Natural Law

opticlops's version from 2015-04-14 14:20

Section 1

Question Answer
Where does NL originate?Aristotle & Stoics
Which sect of Xtianity does it dominateRoman Catholic
Is it absolute, relative? What is it based on?An absolute theory of ethics, not based on duty OR an externally imposed law but on human nature and on our quest for fulfilment/flourishing
What does NL believe about purpose?According to NL, everything has a purpose. Action is morally right if in line with that purpose, wrong if it frustrates it
In what sense is NL concerned with nature?NL is concerned with nature as interpreted by reason
Saint Ambrose quote about NL“Natural law is in the hearts, the written law on bibles. All men are under the natural law”- Saint Ambrose

Section 2

Question Answer
What did stoics believe (about NL)Stoics spoke of a divine spark within each person which helped them discover how to live according to will of God
What did Aristotle believe every natural object had?A purpose e.g. a knife's purpose is to cut
When is supreme good found?When an object fulfils its' purpose
What was the supreme good for humans?Eudaimonia; often translated as ‘happiness’ but containing a much deeper meaning: the flourishing of the individual in community.
How was the supreme good for humans achieved?achieved by living a life based on reason, the highest of all human activities; Reason not understood as just the ability to think and understand but also how to act: ethics is reason put into practice.
Aristotle quote on reason"reason is the true self of every man"
What type of ethical approach is NL and what makes it this way?focus on purpose and the ultimate ‘end’ or telos of human life means that Natural Law is a teleological ethical approach

Section 3

Question Answer
Who did Aquinas base his theory of NL off of and why?Aristotle, because it was in line with the bible- each species was created distinct from another
What did Aristotle/ Aquinas believe about human nature?It is singular and unchanging
What do human being have?an essential rational nature given by God in order that we may live and flourish
Without God what can reason still allow us to do?reason can discover the laws that lead to human flourishing
What else fits in with Xianity about NL It's universal and unchanging and can be used to judge laws of various societies (it is ABSOLUTE)
Why did Aquinas develop Aristotle's theory?It was consistent with the bible
Whose teachings does NL follow and where? What are they?Paul's teachings in Romans Ch2. Paul observes that the Jews keep God’s laws because they were revealed to them in the Torah e.g. do not murder, steal, lie. However, Gentiles also know that these things are wrong. Paul says that this is because “ …what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness.” (Romans 2:15)
What did Aquinas see like Paul?Aquinas, like Paul, saw God’s law being written into nature as a by-product of Creation

Section 4

Question Answer
What 3 laws did Aquinas speak of?Eternal Law; Divine Law; Natural Law
What is Eternal Law? principles by which God made universe and which only God knows completely. Our understanding of them is partial & approximate
What is Divine law?i.e. the Bible which reflects the Eternal Law. Can only be seen by those who believe in God AND if God chooses to reveal it
What is Natural law?the moral law of God, built into human nature; also a reflection of Eternal Law; can be discovered by anyone who uses reason to understand human nature; not dependent on belief in God or God choosing to reveal

