Natural Law Theory

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Topics: Human rights
According to Jenkins, “The natural law theory begins with theories about the nature and purpose of the world and moves on to ask about the purpose of every action or object. The right thing to do is that which fulfils the natural purpose.” Natural law was developed by Thomas Aquinas, in which he believed that there is such a thing as natural moral law. Natural law ethics depends on the belief that the world was designed by a creator, God. It teaches everything God made has a purpose, including every aspect of human life, and everything should work towards the purpose assigned to it. If we fulfil this purpose we do ‘good’, for example it is good to preserve life (“Do not kill”). If we frustrate the purpose for which something has been created then it is morally ‘wrong’, to destroy life is against the will of good. In addition, human sexuality was designed for the reproduction of the species. Any action which helps towards the fulfilment of this purpose is good; anything which hinders this fulfilment is bad.

Aquinas believed there were four primary precepts, “God’s aims for humans”, which we are to follow to live according to natural law. These are to reproduce, learn and develop potential, live harmoniously in society and worship god. These precepts are moral absolutes and under no circumstances can be broken. Natural law is therefore a deontological theory. According to Aquinas natural law was the, “moral code which human beings are naturally inclined towards.” There are also the secondary precepts to take into account, which are the rules and regulations which help us achieve these aims. These are actually man made laws which are based on God’s principles.

Natural law is a fusion of the secular philosophy of Aristotle (who claimed that everything had a purpose and therefore the fulfilment of these purposes was good, e.g. a good knife cuts well) and the religious tradition of the church by Aquinas. Natural law was to be a supplement of the laws given in the



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