Natural Law

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Background stuff

Absolutism - Argues actions are right or wrong

Deontological - Judges actions

Relavitism - Argues consquences are right or wrong

Teleological - Judges consequences

Biblical Christian Ethics

Old Testament - Christianity didn't exist at this time. Basically a rule book on how God wants his people to live.

Most famous of these laws is the 10 Commandments, there are actually 613 of them. (Listed in Exodus 20) 

The Old Testament Christan Ethics are Absolutist/Deontological.

New Testament

Main person in the New Testament is Jesus Christ.

Jesus taught that our motives/virtues were just as imporant as our actions. e.g even thinking about murdering someone is wrong.

Later ethical teaching of Jesus "You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself"

Pulling together Christian Ethics (a.k.a Divine Law)

Biblical Christian Ethics = Rules and Commandments from the Old Testament + Virtues and Motives from the New Testament.

Natural Law

  • A Religious Ethic, popular with the Catholic Church.
  • Associated with Saint Thomas Aqunias, who wrote 'Summa Theologica'.
  • Aquinas was heavily influenced by greek philosopher Aristotle.

Natural Law is both Absolutist and Deontological. Therefore a rule based ethic.

Aquinas' Four Levels of Law

Eternal Law - God made, sets and governs all laws. Includes scientific/moral laws also. Human brains are too small to understand these laws, only God can. We can see a reflection of these laws in Divine Law and Natural Law

Divine Law - Reflection of Eternal Law revealed in the Bible. E.g The Ten Commandments.

Natural Law - Aquinas accepts not everyone can read the Bible/Divine Law. So there is a reflection of Eternal Law in our innate (born with) Human Reason. Aquinas summed this up with "Natural Law is the law written on all of our hearts"

Human Law - Law enforced by police. Aquinas believed that human law should be ignored unless it is based on Divine and Natural Law.

Mnemonic for revision - Even Dogs Need Hugs

The Highest Good

Aristotle's version - Aristotle believed we all had a major aim in our lives, which was The Highest Good. Aristotle believed our Highest Good was the Pursuit of Happiness.

Aquinas' Adaption - Aquinas argued that our Highest Good was to 'Become More Like God'. Aquinas states "There is only one Highest Good, and this is God..". If we could achieve this we would be with God in Heaven.

How to achieve our Highest Good (by Aquinas) - Using our God given human reason. Aquinas believed this was innate. Aquinas states "To ignore the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God."

Key Precept

We can reason (by using our GGHR) that the best way to achieve our Highest Good…


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