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Lecture 2: Virtue Ethics & Introduction to Natural Law Theory


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Title: Lecture 2: Virtue Ethics & Introduction to Natural Law Theory

Lecture 2 Virtue Ethics Introduction to
Natural Law Theory
Basic Framework of Virtue EthicsWhat type of a
person should you be?
  • Premise 1 An action is right iff it is what a
    virtuous agent would do in similar circumstances.
  • Premise 1a A virtuous agent is one who acts
    virtuously, i.e., one who has and exercises the
  • Premise 2 A virtue is a character trait a human
    being needs to flourish or live well.

Overview of Ethical Systems Virtue Ethics
Rather than focusing on what we ought to do,
Virtue ethics offers a distinctive approach
whereby we focus on human character asking the
question, What should I be? Thus, ethical life
involves envisioning ideals for human life and
embodying those ideals in ones life. Virtues
are ways in which we embody those ideals.
Plato (c.427-347c) To be virtuous we must
understand what contributes to our overall good
have our desire (appetitive workers), spirit
(warriors), reason (ruler-guardians) educated
properly so they will aggregate with the guidance
provided by the rational part of the soul (Books
2 3 of Republic). When these 3 parts of the
soul conflict with each other, it might move us
to act in ways that go against the greater good
(become incontinent).
Virtue is an excellence of some sort. Originally
the word meant strength and referred to as
manliness. In Aristotles ethics (arete) is
used which is trans. as excellences of various
Socrates Virtue is Knowledge. No one
intentionally pursues what is wrong. Ignorance
and forgetfulness are at fault when one does
something wrong. Plato (c. 427-347) is concerned
with the quality of a persons inner state he
prized beauty, health, harmony, strength of a
soul as the virtues we should emulate. We must
have a well-ordered soul whereby our appetites
(temperance), emotions (courage), and reason
(wisdom) operate in their respective roles. When
reason governs, justice manifests itself from out
of the well-ordered person. Aristotle (384-322)
The function of man is reason (the good of the
thing is when it performs its function well)
which is peculiar to him. Thus, the function of
man is reason and the life that is distinctive of
humans is the life in accordance with reason. If
the function of man is reason, then the good man
is the man who reasons well This is the life of
excellence (eudaimonia human flourishing
Aristotle says there are 2 types of virtue
intellectual virtues excellences of the mind
(e.g., ability to understand, reason, judge
well) moral virtues learned by repetition
(e.g., practicing honesty we become honest. To be
virtuous requires knowledge, practice,
consistent effort at character building.
Aristotle Must have knowledge, second he must
choose the acts and choose them for their own
sakes, finally his actions must proceed from a
firm character (1105a).
Overview of Ethical Systems Plato (427-347
Plato believed our natural desires are greedy and
depraved. Thus, they must be held in tight
check by the powers of reason. He compared the
human soul to a city-state made up of
ruler-guardians, guardians, and the
peasants/artisans. Every reality is an
archetype of a corresponding eternal form. The
goal of life is to actualize ones true nature
together with ones many innate potentialities.
So long as the individual is governed by the
power of reason, and reason is assisted by
courage and will power (guardians), the unruly
desires can be suppressed.
If reason for a moment lets down its guard, then
the desires will exert their power, seize
control, and lead the person to corruption and
The highest good is the well-ordered whole to
which each part contributes according to its own
capacity. A thing in reality is good insofar as
it participates in corresponds to the form of
the good (which is the high point of the forms).
4 primary integrated virtues Wisdom corresponds
to reason courage corresponds to the will
temperance, corresponds to desire justice
links individual to society.
Main Points to Know
  • Plato writes dialogues rather than philosophical
    treatises. Hence, most of his philosophical
    positions are voiced through the character of
    Socrates. Even though Socrates was Plato's actual
    teacher, the positions and doctrines
    traditionally attributed to Socrates are actually
    Plato's account of his teacher. Socrates never
    wrote anything.
  • Plato advances a teleological conception of
    morality, "we live the good life insofar as we
    perform our distinctively human function well."

Main Points to Know
  • The soul is divided into three parts appetitive,
    spirit, and reason. Each part helps us to fulfill
    critical needs, but in Plato's view, only the
    rational part of the soul is fit to rule.
  • In order to live a virtuous life, it is necessary
    for the individual to cultivate balance in
    his/her soul. Thus, persons ruled by appetite or
    spirit (emotion) are "out of balance" and their
    actions are apt to provoke personal or social

Main Points to Know
  • Appetite In cases where appetite rules
    (oligarchic and tyrannical characters fit here)
    individuals are at the mercy of the their
    biological or material whims. Alcohol addiction
    fits this profile. Individuals who are addicted
    to self-destructive patterns of behavior are apt
    to feed their appetites at the expense of other
    life pursuits. People can also be ruled by
    material greed in much the same way. The key here
    is that desire is determinative these are
    cravings of the highest degree.

