The Moral Natural law of Thomas Aquinas OCR Ethics revision

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Joe Phoenix
The Moral Natural law of Thomas Aquinas
3 points
1. Humans have an essential God given rational nature to live and flourish
2. Even without knowledge of God, reason can discover these laws
3. Natural laws are universal and unchanging and should be used to judge the laws of
The Purpose of Human Life
Aquinas attempts to work out perfection by examining `reflections' of N.M.L. as revealed by:
ETERNAL LAW ­ principles which God made and controls the universe. We can only know these as
`reflections' ­ partial understanding of laws governing the universe
DIVINE LAW ­ this is the Bible, which Aquinas believed `reflects' the eternal law of God. However,
this `reflection' can only be seen by those who believe in God and only if God chooses to reveal it.
NATURAL LAW ­ this refers to the moral law of God which has been built into human nature; it is also
a reflection `reflection' of the Eternal law of God. However, it can be seen by everyone as it does not
depend on belief in God or God choosing to reveal it ­ we simply need to use our reason to
understand human nature
Natural Inclination
Aquinas ­ all human inclined to behave in certain ways ­ leading to the highest good
By using reason, we can discover precepts (laws) which express N.L. built into us
The most fundamental inclination = act to achieve good and avoid evil
Aquinas thought humans were designed for purpose of perfection so wouldn't
knowingly pursue evil
When humans don't act like this (pursuing good not evil), Aquinas says humans got it wrong ­
following `APPARENT GOOD', think is good but doesn't fit human ideal (not `REAL GOOD')
When humans act in accordance with their final purpose the intention (interior act) and the act
(exterior act) are important an need to be correct
Aquinas ­ acts good or bad in themselves, nee to use reason correctly to work out what to
do Aquinas = `the right use of reason'
Aquinas ­ all humans share single nature and therefore purpose
Those who don't believe that there is a final purpose for all human N.L makes no sense!

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Joe Phoenix
N.L is not so much theory or way of making moral decisions ­ more was of stressing that our
nature is knowable and need to use reason to understand it
Primary Precepts (Absolutist)
Aquinas P.P are always true, applies to everyone as direct `reflection' of Gods eternal law
5 Primary Precepts:
The preservation of life
The nurture and education of the young (to learn)
Living peacefully in society
To worship God
Aquinas was being an absolutist
Secondary Precepts
Aquinas S.…read more

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Joe Phoenix
The Doctrine of Double Effect
Lesser of two evils.
Thomas Aquinas is credited with introducing the principle of double effect in his discussion of
the permissibility of self-defence in the Summa Theologica.
Killing someone is justified, he argues, provided one does not intend to kill him. Aquinas
observes that "Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is
intended, while the other is beside the intention.…read more

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Joe Phoenix
Morality in conclusion,
Real good, primary precepts etc…read more


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