Natural Law

These flash cards give the basiics to the OCR natural law course



Aristotle was interested in the Final Causes of things

The purpose of something is to fulfill this final cause

The final cause for people (according to Aristotle) is Eudemonia

Eudemonia is ultimate happiness

He believed this as when we do anything it is always in the aim of happiness

Whether it is eating, walking, reading or even procrastinating

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Aquinas followed on from Arsitotle

He believed that the final cause (telos) of someone was to be in union with God

The Synderesis Rule: Good is to be pursued and evil to be avoided

Absolute laws need to come from an objective place unaffected by opinion

As nature is a direct link to God and has no opinion he used it as his source

So Aquinas believed that the naturally intended purpose of something was the moral thing to do

For Example: The naturally intended purpose of sex is reproduction so contraception is immoral

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Laws and their Heirarchy

Aquinas said there was a Heirarchy of Laws:

Eternal Law: Is the law of God which humans cannot percve or understand (the most important law)

Divine Law: This is the law of God revealed through the bible

Natural Law: Rules of nature 'Good is to be pursued and evil is to be avoided'

Human Law: Rules made by people e.g. don't chew gum these are least important rules as they are open to faulty reasoning

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Primary Precepts

To further explain the Synderesis Rule Aquinas made 5 primary precepts which must always be followed:

  • The preservation of life
  • The nurture/education of young
  • Reproduction
  • Living peacfully in society
  • To worship God

From these rules we can decide the secondary precepts

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Secondary Precepts

These are rules which are derived from the primary precepts (note they are open to faulty reasoning)

  • Preservation of life - do not murder, no euthenasia
  • Nurture/education of young - compulsory school attendance
  • Reproduction - do not use contraception, no abortion
  • Live peacefully in society - respect the law
  • To worship God - Go to church

Effectively the primary precepts are too general to apply to real life applications. The secondary precepts are rules which can be made that still apply to the moral primary precepts.

However certain proplems occcur such as:

You should never use contraception because it goes against the primary precept of reproduction. However by not using contraception STI's and AID's spreads thus breaking the precept of the preservation of life. So what do you do? 

The Double Effect Doctrine attempts to solve such problems

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Double Effect Doctrine

In some scenarios there cannot be a good outcome there are just better and there are worse outcomes.

For example a pregnant mother will die if her child is not aborted.

Abortion goes against the the primary precept reproduction.

However by letting the mother die not only do you break the primary precept of the preservation of life but the baby also will die anyway.

So as long as the abortion is done in the aim of saving the mother the action is valid

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It can be related to most people and cultures

Easy to condemn people's actions

Easy to understand as a moral code

Primary precepts apply to most cultures

Focuses on human character rather than right or wrong

Shows morality is the fulfilment of happiness

Don't have to believe in God

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Doesn't consider circumstance or cultural differences

The primary precepts don't apply to ALL people and cultures

It isn't concerned with the motive or coutcome of an action

It is hard to relate to complex situations i.e.should more money be spent on education or health care

It can be argued that happiness is unnatural and so it cannot be defined by nature

Nature can be seen as more complex than what Aquinas thought

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