Main Points to Know
  • Spirit The emotional, passionate side of our
    character is centered on the idea of status on a
    social level. Ambition, desire for honor and
    glory, moral indignation, and cravings for
    admiration, all fit under the umbrella of spirit.
    Love relationships fit into this category as
    well. Our interactions with others provide core
    experiences that influence our emotional

Main Points to Know
  • Reason The intellectual, thinking part of the
    soul that must weigh options, decide between
    alternatives, and "suppress dangerous urges.
    Plato clearly puts reason in control of the soul
    because it acts as good counsel seeking
    understanding and insight before acting. Rational
    individuals possess a strong contemplative
    faculty. They think before they act and are
    unlikely to take rash action in any given

Know Thyself
  • Plato contends that each one of us performs/does
    one thing best. We each have one best skill and
    it is the development of this skill that is of
    paramount importance in creating a harmonious
    existence. If we do not have insight into what
    we do best, the chances of achieving a balanced
    soul are likely reduced. Hence the Socratic
    imperative, "know thyself."
  • Just Society First ask yourself is it possible
    to have a just society? What would it look like?
    How would we direct education, the economy,
    leisure, and social resources? What is fair?
  • Plato wrestles with the idea of justice in his
    most famous work entitled, The Republic.

Plato views social justice exactly parallels his
notion of individual justice. There are three
parts of the soul and three corresponding
divisions in the social order. The social order
is constructed as follows
Overview of Ethical Systems Aristotle (384-322
Though we are naturally suited to moral goodness,
we dont automatically develop such inclinations
Your habits inclinations develop with practice
what you sow is what you reap.
Carefully cultivate moral goodness by rigorous
Ideal of virtue is doing the right thing because
you want to do the right thing you desire to
act virtuously.
In order to desire to act virtuously you must
carefully and consistently practice doing right
until it becomes habitual natural.
If you act selfishly then you will become a
selfish person. Eventually what feels right to
you may be very wrong.
With practice diligence you can develop the
habits inclinations of a virtuous person.
Thus, choose to be virtuous. Desire judgment
must agree.
What is Virtue Ethics?
  • Virtue Ethics emphasizes the development of
    character as its central theme rather than trying
    to define 'goodness' or 'rightness'. It is a
    eudaimonistic theory as it holds 'happiness' to
    be our highest goal. According to Aristotle, we
    attain happiness by cultivating both intellectual
    and moral virtue. We become virtuous by habit we
    deliberately and consistently choose the mean
    between excess and deficiency until it becomes

What is Virtue Ethics?
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then,
    is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Virtue excellence
  • Intellectual virtue can be taught.
  • A good person succeeds at rational activity.
  • Moral virtue is acquired through excellent
  • We become good by doing good things.
  • We become virtuous by practicing virtuous acts.

On Becoming Agathos EudaimonFrom Aristotles
Point of ViewCited from Michael Boylan, Basic
Ethics (Upper Saddle River, N.J. Prentice Hall,
2000), 52.
  • Step 1 Master the functional requirements within
    a given type of task or behavior. Master a good
  • Step 2 Possess the habitual mastery of the
    functional requirements to an appropriate degree.
    Possess habitual mastery of that habit.
  • Step 3 Steps 1 2 excellence in that task or
    behavior. Achieve excellence in the habit.
  • Step 4 Possess habitual excellence in a number
    of key tasks or behavior.
  • Step 5 Possess habitual excellence in those
    tasks or behavior that the common opinion judges
    to be the most worthy.
  • Step 6 Steps 4 5 leads to agathos.
  • Step 7 Possessing Agathos leads to eudaimon.
  • Thus, on balance, excellent traits in human
    character generally produce excellent actions.

Virtue Ethics What kind of person should I be?
  • What is a virtue?
  • A virtue is a habit of excellence, a beneficial
    tendency, a skilled disposition that enables a
    person to realize the crucial potentialities that
    constitute proper human flourishing (eudaimonia).
  • What is a habit? A disposition to think, feel,
    desire, and act in a certain way without having a
    tendency to consciously will to do so.
  • What is a character The sum-total of ones
    habits, tendencies, and well-being.
  • Four cardinal virtues temperance, courage,
    prudence, and justice. Piety (reverence to the
    gods) is sometimes considered a fifth virtue.

