A famous example of Natural Law from ancient Greek and Roman times is from the play Antigone. The burial of Antigone’s brother was forbeyed, however Antigone argued ‘the state cannot overrule the immortal laws of the God’s’ which was that the dead must be buried. Therefore Antigone buried her brother regardless of breaking the law. It was concluded that Natural Law is considered a law of right reason.
St Thomas Aquinas developed Natural Law further and described it as ‘a moral code existing within the purpose of nature created by God’. His primary and secondary precepts are a basic law which all other natural laws play a part in. The first main premise of Natural Law is the idea to do good and avoid evil. Under this come Aquinas’ primary precepts with one example being self-preservation and also to continue the species through reproduction. This stresses that pro-life is natural and therefore good. However this is against homosexuality as homosexual partners do not have the potential to create life. It can be argued that according to Natural Law, homosexuality is wrong. Some of his secondary precepts include the doctrine to not murder or commit suicide as this breaks Natural Law because it goes against self-preservation and in addition, it can be suggested that only God has the power to take your life.
Furthermore our ability to reason and the word of God (the Bible) are predominant factors in Natural Moral Law. Our reason determines that the ultimate purpose and destiny of human life is fellowship with God. Aquinas believed that ‘Natural Law is the same for all men’ and it is ‘known by everyone’ meaning everyone has good in them and seek to do good, not evil. Moreover, Aquinas believed that humans were orientated towards the achievement of perfection and that they could never knowingly pursue evil. Therefore, all actions that are not in the pursuit of perfection can be explained to be an apparent good. For example, according to Aquinas, Hitler believed that he was doing what was best for Germany; however this is seen as an apparent good as his actions were evil and they affected millions of people. Despite this, it can be argued that he wasn’t aware of this and thought he was doing good.
Although Natural Law is deontological where the act itself is the most important, for Aquinas the act and the intention matter and have to be considered. For example, to help an old lady across the road is seen as a good exterior act, however to impress someone can be seen as a bad exterior act. It should only be done because it’s the right thing to do. However, on the other hand not all good intentions lead to good actions. One example being, if money is stolen to give to a friend, the theft isn’t made good by the intention. The only end that is valued is God. Physical pleasures cannot be the end as animals can experience them too. Aquinas believes that acts are intrinsically good or bad because when humans act in accordance with their ultimate purpose, God is glorified.
Overall, Natural Moral Law shows humans how to live their lives as they are experiencing God through nature. However, it can be argued that Natural Law is unnecessary for a Christian as they already have the Bible and Jesus as a basic guideline of how to live life. Nevertheless, Natural Moral Law is still important in gaining a better understanding to living morally and is open to anyone in any religion or culture.
To what extent is the theory persuasive?