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Thomas Aquinas/Natural Law Theory

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Sarah Southwell

on 18 May 2015

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Transcript of Thomas Aquinas/Natural Law Theory

Thomas Aquinas/Natural Law Theory
St Thomas Aquinas was a 13th century philosopher and Christian priest. He believed in theology and wrote about it in his book: the Summa Theologica. His starting point was that God was the divine command and he created morals. His aim was to make universal laws we can all live by so that we can live a fulfilling life that God wants us to live. This is natural law theory. He says we should use the power of reason to discover natural law and we don't simply follow God or our feelings.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and he believed that every creature has a telos (purpose) that we have to fulfill, as it fulfills our good. He says we should our telos to work out how to act and he acknowledges this as the final cause.

Cicero was a Roman writer and politician that believed that true law is right reason in agreement with nature and famously said: 'there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens'.

Martin Luther and John Calvin both strongly disagree with Aristotle as they believe the human race is horrible that we should strictly listen to God and do what he says (the Ten Commandments).
Other Key People

They both believe that we have telos and we should base them on how should act. They believe that money and fame cannot be the ultimate goal for humans and neither can pleasure. But they disagree about the important part of the telos.

Aristotle believes that the most important part of the telos is pondering the universe but only a minority can do this.

Thomas Aquinas believes that the most important part of the telos is having a relationship with God and live how he wanted us to live. Possibly everyone can do this.

Differences between Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas
'Good is that which all things seek after'.

Hence this is the first precept of law, that 'good is to be done and pursed, and evil is to be avoided'. All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of natural law as something to be done or avoided.

In other words good is what we all seek and we avoid evil, we try and get pleasure and avoid pain.
The First Precept
Real Goods: things that are good because they are good, e.g helping someone up after they fall over.

Apparent Goods: things that give us a timed pleasure, e.g drugs or hurting people.
Real and Apparent Goods
The Primary Precepts
Aquinas says that things are wrong all the time e.g murder and lying. But sometimes there are situations with lying in which it could be the best option for the best outcome. For example if a murderer was about to murder your friend and he asked you where they were, it would be better to lie about your friends whereabouts otherwise they could be killed. But Aquinas says it is wrong all the time: the end does not justify the means. Therefore both would Bentham and Fletcher disagree with him.
The Secondary Precepts
The double effect is when Aquinas says it is okay to do good things and achieve bad consequences as long as the intention wasn't the bad consequence. For example if a doctor gave his patient morphine to stop their pain but it also has the side effect of early death it would be okay as the intention wasn't to make his life shorter. It has to not be intentional. But a problem with this is that you can lie about what the purpose is and people can get away with things are people can be frowned upon depending on their reasoning, e.g abortion and what it is for.
The Double Effect
The primary precepts are teleological, they are about achieving a goal, a bit like Bentham. The secondary precepts are deontological as they are concerned about the action and that some things are just wrong all the time e.g lying, like Kant. There is a mix between teleology and deontology.
Teleological or deontological?
Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Theory
Natural Law Theory is theistic and absolutist.
When real goods are found it will allow us to live the way God planned for us.
rotect and preserve human life.
eproduce and
ducate the young.
now God and live in Society.
Martin Luther and John Calvin disagree as they say that we should be focused on the Ten Commandments and believe we shouldn't be focusing on the final cause. But Aquinas disagrees and says we can use human reason to clarify God's final cause and he doesn't believe philosophy cannot replace the Bible.
1) The good that we share with all substances.
2)The good that we share with animals.
3)The good is unique to humans.
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