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Examine what is meant by natural law with reference to morality and analyse and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses

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Introduction

2A. Examine what is meant by natural law with reference to morality [8 marks] "True law is right reason in agreement with nature, it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting... one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and rule, that is God." - Cicero, De Republica III, XXii Natural law theory is one of the most important theories in the philosophy of Classical Realism. The theory tries to convey that everything is created for a purpose and fulfilling that purpose is the 'good' to which everything aims. It is therefore an absolute, or universal theory as it is applicable to all human beings, situations and places. The quotation above written by the Roman Lawyer, Cicero, formulates the classic description of natural law in his work "On The Republic". The concept of natural law has taken several forms. The idea began with the ancient Greek and Roman conception of a universe governed by an eternal, irreversible law and their distinction between what is moral by nature and moral merely by convention. These ancient stoic ideas can readily be seen by looking at the literature of the time, specifically "Antigone" written by Sophocles in the 5th Century BCE. In this play, Creon, the ruler of Thebes, forbids the burial of Antigone's brother as punishment for treason. Antigone breaks Creon's law and buries her brother, arguing that the state cannot overrule the law of the Gods, which requires the dead to be buried. ...read more.

Middle

There is therefore, nothing on which eternal law depends because it is part of the nature of God and self-sufficient. Natural moral law is, therefore, a universal guide for judging the moral value of human actions. It is a precise ethical theory and is not based on personal preferences or on guessing the consequences of an action. It is based on a simple examination of what is from God: what is natural. To conclude, we can say that natural law is not made by human beings, is based on the structure of reality itself, is the same for all human beings and at all times, is an unchanging rule or pattern which is there for human beings to discover, is the naturally inevitable moral law and is a means by which human beings can rationally guide themselves to their good. It is interesting to note that virtually everyone seems to have some knowledge of natural law. Even young children demand that things be 'fair and square,' and older children and adults often apply the 'golden rule.' When doing so, they are spontaneously invoking the natural law. This is why many proponents of the natural law theory say it is the law, which is "written upon the hearts of men". 2B. Analyse and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of natural law as an ethical theory. [12 marks] So, the Natural Law principle is used to arrive at a conclusion regarding the morality or a particular activity. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is no room for situationism, relativism, consequentialism or individualism. Surely one needs to look at the situations that they are in or the consequences of their actions at some point in their life. Does that mean looking at the consequences is morally wrong even though their actions are morally right? Most importantly, Aquinas commits the naturalistic fallacy. He maintains that moral law comes from God. He considered this a fact. Therefore, we ought to obey it. For example, Aquinas believes that caring for others is in our nature and because it is therefore a natural property, it must therefore be good. However, it may be a fact that I have a natural inclination within me to care for others but this does not mean that I ought to care for them. This point is put across by GE Moore in 'Principia Ethica' where he argued that one can actually ask the question 'is caring for others good?' and not just take Aquinas' opinion as fact, after all, Aquinas himself did state that reason and rationality is very important. To conclude, Natural Law theory has been incredibly influential in ethics, particularly in the teaching of the Catholic Church and many people, even non-Christians continue to base their understanding of right and wrong around the concept of what is natural. However, several problems arise when people try to define exactly what is natural, and those who do not believe that the universe had any kind of purpose, for example, Richard Dawkins, will not accept the principles of Natural Law at all. Caroline Field 1 ...read more.

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