Natural moral law

  • Created by: gracepxx
  • Created on: 18-04-16 12:04


Originally observed by Cicero 

Can be empirically verified 

There is an objectively ideal way to be human

If we reach ideal we will be completely happy and will achieve our maximum physical, mental and spiritual health

This applies to us both as individuals and as human communities 

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Aquinas P1

Argued all things have a purpose to which they work 

Purpose understood through examination of natural world and through the scriptures

These things seen to follow certain natural laws, which goven the way they are 

Humans free but they are not lawless - live within an ordered universe and rules for human conduct are laid down within human nature itself 

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Aquinas P2

Maintained that: 
Universe created by God so everything has design and purpose 
Purpose understood through examining natural world and Bible 

Humanity was given reason and freedom to choose to follow good - God's purpose for them 

Called this NML - rational understanding and following of God's final purpose 

NML avaliable to all since everyone with some reasoning can see that universe works according to patterns and rules that do not change

In Summa Theologica - maintains there is a NML towards which humans naturally incline, that is:

Accessible through natural order, universal, unchanging, for all time, relevant to all, given by God

All humans percieve NML but only believers in God acknowledge implications it has for them 

God can modify application of NML - command to Abraham that he should sacrafic Isaac modifies law against killing

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Purposes of human life

Principle of NML depends on establishing primary purposes of human life 

Maintained NML guides humanity in 5 ways:

Order society
Worship God   

All things must operate in accordance with principles to which man is naturally inclined 

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Secondary precepts

Secondary precepts are rules which direct people towards rightful actions which uphold primary principles and away from actions that undermine them 

Based on two principles:

The dictates of reason which should be self evident - e.g worship God, don't murder - these dictates must be observed by all humans under all circumstances if moral order is to be maintained

More complex dictates which come from human reason aided by God's law, because reason alone cannot discover them from nature

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Value of NML - takes morality out of realm of speculation and preference, pointing to physical facts about world in everyday experience 

Aquinas claimed that: 

God gave humanity reason to accomplish these purposes
Everything created for particular purpose
Fulfilling purpose is "good" towards which everything aims
Any action that takes you towars goal is good, any action that takes you away is wrong 
Reason should always be guide in times of conflict
NML therefore depends on reason as well as nature
Made known to humans by God's revelation, which guides reason
Everything has purpose specific to them that can fulfil the skills and talents given to them by God

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Virtues and Laws

Aquinas identified 4 cardinal veirtues - fundamental qualities of good life:

Prudence, justice, fortitude, termperance

In contrast, identified 7 vices which would lead people away from NML:

Pride, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, etc.

Identified 4 kids of law:

Eternal - God's will and wisdom, rational ordering on universe
Divine - Given in scriptures, guides humans to happiness
Natural - Source of fulfilment on earth
Human - Regulates behaviour in society, exerised through the state 

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Assumptions open to challenge

Said NML was "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law"

Makes serveral assumptions open to challenge:

All people seek to worship God
God created universe and NML within it 
Every individual has particular purpose
Since moral law comes from God, all humans should obey it 
Human nature has remained the same since creation

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Modern - Proportionalism - P1

Bernard Hoose in Christian Ethics

Greater good to put aside static, inflexible and absolutist interpretation of NM and instead consider qualities such as dignity, integrity and justice

Qualities themselves non-moral but help when making moral decision

Argue NML makes wrong distinction between body and soul rather than recognising humans as a unity of both 

Application of moral codes should be in proportion to need and how useful they are at enabling a fair decision to be reached 

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Modern - Proportionalism - P2

Approach supports use of compromise

Best humans can strive to is moral compromise, not perfection

Suggested sense of proportion - do best but won't ever be truly morally perfect 

More compassionate than strict application of NML and allows individual 's circumstances to be taken into account 

Acknowledges some non-moral notions have to be permitted to bring about greater good

However, critics of proportionalism argue allows too much freedom to decide what is good and permits rejection of moral codes that have been established for centuries 

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Strengths of NML

Simple, universal guide for judging moral value of humans 

Made accesible to humans by reason 

Means morality is more than a matter of what peoples personal preferences and inclinations are 

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Weaknesses of NML

Depends of accepting view that good is what is found in nature - is everything in nature good? diseases?

Aquinas assumes everyone is seeking to worship God

Assumes God created universe and NML within it 

Thinks of everyone having particular function to fulfil - goes against modern view - variety of functions to fulfil

No room for situationism, relativism, consequentilaism or individualism 

Aquinas commits naturalistic fallacy - maintains ML comes from God (matter of fact according to him) and therefore we ought to obey it (value of judgement)

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