Natural Law and Ethics (4)

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  • Created by: oyinlola
  • Created on: 08-04-13 19:06

Explain Aquinas’ development of the idea of natural good.

 Candidates are likely to discuss the background of Aquinas’ idea of natural good in the philosophy of Aristotle (e.g. his concept of natural justice, and his ideas about causality), but this is not a requirement of the question, and candidates can gain up to full marks through explaining Aquinas’ ideas alone.

 Aquinas replaced Aristotle’s First Efficient Cause with the Christian God - fellowship with God being the only final cause available to all humans. Natural law is an eternal law based in God.

 The central point in Aquinas is the belief in a common human nature, so that ‘good’ actions are those which help us become ‘fully human’. These acts are accessible through reason and free will.

 Reference perhaps to general points, such as the absolutist/deontological status of Natural Law / the natural law of doing good and avoiding evil.

 Reference is likely to Aquinas’ 5 main principles: the role of reason, the confusion between real and apparent goods, the necessity to develop habitual virtues in support of reason, the emphasis on intrinsic as opposed to instrumental good, and the establishment of primary and secondary principles. Some might expand on these, for example the secondary precepts governing sexual ethics; possibly the principle of Double Effect.

 All in all, natural good is based in an understanding of the universe as caused by and cared for by God. Natural law is not made by humans:

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