Natural Law is an absolutist and deontological approach to ethnics that gives us fixed moral rules based on an nature that is interpreted by human reason. Thomas Aquinus linked this with the Christian teaching, which reflected God’s plans to build within us, this concept is Natural Law. Thomas Aquinus was influenced by Aristotle’s writings. Aristotle had a view that we all have a purpose on this earth and in order to fulfill this purpose we must reach a state of eudemonia, which is the ultimate happiness and living in an ordered society.
He also believed that reason is the only way in which eudemonia can be achieved. He believed that we should all live a life of reason. He also believed that natural laws are universal and unchangeable, which means it should be common within different cultures. Aquinus stated that there are three types of laws. Eternal law, which tells us how the universe was made, this is the law that controls our whole universe. Eternal laws are only seen as reflections, the influence all other laws in our universe. These laws work together rationally to give a structure in which we can reason logically.
Divine law: this is the law that is known by only those who believe in God and those who they have been revealed to. The last law Aquinus stated is natural law: this is the moral law of God that is known by reason.. Cicero said, “True law is the right reason in agreement with nature. ” The fundamental processes also known as the five primary precept of natural law are worship, an ordered society, reproduction, learning and education and lastly defending the innocent. God inscribes these precepts into us regardless on whether you are a believer or not.
Aquinus believed that we are all naturally inclined to “do good and avoid evil”. Aquinus does not believe that humans’ purpose is eudemonia, but is perfection, for we are made in the image of God, so the Supreme good must be developing into this image of Christ. Aquinus also tells us about the two types of good deeds. Real good and apparent good. Real good is when an action is done from the goodness of one’s heart. Real good has to do with a pure heart and no bad intentions or thought. Working out a real good has to do with “reason”. Both the interior act and the exterior act of an action must be pure.
An apparent good is when someone thinks what he or she is doing is good, meanwhile it is bad and a sin is being committed. An example is a man who is having an affair may believe that his relationship with another person is good; meanwhile in reality he is committing a serious offence. Secondary precepts are discovered when we apply the primary precepts to practical situation. This has to do with how we treat different situations when making decisions. Different situations have to be treated differently. Secondary precepts become more teleological.
Reason and experience are needed to come out with the right outcome. An example would be the primary precept to worship God ,the secondary precepts is to determine whether the way of worship is acceptable and proper. Unfortunately there are some circumstances when good intentions produce a bad outcome and vice versa. This was what brought about the “Doctrine of the Double Effect”. Although it is never acceptable to do something bad hoping for a good outcome, doing something good that produces a bad outcome is acceptable, as long as it was not done intentionally.
For example a pregnant woman who has cancer may need to undergo chemotherapy as a good act to preserve her life. However, the bad unintended side effects could be that the foetus is killed. Aquinus’ Natural Law gives us an absolute set of rules to follow no matter your religion or cultural background. These moral rules can be reached ultimately depending on reason. Some of the strengths of natural law are that it establishes common rules that can easily be followed. The basic principles of preserving human life, reproduction, learning and living in a society are all common to cultures, so natural law is reasonable.
It also does not dictate exactly what we must do; it gives us guidelines about what should be done in individual cases. Lastly, it concentrates on human character and its potential to flourish and goodness instead of the wrongness of the particular acts. A few weaknesses are that natural law is difficult to relate in complex situations in practice. It also gives people the idea to base their decisions on assumptions. If people don’t have this common sense then it could be difficult to make good judgments. Also it is not possible for a single human nature to be common to all societies.
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