Section 5

Question Answer
What did Aristotle argue all living things have?Argues that all living things have both a material substance and a rational form i.e. a reason for their nature
Good example of Aristotle's material substance and having a purposeThe example of the eye which has a particular material substance but also has the purpose of seeing
What does Aristotle argue that the final end of all things is?the final end (telos) of all things is eudaimonia
What does Aquinas agree with aristotle on?Agrees with Aristotle that human beings aim for a goal/purpose, but that is eudaimonia understood in a particular way
What does Aquinas believe humans are created in the image of and what is the supreme purpose of humans?Genesis 1:27- So God created human beings in his own image. Imago Dei = image of God. The supreme good for humans is the development of this image i.e. perfection
What do we know about achieving this perfection, and from this what can we conclude.It cannot be achieved in this life and so it must be continued/ pursued in the next life
What enables humans to achieve perfection?Morality (virtuous behaviour) enables humans the ability to arrive at perfecting the image of god/ Imago Dei
Aquinas quote on morality/ pursuing good“Good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” (Summa Theologica)
What are the 4 cardinal virtues identified by Aquinas?justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude to which later tradition added faith, hope and love
What guides people in developing virtuous behaviour?Reason
What did Aquinas believe about pursuing evil?We would not knowingly do it: Since humans are designed by God for perfection our fundamental inclination is to achieve good and avoid evil: we would not knowingly pursue evil
How did Aquinas explain human failings?terms of our pursuit of apparent good i.e. something we think is good but doesn’t fit the human ideal e.g. eating lots of cake :)
How can we distinguish between real and apparent goods?Right use of reason
When performing an act what has to be correct for it to be good?Both the intention (interior act) and the act (exterior act) are important and have to be correct
How can humans fulfil our purposewe need to use our reason to know and understand our true nature, and then act in accordance with that nature.

Section 6

Question Answer
What did Aquinas believe would lead to use having a fundamental understanding of the principles of NLExamination of our nature
How can one describe primary precepts?Descriptive
What are primary precepts and why are they necessary?a direct reflection of God’s Eternal Law they are always true and apply to all people i.e. absolutist. Necessary for human flourishing.
What are the primary precepts?Preservation of life; Reproduction; Education; Live harmoniously in society; Worship God
How can one describe secondary preceptsPrescriptive
How does one figure out secondary precepts?These are worked out from the Primary precepts: they cannot simply be ‘read off’ from them like instructions
What are secondary precepts dependent on and what do they requireDependent on our own judgements, require experience, the use of reason and the exercise of wisdom
Example of how to use secondary preceptsthe Primary precept of ‘reproduction’ will require secondary precepts which think through what is acceptable sex and what is an acceptable way to have children
What advantages do secondary precepts give to NLSecondary precepts make Aquinas’ understanding of Natural Law both flexible and realistic

Section 7

Question Answer
What problem may occur from NLWhen attempting to apply the precepts we may be faced with moral dilemmas of such complexity that it is impossible to do good without there also being bad consequences
What is the Doctrine of Double effectIt was made to guide people during times of moral dilemma. It basically states that it is wrong to do a bad act intentionally to bring about a good consequence, BUT it is sometime right to perform a good act despite knowing that it will bring about bad consequences
What makes bad consequences acceptable?For bad consequences to be acceptable they must be unintended side-effects (although they may be foreseen)
Right example of the doctrineRight: a pregnant woman with cancer of the womb may have a hysterectomy even though this would result in the death of the foetus
Wrong example of the doctrineKilling the fat man as a means to saving others on a railway line

Strengths Of NL

Question Answer
What is a strength about believers having no special access to NLNL sees reason as ultimate recourse in terms of moral decision making. This implies that the religious believer has no special access to moral truth. Believer and non-believer in exactly same position since God made everyone rational!
How is it's universal application a strength?Its universal application is a strength in a multi-ethnic & multicultural world. The world’s monotheistic religions find much common ground here
How does NL seem reasonableNL seems reasonable in that (at least) 4 of the primary precepts are common to all cultures & create basis for dialogue between religious and non-religious
Pope benedict XVI strength on NLIt articulates a telos which is not hedonistic. Seen by some as a helpful counterbalance to materialistic/hedonistic trends in society (Pope Benedict XVI)
Strength about NL not giving specific instructionsNL does not simply dictate what should be done in individual cases: it offers principles that need to be applied
Sanctity of Life strengthNL does not simply dictate what should be done in individual cases: it offers principles that need to be applied
How is it's understandings of human beings a proIt understands human beings as embodied and this means that bodily issues e.g. status of the foetus are taken seriously
Strength of Nl not focusing on particular actsNL concentrates on human character and its potential for flourishing (rather than on particular acts) and so allows for some flexibility
Strength about being moral not being difficultNL acknowledges all of the things we require for flourishing as morally good, so being morally good is not a hardship
Universal/ common good strengthIts emphasis on social harmony leads to a concern with the common good
Strength about it being absolutistIt can be seen as absolutist so it can be applied at all times, providing everyone with a moral foundation to rules with a clear guidance at all times
Acceptable in many culturesIt is able to fit into many different cultures as the secondary precepts are influenced by the society you are in and therefore you can have different interpretations of the primary precepts that fit with their culture/ practices
Not just for XtiansThe code itself fits in with most people's belief whether they are religious or not (education of the young, building of a good society)

