Natural Law

  • Deontological
  • Normative moral theory originating with Aristotelian ideas but its contemporary form is the RCC
  • Five primary precepts: preservation of life, ordering of society, worshipping of God, education of children, reproduction (POWER)
  • During casuistry human reasoning used to find secondary precepts
  • Law of Synderesis
  • Human telos is floursihing / eudai monia
  • Lex and orthodoxy (Jean Calvin) 
  • Ius and orthopraxy (Hobbes)
  • Aquinas - A Thomist union with God, repudiates Divine Command Theory, through prudence we can determine right and wrong
  • John Finnis: we can define justice in terms of promoting common good
  • 'All men are under natural law' St Ambrose
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Natural Law evaluation


  • Lacking specificity means it can be interpreted for use across time periods
  • Allows universal good to be promoted in interests of human flourishing


  • Ambiguity - there could be different casuistries. How do you prioritise precepts?
  • Implausible - Law of Synderesis is tragically optimistic. (Multi-national companies priotising avarice over people as with Nestle/ cosmetics over vaccinations. Pyschopaths lack inclination to do good).
  • Unbiblical - could lead to conclusions that are contradictory to Christian values
  • Outdated - difficult to apply to the modern world in some cases. 
  • Absolutist - euthanasia and MSA
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Situation Ethics

  • Highly teleological and consequentialist approach espoused by Joseph Fletcher
  • Governed by Four Working Principles: positivism, pragmatism, personalism and relativism.
  • Actions based fundamentally on the Christian teaching of agape
  • Two of the Six Propositions are that love and justice are the same, and the end justifies the means.
  • William Temple: 'there is only one and invariable duty and its formula is thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'
  • Fletcher understood the word 'conscience' as a verb not a noun. We should act conscientously. 'You must put aside principle and simply do the right thing.'
  • Fletcher also endorsed following laws of land except 'in extremis'. 
  • W.D. Ross - 'prima facie' duties
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Situation Ethics evaluation


  • Christian as it follows central doctrine of agape
  • More flexible than prescriptive legalism (Paraguay victim of 14 died under strict abortion laws)


  • There is no universally accepted definition of love. Westboro Baptist Church?
  • Its ambiguity opens the door to antinomianism. 
  • Suffers same opacity as any teleological system where outcomes cannot be determined.
  • Is it true that no actions are intrinsically wrong?
  • 'Love and jutsice are the same' - criminal executed on Death Row. Justice perhaps but not love.
  • 'End justifies the means.'
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  • Vitalism: human life is sacred because it possesses a God-given soul. 
  • Sanctity of Life - life is valuable from the moment of conception. 
  • We are made imago dei and therefore possess a spark of divinity
  • Pope calls suicide a 'conspiracy against life'
  • Passive euthanasia - death brought about by an omission 
  • Active euthanasia - death brought about by an act
  • Voluntary euthanasia - death opted by self but caused by doctor
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia - death caused by doctor (i.e. a PVS case)
  • Quality of life principle: UN Declaration of Human Rights. (Dignity is first).
  • An MSA case
  • Hippocratic oath principles
  • Agape - Desmond Tutu.
  • Terry Pratchett.
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Euthanasia Application

Natural Law:

  • One of the Five Precepts is the 'preservation of life'
  • Palliative care - but is not good enough with NHS cuts
  • The absolutism at the root of Aquinas' system is problematic when faced with the divergence of euthanasia cases. (Young baby with organ failure)
  • CCC 2278: 'discontinuing medical procedures that are the expected outcome can be legitimate'. But also says life is not ours to dispose of. 

Situation Ethics:

  • Agape
  • Four working principles offer guidance. (Martin Pistorius, comatose 13 years, agape meant they prolonged his life and now he is being rehabilitated)
  • Doctrine of Double Effect (young baby with multiple system organ failure could have extraordinary measures retracted)
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Euthanasia Evaluation


  • Milan Kundera - 'animals have the right to a merciful death'. Condemn humans to pain we wouldn't allow our dogs to suffer? We are no longer a theocracy
  • Modern Churchpeople's Union. Doctors playing God - that is what modern medicine does. 
  • Quality of Life
  • Human dignity (UN Declaration of Human Rights)
  • Ablist - suicide is decriminalised but what if you are physically unable? This could lead to premature suicide. 