Closer Look at Virtue
  • A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not
    just a tendency to do what is honest or generous,
    nor is it to be helpfully specified as a
    "desirable" or "morally valuable" character
    trait. It is, indeed a character trait that is,
    a disposition which is well entrenched in its
    possessor, something that, as we say "goes all
    the way down", unlike a habit such as being a
    tea-drinker but the disposition in question,
    far from being a single track disposition to do
    honest actions, or even honest actions for
    certain reasons, is multi-track. It is concerned
    with many other actions as well, with emotions
    and emotional reactions, choices, values,
    desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests,
    expectations and sensibilities. To possess a
    virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a
    certain complex mindset. (Hence the extreme
    recklessness of attributing a virtue on the basis
    of a single action) Stanford Encyclopedia

Three Central Themes
  • Three Central Themes
  • A. Virtue (arete) A habit of excellence, a
    beneficial tendency, a skilled disposition that
    enables a person to realize the crucial
    potentialities that constitute proper human
  • A habit is a disposition to think, feel, desire,
    and act in a certain way without having a
    tendency to will consciously to do so.
  • Character may be defined as the sum-total of
    ones habits.
  • C. Eudaimonia (Human Flourishing Successful
  • C. Phronesis (practical wisdom) How?
  • Practice The Golden Mean Be moderate in all
    things to an appropriate degree avoid both
    deficiency and excessiveness cultivate proper
    virtues that are deemed most worthy by your
  • Mimic, follow the virtuous person.

Practical Wisdom (Phronesis)
  • A good person consistently does the right thing
    at the right time, in the right way, and for the
    right reason.
  • There is no rule for becoming good, or for
    distinguishing good from bad, right from wrong.
  • Practical wisdom ability to draw the right
    distinctions and tell right from wrong.

A Character Trait is a Virtue IFF it is conducive
to eudaimonia The Golden Mean
Virtue Excess
Deficiency Sphere
Courage Rashness Cowardice Danger Temperance S
elf-indulgence Insensibility Sensual
pleasure Liberality Wasteful Stinginess Money M
agnificence Vulgarity Penny pinching Great
wealth Pride Vanity Humility Honor
self-respect Right Ambition Overly
ambitious Lack of ambition Honor Good temper No
emotion Quick-temper Insult Ready
wit Buffoonishness Boorishness Humor Truthfulness
Boastfulness Modesty Self-description Friendlin
ess Flattery Quarrelsome Social
association Shame Bashfulness Pretense Wrongdoi
ng Righteous Spite Envy Fortune of
others Justice Greed ? Scarce goods
Virtue (courage)
Vice (cowardice)
Vice (Rashness)
Virtue as a Mean
  • We must give in to desire in the right
    circumstances, in the right way, for the right
    reason, etc.
  • Practical wisdom allows us to find the mean.
  • Theres no rule for doing this.
  • You must learn to see what is right

Virtue as a Mean
  • Virtues are means between extremes
  • Virtues constrain desires
  • But we may constrain too little or too much

  • In the virtuous person, desire and judgment agree
    whereby the choices and actions will be free of
    the conflict and pain that inevitably accompany
    those who are akratic and/or enkratic

The enkratic The enkratic is the morally strong
person who shares the akratic agents desire to
do other than what he knows ought to be done, but
acts in accordance with his better judgment.
The akratic The akratic is the morally weak
person who desires to do other than what he knows
ought to be done and acts on this desire against
his better judgment.
In neither kind of choice are desire and judgment
in harmony. In the virtuous desire and judgment
Why does desire and judgment agree for the
  • The reason why the choices and actions will be
    free of the conflict and pain that inevitably
    accompanies those of the akratic and enkratic
    agent is because the part of their soul that
    governs choice and action is so disposed that
    desire and judgment coincide. The disposition is
    concerned with choices as would be determined by
    the person of practical wisdom (phronesis) these
    will be actions lying between extreme
    alternatives. They will lie in a man-popularly
    called the golden mean-relative to the talents
    and stores of the agent.

Why does desire and judgment agree for the
  • Choosing in this way is not easily done. It
    involves, for instance, feeling anger or
    extending generosity at the right time, toward
    the right people, in the right way, and for the
    right reasons. Intellectual virtues, such as
    excellence at mathematics, can be acquired by
    teaching, but moral virtues cannot. I may know
    what ought to be done and even perform virtuous
    act without being able to act virtuously.
    Nonetheless, because moral virtue is a
    disposition concerning choice, deliberate
    performance of virtuous acts can, ultimately,
    instill a disposition to choose them in harmony
    and with pleasure, and hence, to act virtuously.

