A history of the theory of natural law a moral philosophy theory

References and Further Reading 1. Two Kinds of Natural Law Theory At the outset, it is important to distinguish two kinds of theory that go by the name of natural law.

A history of the theory of natural law a moral philosophy theory

Some writers use the term with such a broad meaning that any moral theory that is a version of moral realism — that is, any moral theory that holds that some positive moral claims are literally true for this conception of moral realism, see Sayre-McCord — counts as a natural law view.

Some use it so narrowly that no moral theory that is not grounded in a very specific form of Aristotelian teleology could count as a natural law view. But there is a better way of proceeding, one that takes as its starting point the central role that the moral theorizing of Thomas Aquinas plays in the natural law tradition.

If any moral theory is a theory of natural law, it is Aquinas's. Every introductory ethics anthology that includes material on natural law theory includes material by or about Aquinas; every encyclopedia article on natural law thought refers to Aquinas.

It would seem sensible, then, to take Aquinas's natural law theory as the central case of a natural law position: There remain, no doubt, questions about how we determine what are to count as the key features of Aquinas's position.

But we may take as the key features those theses about natural law that structure his overall moral view and which provide the basis for other theses about the natural law that he affirms.

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For Aquinas, there are two key features of the natural law, features the acknowledgment of which structures his discussion of the natural law at Question 94 of the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae. The first is that, when we focus on God's role as the giver of the natural law, the natural law is just one aspect of divine providence; and so the theory of natural law is from that perspective just one part among others of the theory of divine providence.

The second is that, when we focus on the human's role as recipient of the natural law, the natural law constitutes the principles of practical rationality, those principles by which human action is to be judged as reasonable or unreasonable; and so the theory of natural law is from that perspective the preeminent part of the theory of practical rationality.

The fundamental thesis affirmed here by Aquinas is that the natural law is a participation in the eternal law ST IaIIae 91, 2. The precepts of the natural law are binding by nature: This is so because these precepts direct us toward the good as such and various particular goods ST IaIIae 94, 2.

The good and goods provide reasons for us rational beings to act, to pursue the good and these particular goods.

A history of the theory of natural law a moral philosophy theory

As good is what is perfective of us given the natures that we have ST Ia 5, 1the good and these various goods have their status as such naturally. It is sufficient for certain things to be good that we have the natures that we have; it is in virtue of our common human nature that the good for us is what it is.

The precepts of the natural law are also knowable by nature. This knowledge is exhibited in our intrinsic directedness toward the various goods that the natural law enjoins us to pursue, and we can make this implicit awareness explicit and propositional through reflection on practice.

Aquinas takes it that there is a core of practical knowledge that all human beings have, even if the implications of that knowledge can be hard to work out or the efficacy of that knowledge can be thwarted by strong emotion or evil dispositions ST IaIIae 94, 6.

A history of the theory of natural law a moral philosophy theory

If Aquinas's view is paradigmatic of the natural law position, and these two theses — that from the God's-eye point of view, it is law through its place in the scheme of divine providence, and from the human's-eye point of view, it constitutes a set of naturally binding and knowable precepts of practical reason — are the basic features of the natural law as Aquinas understands it, then it follows that paradigmatic natural law theory is incompatible with several views in metaphysics and moral philosophy.

On the side of metaphysics, it is clear that the natural law view is incompatible with atheism: It is also clear that the paradigmatic natural law view rules out a deism on which there is a divine being but that divine being has no interest in human matters.

Nor can one be an agnostic while affirming the paradigmatic natural law view: On the side of moral philosophy, it is clear that the natural law view is incompatible with a nihilism about value, that is, the rejection of the existence of values.

It is also incompatible with relativist and conventionalist views, on which the status of value is entirely relative to one's community or determined entirely by convention.

It is also incompatible with a wholesale skepticism about value, for the natural law view commits one to holding that certain claims about the good are in fact knowable, indeed, knowable by all.Natural law: Natural law, in philosophy, a system of right or justice held to be common to all humans and derived from nature rather than from the rules of society, or positive law.

There have been several disagreements over the meaning of natural law and its relation to positive law. Aristotle (– bce). This fact helps elucidate an earlier observation that the theory of natural law was devised by autonomous man to facilitate his rebellion against God and His law-word; natural law theory is part of man’s suppression of the truth (Rom.

). Intended to be part of a comprehensive theory of practical reasons that are fit to direct us to the common good of each of our communities and its members, any natural law theory of law brings to bear on law all the theses proposed and defended in natural law theory's moral and political parts and in a sound understanding of the human makeup.

In this paper, Maritain's theory, to explore culture, history and the relationship between the natural moral law. Provides a natural moral law and moral principles common starting point for dialogue, so that different religious, cultural, philosophical system can have a space for dialogue.

Classical natural law theory such as the theory of Thomas Aquinas focuses on the overlap between natural law moral and legal theories. Similarly, the neo-naturalism of John Finnis is a development of classical natural law theory. The Theory of Natural Law maintains that certain moral laws transcend time, culture, and government.

There are universal standards that apply to all mankind throughout all time. These universal moral standards are inherent in and discoverable by all of us, and form the basis of a just society.

Natural law - Wikipedia