- Put forward by Thomas Aquinas
- Written in the Summa Theologica
- Draws from the Hedonist idea of seeking happiness with Aristotle's final purpose
- Idea is that people have to fulfil their purpose to achieve happiness/eudaimonia.
- Aquinas believed that Natural Law existed alongside other laws
- The highest is Eternal Law, this is the law set out by God, unknown to humans.
- The Divine Law follows, which is the instruction of the Bible/Holy Book. It bridges NL with EL
- Thirdly, there is Natural Law, an absolute moral code for which all humans follow from their God-given natural ability to reason.
- Finally there is Moral Law, these are laws that we as humans set out in society and have less of a significance, such as a business laws.
- In order to make Natural Law clear, Aquinas developed the Precepts (rules).
- Fulfiling these precepts will enable a person to fulfil their final purpose and be happy.
- Precepts are based on: "good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided."
- Protect and Preserve human life (i.e doctors, babysitting)
- Reproduce and Educate your offspring (i.e parents, teachers)
- Know God and live in Society (i.e be religious and be a good citizen)
The Precepts (Secondary)
- The Secondary Precepts are extensions to the Primary Precepts
- Aquinas believed that we can used our reason to create these
- They tend to be focussed on preventing unnatural actions
- They are all deontological, concerned primarily with the action
- Preserving Human Life: Do not kill
- Reproduction of Life: Do not ********** (humans must procreate)
- Living in Society: Do not steal
- Aquinas used Aristotle's Causes in the development of Natural Law
- He specifically looked at the efficient cause and the final cause
Efficient & Final Cause
- The efficient cause is what makes a thing happen and how it came to be
- Aquinas presented them as appealing to humans to do their final purpose
- For example, sex is an efficient cause and leads to the final cause of having a baby. Humans enjoy it and this give them the reason to procreate in the first place
Apparent and Real Goods
- Aquinas said that there are two types of good available to humans
- An action that seems good and pleasureable to a person, but teleologically brings about evil or unhappiness.
- They drift a person away from achieving their final purpose
- For example, taking drugs seems enjoyable at first but it will complicate a person's health and lead to a person breaking the precepts (they would need treatment which could be more useful 'preserving life' elsewhere)
- A good action that will teleologically bring about happiness.
- It will further a person to their final purpose
- Examples include: volunteering (being a good citizen) or living healthily (preserving life)
God & The Afterlife
- Aquinas did believe in the afterlife or heaven
- He said that human life's goal is to reach
- Interestingly, Aquinas believed that anybody could follow NL, including atheists.
- Fulfilment was possible for non-Christians, since they are trying to fulfil God's plan anyway.
- However, it did say it there was no good reason to reject God if someone wants to follow Natural Law, as it puts them at a disadvantage (i.e cannot follow 'know God' precept).
Today Natural Law does not have a large ethical following. However Catholic ethics are based on Aquinas' Natural Law and many conservative societies see NL as a correct moral way of living.