What does it take to be fully virtuous?
  • The fully virtuous do what they should without a
    struggle against contrary desire possess
    practical wisdom (phronesis) which is the
    knowledge or understanding that enables its
    possessor to do just that in any given situation.
    Most contend that phronesis comes out of at
    least three sources
  • 1. Comes only with the experience of life. The
    virtuous are mindful of the consequences of
    possible actions. How could they fail to be
    reckless, thoughtless and short-sighted if they
    were not? Moreover, they have developed the
    capacity to recognize some features of a
    situation as more important than others, or
    indeed, in that situation, as the only relevant
    ones. The wise do not see things in the same way
    as the nice adolescents who, with their
    imperfect virtues, still tend to see the
    personally disadvantageous nature of a certain
    action as competing in importance with its
    honesty or benevolence or justice.
  • 2. They mimic, follow the virtuous person.
  • We might add that it also takes a certain set
    of external goods (e.g., right background, right
    education, right financial resources, right
    community, etc).

3 Commonly Ascribed Advantages of Virtue
  • Focuses on the development of habits that promote
    human excellence.
  • Focuses on an account in which being virtuous
    means recognizing how rational behavior requires
    being sensitive to the social and personal
    dimensions of life.
  • Focuses on how rational actions are not based
    on abstract principles but on moderation.

Common Criticisms of Virtue Ethics (VE)
  • Vast differences on what constitutes a virtue
    (e.g., different people, societies, opinions,
  • VE lacks clarity in resolving moral
  • VE is self-centered because its primary concern
    is the agents own character.
  • Well-being is a master value all other things
    are valuable only to the extent that they can
    contribute to it.
  • VE is imprecise It fails to give us any help
    with the practicalities of how we should
  • VE leaves us hostage to luck for only some will
    attain moral maturity others will not.
    Moreover, life is very fragile. One small
    misstep and it will cost you everything it will
    forever be beyond your reach.

New Material
  • We will now turn to examine Theistic
    Deontological Ethics with Natural Law Theory
  • Next Time we will explore Thomas Aquinas four
    cardinal virtues and Introduce Kants
    deontological model as a model that became

Deontological Framework
  • An action is right if and only if (iff) it is in
    accordance with a moral rule or principle.
  • This is a purely formal specification, forging a
    link between the concepts of right and action and
    moral rule, and gives one no guidance until one
    knows what a moral rule is.

Deontological Framework
  • So, the next thing the theory needs is a premise
    about that A moral rule is one that would have
    been historically
  • A. Theistic
  • 1. Given to us by God
  • 2. Is required by Natural Law (theistic
  • B. Secular (though can still be connected to
  • 1. Is laid on us by reason.
  • 2. Is required by rationality
  • 3. Would command universal acceptance
  • 4. Would be the object of choice of all
    rational beings.

Deontological Ethics
  • In sum, we should choose actions based on their
    inherent, intrinsic worth evangelical approaches
    to ethics are deontological because it
    presupposes Scripture as revelation.
  • Deontological comes from the Greek word
    deon, meaning that which is binding, in
    particular a binding duty. So, you are bound to
    your duty.

Deontological Ethics
  • For example, a deontologist might argue that a
    promise ought to be kept simply because it is
    right to keep a promise, regardless whether the
    doing so will have good or bad consequences.
  • In contrast, a utilitarian will argue that we
    should keep our promises only when keeping them
    results in better consequences than the

Deontological Ethics
  • It holds that acts are right or wrong in and of
    themselves because of the kinds of acts they are
    and not simply because of their ends or
  • - The ends do not justify the means.
  • - A good end or purpose does not justify a bad
  • - You are duty-bound binding is not dependent
    on consequences, no matter if it is painful or

Deontological Ethics
  • For example
  • 1. You are duty-bound to keep your promise to be
    faithful to your spouse, even if a more
    attractive person comes along.
  • 2. You are duty-bound to always telling the
    truth, even if it cost you a job.
  • Duty is not based on what is pleasant or
    beneficial, but rather upon the obligation itself.

(No Transcript)
Natural Law Theory
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same
    God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and
    intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
  • Galileo Galilei.

Natural Law Theory
  • 1. It is moral law presumed to be grounded in
    nature itself. A natural law is a norm for
    ethical behavior that is deemed binding on all
    humans because it coheres with the human essence
    or with the structure of the universe (grounded
    in nature itself), perhaps because it was
    legislated by God.
  • 2. Insofar as natural law can be known by reason
    alone, without special revelation, they provide
    guidance for all humans, and when followed they
    enhance the common good, but also render each
    person morally responsible to a divine judge.

