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
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
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
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
- Living peacfully in society
- To worship God
From these rules we can decide the 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
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
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
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