Natural Moral Law

  • Created by: becca_102
  • Created on: 20-05-19 18:57

Aristotle

- Aristotle wanted to achive eudaimonia, which means "good living" or "human flourshing". Aquinas agrees that fulfilling that purpose is what will enable us to live in the best possible manner.

- Came up with four causes: material, formal, efficient and final cause.

- The final cause is the most important one. This is the purpose for which a thing was created and the purpose which it should rightfully fulfil.

-  The reason that Aristotle was so attractive to Aquinas was the formers beliefs in a well-ordered, harmonious universe, where nature has a clear logic and crucially a creator. 

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St Paul

"Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law" (Romans 2:14-16)

- Paul is describing how Gentiles know the law from God, not from studying the existing Jewish law, but through their own hearts or conscience.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his enternal power and divine nature - have been clearly, being understood from what has been made, so people are without excuse" (Romans 1:20)

- God made himself known through his creation of the world and therefore people have no exucse not to follow God's will because it is evident all around us. 

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Thomas Aquinas

- Aquinas took Aristotle teachings and combinded it with Christian teachings. All humans have a natural purpose towards which God wants them to aim.

- Two sources he believed that humans could use to understand this purpose God had given humanity.                                                                                                                                             1) The Bible/World: Revelation, reveals something about God.                                                           2) Reason: Believed very strongly in the ability of human reason to gain knowledge about God.

- Primary Precepts: Preserve life, reproduce, educate children, worship and create an orderly, harminius society.

- Secondary Precpets: Idea of 'unpacking' the primary precept and telling moral agents what they involve.

- Aquinas believed that humanity was given reason and freedom by God so we could discover and fulfil our purpose. Everyone has a special and unique purpose to them.

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Proportionalism

- Ethical theory by Bernard Hoose, middle way between absolutism and other situation ethics.

- "It is never right to go against a principle, unless there is a proportionate reason to justify it."

- We should generally follow NML until there is a reason that would mean temporaily setting aside these rules. Acts are not inherently or always evil.

- Problems arise in deciding what constitues a proportionate reason to abandon moral laws. 

- The individual needs to judge the situation, but holds that in a given situation it becomes clear what a proportonate reason it.

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Doctrine Of Double Effect

- NML theorists recongnised that absolutism had its limitations. Sometimes life throws up situations where is is not possible to do good without also doing bad.

- Bad consequences do not make an act morally wrong, as long as bad consequences is not intended.

- Example: Killing an attacker in self-defence. Aquinas discussed this case and reasoned to kill in self-defence , as long as the individuals intention was to preserve their life rather then take anothers.

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New Natural Law Theory

- Germain Griesz: divides 'goods' into two kinds: pratical and moral.

- Pratical goods are those which help a person's attempts to do the right thing. Poverty, for instance, can often hinder a person when it comes to moral decision-making; the mother has no desire to steal the bread to feed the straving family if the family is not starving.

- Moral goods, which Aquinas labels virtues. They include justice, temperance, wisdom etc. 

-Griesz' insight is that possession of pratical goods has a relationship with possession of moral goods. For example, it is easier to be wise (moral good) after a university education (pratical good), and much harder if you've recieved no education at all.

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Abortion

- Pro-life can be justified by appealing to NML. Two primary precepts, 'to preserve life' and 'to reproduce': if we accept that an embryo is life then abortion, by destroying it, directly contradicts with 'preserve life' and since it ends with pregnancy abortion contradicts with 'reporduce'.

- Contraception is considered wrong by catholics.

- The doctrine of double effect has often been ivoked by the Catholic Church to justify abortion in special circumstances, usually if, by giving birth, the mother's life is put at risk. Although abortion results bad consequences, the intention is to save the mothers life.

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Euthanasia

- Always involves ending a life, breaks the primary precept of life preservation. 

- We should strive to create an orderly, harmonious society. Opponents of euthanasia often appeal to a slipperly slope argment, which suggests that legalising the practice could have terribe consequences for the population as a whole. For example, can put pressure onto people. It has the potential to cause unrest. 

- Doctrine of double effect: Sometimes, when faced with a patient who is in severe pain and has no hope of recovery, doctors have been known to administer a fatal dose of painkillers. The doctor's intention is not, of course, to kill the patient, it is rather simply to put an end to their suffering.

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Strengths

1) Aquinas' approach to human nature and its purposes is compatible and common to everyone. It is universal and applicable to all, it appears to reason which all humans have.

2) It is an objective theory which holds that certain actions are inherently and absolutely right or wrong.

3) The doctrine of double effect and proportionalism gives NML a degree of flexibility when it comes to dealing with more complicated moral dilemmas.

4) Evolutionary neuroscientists such as Steven Pinker may argue that some aspects of our moral behaviour are determined genetically. Aquinas might well have taken this to support his idea of a natural law built into all humankind.

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Weaknesses

1) Nature does not always seem to contain goodness, e.g. natural disasters and diseases. This raises questions about to what extent it reveals God's plan.

2) Atheists are unlikely to follow NML because it is built around the idea of God that he created the universe and the moral law within it. It is also based on the premise that there is life after death and that the purpose of life is to try and find union with God.

3) The foucs on reproduction as one of the five primary precepts of human life raise moral issues for couples who cannot reproduce because they are infertile.

4) Christians might believe that Jesus taught a less leaglistic ethical theory and a more situational one based on love for one's neighbour. They may therefoe to choose to follow situation ethics rather than NML.

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