Natural Moral Law

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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 25-04-13 20:05

Natural Moral Law

  • St Thomas Aquinas’ Primary Precepts (WORLD)
  • Reason and Human Purpose-
  • Real and Apparent Goods-
  • Exterior and Interior Acts-
  • Primary and Secondary Precepts
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
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Background

  • There is a natural order of our world that should be followed, this order is determined by some supernatural power
  • About nature interpreted by human reason
  • Roots of natural law can be found in the ancient Greek and Roman world
  • The immortal laws of the Gods
  • Aristotle observed that while laws may vary from place to place, natural justice is independent and applies to everyone no matter where they live
  • Aristotle and causality shows the purpose of humans being happiness (eudaimonia)
  • Origins:
  • Hum beings have an essential rational nature given by God- Aristotle and Stoics
  • Even without knowledge of God, reason can discover the laws that lead to eudaimonia- Aristotle
  • The natural laws are universal and unchangeable- Stoics
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Introduction

  • St Thomas Aquinas developed a fuller account of natural law in the thirteenth century
  • Theory is absolutist and deontological
  • Aquinas described natural law as a moral code existing within the purpose of nature created by God
  • Humans were made in ‘the image of God’ and so the supreme good must be perfection
  • Aquinas sees happiness as beginning now and continuing in the after life
  • Natural law exists to assist humans to direct their actions in such a way that they may reach their eternal destiny with God
  • Natural law looks at what I do and why I do it
  • ‘A certain order is to be found in the things that are apprehended by men…that good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided’
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Reflections of Natural Law

  • Reflections of Natural law revealed by:
    • Eternal Law
      • The principles by which God made and controls the universe and which only God knows completely
    • Divine Law
      • The bible reflects the eternal law, only seen by those who believe in God and only if God chooses to reveal it
    • Natural Law
      • An eternal absolute moral law can be discovered by reason
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Reason and Human Purpose

  • The eternal law of divine reason is perceived through revelation in the word of God (in the bible) aadn through the use of human reason
  • A moral life is a life lived according to and in accordance with reason
  • An immoral life is a life lived at odds with reason
  • Reason determines that the ultimate purpose and destiny of human life is fellowship with God
  • Humans should live according to their design. They should avoid being enslaved by non-natural, non-rational desires
  • ‘Natural law is the same for all men….there is a single standard of truth and right for everyone…which is known by everyone’
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Real and Apparent Goods

  • Human nature was essentially good, as natural law is within everyone
  • Humans want to achieve  perfection and they never knowingly pursue evil
  • ‘No evil can be desirable, either by natural appetite or by conscious will. It is sought indirectly, namely because it is the consequence of some good’
  • Human actions that are not in the pursuit of perfection can be explained as the pursuit of an apparent good
  • Sin consists of falling short of God’s intentions for humans
  • Eg An adulter or adutress commits adultery because he/she thinks is good.
  • We must use reason rightly and to choose the right thing to do
  • Isn’t easy, we’re tempted by what we like doing which may not be truly good for us
  • Reason identifies ‘natural’ or ‘cardinal’ virtues:
  • Scripture identifies theological virtues:
  • Faith, Hope , Charity
  • To adhere to the natural law an individual should seek to develop these virtues. The virtues must become habitual
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Interior and Exterior Acts

  • For Aquinas both the intention and the act are important
  • To act in a good way for the wrong reasons is to perform a good exterior act but a bad interior act
  • Eg to help and old lady across the road to impress someone watching. It should be done out of charity and not for the sake of admiration by others
  • Good intention with a bad act doesn’t make the act good
  • The only end that Aquinas values is God. Physical pleasures can’t be the final end, as animals can experience them. Academic pleasures aren’t accessible to everyone so the ultimate aim open to all humans is God
  • Acts are intrinsically good or bad because when humans act in accordance with their ultimate purpose, God is glorified
  • The act of helping an old lady across the world is good in and of itself because it accords with the destiny of how humans should be and that glorifies God
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Primary and Secondary Precepts

  • Primary Precepts:
    • Worship God
    • Organised Society
    • Reproduce
    • Learn
    • Defend the innocent
  • If the act leads to God depends if the action fits the purpose humans were made for

  • Acts that accord with the main human purpose (primary precepts) are good
  • Acts not in accordance with human purpose are bad
  • Secondary precepts are rulings about things that we should and shouldn’t do because they uphold, or fail to uphold the primary precept
  • Aquinas deduces the secondary precepts from the primary ones
    • Eg reproduction is a primary precept.Masturbation is wrong because it doesn’t lead to new life, doesn’t fulfil its purpose and doesn’t glorify God
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Doctrine of Dounle Effect

  • There are times we have moral dilemmas in which we cannot do good without bad consequences
  • Sometimes alright to do a good act despite knowing that it will bring about bad consequences
  • Bad consequences must only be unintended side effects- bad action may be foreseen but not intended
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Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths-
    • It allows for a clear cut approach to morality and establishes common rules
    • The basic principles are common in all cultures so natural law is reasonable
    • Does not simply dictate in individual cases from general moral principles
    • Concentrates on human character and its potential for goodness and flourishing allowing som flexibility
  • Weaknesses
    • G.E Moor states goodness is unanalysable and unnatural, cannot be defined
    • Natural law is based on assumptions about the world
    • There is no divine purpose it is simply the way things are
    • Kai Nelson states differing moral standards and cultural relativism challenge the idea of a common moral law
    • Karl Barth thought natural law relies too much on reason and not God/ bible
    •  Vardy and Gosch criticise the way Aquinas works from general to lesser principles and ses natural law as too simplistic
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