Natural Law

  • Created by: JM
  • Created on: 07-05-13 09:04

What is Natural Law?

  • Basic principle, everything is created for a purpose and when this is examined by human reason a person should be able to judge how to act in order to find ultimate happiness.(everything has a purpose and it achieves its supreme good when purpose is fulfilled)
  • Natural Moral Law include ethical theories which state that there is natural order to our world which must be followed. This 'natural order' can said to be determined by God.
  • It is an absolute theory, but it is not rooted in duty or an imposed law, but in our human nature and out search for happiness and fulfillment (summum bonum)
  • Aquinas believed that by using our reason to reflect on our human nature, we could discover our specific end or our purpose, and then work out how to achieve it. This understanding of Gods plan for us is built into our nature at creation.
  • Natural Law is not just about doing what comes naturally it isn't about what nature does in the sense of being observed by nature. Natural law is based on nature interpreted by human reason.
  • Natural Law is deontological, meaning that it considers that the moral act itself has moral value.
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Thomas Aquinas and Natural Law

  • Human beings have an essential rational nature given by God in order for us to live and flourish
  • Even without the knowledge of God, reason can discover the laws that lead to human flourishing
  • Natural Law is universable and unchangeable and should be used to judge the laws of particular societies.
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The Purpose Of Human Beings

  • Aquinas believed that Humans aimed for some goal or purpose, summum bonum
  • Aquinas also believed that Humans were made in 'imago dei' and so the supreme good must be a development of God's image
  • Aquinas did not believe that the supreme good could be reached in this lifetime, he believed that happiness started now but continued in the next life.
  •  Aquinas looks at Eternal Law (The principles bny which God made and contols the universe, which are only fully known by God, we only know these as reflections), Divine Law ( The Bible- this reflects the Eternal Law of God- can only be seen by those who choose to believe in God and only if God chooses to reveal it) and Natural Law (The theory that an eternal absolute moral law can be discovered by reason) to try and discover what this perfection that we aim to acheive is.
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Natural Inclinations

  • Aquinas believed that God had instilled in all humans inclinations to behave in certain ways which lead us to achieve the highest good
  • By using our reasons we can discover the precepts which express the Natural Law God built into us
  • The most fundemental inclination in aquinas' point of view is to achieve good and avoid evil (as we were designed for perfection and so we should not knowingly pursue evil).
  • Humans often get things wrong and follow the 'apparent good' - something which seems to be the right thing to do but which does not fit the perfect human ideal.
  • In order to work out the difference between 'apparent good' and 'real good' ( the right thing to do that fits human ideal.) we must use our reason correctly
  • Aquinas thought that all humans share a single nature and so there should be a single aim or purpose for all humans. If we do not believe that there is a final purpose for all humans then Natural Law makes no sense.
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Primary Precepts

  • Aquinas believed that the Primary Precepts applied to everyone without any exceptions as they are a direct reflection of God's Eternal Law.
    • The preservation of life
    • reproduction
    • the nurture and education of the young
    • living peaceful in society
    • to worship God.
  • These primary precepts are always true as they point us in the right direction
  • They are necessary for human flourishing.
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Secondary Precepts

  • Secondary precepts can be derived from primary precepts with use of practical reason
  • Aquinas gives examples (in Summa Theologica) as illustrations of those actions that are wrong in and of themselves because they contradict the primary precepts of natural law:
    • theft
    • lying
    • fornicating
    • commiting adultery
    • killing the innocent
    • masturbation*

*Aquinas felt that masturbation went against the natural end (telos) of sex, which is procreation. This means that 'Do not **********' is an absolute secondary precept. However, in modern infertility treatment, masturbation might be used to assist procreation through artificial insemination by a husband. On this issue, Natural Law theorists disagree about whether masturbation is unnatural, and therefore disagree about the secondary precept 'Do not **********'.

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Secondary Precepts 2

  • Secondary precepts is open to faulty reasoning and may lead to completely wrong choices which may make the choices more teleological (Moral actions are right or wrong according to their outcome or telos(end)) than deontological (moral act has moral value)
  • Secondary precepts require the use of human reasoning
  • Secondary precepts make Aquinas' understanding of Natural Law more realistic an flexible
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Efficient And Final Causes

This is Aristotle’s distinction between what gets things done (efficient cause) and the end product (final cause).   With humans, it is the accomplishment of the end product that equates to ‘good’. An example is sexuality – an efficient cause of sex is enjoyment: because humans enjoy sex, the species has survived through procreation. However, the final cause of sex (the thing God designed it for) is procreation. Therefore sex is only good if procreation is possible.

The efficient cause is a statement of fact or a description.  If we ask why people have sex, we might talk about attraction, psychological needs etc.    The final cause is a matter of intent – what was God’s purpose behind sex? > which is the primary precept of reproduction. 

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The Doctrine of Double Effect

  • Aquinas saw the Primary precepts as objectivley true for everyone and he believed that we can discover the right action in every situation by following these principles> Aquinas is an absolutist.
  • Doctrine of DE was devised for times whe there are moral dilemmas where you cannot do good without a bad consequence.
  • DoDE basicallty says NO to bad actions good consequences but sometimes OK for good action bad consequences.
  • Double effect refers to situations where there is an intended outcome and another significant but unintentional outcome.  According to Natural Law, it is our intentions that are important, not the consequences of our actions. Double effect would not allow you to perform an action where an unintended outcome had devestating effects. The unintended effect has to be PROPORTIONATE. (The Good act has to be proportionate to the bad consequence- badness must not be greater than the goodness)
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  • The Universe is controlled by laws of nature (Eternal Laws)
  • These laws work in harmony in a rational structure
  • Laws of nature express a purpose
  • They also express values. To be good is to follow our in built purpose, to do what is natural as it is good, and avoid what is unnatural as that is bad.
  • Laws of nature are rational so we can understand them by usingour reason.
  • people have to find out how to live a moral life by using theit reason.
  • Basic principle, everything is created for a purpose and when this is examined by human reason a person should be able to judge how to act in order to find ultimate happiness.(everything has a purpise and it achieves its supreme good when purpose is fulfilled)
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