What is Natural Law?
  • What do we mean by natural law? In its simplest
    definition, natural law is that unwritten law
    that is more or less the same for everyone
    everywhere. To be more exact, natural law is the
    concept of a body of moral principles that is
    common to all humankind and, as generally
    posited, is recognizable by human reason alone.
    Natural law is therefore distinguished from --
    and provides a standard for -- positive law, the
    formal legal enactments of a particular society.
    Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty

What is Natural Law?
  • Since law must always be some dictate of
    reason, natural law also will be some dictate of
    reason. In fact, it is law discovered by human
    reason. Our normal and natural grasp of the
    natural law is effected by reason, that is, by
    the thinking mind, and in this service reason is
    sometimes called conscience. Jonathan
    Dolhenty, An Overview of Natural Law Theory.

What is Natural Law?
  • Dr. Dolhenty goes on to say
  • We, in all our human acts, inevitably see them
    in their relation to the natural law, and we
    mentally pronounce upon their agreement or
    disagreement with the natural law. Such a
    pronouncement may be called a judgment of
    conscience. The norm of morality is the
    natural law as applied by conscience. Lastly, we
    can say that the natural law is the disposition
    of things as known by our human reason and to
    which we must conform ourselves if we are to
    realize our proper end or good as human beings.

Natural Law Theory
  • 3. The idea initially arose among the Jews,
    Greeks, and Romans, esp. promoted by Judaism and
    Stoics. But it came to the foreground in the
    Christian tradition as thinkers drew from both
    philosophy and the Bible to devise a theory of
    morality and politics that could be understood to
    be universally applicable.
  • Natural Rights Entitlements with which humans
    are endowed by nature or by virtue of their
    status as being human.

  • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) states, one part of
    what is politically just is natural, and the
    other part legal. What is natural has the same
    validity everywhere alike, independent of its
    seeming so or not. What is legal is what
    originally makes no difference whether it is
    done one way or another, but makes a difference
    whenever people have laid down the rule, e.g.,
    that a goat rather than two sheep should be
    sacrificed. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics,
    Book V, 133.

  • Aristotle also states in On Rhetoric, book 1,
    chap. 13
  • there is in nature a common principle of the
    just and unjust that all people in some way
    divine discern, even if they have no
    association or commerce with each other.

  • Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)
  • He described Law as the reason highest,
    implanted in Nature, which commands what ought to
    be done and forbids the opposite Laws, in Great
    Legal Philosophers, 44.
  • He said that right is based, not upon mens
    opinions, but upon Nature Ibid., 45.

Cicero goes on to say
  • What is right and true is also eternal, and
    does not begin or end with written statutes.
    From this point of view it can readily understood
    by that those who formulated wicked and unjust
    statutes for nations, thereby breaking their
    promises and agreements, put into effect anything
    but laws. It may thus be clear that in the
    very definition of the term law there inheres
    the idea and principle of choosing what is just
    and true. Therefore Law is the distinction
    between things just and unjust, made in agreement
    with that primal and most ancient of all things,
    Nature and in conformity to natures standard
    are framed those human laws which inflict
    punishment upon the wicked but defend and protect
    the good (Ibid., 51).

In his article, Natural Law in the Teachings of
the Reformers, Journal of Religion 168 (1946),
26, John T. McNeill writes
  • There is no real discontinuity between the
    teaching of the Reformers and that of their
    predecessors with respect to natural law. Not
    one of the leaders of the Reformation assails the
    principle. Instead, with the possible exception
    of Zwingli, they all are on occasion express a
    quite ungrudging respect for the moral law
    naturally implanted in the human heart and seek
    to inculcate this attitude in their readers.
    Natural law is not one of the issues on which
    they bring the Scholastics under criticism. With
    safeguards of their primary doctrines but without
    conscious resistance on their part, natural law
    enters into the framework of their thought and is
    an assumption of their political and social
    teaching. For the Reformers, as for the Fathers,
    canonists, and the Scholastics, natural law stood
    affirmed on the pages of Scripture.

English judge Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780)
  • As man depends absolutely upon his Maker for
    everything, it is necessary that he should, in
    all points conform to his Makers will. This
    will of his Maker is called the law of nature.
    This law of nature being coeval with mankind, and
    dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior
    in obligation to any other. It is binding over
    all the globe, in all countries, and at all
    times no human laws are of any validity, if
    contrary to this and such of them as are valid
    derive all of their force and all of their
    authority mediately or immediately from this
    original. William Blackstone, Introduction,
    Commentaries on the Laws of England, sec. 2,

Natural Law Theory
  • Things in nature have a nature.
  • Things are bad when they are unnatural.
  • Things are good when they fulfill their nature.
  • People are good when they fulfill their true
    nature bad humans are those who dont.
  • Moral law is the natural law the law that
    requires us to act in accordance with our nature.

