EXAMINE THE KEY FEATURES OF NATURAL MORAL LAW & DICUSS WHETHER ITS STRENGTHS OUTWEIGH ITS WEAKNESSES Natural Law has roots that stem back to Ancient Greece, and it was Aristotle who really created the approach. It was also depicted in Sophocles’ play Antigone, where the protagonist claims her right to bury her brother despite the King (Creon) ordering that he be fed to dogs. Antigone, (the protagonist) proclaimed this because she believed that there was a higher law than the King’s, particularly, Natural Law.
However, it was not until the 13th Century until Thomas Aquinas developed its key features, that it was actually more widely recognised as a moral theory. When we focus on the recipient of the natural law, that is, us human beings, the proposition of Aquinas’s natural law theory that comes to the forefront is that the Natural law establishes the basic principles of practical rationality for human beings, and has this status by Nature. These are to be followed universally, as Cicero puts it; it is ‘one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times’.
According to Aquinas, all humans seek good and when we do wrong or evil, it is only because we are only seeking ‘apparent’ goods and not real goods. So, we could ask ourselves, how does Aquinas define a ‘real’ good? A real good is when the said ‘good’ falls under the five primary precepts. These are: self-preservation and preservation of innocents, educating children, living in society, reproducing and worshipping God. Aquinas also believed that we can use our rationality to know Natural Law.
It is inherent within our human nature, God reveals specific commands but these do not go against natural law but rather, further develop it. Aquinas said that a moral life is a life entirely followed ‘according to reason’. Aquinas allowed for the Aristotelian insight that the particulars of the situation always outstrip one’s rules, so that one will always need the moral and intellectual virtues in order to act well. But he denies that this means that there are no principles of right conduct that hold everywhere and always and some even absolutely.
On Aquinas’s view, killing of the innocent is always wrong, as is lying, adultery, sodomy, and blasphemy; and that they are always wrong is a matter of natural law. Therefore, Natural law is absolute, but surely, we can ask ourselves, what about double effect? What if a dying mother had to give an abortion to preserve her life? For Aquinas, there are two key features of the natural law, features the acknowledgment of which structures his discussion of the natural law.
The first is that, when we focus on God’s role as the giver of the natural law, the natural law is just one aspect of divine providence; and so the theory of natural law is from that perspective just one part among others of the theory of divine providence. The second is that, when we focus on the human’s role as recipient of the natural law, the natural law constitutes the principles of practical rationality, those principles by which human action is to be judged as reasonable or unreasonable; and so the theory of natural law is from that perspective the preeminent part of the theory of practical rationality.
Whilst Natural law may be a particularly easy, universal theory that can apparently be followed by all people it has shortcomings. BEGAN FIRST WITH STOICS IN THE WEST THIS IS ONE OF THE FIRST ‘HYBRID THEORY’ HUMAN REASONING + DIVINE COMMANDS THE 13TH CENTURY WAS A GOLDEN AGE FOR CATHOLICISM, RULED BY THE IDEA OF REVELATION/FAITH/PRIESTHOOD THOMAS AQUINAS REASONED THAT WE ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD THAT HE GRANTED US REASONING AND THAT WE CAN USE THIS REASONING THAT LINKS WITH PHILOSOPHY WHICH OVERLAPS WITH FAITH/DIVINE COMMANDS. REASON IS 1+1=2.
AQUINAS SAID WE CAN USE HUMAN REASON TO PROVE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. DIVINE LAW – THIS COMES FROM GOD. UNIVERSAL LAW = NATURAL LAW BROKEN DOWN INTO HUMAN LAWS. Ironically, all the primary precepts are about perpetuating the human race… DOUBLE EFFECT STATES THAT IF IN ORDER TO GOOD YOU HAVE TO DO ‘LESSER/UNINTENDED EVIL’ ONE MAY PROCEED BUT IT HAS TO UNINTENTIONAL. NATURAL LAW DEFENDS THE JUST WAR THEORY – CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS ALLOWED/JUSTICE WHAT ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY? THEY’RE VIOLATING PRINCIPLE NUMBER 2 – PROCREATION BUT NEITHER WOULD BIRTH CONTROL OR CELIBACY.
JUSTICE (LEGALISTIC)/EQUALITY/REASON-BASED/CONCISE IT CAN TELL YOU WHAT TO DO IN ALMOST ANY MORAL DILEMMA UNIVERSAL. IF THERE IS A GOD, JUSTICE WILL BE ASSURED. THEREFORE, EVEN IF YOU SUFFER BY FOLLOWING NATURAL LAW, BALANCE WILL BE DEALT. GOD MAKES SURE THAT THE INNOCENT ARE VINDICATED AND GUILTY ARE PUNISHED. CONS: NO GRACE, MERCY OR FORGIVENESS ALLOWED. ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH’. A LIFE FOR A LIFE BECAUSE IT IS A REASON BASED THEORY, IT CAN BE RATIONALISED AND CAN BE SUBJECTIVE.
BY USING DOUBLE EFFECT YOU COULD RATIONALISE ALMOST ANY BEHAVIOUR YOU WANT. BIRTH CONTROL IS A BAD THING. BUT WHAT ABOUT IN AFRICA, HIV/AIDS ETC. EFFECT YOUR SELF PRESERVATION. PERSONAL OPINION OF NATURAL LAW – IT CAN BE MASSAGED INTO JUSTIFYING ALMOST ANYTHING BY THINKING ABOUT IT. I LIKE AQUINAS I LIKE ITS SIMPLICITY BUT THE WORLD IS NOT THAT NEAT AND TIDY, THE RULES ARE TOO VAGUE. I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE ARE NO SECOND CHANCES. ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE WILL LEAVE THE WHOLE WORLD BLIND. ’