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Moral Life

Natural Law

J. Wallace

on 19 September 2013

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Transcript of Moral Life

the car analogy
laws all around
When we look around at the world, we see that there are laws everywhere.
Person & Natural Law
Laws tell us about how things work, both in the physical order, and in the moral order.
natural law
We use the phrase "natural law" in reference to those laws which are built into human nature, and knowable by reason, that show people how they ought to act.
Positivism is the legal theory that "law is law." In other words, it holds that laws are valid and just to the extent that they are successfully enforced.
We can see the differences between these approaches when we place them side-by-side.
All human persons have a nature. Since nature expresses God's eternal designs, it is essentially unchangeable.
Moral Life
Natural Tendencies
Using these two ways of knowing, we can identify at least five natural tendencies.
1. To seek the good (including the highest Good).
2. To preserve one's own existence.
3. To use intellect and will (knowing truth and
exercising freedom).
4. To preserve one's species (procreation).
5. To live in community.
A Catholic Dogma?
Aquinas on Law
The natural law is a manifestation, or expression of the eternal law. It may be helpful to think of the eternal law as the design, and the natural law as the reality.
Church & State
Natural Law vs. Positivism
Natural Law &
Natural Law & Human Law
Aquinas on Law
Modern Law
The modern-day conception of law traces its origin to the Enlightenment. It rejects objective truth. It also endorses both radical individualism and positivism.
For St. Thomas Aquinas, a "law" is "an ordinance of reason for the common good made by him who has care of the community, and pro-mulgated."
How should natural law relate to human law? Human laws should be used to promote the common good and help human beings attain their highest end.
Natural law supports human law in two, fundamental ways. It is both constructive, and protective.
The Relationship
It might be helpful to think of the relationship between Church and State in the following way:
The Relationship Continued
Natural law provides a transcendent set of unchanging principles by which we can legislate a morality for the common good without intermingling Church and State.
Some people mistakenly think that the idea of the natural law was invented by the Catholic Church. It wasn't.
Martin Luther
King Jr.
"These laws are not for now or for yesterday, they are alive forever . . ."
"There is in nature a common principle of the just and the unjust that all people in some way divine (discern)."
"No tribunal, no codes, no systems can repeal or impair this law of God, for by His eternal laws it is inherent in the nature of things."
"A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God."
Natural Law
- The essence of law is reason
- Humans are social by nature
- Norms are objective
- Transcends the laws by which
society is governed
- The essence of law is will
- Humans can be sociable
- Norms are relative
- Encompasses the laws by which
society is governed
St. Thomas divides law into four categories.
Eternal Law
Divine Law
Human Law
Natural Law
The rule of reason implanted in human nature by God whereby people can discern how to act.
The particular laws derived from the natural law that govern particular matters (the laws of the State).
The revealed laws of God as taught in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and faithfully interpreted by the Magisterium.
The Divine intellect's conception of things; the rational orderliness of the whole universe.
Human Law
The natural law is constructive in that it provides a guide for formulating the laws that will promote the common good.
The natural law is protective in that it provides a safeguard against the creation of unjust laws.
legislating morality?
It is sometimes argued that a government cannot legislate morality. In reality, all law legislates a morality of one kind or another. The real question is: which morality will we legislate?
legislating natural law
Legislating natural law would not violate the separation of Church and State because natural law exists for the common good. It doesn't pro-
mote every virtue or
prohibit every vice.
There is a legitimate separation between Church and State.
Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22:21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere. The State may not impose religion, yet it must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions. For her part, the Church, as the social expression of Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize. The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.
~ Pope Benedict XVI
between Church & State
The goal of politics is the just ordering of society. But what is justice? This is a deeper question that can only be answered using practical reason. However, reason has to be purified. This is where faith comes in, and it is precisely where Church and State meet.
The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church.
~ Pope Benedict XVI
To give a person what is owed to him or her. It is arrived at using reason (State) purified by faith (Church).
Knowing Natural Law
At this point, one may ask, "How do we come to know the natural law?" There are two, complimentary ways: derivationist and inclinationist.
One way of knowing the precepts of the natural law is by deriving them from a metaphysical study of human nature. A close look at what a person can potentially and actually be can reveal what is objectively good for him or her.
Another way of knowing the precepts of the natural law is by considering the various ends towards which human persons are inclined. These ends reveal various goods that should be pursued.
Using both derivationism, and inclinationism, what are some precepts (dos and don'ts) of the natural law that you can discern with regard to marriage? You need to write at least one page about your findings.
thought experiment
Imagine the United States unanimously passed a law limiting families to only one child. It was passed 435 to 0 in the House, signed into law by the President, and upheld by all 9 members of the Supreme Court.
1. Would you object to a law such as this?
2. On what grounds might you object?
3. How could you convince the government
that it's made a mistake?
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