Slides in this set
Natural Law is an ancient concept. Because the world is
governed by reason, human beings must have reason also and
so should be able to understand and obey its laws. BUT because
we have freewill we do not always obey the law, however if we
act in accordance with reason we will be following nature,
hence the name natural law.
For Aquinas God created the universe and us, so the laws were
created by him, and we should try and follow them.
During the 19th century natural law lost influence when
Utilitarianism took over, but in the 20th century it has received
new attention as tolerance and human rights have become key
concept throughout the world.…read more
What do we mean by natural law?
In its simplest definition, natural law is that "unwritten law" that is more or less
the same for everyone everywhere. To be more exact, natural law is the
concept of a body of moral principles that is common to all humankind and is
recognizable by human reason alone. Using human reason, or `conscience' we
can determine the right thing to do in any situation.
To sum it up, then, we can say that the natural law:
is not made by human beings;
is based on the structure of reality itself;
is the same for all human beings and at all times;
is an unchanging rule or pattern which is there for human beings to discover;
is the naturally knowable moral law;
is a means by which human beings can rationally guide themselves to their
Even children can abide by natural law even they know what is fair and right.…read more
Precepts rules in natural law.
The first and most important precept of natural law is `do good and avoid evil'
We will look at the rest of his precepts (or rules) in more detail this lesson.
Upon further reflection, we can distinguish, within natural law, primary and
secondary precepts. The primary precepts will correspond to the order of
natural impulses in human beings. The most fundamental inclination of all,
"Do good and avoid evil," will give rise to other primary precepts. These
primary precepts are unchangeable to the extent they concern the primary ends
of the natural inclinations inherent in all human beings.
The secondary precepts are more particular or specific and are concerned with
things to which we are not inclined so immediately. Among these are such
precepts as those regarding the education of children, and the stability of
family life, and the demands of hospitality. On the negative side, we also have
secondary precepts regarding the neglect of children, deliberate injury to
others, and so on.…read more
The Primary Precepts
In four words, 'Do good, avoid evil'. In more detail,
Aquinas talked of Primary Precepts. Whilst you probably
think of Natural Law as a deontological position (deon-
duty; deontological ethical positions have absolute rules
that it is our duty to follow), this part is teleological.
Telos- purpose. What is our purpose - what are we
designed for? What follows is an acrostic, which I have
arranged so it makes a word, W.O.R.L.D
Defend the innocent…read more
These are the rules - absolute deontological
principles - that are derived from the
Primary Precepts. For example, the
teleological principle "Protect and preserve
the innocent" leads to rules such as "Do not
abort," "Do not commit euthanasia" etc.
These rules cannot be broken, regardless of
the consequences. They are absolute laws.…read more