Natural Law Today’s Assignment: EMP (15 pages) – The Tradition of Natural

Today’s Assignment:
Natural Law
• EMP (15 pages)
– The Tradition of Natural
Law (Lucas), pp. 195-198;
from “Summa Theologica
(St. Thomas Aquinas), pp.
199-202; from The Ethics
of Natural Law (Harris),
pp. 203-209.
Objectives from reading:
Natural Law
Know difference between descriptive
(scientific ), prescriptive (natural and
divine), & human (civil, positive,
statue) laws
Comprehend Aquinas’ features of a
law, how natural law can be explained
in terms of moral standards and the 4
natural inclinations of human beings.
Comprehend the concept of “the
common good” vs. concept of
“greatest good for the greatest
Know & apply the Principle of
Forfeiture and the Principe of Double
Questions of the Day…
Is it Right because God
commands it?
Does God command it
because it is Right?
Natural Rights & Natural Law
• In the “Declaration of Independence,”
Thomas Jefferson (following the
English philosopher, John Locke)
makes reference to “self-evident”
truths, among which are certain
“inalienable rights”
• Martin Luther King makes reference
explicitly to “natural law” (as well as
the U. S. Constitution) to argue that
racist laws are inherently unjust
What is this “natural law”?
Natural Law
Two important things about natural law
(1) Natural laws are prescriptive; they tell us
how we ought to behave.
In this sense, they are unlike physical
laws aka laws of nature (e.g.,
gravitation), which tell us how things do in
fact behave and are, therefore,
“Unlike rocks, we are always at liberty
to disobey the natural laws that pertain
to us. This is how we sin.”
Natural Law
(2) Natural laws are absolute, because
the goods in which they are grounded
are incommensurable
- that is, there is no common metric that
would allow us to compare them.
Hence, there can be no ‘trade-offs’
between, say, protecting life and
seeking knowledge; or, more
importantly, between protecting this
life rather than that life.
Natural Law
• Encompasses tradition of moral and legal
philosophy reaching back to Aristotle & Roman
Stoics (Cicero)
• There is a secular and a theological version
– (the latter connect nicely to the notion of “divine
command” theory; cf. St Paul)
• Neither focuses upon “civil” law (what we normally
mean by “law”);
– instead, these traditions use “Law” in the same sense
as Kant – the “moral law”
Sources of
Natural Law Tradition
• Suppose we took the world’s current
major legal systems and threw out any
provisions that were unique to one or
only some.
– Would there be anything left?
• Political Problem of the Roman
– “How do we govern a multinational,
multicultural, pluralistic commonwealth
encompassing many nationalities,
religions, ethnicities, and legal systems?
– What laws shall we uniformly enforce upon
ALL subjects (regardless of race, color, or
religious creed)?”
Transition from Secular to Sacred
Solution: Common legal core, the Roman code
But of this code, Cicero writes:
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature;
it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it
summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing
by its prohibitions. . .
…We cannot be freed from its obligations by Senate or People, and we
need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it . . .
Cicero(106 BC-43 BC)
…There will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different
laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law
will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one
master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of
this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.”
Natural Law:
St Thomas Aquinas
• God’s law is “imprinted upon us . . . The light of natural
reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is
evil, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the divine
• There are at least some moral truths, derived from God
and grounded in God, that everyone, regardless of their
religious beliefs or cultural background, must be
responsible for knowing
• Distinguish this (as Romans did) from “civil” or “positive”
law, and also from “divine” or “revealed” law (the Church
has custody of this)
In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas acknowledges universal moral truths
Examples of Natural Law
– “Golden” Rule
– Principle of reciprocity
– Prohibition of
unjustifiable homicide
– Respect for Life
Danger: mistaking one’s own
cultural or religious habits (or even
prejudices) for universal natural law
Everyone, everywhere
seems to have some
versions of these
e.g., Which of the 10 Commandments
would you challenge as not being a
“Natural Law”?
Relation of Natural Law to
Other Kinds of Law
• Descriptive “laws of nature” by contrast
summarize known physical conditions or
constraints that apply in fact w/o exception
– i.e., cannot be “disobeyed”
– e.g., Law of Gravity
• Civil or Positive Law:
– speed limits, tax laws, torts and contracts, property
– Can be added to, but cannot contravene natural law
(cf. Martin Luther King)
• Eternal Law
– The law of God’s regulative reason
• Divine Law
– The Law that man receives by special
revelation from God
• Natural Law
– That part of God’s Law that is incorporated
into human nature
• Human Law
– Law devised by man for specific purposes
Divine, Natural and Civil Law
Eternal Law (Divine+ Natural)
“Divine” or
“Revealed” Law
(From Deity)
Natural Law
(from Reason)
Law of
Human Laws
Civil Laws
Impact/Influence of
Natural Law Tradition
• International Law (Grotius,
• Constitution & U. S. Declaration of
Independence (Jefferson)
bellum AND jus in bello – law of
• Kant and the Categorical Imperative
• Gandhi, King, and notion of
principled civil disobedience
Natural Inclinations
• Self-preservation
– Natural inclination to live
• Procreation
– Natural inclination to reproduce
• Knowledge
– Natural inclination to learn
• Sociability
– Natural inclination to love and seek affection
Two Important Principles of
Natural Law (“Casuistry” in Harris’s essay)
1. The Principle of Forfeiture
2. The Principle of Double Effect
Questions on Natural Law?
Reading for Next Class
Applying the Doctrine of Double Effect
• EMP (7 pages)
– Natural Law and the
Principle of Double Effect:
Six Hypothetical Cases
(Lucas), pp. 211-217.
• CSME (6 pages)
– Incident at Shkin (Schoultz),
pp. 7-11; Terror and
Retaliation-Who is Right?”
(Rubel), p. 57.
Objectives from
Natural Law
Comprehend the concept of
“the common good” vs
concept of “greatest good
for the greatest number.”
Know & apply the Principle
of Forfeiture and the
Principe of Double Effect
POINT PAPERS are due at
the beginning of next class!!!