Natural Moral Law Revision

  • Created by: MattyLew
  • Created on: 16-12-16 15:21

What is Natural Moral Law?

Natural Moral Law is the rational understanding and interpetation of God's plan and purpose for us, built into our nature at creation. Aquinas believed as long as you use your gift of reason you can deduce rules of moral behaviour. 

Deontological: concerned with the action and intention and says that actions are right or wrong intrinsically (good within themselves)

Normative Ethical Theory: prescribes moral behaviour

Absolutist: moral commands are the same regardless of the situation and are true externally and universally; morality is objective not subjective. 

Legalistic: contains rues for every situation and by simply following these rules you are associated with goodness

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Originated from Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman philosopher Cicero. Also found in the New Testament theology of St. Paul (founder of the early Christian Church and a key source of Christian authority). Thomas Aquinas then developed it in the 13th century. NML is currently followed and practised by 12.27 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. 

ARISTOTLE 384 BC - 322 BC  "all things in the universe have a purpose of telos" and to work out this telos (telos = purpose/end) we have to look to that organisms individual/specific nature. An organism is good if it fulfulls its telos; they will become virtuous as their character fulfills their telos effectively. So, if all things in the universe have a telos/purpose then so must human beings --> and a humans telos is to follow Natural Moral Law.   

CICERO 106 BC - 43 BC believed God created Natural Order."true law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is a universal application, unchanging and everlasting". Supports legalism as these laws always applysupports absolutism as these laws last forever and are always the same. "It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience" rationality is natural to us (doesn't need to be taught). 

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St Thomas Aquinas

  • Aquinas believed as long as you use your God given gift of reason any human can be a success (which opposed the traditional Christian belief that you explore and understand the world through faith so secular people could not be wise - but they can be so this idea was contradictory). Aquinas believed God cannot create anything contradictory to his nature (omnibenevolent, changeless, consistent) and made it so everything has a design and telos.

We can know natural law through...

REVELATION (studying the Bible and examining nature; God has directly told us something) - The Torah for Jewish people and Natural Law for gentiles (non-jews) which is embedded in us by God, part of our nature "what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their conscience also bears witness" Cicero. Synderesis = god given innate awareness of good + bad that cannot be innacurate (do good, avoid evil)                                                   

REASON - tells us humans ultimate telos in life to follow NL and have fellowship with God (a moral life is one lived according to reason, an immoral life is one conflicting with reason) --> link to Aristotle who agrees humans have a specific telos 

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The 5 Primary Precepts - Aquinas

These are fundamental rules in order to fulfill our God given purpose found in the Bible and deduced from rationality 

1. Preserve Human Life

2. Pro-creation

3. Education

4. Know and Worship God

5. Maintain Order in Society

(Mneumonic to help remember: Politics, Push, Every, Known, Man) 

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The Secondary Precepts - Aquinas

A rule that helps to fulfill a primary precept. Aquinas didn't specify Secondary Precepts so instead we need to use our God given reason to work them out. For example:

1. Do not kill, abortion would not be allowed as this doesn't preserve human life

2. Do not use contraception as this prohibits pro-creation 

3. Go to school in order to become educated, make sure you teach younger generations

4. Go to Church and know and worship God

5. Follow Governmental Laws in order to maintain order in society

Another rule that can be deduced is that drunkeness is wrong as it deteriorates a persons health and destorys their ability to reason which therefore does support their self preservation (1st primary precept) . 

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Real and Apparent Goods - Aquinas

Real Good - an action which brings someone closer to God (a right action)

Apparent Good - an action which takes someone away from God (a wrong action)

  • Aquinas believed all humans are essentially good and have natural law within them because we are made in the image of an omnibenevolent and all perfect God.
  • Yet some actions actually draw us away from God even though we may believe they are a real good.
  • Apparent Goods do not help you fulfill the 5 primary precepts even though they may appear to; real goods do, therefore bringing you closer to God and your ultimate purpose.
  • e.g. if you life to save someones feelings or gain sme advantage whcih you don't think will hurt anyone it is an apparent good of short-term happiness but in the long run you have not maintained order in society; therefore breaking a primary precept. 
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Interior and Exterior Acts - Aquinas

  • Interior Acts = the intention                                            
  • Exterior Acts = the action itself 

----------> Aquinas believed BOTH were important

Acting in a good way for a bad reason is a good exterior act but a bad interior act e.g. giving money to charity but only to be able to boast about it to a friend (you should give to charity simply because it is a good thing to do not done in order to show off)

Good intentions don't always lead to good actions e.g. Stealing money to give to a friend, the theft isn't made good by my intention to help a friend (the act is still intrinsically and absoulutely wrong no matter the intention - deontological)

Both the interior + exterior act are only good if they glorify God, follow true human nature and act in accordance to their God-given purpose (follow NML).

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