Ethics: Aquinas and Natural Law

Eternal Law
God's will for how the universe is to be. God could have made the universe differently but willed that it and its occupants are of this type.
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Divine Law
That which is revealed by God, such as the Ten Commandments. For Aquinas, Divine Law teaches what our natural reason is capable of knowing. God helps us by codifying that which we could know through reason.
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Natural Law
'Right reason in accordance with human nature'. This can be worked out by considering what is good for human flourishing.
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Human Law
As humans are social animals, they need to make regulations for society to be orderly so that people may flourish. For Aquinas, human laws must not dictate anything conrtary to natural law
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Deontological theory
Any ethical theory that argues that the goodness of an action lies in itself, regardless of the consequence.
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Aquinas' Natural Law
St Paul (romans 2;15) 'the law that is written on men's heart'. found in Aristotle. the belief that all humanity can find a common idea of rightness which will be the same for all people and nations.
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The light of reason
Aquinas believed that what morality requires is knowable by reason alone.
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What is divine command theory and did Aquinas support it?
Divine command theory is the belief that something is right because God commands it. Aquinas did not believe in this.
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Why did Aquinas not believe in it?
He believed that something's rightness is knowable in itself. anyone who studies nature should be able to determine what is right and wrong. Christian humanism- the idea that morality is rooted in reason not scripture, but justified and developed.
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Christian Humanism- Aristotle's Situationism
The belief that any moral theory must take note of the facts in each case before being applied. this is not the same as relativism which believes that there are no absolute moral principles. situationalism concerns the application of principles.
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Aquinas (and Aristotle) on purpose
all things in the world seek to achieve their goal. plants do so blindly, no consciousness. Animals follow their instincts. Only humans have fully rational thought. Aristotle-flourish in world. Aquinas- achieve in next life.
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Lex and Ius
Lex- the letter of the law. Ius-general principle of law, not specific regulations. natural law is always ius. rights or justice
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Hobbes on Natural law
Natural law should always be understood as ius, not as a legalistic system of precise regulations
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Principle of double effect
an act may have more than on effect, and be known to have more than one. eg an action to save someones life which means harming someone else. what matters is the intention. the aim of the act was not to harm the second person but to save the other.
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Anthony Kenny- Double effect
"a principle of double effect must form part of any rational system of morality... there's nothing wrong with appointing person A if they're the best for the job, even though it'll cause others pain. but selecting A to cause B pain is wrong entirely"
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Objections- Hamilton
'it is not a law in any known sense of the word, not an 'is' but an 'ought', a 'pattern laid up in heaven'.
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it does not enable us to be precisely certain what to do in significant cases. pthe general principle of preserving life does not tell us whos life to preserve if there is a choice to make. this arises in wartime: to save lives you have to take other
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Unclear Conclusions
vagueness means it is possible to construvt natural law arguments that point in opposing directions. Pope Paul VI's argued that preservation of life meant it was wrong to use artificial methods of birth control
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An un-Christian theory
many protestant thinkers argue its unbiblical. Calvin looked to scripture as the word of God as the principal source of moral teaching. although non catholic thinkers like temple still incorporate elements in their moral teaching.
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A purposive universe
important area of potential criticism of Aquinas' approach is its reliance on Aristotle's belief that everything has a purpose, so human nature has a purpose.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


Divine Law


That which is revealed by God, such as the Ten Commandments. For Aquinas, Divine Law teaches what our natural reason is capable of knowing. God helps us by codifying that which we could know through reason.

Card 3


Natural Law


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


Human Law


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


Deontological theory


Preview of the front of card 5
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