9. Natural Moral Law

  • Created by: k59533
  • Created on: 07-01-23 18:52


Non-consequential, deontological:

You can't justify an action by showing that it produced good consequences.


Universal and timeless.


Rules. Usually absolutist.

1 of 7

Early Developments

Protagoras (Relativist):

"Man is the measure of all things."


Telos, purpose to achieve the ultimate good (eudamonia).

Humans have to use logos (rationality).


"True law is right reason in agreement with nature."

Legalism is not moral unless it legislates true law.

2 of 7

Christian Foundations

Aquinas said humans' telos is to pursue fellowship with God and this is eudaimonia.

Humans must use logos to interpret God's signs: 1. The Bible and 2. The world.

Humans are inclined toward the good.

Eternal law is created by God, turned into divine law in sacred texts, evidenced by natural law in human conscience, and derived into human law to govern humanity.

St Paul:

The Law of Moses - Torah - instructs Jews e.g. Ten Commandments

The Law of Nature - the world - instructs Gentiles e.g. don't murder.

3 of 7

Primary Precepts

Preservation of life

Order in society

Worship of God

Education of offspring


4 of 7

Secondary Precepts

Rules are needed to achieve primary precepts e.g. do not murder.

Not absolute e.g. can kill in self-defence.

Doctrine of double effect:

A bad consequence doesn't make an act morally wrong if the bad consequence was not intended.

Just War Theory: war can be moral if it has a just motive.

Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church: natural law "takes account of various conditions."

However, contraception & masturbation not aimed at procreation and is therefore immoral.


5 of 7


Bernard Hoose:

Consequentialist form of NML.

"It is never right to go against a principle unless there is a proportionate reason."

But some means are malum in se (evil in themselves).

Roman Catholic teachings in Humanae Vitae:

'Culture of death' is promoted by proportionalism

e.g. abortion and suicide.

6 of 7

Application Example

Act: x

Value according to primary precepts: a

Disvalue according to primary precepts: b

Conclusion: a - b

If the conclusion is positive, the act is moral. If the conclusion is negative, the act is immoral.

Act: Capital punishment of a serial killer.

Value: No more victims.

Disvalue: Taking one life.

Conclusion: Capital punishment would lead to more preservation of life so it is moral.

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Ethics resources »