Natural Moral Law
- Early (400BC) example of Natural Law presiding over state law
Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
Logos, Ancient Stoics
- Rationality governs the world
- Human nature part of natural order
- Natural Law – a law of right reason
Romans 2:14-15, St Paul
- Speaks of law which is “written in the hearts” of Gentiles
On The Republic, Cicero
- ‘True law’ – “right reason in agreement with nature”
- “Eternal and unchangeable law valid for all nations and all times”
- “One master and ruler, God” is the “Author, promulgator and enforcing judge”
St Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1274)
- Christian philosopher
- Absolutist and deontological (focused on the ethicacy of actions), but adopts Aristotle’s teleological worldview: that everything has an end or purpose.
- Summa Theologica – “Law is nothing else than an ordination of reason for the common good promulgated by the one who is in charge of the community”
- Natural law assists humans to direct their actions
- To reach eternal destiny with God
- Affects outward external view of actions and internal motivation (‘what’ and ‘why’)
- “… man needs to be directed to his supernatural end in a higher way”
- “… good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided”
Reason and human purpose
- Divine reason, perceived through revelation and human reason
- “To disparage the dictate of reason is the equivalent to condemning the command of God”
- Purpose of existence is Fellowship with God
- Avoid non-natural, non-rational desires
- Man’s first precept is self-preservation
Real and apparent goods
- Human nature essentially good (natural law within everyone)
- Intrinsic desire to achieve perfection
- Humans never knowingly pursue evil: “No evil can be desirable, either by natural appetite or by conscious will. It is sought indirectly, namely because it is the consequence of some good”
- Sin: falling short of God’s expectations
- To correctly distinguish between apparent and real goods is to reason rightly.
- Reason identifies ‘natural’ / ‘cardinal’ virtues:
- Comparison with theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity)
- Individuals should seek to develop these virtues – requires practice.
- Virtues should become habitual
Exterior and interior acts
- Both intention and the act itself are important
- To do something bad but with good intentions is to perform a good exterior act but a bad interior act
- The only end that Aquinas values is God
- Acts are intrinsically good or bad (Absolutist) – Because when humans act in accordance with their ultimate purpose, God is glorified.
Primary and secondary precepts
- Primary precepts
- Self-preservation and preservation of innocent
- Continuation of species through reproduction
- Education of children
- Live in society
- Worship God
- Acts that accord with the main human purpose are good, others are bad.
- Secondary precepts are morals which exist because they uphold the primary precepts.
- For example, the primary precept of preservation implies:
- Do not murder
- Do not abort unborn
- Defend the defenceless
- Do not commit suicide
- “Inclination to good”
- “whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to Natural Law
- “A certain order is to be found in those things that are to be apprehended universally”
- “Good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided”
Catechisms of the Roman Catholic church
- God shows humans what is right and wrong. Natural Law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every person.
- Natural Law is the purpose of life. We should do good and thus find God at the end. Through Natural Law we know what we must do and avoid
- Immutable and eternal. Anything that goes against it is sacrilegious
- Absolute common principles, but application varies with circumstance.
- Natural Law is solid foundations of rules. Builds communities.