Natural Law


Key principles in natural law

- Natural Law is associated with Roman Catholics in Christianity. It is also deontological.

- It argues that God created the universe and that nature is ordered. Humans created in the image of God have the ability to reason and so can use their rationality to discover the laws and rules of nature. 

- Humans need to use their reasoning and look at the natural world to be moral.

- Main principle is to do good and avoid evil followed by primary and secondary precepts.

- Aquinas was the one that made natural law and says everything in the world has a telos, a purpose. God is a necessary being who made a contingent world with order and purpose. The world was created for a reason so not by chance. 

- An interior act is the intention behind the act and an exterior act is the actual act performed.

- real goods are when they follow primary and secondary precepts. Apparent goods are actions that may seem good but go against these precepts.                                                                 -Bernard Hoose made NL more flexible as it is simplifed using proportionalism- more emphasis on the consequences

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Aquinas natural law theory

Aquinas believed that God created the world with purpose and order. He gave humans the ability to reason and to use this reasoning to discover laws and rules of nature.

He said that as this is the final cause, the world is achieved by fulfilling its purpose of what it is designed for. This means that it should show the purpose in its creation.

The purpose of natural law is to show humans how to be moral beings. For Aquinas, telos is to understand God and to be closer to him.

The primary precepts are teleological as it focuses on the consequences but the secondary precepts are deontological as it provides laws to follow. An example of primary would be preservation of life, education, reproduction etc. A secondary is like do not kill. This means it goes against homosexuality as it goes against the primary precept of procreation.

An action is good only when the interior act is good and the exterior act.

Real good is what makes humans flourish and to become rational, moral beings, where apparent good seems like it is good but goes against the precepts such as adultery. 

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Cardinal virtues and doctrine of double effect

Cardinal virtues are what allows us to be virtuous and fulfill our telos. 

Prudence (judging correctly whether the action was right or wrong), temperance (restraining our desires and passions), fortitude (having courage and standing up to ones fears) and justice (idea of rights and giving everyone their due). Aquinas also identifies the 7 vices (7 deadly sins) which lead people away from natural law. The virtues must become habitual which is called telos to keep natural law.

Double effect is where an intended outcome ends up accompanied with another unintended outcome. For example, a doctor giving pain relief to  a patient has good intention but it results in hastening death but NL would not prevent the doctor from doing his best to relieve the suffering. 

NL says abortion is wrong but if it means the mothers life is in danger, the double effect can help make a decision. NL would say it is moral to have an abortion as it is to save the mothers life and this is the primary precept of preserving a life.

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Bernard Hoose and proportionalism

Hoose said that natural law needs to be simplified and made more applicable to our everyday lives. 

He says we need a moral compass rather than a moral law. Something that advocates a system of guidelines that we can work off of. 

He believes an act can be justified if there is a proportionate reason. Proportionalism puts more emphasis on the consequences rather than absolutism. 

Natural law would not allow a terminally ill person to die because of the primary precepts but proportionalism allows the person to die as it looks at other virtues such as dignity. 

Hoose would argue against NL not allowing IVF as NL is about a person flourishing with real good to be moral and fulfilling the purpose they have given themselves. So, IVF is allowed as we should procreate.

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Evaluation of Natural Law- strengths

- Natural Law is a universal law and can be applied to any circumstance and gives clear guidelines as to what it universally applicable. It can unite cultures and religious traditions as we can all work out our moral precepts through reason. 

- It takes into account that humans have a purpose and a function in the universe. The goal makes natural law have a part of teleological aspect as it allows humans to want to flourish and find value in our lives to look for the truth.

- It focuses on the moral character agent rather than the action. By using reason and following the precepts, a person can become virtuous. It gives autonomy to the individual.

- It allows societies to become more harmonious by helping individual humans to achieve health, happiness, friendship etc. It is also more flexible than it appears as the secondary precepts are allowed to vary according to the culture. 

- John Locke supports NL as he says nature has given humans rights that can't be violated by any governing body. 

- Thomas Hobbes said that we are naturally selfish but our reason tells us to adopt the policy as do as you would be done. These 2 philosophers support the primary precepts.

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Evaluation of Natural Law- weaknesses

- Natural law is very inflexible as it won't allow for certain situations and actions to be done. For example, the primary precept says to preserve life and the secondary says do not kill. It may be morally acceptable by through our reasoning we kill to save others.

- It is too simplistic as it overlooks other traits like emotions and feelings to make moral decisions, this makes it reductionist.

- It relies on a God-given purpose so only applies to believers, to someone who believes God is an intellectual designer for this world.

- Doctrine of the double effect is more consequentialist than deontological so it contradicts the natural law theory. It looks as if we can justify horrible things if the consequences are positive.

- It can lead to a conflict of duties. You have a duty not to lie, but what if lying saves your friend?

- It is out of touch with the modern world as it was made by Aquinas in the 13th century and this can lead to homophobia and intolerances of other cultures.

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