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natural law

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Discuss the approach of Natural Law to morality According to Jenkins, "The natural law theory begins with theories about the nature and purpose of the world and moves on to ask about the purpose of every action or object. The right thing to do is that which fulfils the natural purpose." Natural law was developed by Thomas Aquinas, in which he believed that there is such a thing as natural moral law. Natural law ethics depends on the belief that the world was designed by a creator, God. It teaches everything God made has a purpose, including every aspect of human life, and everything should work towards the purpose assigned to it. If we fulfil this purpose we do 'good', for example it is good to preserve life ("Do not kill"). If we frustrate the purpose for which something has been created then it is morally 'wrong', to destroy life is against the will of good. In addition, human sexuality was designed for the reproduction of the species. Any action which helps towards the fulfilment of this purpose is good; anything which hinders this fulfilment is bad. Aquinas believed there were four primary precepts, "God's aims for humans", which we are to follow to live according to natural law. ...read more.


This helps us deal with ethical issues which are not dealt with in the scripture e.g. euthanasia. In his book, Summa Theologiae, Aquinas maintained that we have four cardinal virtues ('cardo' meaning 'a hinge') on which are morality hinges and these four things inform as reason as well as the Decalogue. It has also maintained that we have seven capital vices. The cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and self control. Pursing what is morally right will help us to develop these virtues and vice versa. The seven sins of morality are just the vices of pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. Aquinas maintains that these, in contrast with the four virtues are totally opposed to achieving the goals set out for humans in natural law. These natural virtues are expanded by the revealed virtues of faith, hope and charity derived from St Paul in Corinthians and "Aquinas held that the greater the extent to which these are developed by the individual, the greater the obedience will be to natural law."(Vardy and Grosch) When people sin according to Aquinas, it is because they are pursuing what they think is good. Human nature is generally good and therefore if we do wrong it is because we are in pursuit of an apparent good, e.g. ...read more.


According to Peter Mullen, "it may be necessary, for example to torture an innocent person to save the lives of thousands." Finally, how do we define what is natural and what isn't, there are some basic ideals but these are too vague to apply to specific situations. For example should we try to prolong the life of someone who is ill, for death is the 'natural' result? Natural law also puts too much emphasis on human reason. Human reason can be corrupted by sin, e.g. holocaust. However there are strengths of the natural law theory. First of all, it is a universal guide. It provides humanity with a set of common moral principles and can be sued if you are religious or not (Aristotle). Secondly it is a simple, straightforward set of rules - we look at the evidence of the natural world and apply our reason to consider if something is right or wrong. And thirdly, the principles of natural law can be applied to solve specific moral problems - casuistry. In conclusion, "The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man; because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to do sin." (Pope Leo XIII) ?? ?? ?? ?? Emily Mc Glinchey 14C ...read more.

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