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What is Natural Law?

The ways of living, which can be influenced by social norms and what one merely believes. Theory originated from God.


What type of theory and argument is this?

An absolutist theory and a deontological argument.


Who developed Natural Law Theory?

Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)


What did Aquinas base his understanding of this theory on?

On the idea that humans follow the synderesis rule (good should be done and evil avoided) in order to attain happiness.


How can one rebel against the synderesis rule?

By allowing their emotions to control their decisions.


Which scholar was the natural law theory based on?

Aristotle and his four causes.


Aristotle on natural law: The telos or unltimate end:

Every agent acts for an end of some kind human beings acts acquire happiness. When something is good, it's fulfilled its end.


Aquinas: The telos or ultimate end:

- We are fully satisfied once we have achieved the telos. The universal good.
-Aquinas concludes that the telos cannot be found in this world.


The four tiers of law:

- Eternal Law: Principles by which God created and controls the universe. God's divine plan for the world, which he has not revealed. Example: Reason for creating this world.
- Divine Law: Laws made and revealed by God.
- Natural Law: Laws based on human instinct.
- Human law: The laws of land.


Key Quote: Aquinas on Laws:

" Laws is nothing else than an ordination of reason for the common good"


Five Primary Precepts:

Every moral decision we make must help us to achieve the five primary precepts:
- Worship God
-Order of society
-Preservation of life/ defend the innocent.


Secondary Precepts:

- The action made following the primary precepts.


Examples of secondary precepts:

- 'Worship God' can be done by performing a ritual.
-'Reproduction' no contraception, child within marriage.
-'Order of society', do not steal, do not commit murder.


Why did Aquinas believe that some would purposely sin?

Because of the synderesis rule.


What are the two forms of good?

Real good and apparent good.


Real Good:

The good according to the natural law.


Apparent Good:

An act committed by ones rational decision and an act of temptation, in which the individual believed was a good action.


EXAMPLE: two forms of good:

If one helps an old lady to cross the road, and their intention was to impress another, then this would be seen as an apparent good. However, if their intention was pure to do good, then this would be seen as real good.


What did Aquinas believe about our actions?

That our actions must remain inferior rather than exterior; because God knows our true intentions.


Aristotle's teleological world view:

The four causes:
-Material = The thing that an object has created.
-Efficient = Refers to the maker or designer.
- Formal = The expression, idea or plan that led to the creation of an object, its characteristics.
- Final = The aim and purpose, why something exists. Telos.
Humans telos to to acquire happiness.


What is the principle of the double effect?

An action that may have more than one effect.


EXAMPLE of principle of double effect:

Th goal is to save one's life, however, one must harm another's life in order to accomplish the goal.


The Homework Analogy:

If i work all night marking homework, the outcome will be that I have marked all the homework's. However, another outcome will be that I may teach poorly tomorrow due to the lack of sleep.


What are the four conditions that the natural law theorists have stated the the principle of double effect can be acceptable?

- The act must not be evil itself.
- Intentions must be good.
-Evil and good must be balanced, preferably with good over-powering evil.
- Reason must justify the evil action.


AO2: Does the principle of double effect justify an act such as killing someone in act of self-defence?

No, because this principle can be misused and abused in order to justify an act of murder which was done purely out of evil intentions.


CRITIQUE: David Hume's:

The primary precepts may encourage an act that is immoral to another. For example, one of the primary precepts is to reproduce. One may take advantage of this precept and sexually assault or rape another.


Modern development of Natural Law Theory: John Finnis:

John Finnas had strongly based his argument on the Aristotelian principles, and what Finnis calls 'basic forms of human flourishing' or the 'basic methodological requirements'.


What are some of the basic methodological requirements?

- Pursuit of goods
-A coherent plan of life
- 'Respect for every basic values in every act', the requirements of the common good.


What is the common good?

The common good is defined as people realising their own basic values and other reasonable personal objectives.


Examples for the idea that ‘natural law’ (human instinct) is the logical follow on from natural law theory:

View supported by Finnis and other philosophers.

- Rights not to be tortured
-Not to have one's life taken as a means to another end.
-Not to be lied to when factual communication is proper and expected.



- The natural law theory considers instincts as part of the four tiers of law, which demonstrates the view that the natural law theory aims to be centric towards human rights.
- The natural law theory has proven it's beneficence towards victims of the human law, as the natural law theory has accepted the beliefs of the principle of double effect.
- It establishes two forms of good: apparent and real good. It distinguishes the differences between the two; yet it labels it as good as the act was moral within itself.



- The natural law theory remains vague as it doesn't specify what decisions would be suitable in certain cases.
- Sates that we should preserve life, but doesn't sate which life we ought to preserve.