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Explain what is meant by a Natural Law approach to ethics?

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Introduction

Explain what is meant by a Natural Law approach to ethics? In the modern world people within society that have some ability or knowledge of reason know that there are certain laws which govern the way in which the world works. An example of this in the world can be observed in the form of the laws of Gravity or that the angles of a triangle will always add up to 180 degrees. We know these things because as soon as we are able to think for ourselves we accept that there are certain rules which are just part of our universe. We can also know that these rules are certain as we can observe them working in the world in our day to day lives and see for instance how objects react when dropped. We work out these answers or observations with our reason and also compound our beliefs by talking to others who have also reached the same conclusions. The origins of these rules does not matter as some might believe they just exist without reason or some might believe that God put these rules into place but whatever their origins we believe these rules we expect them to continue to apply to objects in the world in the future as they have done in the past. ...read more.

Middle

For Aquinas both the intention and the act are important as to act in a good way for the wrong reason is to perform a good exterior act but a bad interior act. For example giving to charity (a good exterior act) to impress another person (a bad interior act) is wrong as the deed should be done out of charity not out of the admiration or approval of others. But looking at it from the other side good intentions don't always lead to good actions for example if I steal money to give it to a friend who really needs it doesn't make the theft right by my intention to help my friend. The only end that Aquinas values is God, as he believes that physical pleasures can't be the final end as animals can experience them. Aquinas believes that acts are intrinsically good or bad because when human beings act in accordance with their ultimate purpose, God is glorified. Therefore giving to charity is good in and of itself because it accords with the code of how humans should be and glorifies God. In order to determine whether an act leads towards God Aquinas said that it depended whether the action fits the purpose that humans were made for. Aquinas believed that the main purpose of human nature is to preserve the self and the innocent, to reproduce, to acquire knowledge; to live in an ordered society and to worship God these are called the Primary Precepts. ...read more.

Conclusion

The principle of "double effect" seems to suggest that a strict application of Natural Law is not always required as this doctrine says that it is always wrong intentionally to do a bad act in order to bring about good consequences but that it sometimes permissible to do a good act in the knowledge that bad consequences will result. Finally it is seen as "ruductio ad absurdum" to take Natural Law so literally in life as sometimes our common sense should be listened to, as it is sometimes better than following Natural Laws precepts unconditionally. But Natural Law theory can also be seen as appealing to many peoples instinctive conviction that right and wrong depends on more than just personal opinion and social convention. By looking at the ways in which societies come to the same conclusions about the existence of a natural law of morality support the idea that it is part of human nature to recognise this law through both reason and intuition and that it is self-evident. From the moment of childhood children seem to have a strong sense of justice and will know when something wrong has been done by someone else or themselves indicating a strong intuitive belief that the same rules should apply to everyone and that exceptions should not be made no matter who the person involved is. ...read more.

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