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Our purpose is to use reason = to work out morals = become God like.
Reason leads people to the right course of action when confronted with a moral dilemma.
Aquinas believed that reason was a gift from God.
A human can choose to go against reason, but “equivalent to condemning the command of God.”
Reason with Religion
Most fundamental human instinct is to achieve good and avoid evil.
By using our reason we can discover precepts – laws- which express God’s natural Law built into us that all society should follow.
Five Primary Precepts:
Preservation of life
Each primary precept can be developed into secondary precepts which are practical human rules that govern our daily behaviour .
Whilst primary precepts are set in stone
secondary precepts vary from the law of the land to accepted codes of behaviour within families.
This makes the secondary precepts realistic and quite flexible .
There are times when cannot do good without bad consequences.
To solve this dilemma = doctrine of double effect
Always wrong to do bad intentionally to bring about good
BUT sometimes right to do good despite knowing it will bring about bad consequences.
However the bad is ONLY unintended side effects.
Bad consequences foreseen but not intended.
E.g a Catholic woman takes the contraceptive pill for the direct intention of regulating painful periods whilst still maintaining Natural Law morality because the intention is not to inhabit conception.
Final cause or ultimate purpose of sex is =
“ The Church ... in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law ....teaches as absolutely required that any use whatsoever of marriage must retain its natural potential to procreate human life.” Pope Paul VI
Any attempt to interfere with the telos of sex is morally wrong=
Intercourse between same sex persons
Intercourse with a person too young for child-bearing
Anything ‘unnatural’ = artificially engineered they interfere in the process of conception.
Homosexual acts are seen as ‘wrong’ as they cannot lead to conception
Children ‘naturally’ thrive with mother and father role models.
Homosexual couples do not form a ‘natural’ family, so no adoption.
But isn’t celibacy as unnatural as homosexuality? (Aquinas was a monk!)
Aquinas argued that celibacy was acceptable for the minority called to serve God
Natural Law follows what is natural to us, which means it is easy to follow.
Timeless – the primary precepts could be said to apply to all people throughout time.
Main principles are straight forward – should be accessible to everyone using reason
Absolute theory – applies same principle to everyone
Should be simple to find answers to ethical dilemmas as based on something more concrete than personal opinion.
If you do not believe in God will not want to apply a theory based on God giving us reason.
How do you decide what ‘natural’ is ? E.g. should doctors try to prolong the life of someone who is ill, when death is the natural consequence of much illness?
Quite general rules – not very adaptable or simple to apply to individual situations
Some principles of N.L when applied can lead to absurd conclusions e.g. Elderly/ infertile couples cannot have sex
Nature changes – evolution = so does natural law change too? If so how can the laws be absolute?
Richard Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” would argue no God governing creation. Everything explained in terms of evolution .
Makes it hard for homosexual couples to have children – even though some may make better parents than some heterosexual couples.
Doctrine of Double Effect could make things complicated – how do you weigh up good and bad effects – could come down to personal opinion.
Karl Barth – theologian – reason is fallible – untrustworthy- should rely on Divine revelation in scripture for right and wrong.