Natural Law Theory
  • At its most basic, natural law theory tells us
    that actions are right just because they are
    natural, and wrong just because they are
    unnatural. And people are good to the extent
    that they fulfill their true nature, bad insofar
    as thy flout it. Russ Shafer Landau, The
    Fundamentals of Ethics, 72.

In summary
  • Natural law
  • 1. Is not made by human beings
  • 2. Is based on the structure of reality
  • 3. Is the same for all human beings and at all
  • 4. It is an unchanging rule or pattern which is
    there for human beings to discover
  • 5. It is the naturally knowable moral law
  • 6. It is a means by which people everywhere
    (individuals and as communities) can be
    enriched and rewarded.
  • Adapted from John Dolhentys article, An
    Overview of Natural Law Theory.

  • We are designed to be moral.
  • Paul R. Shockley
  • We are definitely at our most peaceful state
    when we adhere to natural law.
  • Jeremy R. Poland.

  • Witness of Deep Conscience
  • Witness of Cosmos (purpose design)
  • Witness of Human Design
  • Witness of Godward longings
  • Witness of Consequences.

  • Consider this statement from John Dolhenty
  • It is interesting to note that virtually
    everyone seems to have some knowledge of natural
    law even before such knowledge is codified and
    formalized. Even young children make an appeal to
    "fair play," demand that things be "fair and
    square," and older children and adults often
    apply the "golden rule." When doing so, they are
    spontaneously invoking the natural law. This is
    why many proponents of the natural law theory say
    it is the law which is "written upon the hearts
    of men."

  • Consider this statement from John Dolhenty
  • These are examples of what is called "connatural
    knowledge," that is, a knowledge which
  • follows on the "lived experience" of the truth
  • is the living contact of the intellect with
    reality itself
  • is not always given expression in concepts
  • may be obscure to the knower
  • is overlaid with elements from the affective or
    feeling side of man's nature.

  • John Dolhenty goes on to say
  • Now, our reflection on our own conduct gives
    rise to the explicit formulation of the precepts
    of the natural law. We as human beings put our
    "commonsense" notions of natural law under
    "critical examination." In other words, our
    natural impulses toward "fair play," justice, and
    so on are subject to a rigorous investigation and
    rationalization. And our understanding of natural
    law becomes more precise as we consider and
    codify the principles or precepts of natural law.
    The primary precept of natural law will be the
    most basic principle about human action that can
    be formulated.

What is the Nature of Man?
  • The essential nature of man is unalterable
    because it is a reflection of the unchanging
    divine essence. Rice, 52.

What is the Nature of Man?
  • Aquinas states
  • all those things to which man has a natural
    inclination are naturally apprehended by reason
    as being good, and consequently as objects of
    pursuit, and their contraries as evil, and
    objects of avoidance S.T., I, II, Q. 94, art.
    2 The basic inclinations of man are five
  • 1. To seek the good, including his highest good,
    which is eternal happiness with God.
  • 2. To preserve himself in existence.
  • 3. To preserve the species-that is, to unite
  • 4. To live in community with other men.
  • 5. To use his intellect and will-that is, to
    know the truth and to make his own decisions.
  • These inclinations are put into human nature by
    God to help man achieve his final end of eternal
    happiness. From these inclinations we apply the
    natural law by deduction Good should be done
    this actions is good this actions therefore
    should be done.

What is natural law theory?
  • There are foundational moral principles which are
    not only right for all, but at some level known
    to all.
  • In other words, there exists ethical standards
    which are the same for all, meaning they are
    right for everyone at some level, everyone knows
  • It is natural law because it is built into the
    design of human nature and woven into the fabric
    of the normal human mind it is genuine knowledge
    written on the heart.
  • Therefore, there are no moral skeptics supposed
    skeptics are playing make-believe.

Clarifying Natural Law Theory
  • Natural law is not innate for we are not born
    knowing it. With the capability of understanding
    we come to understand what is meant by murder
    and by wrong.
  • Natural law is not merely biological instinct
    though it does take into account of certain
    biological realities.
  • Natural law is not mere custom-though customs of
    almost all times and places more or less
    acknowledge it.
  • Natural law is not a law of nature in the same
    sense that gravitation is a law of nature.

