Candidates might consider that Aquinas developed a theory of Natural Law that could be considered absolute and deontological, from the ideas of Aristotle, and that it states that certain acts are intrinsically right or wrong. They may explain that Natural Law directs people to their divine purpose, and can be deduced through reason. Good acts are those which enable humans to fulfil their purpose, and are in accordance with the primary precepts.
They may explain how the primary precepts lead to secondary precepts and how these may be applied to ethical issues to decide the right course of action. They may give examples to illustrate this. They may explain that the secondary precepts are less absolute than the primary precepts.
Candidates may explain how the right course of action may be followed by choosing real as opposed to apparent goods. They may say that the primary precepts of Natural Law allow a person to follow basic principles common to all people and that the secondary precepts allow for some measure of flexibility . They may explain that the right course of action can be chosen using Natural Law as it not only involves reason, but also imagination, emotions and practical wisdom.
4 b To what extent is natural law the best approach to making ethical decisions? (10)
Candidates may consider all the advantages of Natural Law – how it is simple and clear cut in its establishment of common rules. It avoids the problems of minorities and unforeseen consequences while concentrating on human character and its potential for goodness and flourishing. However, candidates may also discuss the impossibility of defining what is good, the uncertainty of any divine purpose or single human nature common to all.
Some candidates may suggest that consideration of both the act and the intention make Natural Law the best approach to ethical decision making, while others will argue for an alternative approach that is more focussed on the consequences such as Utilitarianism.
Candidates may use examples of ethical decisions to illustrate their answer.