Whizz Through PowerPoint: Natural Law
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Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Whizz Through PowerPoint: Natural Law
Key Words to be happy with
synderesis rule - “do good and avoid evil” or “the
knowledge of first principles” (= primary precepts)
eudaimonia - the goal of flourishing
a posteriori – knowledge from experience
a priori - knowledge without needing experience
primary precepts – principles discovered by observing
universal natural inclinations and known a priori by
secondary precepts – applications of primary precepts
phronesis – practical wisdom learnt by experience
deontological – duty based ethics
Synderesis (our natural rational capacity to do good
and avoid evil)
If we can’t observe rational people doing good, there
can be no basis for a natural (observable) view of
goodness. This is a naturalistic ethical theory.
But Evangelical Christians traditionally follow Calvin
(against natural law) that “all have sinned and fall
short of God’s glory” (Romans 3.23), so we observe
people being selfish, not being good.
Aristotle’s view is teleological
The “good is what most people pursue”.
People pursue natural ends or purposes (telos)
So Aquinas, following Aristotle, argues that these
natural inclinations (purposes) give us the primary
Aquinas develops Aristotle
Aquinas (1225-1274) develops this teleological
worldview to reconcile it with a biblical account.
Secondary precepts are rules that are rational
applications of five primary precepts observed as the
good ends that people pursue.
Ultimate end or telos is to be with God and like God.
“The natural law is a sharing, by rational creatures, in
the eternal law of God”. Anthony Kenny
Roman Catholic church teaches “there are acts which
in themselves, independent of circumstances, are
always seriously wrong by nature of their object”
(Veritatis Splendor papal encyclical 1993)
An ultimate aim
Eudaimonia – the supreme good is personal
flourishing and flourishing of society
Aquinas argues that we cannot achieve this without
developing virtues like prudence (Greek phronesis or
Aquinas adapts Aristotle for a Christian ethic: so the
eternal law in God’s mind is revealed in divine law
(the Bible) which agrees with natural law (revealed in
nature) and human law (if we’re wise and pass moral
laws). So the ultimate end is conforming to God.
The primary precepts
The five primary precepts spell POWER
1. Preserve life
3. Worship God
The secondary precepts
Do not abort, do not kill
Obey the law, respect others
Go to church and pray
Pursue education and truth
Don’t use contraception
BUT Aquinas makes clear that secondary precepts
aren’t absolute; they may change as circumstances
morality is a universal, clear set of precepts
at its heart is a common view of what makes people
it is reasonable (based on what reasonable people do)
the applications by the Catholic Church seem rigid
is there a common human nature (eg gays)?
“reason” is always culturally determined eg what is
reasonable in Victorian times v. today