Consider the following statement by Charles Rice
  • Natural law will seem mysterious if we forget
    that everything has a law built into its nature.
    The nature of a rock is such that it will sink if
    you throw it into a pond. An automobile will
    function if you feed it gasoline. If you put
    sand in the tank instead, you may be sincere in
    your belief that the car will run, but you will
    end up a pedestrian. The natural law is the
    story of how things work. If you want your body
    to function well, you ought not to treat it as if
    it were a trash compactor. Natural law is easy
    to understand when we are talking about the
    physical nature. But it applies as well to the
    moral sphere.

Consider the following statement by Charles Rice
  • Morality is governed by a law built into the
    nature of man and knowable by reason. Man can
    know, through the use of his reason, what is in
    accord with his nature and therefore good. Every
    law, however, has to have a lawgiver. Let us say
    up front that the natural law makes no ultimate
    sense without God as its authorThe natural law
    is a set of manufacturers directions written
    into our nature so that we can discover through
    reason how we ought to act. It is nothing
    other can than the light of understanding infused
    in us by God, whereby we understand what must be
    done and what must be avoided citation from
    Aquinas. The Ten Commandments, and other
    prescriptions of the divine law, specify some
    applications of that natural law.
  • Charles Rice, 50 Questions on the Natural Law,
    rev. ed., 30-31.

Consider the following statement by Charles Rice
  • Morality is governed by a law built into the
    nature of man and knowable by reason. Man can
    know, through the use of his reason, what is in
    accord with his nature and therefore good. Every
    law, however, has to have a lawgiver. Let us say
    up front that the natural law makes no ultimate
    sense without God as its authorThe natural law
    is a set of manufacturers directions written
    into our nature so that we can discover through
    reason how we ought to act. It is nothing
    other than the light of understanding infused in
    us by God, whereby we understand what must be
    done and what must be avoided citation from
    Aquinas. The Ten Commandments, and other
    prescriptions of the divine law, specify some
    applications of that natural law.
  • Charles Rice, 50 Questions on the Natural Law,
    rev. ed., 30-31.

Clarification What Natural Law Does Not Do
  • The natural law provides a guide through which
    we can safely and rightly choose to love by God
    by acting in accord with our nature and by
    helping others to do the same. We can know the
    requirements of the natural law through reason
    unaided by explicit revelation. But, because of
    the weakness and disorder caused in our nature by
    original sin, we are likely to make mistakes So
    God has provided revelation to enable to us know
    with certainty how we ought to act.the natural
    law and revelation compliment each other (Ibid.,

Clarification What Natural Law Does Not Do
  • There is not a natural morality and a
    supernatural morality but only one salvific
    moralityof which natural law morally is
    existentially a part. Joseph F. Costanzo,
    S.J., The Historical Credibility of Hans Kung,
  • Consider this quote by Pascal

But isnt it interesting that we care little so
little about the nature of our soul
  • The immortality of the soul is something of
    such vital importance to us, affecting us so
    deeply, that one must have lost all feeling not
    to care about knowing the facts of the matter.
    All our actions and thoughts must follow such
    different paths, according to whether there is
    hope of eternal blessing or not, that the only
    possible way of acting with sense and judgment is
    to decide our course in the light of this point,
    which ought to be our ultimate objective.
    Pascals Pensees, 427/194.

Clarification What Natural Law Does Not Do
  • The natural law provides an objective standard
    of right and wrong. But it is essential to
    distinguish the objective wrongness of an act
    from the subjective culpability, if any, of the
    person who does it. Jeffrey Dahmer committed
    objective wrong acts when he lured fifteen men to
    his Milwaukee apartment and murdered them. The
    sole question in is trial, however, was whether
    he was sane and therefore culpable. The jury
    decided that he was sane. John Hinkley, however,
    shot President Ronald Reagan, and three others on
    March 30, 1981, and was found not guilty by
    reason of insanity he was committed to a mental
    hospital (Rice, 32).

Clarification What Natural Law Does Not Do
  • Rice continues
  • To be morally culpable for committing a wrong,
    one must know it is wrong and yet choose to do
    it. The abortionist, for example, performs
    actions that objectively violate the natural law
    and the divine law. But his subjective
    culpability may be diminished or perhaps even
    eliminated (or increased) by circumstances. In
    general, the culpability is not ours to judge.
    The presence of absence of subjective
    culpability, however, cannot change the objective
    rightness or wrongness of the act the act
    either is or not in keeping with the
    Manufacturers directions written in our nature
    (Ibid., 33).

Clarification What Natural Law Does Not Do
  • The distinction between yes and no, true and
    false, good and evil, cannot be given up unless
    men want to give up being human.
  • Walter Kasper, Transcending All Understanding
    The Meaning of Christian Faith Today, 41.

