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• Natural Law is a broad and often misapplied term tossed around various
schools of philosophy, science, history, theology, and law.

• Law, in its generic sense, is a body of rules of action or conduct

prescribed by controlling authority, and having binding legal force. That
which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or
legal consequences is a law (Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, p. 884).
• Jurisprudence is the philosophy of law and how the law developed.

• The Greeks -- Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle

emphasized the distinction between "nature" (physis,
φúσις) and "law," "custom," or "convention" (nomos,
νóμος). What the law commanded varied from place
to place, but what was "by nature" should be the
same everywhere. Aristotle (BC 384—322) is
considered by many to be the father of “natural law.”
In Rhetoric, he argues that aside from “particular”
laws that each people has set up for itself, there is a
“common law” or “higher law” that is according to
nature (Rhetoric1373b2–8).
(1224-1274 )
• Aquinas came from a noble family from Naples.
• He joined the Dominican order against his family’s
• Aquinas studied with Albert the Great in Paris and
participated in the Aristotelian revival of the Middle
• He was canonized and became a saint in 1323.
Resisting the temptation of a prostitute and the
discovery of Herring at night were the miracles used to
justify his sainthood.
• Aquinas’s extensive corpus of scholarship is perhaps a
greater miracle than those mentioned above.
• He stands at the top of the group of
thinkers known as Scholastics • At age 48 • Aquinas was dubbed “the dumb ox”
he suddenly stopped writing • Maybe he by his fellow students, for being large
suffered a brain hemorrhage • Maybe he and quiet. He was apparently quiet
had a vision that academic learning was because he was busy thinking; he
not the most important thing • “All that I became the Catholic church’s top
have written seems like straw to me,” he theologian, a title he still holds today,
told a friend • A year later, he died on without dispute.
the road to a church council

• Known as the greatest Christian medieval

He produced over ninety works in a little over
theologian-philosopher, he single-handedly
two decades
stemmed the tide of Islamic Aristotelianism into
Europe •  Summa Theologica
His friends playfully called him “the dumb Summa Contra Gentiles
ox” • The Ways of God: For Meditation and
• It is an absolutist and deontological approach to ethics, prescribing fixed moral
rules and real duties.
• The theory can be traced back to ancient ideas of natural morality: the view that
humans have an inherent sense of right and wrong. Aristotle: “the natural is that
which everywhere is equally valid”.
• The Stoic philosophers emphasised the importance of rationality in the working of
the world. Cicero: “True law is right reason in agreement with nature”.
• However, it is best known as a Christian system of ethics. The Bible hints at such
ideas; St Paul argues that some morals are known from nature (Romans 1).
• Aquinas adopted Aristotle’s view that all things have a purpose.
• Aquinas says you can find that purpose by looking at the natural world and the
• The bible shows the purpose for God creating man.
• Humans are free but not lawless. The law of nature restricts us in some ways and
Natural Law restricts us in others. We are able to go against natural law,
although this would be a conscious choice, but not the laws of nature.

• God designed everything to serve a purpose.

• We can find this purpose through observation of the natural world and the
• Humanity was given the ability to reason and the freedom to choose what is
right (that which fulfils God’s purpose for them)
• Natural Law is the rational understanding and following of God’s final purpose.

• In his book, the Summa Theologica, Aquinas says there is a natural law
which is:
• Accessible through the natural order
• Universal
• Unchanging
• For all time
• Relevant to all circumstances
• Given by God

• Everyone knows the natural law but only theists realise it affects
life after death.

• The idea of natural law is that God gave us a purpose. Aquinas said our
purpose as humans is to do the following:
• Live
• Reproduce
• Learn
• Worship God
• Order Society
• The first is the most obvious and is instinctive. Without this the others cannot be
• These are rules which cause people to fulfil the primary purposes. There are
two types:
• Everything which we logically need to do to live in accordance with the
primary principles.
• Respect parents
• Do not murder
These are absolute values (which maintain moral order)
• Things which reason alone cannot deduce from nature. Eg. Monogamy is
good for social order but polygamy works in some societies.
Preservation of life

Reproduction No Contraception
Permit IVF and Surrogacy

Do not steal
Order in Society
Build more homes

Hold school assemblies

Worship God Set one day a week aside
for worship -eg Sunday.

Free education for children

Learning and university students
Make schooling compulsory
• For example, suicide might be considered
wrong because it breaks the first precept of
• Another example: the modern Roman Catholic
Church has prohibited contraception on the
grounds that it breaks the precept of
reproduction. Natural Moral Law is still in use in
the world today.

• For something to be “good” it fulfils its purpose

• Natural Law gives man the opportunity to achieve this.
• Paul said:
• “Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
• Aquinas conceded that we live in a fallen world and will break natural law
but the aim of man is to try to accomplish it, despite the limitations.

• Natural Law is designed to make sense when applied to all humanity and so
many of the rules we get from it are designed to suit the community.
• It can be good to take a personal risk to benefit society.
• Theft is wrong because it goes against the community
• Drunkenness is wrong because it deprives you of your reason.
• It is made known to people through supernatural revelation.

• The discriminating norm

• Human nature itself
• The binding or obligatory norm
• The divine authority of God which forces people to obey his
• The Manifesting norm
• Reason which determines the moral quality of actions tested by
the discriminating norm.
Double effect refers to situations where there is an
intended outcome and another significant but
unintentional outcome.
According to Natural Law it is our intentions that are
important, not the consequences of our actions. Double
effect would not allow you to perform an action where an
unintended outcome had devastating effects.
Four conditions must be met…
1. We do not wish the evil effects and make all
reasonable efforts to avoid them
2. The immediate effect in itself should be good
3. The evil is not made a means to obtain the good
4. The good effect should be as important,
proportionately at least, as the evil effect.