Natural Law


Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas was a catholic dominican priest, who came up with the theory of Natural law which claims that all humans can discover what is right, and what is written in our nature. Aristotle develped this theory.

St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was an italian catholic philosopher, he was brought up with his seven brothers in his family castle, and was educated in a monastry, and then at the university of Naples, after that he joined the Dominican Order. His brothers were not happy with this and kidnapped Aquinas holding him captive for a year, and presenting him with a prostitute, which he droev away with a firebrand. Aquinas returned to the order and went to study in Cologne. Aquinas was said to be a "Dumb Ox". 

Aquinas' Natural Law 

A moral code exisiting within the purpose of nature, created by God. 

God created the world in an orderly form and purposeful way. this has implications for humans, and humans have a duty to conform to this natural order. Natural Law is a Deonotological approach, and tries to find out what is good. Some will consider the act, and the duty or 'deon' where one has to follow the act if the act itself is good. Alternative theories look to the end, or the 'telos' and consider if the end is good and it is jusified to get there. 

NML is different in tha it knows (intuitively) from the start what is good, humans achieve our purpose. it is an absolute theory, and it is found in our human nature.

The Four Causes 

Aquinas borrowed Aristotles four causes- material, efficient, formal and final, to explain how humans can work out what is good, by wokring out the causes, and they need reason for this. 

Aristotles final cause refers to the purpose of an object. when looking at humanity, Aristotle said it was to seek the general all round well being and hapiness, which enables us to thrive- eudaimonia. the idea of a morality that follows the natural purpose of life is known as natural law. 

Links between Aquinas an Aristotle: everything has a purpose, including humans. there is an end goal, aristotle Eudaimonia- human flourishing, aquinas- there is a more perfect and fulfilling telos (end)- true happiness which lies in oneness of God. 

Influence of the Bible: 

  • paul's letter to the romans is the most influential for natural law. 
  • Jews follow the 10 commandments, these laws given to moses by God on Mt Sinai to guise ethical behaviour. 
  • Gentiles dont


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