be
derived from the observation of nature, the Bible and reason -
1. Worship God
2. Order society
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NML is accessible to all since everyone Does everyone have a sense of reason?
has a sense of reason and can examine Why then are some academically brighter
the place and purpose of everything in than others? Would an all-loving God give
the universe us different abilities in this crucial life skill?
Whilst absolute, NML can make Aquinas' NML is a Christian ethic yet Jesus
allowances for the differences between opposed legalistic morality.…read more