Introduction to Natural Moral Law
- Natural law says that everything has a purpose and that man kind was made by God with a specific design or objective in mind. It says that this purpose can be known through reason. As a result fulfilling the purpose of our design is the only 'good' for humans
- the theory was put forward by Aristotle but championed by Aquinas.
- It is a deductive theory, so it starts with basic principles and from the right course of an action in a particular situation can be deduced.
- It is also deontological and absolutist which means it looks at the intention behind the action
1 of 8
2. eternal law of divine reason
- The eternal law of divine reason is discovered through revelations, in the form of the word of God e.g. the Bible and through the use of human reason
- a moral life is living according to reason, and an immoral life is a life that odds with reason
- "to disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God", Aquinas deduced that humans should "do good and avoid evil"
- so follow the Bible for reason and you will flourish
2 of 8
Real and Apparent goods
- Aquinas believed that human nature was essentially good, as natural law is within all of us. He maintained humans strive to achieve perfection and could never purposefully pursue evil- these actions are apparent goods
- To choose an apparent good is an error (because it really isnt good for us)
- For example the adulterer or adulteress commits adultery because he or she believes that it is good. This is an error of reason, because adultery prevents human goods
- Basically people don’t mean to sin as they don’t realise they are sinning.
3 of 8
Exterior and Interior acts
- Also known as action and motive
- Simply doing the right thing isnt enough, you must have the right motive as well
- Motive must always coincide with Aquinas' cardinal virtues (prudence, justice and fortitude) and theological virtues (faith hope and charity)
- They are acquired through reason applied to nature
4 of 8
5. First natural inclination
- To act according to reason is the first natural inclination
- exists to assist humans to direct their actions in such a way they may reach their eternal destiny with God
- Aquinas maintained that there was a basical law or precept, within which all the other natural laws played a part
- Aquinas talked of primary precepts. Even though Natural moral law is a deontological theory the primary precepts are teleological as ‘telos’ means purpose.
- The five primary precepts are absolute human nature discovered by reason these are listed as:
- to worship God, ordered society, reproduce, learning and defend the innocent.
- This nature is so common to us all, so all must live in accordance with it as pursuing natural laws develop virtues.
- Then derived from the primary precepts are the secondary precepts, these are the absolute deontological principles. For example the primary precept “defend the innocent” leads to rules such as “do not abort”
- These rules cannot be broken regardless of the consequences
5 of 8
Conclusion to Natural Moral Law
- Offers a simple universal guide for judging and give’s concrete reasons to be moral. For example the primary precepts offer a simplistic easy to follow guide and the derived secondary precepts explain it with examples and give detail to understanding what they are.
- However Aquinas’ strict deontological absolutes give no room for evolutionary change which could arise problems for a liberal Christian or an agnostic
6 of 8
Strengths of Natural Moral Law
- Enables common rules to structure communties- this means there is order and not a chaotic society. For example if everyone followed the same rules there would be peace and harmony situation ethics would agree against as its teleological and so there are no common rules
- A simple universal guide for judging. Gives concrete reasons to be moral- this means natural law is simplistic
- Absolutist deontological theory- means strict set in stone absolutes so looks at the act istelf not its outcomes- easy to follow
7 of 8
Weaknesses to Natural Moral Law
- Too simplistic- sex is not just for reproduction but as part of a relationship for pleasure- NML reduces ways to show love towards your partner when it is not the aim to be 'fruitful and increase in number'
- No room for evolutionary change- rejects any change, the theory is outdated and not valued as much as it was 200 years ago
- Morality should be based on people involved not acts committed- this means morality should be about the peoples best interests. For example someone may have to steal to feed their starving family, their intention is moral however the act in itself is not.
8 of 8