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A Description of the Theory of Natural Law

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Natural Law is a Theory that says that there is an existence of a law that is set by nature and applies everywhere because it is ingrained within our beings and can be discovered through the human ability to reason.
Natural law is: Universal, unchanging and constant – these are all qualities which clearly show that it is an absolute theory.
" There will not be one law at Rome and another at Athens "
- - Cicero
It is accessible through the natural order of the world – through observation of its design, and by using human reason to evaluate the moral law through this. Natural Law is also Deontological therefore a non-consequential approach to ethics, meaning that the outcome of an action is irrelevant because the action itself is intrinsically good or bad.
Because Natural Law is judged on weather it is in accordance with the way that the world was designed, everything is created with a purpose and particular design; fulfilling that purpose is 'good' towards which everything aims, therefore, followers of natural law believe homosexuality is bad because the telos (intended end product) of sex is procreation of a child, but this is not possible with same-sex couples; therefore, if an action does not fulfil the end purpose it was designed for, it is bad.
Natural Law is dependant mainly on human reason therefore is not necessarily a religious theory; however, it has been relied on strongly by the Catholic Church to guide their moral teachings as they believe that Natural Law is relevant to all circumstances given by God. Natural law is perceived by all human beings because it does not rely on the existence of God, and therefore can be followed as a moral code by anyone, but only believers in God acknowledge that it has implications for them beyond the grave.
Natural law became prominent through the writings of Aristotle who said that you were able to use reason to discover the teleological goal of human nature. Other antecedents of Natural Law included: Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero; however Aquinas borrowed the ideas that these ancient philosophers introduced and developed them more fully into the theory that it is today as well as incorporating it into Christian theology.
Natural Law is held very highly in the Roman Catholic Church, (mainly following the teachings of Aquinas) and is foundational to many of the beliefs that the Catholic Church still uphold because by using reason, we can work out the way God intends us to act. For example, through Aquinas' reasoning, the Catholic Church may argue that contraception is intrinsically wrong because: the 'final cause' of sex is to procreate; a couple may feel erotically attracted but this has been developed to only encourage breeding and is biological in origin; whatever the intention of intercourse, the final cause is clearly to have children; therefore the catholic church says that any action to prevent the natural end is morally wrong because although the majority of sperm doesn't fertilise an egg, each sperm is designed to therefore should not be actively prevented from fulfilling it's purpose.
Aquinas developed five primary precepts which he believed were rationally understood by analyzing the human body and human nature:
- To live – the supreme good – a basis for all other goods
- To learn – Education is the only way to gain maturity and independent, fully adult. - To reproduce – the continuation of the human race
- To live within an ordered society – law and order ensures that justice is upheld and individuals can live without fear of oppression.
- To worship God – God offers fulfilment and love as well as creating and sustaining the world.
These precepts are the basis to which we should hold when living our lives according to natural law.
Aquinas also acknowledges secondary precepts which are extremely close to many of the 10 commandments held in Christian theology, they are more specific, e.g. the requirement to honour our parents, protect human life, respect people's property, tell the truth, and be true to our spouse within marriage, but some of these must be interpreted.
God gave Humans the power to reason, however Aquinas argues that he did this only to encourage us to operate in accordance with the primary precepts and to accomplish these purposes. Believing in him is immaterial.

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