Aquinas 4 Kinds of Law
  • Aquinas defines law in general as an ordinance
    of reason for the common good, made by him who
    has care of the community, and promulgated.
  • The four kinds of law are
  • The Eternal Law
  • The Natural Law
  • The Human Law
  • The Divine Law.

The Eternal Law
  • It is Gods plan for the world.
  • Flowing from God who is eternal and timeless,
    there is a universal rational orderliness that
    is characteristic of the whole universe.
  • The whole community of the universe is governed
    by God, the ruler of the Universe.
  • St. Augustine described it as the reason or the
    will of God, who commands us to respect the
    natural order and forbids us to disturb it.

The Natural Law
  • All things partake somewhat of the eternal law.
  • The light of natural reason, whereby we
    discern what is good and what is evil, which is
    the function of the natural law, is nothing else
    than an imprint on us of the Divine Light. It is
    therefore evident that the natural law is nothing
    else than the rational creatures participation
    of the Divine Law. Aquinas, S.T. I, II, Q.
    91, art 2.
  • The first, self-evident precept of the natural
    law is that good is to be done and pursued, and
    evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the
    natural law are based on this self-evident law.

The Human Law
  • Since the eternal law is the plan of government
    in the Chief Governor, all the plans of
    government, in the inferior governors must be
    derived from the eternal law.

The Divine Law
  • The Scriptures. Besides the natural and human
    it was necessary for the directing of human
    conduct to have Divine Law The Old and New
  • Thus, the divine law compliments the natural

Divine Law Compliments Natural Human law.
  • It is necessary for man to accept by faith not
    only things which are above reason, but also
    those which can be known by reason and this for
    three motives. First, in order that man may
    arrive more quickly at the knowledge of Divine
    truth. Second,... In order that the knowledge of
    God may be more general. For many are unable to
    make progress in the study of science, either
    through dullness of mind, or through having a
    number of occupations and temporal needs, or even
    through laziness in learning, all of whom would
    be altogether deprived of the knowledge of God,
    unless Divine things were brought to their
    knowledge under the guise of faith.
  • He goes on to say

Divine Law Compliments Natural Human law.
  • The third reason is for the sake of certitude.
    For human reason is very deficient in things
    concerning God. A sign of this is that
    philosophers in their researches, by natural
    investigation, into human affairs, have fallen
    into many errors, and have disagreed among
    themselves. And consequently, in order that mean
    might have knowledge of God, free of doubt and
    uncertainty, it was necessary for divine matters
    to be delivered to them by way of faith, being
    told to them, as it is were, by God Himself Who
    cannot lie S.T., II, II, Q. 1, art. 4.

Consider the following from Aquinas
  • As to certain most general precepts that are
    known to all, the natural law, in the abstract,
    can nowise be blotted out from mens hearts.
    However, the natural law is blotted out in the
    case of a particular action, in so far as reason
    is hindered from applying the general principle
    to a particular point of practice, on account of
    concupiscence or some other passion. But as to
    the other, i.e., the secondary precepts, the
    natural law can be blotted out from the human
    heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in
    speculative matters errors occur in respect of
    necessary conclusions or by vicious customs and
    corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and
    even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rom.
    i), were not esteemed sinful. S.T., I, II, Q.
    94, art. 6.

Consider the following from Rice
  • A person can so dull his conscience with
    repeated sin that he will no longer acknowledge
    that what he is doing is wrong. As Saint Thomas
    said, Through sin, the reason is obscured,
    especially in practical matters, the will
    hardened to evil, good actions become more
    difficult, and concupiscence yearning of the
    soul for the good more impetuous.

  • Aquinas System of Laws
  • The integration of natural and human laws with
    the eternal and divine laws.
  • Enlightenment
  • Operates entirely on the basis of human law-even
    if the affirm natural law.
  • Secular and humanistic, without reliance on God
    and His revelation, divorcing man from Gods
    precepts, leaves man entirely on his own.
  • Yet, there is angst, because no man can actually
    free himself from God and from himself as He is
    designed by God. Can Man Really Live Apart from

Natural Law Theory
  • The conscience is the pedagogue to the soul
  • Judaism, Origen, and Aquinas say that all ten of
    the Commandments (the Decalogue) are in some
    sense self-evident. Modern Christian scholars
    such as J. Budziszewski defend this view.

  • We know that we are to pursue good and avoid evil
    because natural law is written on the heart
    (prescriptive, not descriptive).
  • We have the ability to tell right from wrong.
  • We can violate natural law, but when we do, we
    personally suffer (e.g., guilt).

Next Time
  • More on Natural Law
  • Aquinas four cardinal virtues
  • Introduction to Kants Categorical Imperative.
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