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Natural Law


Are there objective moral truths? How do we know? Are moral truths ... Sledding in the Arboretum. The Final Solution. Tragedy of Commons. Gluttony/Bulimia ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Natural Law

Natural Law
  • Chris Dodsworth
  • and
  • Tihamer Tee Toth-Fejel
  • January 5, 2002 St. Marys GSYPDG

Table of Contents
  • Are there objective moral truths?
  • How do we know?
  • Are moral truths independent of God?
  • What makes an act morally right or wrong?
  • Definition of Natural Law
  • Early History
  • St. Paul
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Application
  • Examples
  • Questions

Are there objective moral truths?
  • Yes, God says so (e.g. 10 commandments).
  • Yes, society says so.
  • Yes, I say so.
  • No.
  • Yes, Reason says so (and Natural Law explains

How do we know?
  • Skepticism
  • We cant be sure of anything!
  • Are you sure of that?
  • Of course Im sure!
  • Ockham (1285-1349) philosophy and theology are
    entirely separate
  • Descartes (1596-1650) I think, therefore I
    am we can only know subjective facts with
  • Kant (1724-1804) Tried to prove that religious
    faith was superior to reason by saying that
    reason is divorced from reality that we can only
    know the appearance of things, never reality as
    it is.
  • Ayer (1910-1989) We cant be sure of anything
    that is not empirically verifiable.

Are moral truths independent of God?
  • Divine Command Theory Things are right or
    wrong because God says so. But that is insulting
    to God and humans.
  • The Euthyphro Dilemma "Either a moral principle
    is good because God wills it, which would make
    God arbitrary, or God wills it because it is
    good, which would imply a standard independent of
  • God made everything, and God loves us. Therefore
    He would reveal to us (in the Bible) what is good
    for us.
  • Natural Law provides an independent means for
    verifying revealed moral laws.
  • The things that are right and good in creation
    reflect the nature of God.

What makes an act morally right or wrong?
  • The Three-Font Principle
  • Ends (Intended Goal)
  • Means (actions themselves)
  • Circumstances
  • Double Effect applies when two effects will
    follow -- one bad, and the other good. But four
    conditions must be met
  • The act itself must be morally good or at least
  • The agent may not positively will the bad effect
    but may merely permit it. If he could attain the
    good effect without the bad effect, he should do
  • The good effect must flow from the action, not by
    the bad effect. Otherwise, that would be using a
    bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
  • The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to
    compensate for the allowing of the bad effect.

Definition of Natural Law
  • Mans rational participation in the eternal law
  • A set of manufacturers directions written into
    our nature so that we can discover through reason
    how we ought to act. (Rice)
  • How normative statements are derived from
    ontological facts i.e. oughts are derived by
    the way things are. (Toth-Fejel Dodsworth)

Early History
  • Sophocles (442 B.C.)
  • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) There is a common
    principle of justice that all people can discern
  • Cicero (106-43 B.C.) Right is based not upon
    mens opinions, but on Nature.
  • Ulpian (228 A.D.) A rule of action common to man
    and all the animals

St. Paul
  • Romans 120 Ever since the creation of the world
    his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power
    and deity, has been clearly perceived in the
    things that have been made.
  • Romans 2 14-15 When Gentiles who have not the
    law do by nature what the law requires, they are
    a law to themselves, even though they do not have
    the law. They show that what the law requires is
    written on their hearts, while their conscience
    also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts
    accuse or perhaps excuse them.

Thomas Aquinas
  • Accepted both order of nature and order of
  • Distinguished four types of law
  • Eternal Law Gods rationally ordered
    conceptualization of the world, characterizing
    the whole universe Natural Law is our
    participation in it.
  • Divine Law Bible exists for four reasons
  • Arrive at truth more quickly.
  • Human law is incomplete, exterior, and
  • For the sake of certitude, because human reason
    is deficient and blinded by sin.
  • Natural Law a rule of reason in human nature
    whereby we can discover how we should act.
  • Human law ordinance of reason for the common

Foundation Self-evident Propositions
  • Principle of contradiction a thing cannot both
    be and not be at the same time under the same
  • Good should be done, and evil should be avoided.
  • Evil has no metaphysical existence it is a
    deprivation or defect in something that exists.

  • What is the nature of the subject and object?
  • What is their purpose and function?
  • For example Going around killing people
  • What is a human being?
  • If a person is just a collection of atoms, then
    murder is perfectly ok.
  • If persons are ensouled bodies, made in the image
    and likeness of God, and exist for their own sake
    (as ends in themselves), then it is wrong.

  • Automobile Owners Guide (and usage)
  • Assembling a loft with a coke bottle
  • Sledding in the Arboretum
  • The Final Solution
  • Tragedy of Commons
  • Gluttony/Bulimia
  • InVitro Fertilization
  • Abortion

  • Under what conditions does natural law require
    disobedience of human law? (e.g. paying an unjust
    income tax forcing a doctor to do an abortion).
  • Given all the disagreements over ethical issues
    (abortion, contraception), does this imply that
    Natural Law really doesnt exist?
  • If people can lead a very good moral life without
    ever having studied moral theology then why
    should we study moral theology?
  • What is unique about Christian ethics?
  • To what extent ought philosophical ethics be able
    to reach the same conclusions as religious
    ethics? Should these truths be accessible to
    reflective people who do not have the benefit of,
    or who reject, Church teachings? Is revelation
    necessary for us to understand moral truths?
  • In what sense is God the source of moral
    obligation? If God is the creator of all, does
    it follow that some form of divine command theory
    must necessarily be true? Does it follow that
    anything that is good is good only because God
    made it so?
  • What actions might be always obligatory or
    prohibited? Why?
  • Sometimes it seems that good is brought about by
    evil means Christian ascetics, for example. So
    why can good ends never justify evil means?