  • Sanctity of Life
  • 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away' (Job)
  • Grisez & Boyle - life is a 'basic good'
  • Suicide is an act against God. 'You shall not murder' Exodus 20:13. It is a rejection of God's gift of life.
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Kantian Ethics

  • Moral decisions based on freedom to choose universally good actions
  • 'Life without reason and morality has no value'
  • Highly deontological 
  • Attempts to reconcile rationalism and empiricism with an autonomous moral system.
  • Autonomy is a prerequisite of moral action.
  • Heteronomous thinking - based on obligations. i.e. DUTY
  • Moral statements are a priori synthetic. (Everyone has capacity to rationalise, but it requires sense experience to function.)
  • Pure practical reason. 
  • Kant uses example of a witness at Anne Boleyn's execution.
  • Three postulates of practical reason. 1) freedom. 2) God. 3) Immortality.
  • Good will: 'good good in itself'. Similar to Aquinas' Law of Synderesis
  • Summum bonum - do the very best good
  • Categorical Imperative (Formula of the Law of Nature, Formula of the End in Itself, Formula of the Kingdom of Ends)
  • W.D. Ross and hierarchy of 'prima facie' duties.
  • Universalisability 
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Kantian Evaluation


  • Its not that this system is unhuman - Kant was retalliating against pleasure-driven egocentric behaviour as espoused by Hume.
  • Consequences are not a sound basis for moral decision making.
  • W.D. Ross' hierarchy of duties
  • Rosseau - happiness cannot be a basis for reason. 
  • Universalisability makes it pragmatic and in the interests of creating a morally better society.
  • Stringent adherence to duty
  • There is no universalisable duty to cruelty or bad will. 


  • Shouldn't consequences of our actions be taken into account? 
  • Principle clash? Which maxim do we prioritise?
  • Unrealistic - it requires the person to act in a manner diametrically opposed to human nature
  • Can any action be justified under Kant's system?
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  • Jeremy Bentham's approach was ACT. Quantitative
  • Principle of Utility - seeking the greatest balance of good over evil
  • Ignores any natural rights and motivations for actions.
  • 'Two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure' (Bentham)
  • 'Create all the happiness you are able to create, remove all the misery you are able to remove'
  • Highly teleological but follows two absolute requirements: the principle of utility, and working to achieve good
  • Hedonic Calculus - Intensity/ Duration/ Certainity/ Propinquity/ Fecundity/ Purity/ Extent
  • J.S. Mill's approach was RULE. Qualitative
  • J.S. Mill rejected narrow hedonism of Benthamite thinking and developed the idea of higher and lower pleasures. (Do both and you will know which is the higher pleasure)
  • Changed word to 'happiness' because you can have a bad pleasure.
  • Eudaimonistic
  • Harm Principle. Swinging arm ends at tip of nose. 
  • Mill approach can be categorised as weak (ius/lex) or strong (similar to Kant)
  • Preference utilitarianism: Sigwick and Singer. 
  • Negative utilitarianism - Karl Popper. Cause as little pain as possible.
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Utilitarianism Evaluation


  • Basic principle of utility is a good basis for moral decision-making
  • It has evolved. (Other systems have not)
  • In accordance with human nature


  • Teleological systems are inherently flawed owing to ambiguity of guaranteeing outcomes (where an absolutist approach cannot fail)
  • Dismisses motivations from the moral equation
  • Ignores human rights
  • Panders to natural egotism of human nature?
  • To some extent actively calls for suffering (Bernard Williams' analogy)
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Business Ethics

  • Friedman: obligation to shareholders only as long as within the law.
  • Solomon: workplace should be regarded in Aristotelian concept of 'polis' (community with wider responsibilities). 'Business is not an isolated game.'
  • Catholic social teaching: 7 principles to guide good business (involving human dignity and sustainability). Espoused by Cardinal Nichols.
  • Prosperity Theology: money + success = God's love
  • Circles of Moral Inclusion
  • Corporate social responsibility 
  • Examples of unethical business practices: Nestle milk scandal, meat industry as leading cause of climate change, cosmetics/ vaccination funding, Chaco oil war
  • Globalisation: exploiting natural resources and tax issues
  • Whistleblowing - HSBC
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Business Ethics Application

  • Utilitarianism - outcomes of decision as part of moral equation. Motivations are not important (Gilette advert?) Hedonic Calculus and Singer's focus on extent. Mill's Harm Principle. J.S. Mill's higher and lower pleasures and their qualitative nature (earning money versus impoverished mothers feeding children). 
  • Kantianism - duty is of paramount importance and business is not exempt. Second form of categorical imperative (Formula of Kingdom of Ends) people cannot be treated a means to make money. Actions must be universalisable. Rejection of hypothetical imperatives. We must pursue the summum bonum.
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Business Ethics Evaluation

  • The law is not always just
  • Can an aggressive pursuit of financial betterment be 'good' when it is at the expense of others? (Nestle milk scandal)
  • What should CMI encapsulate?
  • Companies like Lush versus 
  • To whom does a business owe its duty?
  • What does a 'good' business look like?
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