Natural Law as an absolutist/deontological theory cannot work in today’s
To some extent this statement is true as Natural Law does not consider the
individual circumstance. This means that Natural Law might not be the most
ethical response to a situation because not all circumstances are the same. For
example, there might be times when stealing is morally acceptable; if I were to
steal for a starving child. Natural Law, however, would not allow stealing in any
circumstance. Many other ethical theories, such as situation ethics, argue that
we should indeed take the circumstance into account. This is a good argument
because common sense would suggest that we should do what is best for
people in a situation and not just follow what law dictates. Moreover, who is to
say that the law is accurate?
On the other hand, can an absolutist God given law ever truly be out of date in
today’s society? In this sense, as Natural Law is eternal, it should be relevant
for all societies. For example, the law ‘do not kill’ seems to be relevant in all
societies; from Greek times and in contemporary society. This suggests that
there is a moral code embedded in ALL human beings, regardless of when they
are born. However, it is the emphasis on the ‘GOD’ given nature of natural law
which is weak in today’s society as many people believe that not killing is
relevant to atheists as well as believers.
Moreover, some people argue that the theory of natural law has gone out of
fashion. In this sense, many people in today’s society have never even heard of
natural law, never mind follow the primary precepts. James Rachel’s argues in
The Elements of Moral Philosophy that in the world of Galileo, Newton and
Darwin there are no place for ‘facts’ about ethics, their explanations of natural
phenomena make no reference to values or purposes. It seems that Rachels is
correct in suggesting that the importance of value has declined in our society
which makes this a good argument. It is evident that our culture is more
concerned with facts, which is demonstrated through the decline in students
taking Religious Studies at A-Level.
Conversely, Natural Law does provide clear cut laws which allow everyone to
have a guideline on how to act ethically. For example, Natural Law is evident in
many contemporary Government laws such as truancy laws which help people
learn. This seems to be a weak argument, however, as a law should be
something that a society can subscribe to, yet natural law is a law which is
dictated from a Divine Being making it unequal to some members of society.
Ultimately it seems that natural law is too absolutist in today’s society. Laws
are better off given by a Government as opposed to a Divine Being as in this
way more people would feel comfortable following the rules, especially as we
live in a largely secular society.