Natural Law (OCR exam board)
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Natural Law (OCR exam board)
Natural LawNatural Law
Links to AristotleLinks to Aristotle
Father of formal logic.
Everything in the natural
world has a purpose
Human telos to reach
Reason is the way to work
out this purpose.
Aquinas inspired by
Aristotle's ideas of purpose
Human purpose is to
become God like =
This is done by using
reason ‘gift from god.’
Reason can be used to find
out what God wants
through the workings of
Combine science (of
Aristotle) and Faith
Key pointsKey points
Any action that is not performed with intention of achieving final cause = morally wrong.
Action itself is important, not the consequences = Deontological.
Aquinas wanted to avoid the Divine Command Theory (wanted a universal theory open to
everyone) = Natural Law. This argues that:
1. Nature decides what is right and wrong
2. God made nature but it works on its own
1. Reason given by God as a gift
2. Reason = works out purpose or telos.
3. Reason = helps us to work out good from bad
(bad does not reach telos)
God made it possible for all human beings to achieve their ultimate purpose = reason alone, no
But using reason + the word of God (combining Natural Law with Divine law) = easier to
Human Law: our everyday rules ‘Don't walk on
Natural Law: It directs our conscience
and if applied with reason to a
situation will lead to the right action.
Divine Law: Bible ‘Word of
God.’ Church transmits
Divine Law to people.
glimpse reflections of it
code’ To work out ‘telos/ purpose’To work out ‘telos/ purpose’
of an action to see ifof an action to see if
ethically good =ethically good = casuistry.casuistry.
““Real GoodsReal Goods” trying to fit” trying to fit
with perfection.with perfection.
““Apparent GoodsApparent Goods””
something that seems goodsomething that seems good
but does not fit the perfectbut does not fit the perfect
human ideal.human ideal.
““Exterior actsExterior acts” –” – physicalphysical
““Interior actsInterior acts” –” –
Key words:Key words:
Primary PreceptsPrimary Precepts
There are laws orThere are laws or PreceptsPrecepts built into naturebuilt into nature
These precepts can be understood using reason.These precepts can be understood using reason.
In order for people to be able to concentrate on NaturalIn order for people to be able to concentrate on Natural
Law, you need to live in a civilised society were you areLaw, you need to live in a civilised society were you are
free to survive and flourishfree to survive and flourish
This lead to Five Primary Precepts: (why called Primary?)This lead to Five Primary Precepts: (why called Primary?)
1.1. Preservation of innocent lifePreservation of innocent life (what does each mean? i.e all life is(what does each mean? i.e all life is
sacred and must be protected)sacred and must be protected)
4.4. Ordered societyOrdered society
5.5. Worship GodWorship God
Secondary PreceptsSecondary Precepts
Each primary precept can be developed intoEach primary precept can be developed into
secondary precepts which aresecondary precepts which are practicalpractical humanhuman
rules thatrules that govern our daily behaviourgovern our daily behaviour..
Whilst primary precepts are set in stoneWhilst primary precepts are set in stone
secondary precepts vary from the law of the landsecondary precepts vary from the law of the land
to accepted codes of behaviour within families.to accepted codes of behaviour within families.
This makes the secondary preceptsThis makes the secondary precepts realisticrealistic andand
Exam answer structureExam answer structure
Outline the 5
no. 1 and 2 in
correct order and
1. Explain why each
Primary Precept is
2.Why have these
been selected by
Link every Primary
Precept to a secondary
Make clear that while
PP are set in stone
that secondary are
flexible to the specific
1. What do the
2. What do they
3. What is the
What are the PP?
Why each PP so important?
Link each PP to SP
Doctrine of Double EffectDoctrine of Double Effect
Answer is yesAnswer is yes
Answer is noAnswer is no
Is the action/ intention good?Is the action/ intention good?
Is there a possible bad outcome?Is there a possible bad outcome?
Is the outcome intended?Is the outcome intended?
Can the outcome be avoided?Can the outcome be avoided?
= DoDE is met = not morally responsible for outcome
Always wrong to do bad intentionally to bring about good (bad to do good = wrong)
BUT sometimes good actions bring about bad consequences
However the bad is ONLY unintended side effects.
Bad consequences foreseen but not intended.
Final cause or ultimate purpose of sex is =Final cause or ultimate purpose of sex is =
““The Church ... in urging men to the observance of the precepts ofThe Church ... in urging men to the observance of the precepts of
the natural law ....teaches as absolutely required that any usethe natural law ....teaches as absolutely required that any use
whatsoever of marriage must retain its natural potential towhatsoever of marriage must retain its natural potential to
procreate human life.” Pope Paul VIprocreate human life.” Pope Paul VI
Any attempt to interfere with the telos of sex is morally wrong=Any attempt to interfere with the telos of sex is morally wrong=
Intercourse between same sex personsIntercourse between same sex persons
Intercourse with a person too young for child-bearingIntercourse with a person too young for child-bearing
All contraceptionAll contraception
Anything ‘unnatural’ = artificially engineered they interfere inAnything ‘unnatural’ = artificially engineered they interfere in
the process of conception.the process of conception.
Based on reason – so technically open to anyone who can reason.Based on reason – so technically open to anyone who can reason.
Nature: universally experiencedNature: universally experienced
Links in with science and purposeLinks in with science and purpose
Christian version (Thomas Aquinas) unites faith with reasonChristian version (Thomas Aquinas) unites faith with reason
Strengths of Primary Precepts:Strengths of Primary Precepts:
Absolute universal rules– applies same principle to everyone equallyAbsolute universal rules– applies same principle to everyone equally
Easy to understand – should be accessible to everyoneEasy to understand – should be accessible to everyone
Should be simple to find answers to ethical dilemmas as based on somethingShould be simple to find answers to ethical dilemmas as based on something
more concrete than personal opinion.more concrete than personal opinion.
Timeless – still relevant todayTimeless – still relevant today
Strengths of Secondary Precepts:Strengths of Secondary Precepts:
Allows for flexibilityAllows for flexibility
Applies to modern day examplesApplies to modern day examples
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?
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?
Doctrine of Double Effect could make things complicated – how do
you weigh up good and bad effects – could come down to personal
Karl Barth – theologian – reason is fallible – untrustworthy- should
rely on Divine revelation in scripture for right and wrong.
Kai Nielsen –Human nature alters over cultural relativism and moral
standards in society.
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