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Explain the theory of natural law?

Natural law states that there is a natural order to our world that should be followed. It states that this natural order is determined by some supernatural power, it is an absolute theory of ethics that is not routed in our sense of duty or in an externally imposed law but is in our human nature. The theory of natural law was first outlined by Aristotle and was later built on by Aquinas in his book the summa theological in which he outlined natural law as being universal, unchanging and given by God. He said that natural law is not just about doing what comes naturally but that natural law is based on nature interpreted by human reason but also that it is not a fixed law and there is some flexibility in its application. Thomas Aquinas linked the idea of a natural law with Aristotles view that people like other objects have specific nature, purpose and function. The term natural law can be used simply to refer to the laws of nature and as such the result of observing what occurs in nature. Natural law is traditionally represented as being based on the religious ideas of God as creator of everything. It states that God created everything with a particular purpose and end in mind and people are therefore required to understand that end goal and act accordingly if they are to do and act right. Natural law has the advantage that once the final cause is established it can be applied to all people at all times, for example the natural law theory of sex takes no account of lifestyle but focus on an egg and sperm not society. It is based around a very clear cut theory in that we should not guess what the results of an action might be in terms of happiness it is simply based on an examination of what is natural. Natural law supports other views of moral behavior such as Thomas Aquinas presentation of the four cardinal virtues, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance as fundamental qualities of the moral life, eg. Justice is outlined as selfcontrol, abstention, and moderation; tempering the appetition. These cardinal virtues appose the seven capital vices, which encourage people to deviate from Gods path. The virtues allow human beings to fulfill there potential as intended by God whereas the seven sins are considered to be animal instincts. Aquinas thought that God had instilled in all humans the inclinations to behave in a certain way which would lead us to the highest good and by using our reason we can discover the precepts which express Gods natural law built into us. The most fundamental inclination given by God was to act in such a way as to achieve good and avoid evil. He stated that we have deviated from the path of true goodness and now believe in an

apparent good something we think is good but in reality does not fit the perfect human ideal. As such he saw natural law not so much as a theory or a way of making moral decisions but rather a way of stressing that our nature is knowable and we need to use our reason to know it and understand it. Aquinas saw the primary precepts of natural law as always true and applying to everyone at all times without exception, as they are direct reflections of Gods eternal law. These precepts are the preservation of life, reproduction, the nature and education of the young, living in a peaceful society and to worship God. He believed that we should never take a life no matter what even if it saves anothers life, as we cannot know the outcome for certain and as such shouldnt act upon it. Natural law is not the best approach to euthanasia discuss? Acting in keeping with essential nature is right and going against it is wrong. To achieve the final purpose natural law sets out the primary precepts as always true and applying to everyone at all times. The first of these is the preservation of life, human life is recognized as being unique and that each person has a duty to live there life in accordance to Gods plans. As a secondary precept therefore natural law prohibits suicide or voluntary euthanasia as this rejects Gods final purpose and denies the natural instinct to live. However Maguire argues that through the principle of no direct killing of innocent life is true most of the time, in certain situations the principle would have to give way to the principle of achieving a good death. He does agree however that making a judgment between conflicting values is not easy and may be mistaken. He concludes that voluntary euthanasia may sometimes be a good moral choice. When looking a the double doctrine effect and how, though natural law forbids any act whose direct effect is death, it is possible to allow actions such as relief from pain whose indirect effect may be death. There is no moral problem for natural law when death is a side effect. The main case for euthanasia rests on the claim that the quality of life does not justify life being allowed to continue and that it is merciful and according to the patients own wishes that death be assisted. Natural law on the other hand maintains life as an absolute value which no other good can outweigh it. By Jamie Broadhurst