Weaknesses of NL

Question Answer
The problem of 'blurred lines'Is it possible to judge what is natural anymore? Modern medicine has has blurred the distinction between what is natural and what is not. Example: IS it natural to preserve life by keeping people alive on life support machines?
How are ethical decisions actually reached?Are ethical decisions reached rationally as NL suggests or do people act more spontaneously or out of a sense of duty?
Problem with the many aspects of NLThey may be conflict between different aspects of NL. . For example, can we always be both just and prudent? Sometimes the fight for justice leads to an endangering of the person’s own life
Problem with Human natureNL requires there only to be one human nature and we have to be able to define this. Kai Neilson argues that there is no such single nature: differences in sexuality alone challenge this
Problem with there actually being an in-built purposeNL based on assumptions about the world and in-built purpose that are questioned by modern science. Darwin suggested that it is natural selection that has produced human nature (although he saw God working through this). Richard Dawkins argues that there is no rational mind behind (Paley’s ‘watchmaker’) behind the laws of nature but that these laws are impersonal, ‘blind’ and do not tend to any purpose.
The problem with the naturalistic fallacyG E Moore says that NL depends on the naturalistic fallacy and thus is not valid. This fallacy holds that ‘good’ can be understood by reference to what is natural e.g. we have a natural inclination to care for others and this becomes the basis for saying that we ought to care for others
Moore quote on the problem with the naturalistic fallacy“You cannot derive an ought (value) from an is (fact) …”
Peter vardy problem with applicationPeter Vardy observes that NL can be hard to apply in practice i.e. its flexibility becomes a problem in complex cases
The innate problem of reasonKarl Barth argued that NL relies too much on reason which cannot be trusted as it is part of corrupted human nature. Revelation in scripture and the grace of God are also needed for moral guidance.
Problem with NL not being good enough on its ownOther Catholic scholars insist that philosophical theories like NL need to be supplemented by revelation or Church teaching.
Is NL absolutist?Arguably it is not totally absolutist so there is not always a certain answer to a situation
Is it too Basic?NL can be difficult to relate complex decisions to basic principles


Question Answer
Aquinas on disparaging reason“To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God”- St. Thomas Aquinas
Aquinas on diverting man“Man needs to be diverted to his supernatural end in a higher way”- St. Thomas Aquinas
Cicero on true law and nature“True law is right reason in agreement with nature”- Cicero
Stuart Chase on accepting/ rejecting Nat laws“Attitude is your acceptance of the natural laws, or rejection of the natural laws”- Stuart Chase
Aristotle on Natural Justice“There is such a thing as Natural Justice as well as justice not ordained by nature; and it is easy to see which rules of justice, though not absolute, are natural, and which are not natural but legal and conventional, both sorts alike being variable.”- Aristotle
Pope Benedict XVI being a massive twat (christianity doesn't propose a revealed law)“Unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law – and to the harmony of objective and subjective reason, which naturally presupposes that both spheres are rooted in the creative reason of God.”- Pope Benedict XVI
John Courtney Murray of NL supposing stuff• “Natural law supposes . . . the possibility of intelligence reaching the real, i.e., the nature of things--in the case, the nature of man as a unitary and constant concept beneath all individual differences."- John Courtney Murray

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