Natural Law. <ul><li>Is it natural to be homosexual </li></ul><ul><li>Is it natural to be violent </li></ul><ul><li>Is it natural to be prejudice </li></ul><ul><li>Is it natural to be monogamous </li></ul><ul><li>Is it natural to commit suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Is it natural to eat meat </li></ul><ul><li>Is it natural to use contraception </li></ul>Before looking at Natural Law in more detail consider these statements and discuss them.
The Natural Law approach to morality has a long history.Cicero (106-43 BCE) stated ........ ´True law is right reason in agreement with nature. It is applied universally and is unchanging and everlasting´ The Republic
It was Aristotle who first developed this approach to ethics but in seeking to combine Aristotles thought with the Catholic Churches teachings, Thomas Aquinas built on his thought and developed a system of ethics known as Natural Law. The Catholic Church to this day bases much of its teachings, beliefs and practices on Aquinas’ natural law theory.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) <ul><li>Telos (end/purpose) – The key idea in Aristotle´s natural law is that there is an unchanging order (principle) to the changing physical world and by understanding this we can learn what is normal or natural for someone or something to do, or be, or become. (its telos). Aristotle distinguished between efficient and final causes. </li></ul><ul><li>Efficient Cause (The means to an end) - These are the things we do, to achieve something. For example... </li></ul>
<ul><li>Final causes (the end in itself) – The ´telos´ this is what should happen if we do the right things. For example... </li></ul>If we want a seed to grow, we plant it in soil, fertilise it, water it and expose it to sunlight A seed will grow, provided we plant it in soil, fertilise it, water it, and expose it to sunlight. As far as Natural law is concerned, we plant seeds, water them etc because this is the way they grow and become plants. This is because there is something within the nature of the seed which responds to these conditions. On the other hand, a seed left un-watered will generally die.
For Aristotle the ´inner principle´of human nature is REASON. The human ability to reason is the ´driving force´of human development and action. For instance, the ability to reflect on our own behaviour and surroundings and change them in light of our thoughts about them, is essentially what separates us from animals. According to Aristotles philosophy something was ´good´ if it fulfilled its ´telos´ (purpose) for which it was created for example.... A good knife is one that cuts well. A good burger is one that is tasty and filling etc
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) The writings of Aristotle had been lost in the West but had been preserved amongst the Islamic scholars of the East. They were re-introduced into Western thought shortly before Aquinas took up a position as a professor at the University of Paris. Aquinas believed natural law was the moral code which human beings were naturally inclined towards. God reveals specific commands but these do not go against natural law but rather further and develop it. This reflected Aquinas´ approach to theology generally by which natural theology (which was based on human reason) did not go against revealed theology (which was based on revelation by God). Aquinas said that ´the moral life is the life which is lived according to reason.´
Based on Aristotles idea of the ´good´ being that which fulfils the purpose for which it was created, Aquinas believed it was necessary to establish the purpose for which humans were created by God.
So consider this simple question. What is the purpose of human life? On the slip of paper provided 1. Write your answer to this question 2. Fold it 3. Place in the box To be done on your own and with no discussing.
Where am I? Who am I? How did I come to be here? What is this thing called the world? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted? And If I am compelled to take part in it, Where is the director? I want to see him. Soren Kierkegaard
Aquinas believed there were 4 ends (purposes) for which human beings have been created. 1. To live harmoniously in society 2. To reproduce 3. To learn 4. To worship God Based on Aristotle´s idea of efficient causes any action which provides a means to these ends (efficient causes) is considered ´good´. For example – providing food to someone that is hungry, having sex with your wife in order to have children, studying philosophy or science, praying to God and going to church.
Apparent good versus Ideal good God makes human beings with a certain ideal nature and this nature enables human beings to use their reason and their experience to understand what is right. Immoral actions or ´sin´ according to Aquinas are not carried out because of evil intent or a corrupted nature. Aquinas believed humans to be fundamentally good as he believed we are all created by God. The reason behind immoral action is to confuse ´apparent good´ with the ´ideal good´. Morally wrong actions are carried out by the individual in the mistaken belief that they are ´good´when in fact they are ´not good´.
God creates man with an ´ideal´ human nature that we can all potentially achieve. Like the seed reaching its potential of flowering. However, to ´sin´ is to fall short of this ideal (the good), literally meaning ´missing the mark´ (as in archery). People often miss the mark because they confuse apparent good with the ideal good (for example, drinking alcohol may make me feel more sociable – apparent good – but the ideal would be to feel self confident and sociable without having to alter my body chemically). What would Aqunias believe about the following: 1. Abortion 2. Homosexuality 3. Genetic Engineering. No-one seeks evil for itself, it is only sought as an apparent good and therefore rests on a mistake. Hitler did not seek to do evil – he sought to do what he thought was good but was mistaken. He strove for the apparent good of ethnic cleansing rather than the ideal (real) good of living harmoniously with others.
´Interior acts´ versus ´exterior acts´ Aquinas also distinguished between ´interior acts´ and ´exterior acts´ and is clear that the former are the most important. An act may be good in itself but done for a wrong intention – for instance giving to charity may be good in itself but if it is done in order to attract praise and attention, then it has been done from a bad intention. Therefore our intentions as well as our actions are important when seeking to live a virtuous and moral life and striving to reach the potential for which God has created us for.
Putting Aquinas´ natural law into action and looking at case studies. Natural law recieves the most attention and criticism today when we apply the thinking to the liberal sexual attitudes of today. Based on Aquinas´understanding acts such as homosexuality, use of contraception and masturbation are all immoral actions. The ideal purpose of sex is for reproduction within the confines of marriage. Any sexual act contrary to this is considered ´unnatural´ and therefore immoral. The Catholic Church has established its doctrines on the basis of Aquinas´ natural law and that is why the Catholic Church today maintains a strict adherence to the belief that Homosexulaity, contraception, abortion, masturbation or any other sexual act not aimed at procreation is unnatural, sinful and therefore immoral. Any one of these actions is to confuse the ´apparent good´ of sexual gratification with the ´ideal good´ of reproduction.
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