Aquinas’s theory of natural law stemmed from his interest in Aristotl’es writings, aquinas used the ideas of aristotle and stoics to develop his ideas of natural law. He believed human beings had an essential rational nature given by God which enables us to flourish and live. Even without knowledge of God, reason can help us to discover the laws that lead us to flourish. He believed that these laws were unchangable and should be used to judge the laws of particular societies. For aquinas, we were all made in the “image of god” and therefore the supreme good must be the development of this image.
Aristotle had influenced Aquinas through his beliefs in purpose, reason, and human fulfilment, which was what he referred to as eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is the concept of living a good life and happiness and getting closer to God will come in the next life, rather than the current. The Stoics had influenced Aquinas through their belief in the rational nature given from God, and the idea that Natural Law is universal and un-changing. The primary precepts are five precepts that form the fundamental principles of Natural Law Theory. The primary precepts are absolute and descriptive as they do not tell people what to do, but simply describe how things are and cannot be changed.
The divine commands vary in religions but in the end, they all have in common that moral obligations depend on God. Natural law is sometimes described as being deontological because it leads to a set of rules that people have a duty to follow. It is an absolute theory of ethics and was developed by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas says that the natural laws are universal and unchangeable and should be
He believes reason and faith are the two paths to access the truths of God’s existence. Faith is a trusted belief in God through scripture; it does not rest with logic and is beyond reason. But reason is a logical way of making sense of something that is not tangible. St. Thomas realized many people doubt the existence of God because there is no logic to explain God’s existence. For St. Thomas his mission in life was to prove the existence of God through reason.
It is important to note that although all moral absolutists agree that there are fundamental ethical laws they disagree on the origin or authority of these laws. They may be religious or like Kantian ethics based on God and the existence of natural law. In general there tends to be a consensus that Absolutism comes in three distinct types. Platonic Idealism is the first significant example of absolutist theory. This theory is referred to as the theory of forms, the forms are eternal constants which give meaning to the world.
A moral relativist would believe that there is no definite set of rules that apply universally. Instead they believe that all decisions should be made upon circumstances at the time and more importantly why the action was made. This is called cultural relativism. The theory of relativist morality was first established by Protagoras who asked questions such as, “what is good for you?” He did not believe that our knowledge was all fixed or that it extended depending on our experiences, as Plato did being a moral absolutist. He stated, “Man is the measure of all things”.
He based his argument on the statement “Does God will something because it is good or is something good because it is willed by God?” There are two ‘horns’ to this argument which stem from the statement; these both critiques of the link between religion and morality. Horn one questions “Does God command x because it is good.” This argument suggests that God is inferior to good, or perhaps good could even be temporally prior to God. In addition both God’s omnipotence and omniscience are damaged; he cannot claim full responsibility for creating the world and therefore cannot possibly have full control as it is not his creation. He also may not have the knowledge of right and wrong if it is independent of him. An independent good takes away from religious motivation to do good, we can be good for the sake of being good as opposed to seeking eschatological reward, for example going to heaven in the afterlife.
His belief of going against emotion, goes against moral relativism, as moral relativism is when a morally good act is entirely dependent on the circumstances where said act takes place, instead believing in the necessity of a perfectly universal moral law. Human reasoning was a significant area of ethical study for Kant. Kant’s views were in response to the empiricists and rationalists, with the rationalists beliefs being closer to his than the empiricists. (The rationalists attempted to prove that we can understand the world purely be using our reasoning, while empiricists argued that all of our knowledge comes from experience.) Kant believed that the only way we gain knowledge of the world is through our senses, and that us humans will never experience the true reality of the world as we experience it through our own minds, of which different categories of thought have been built into, which led him to believe that all scientific knowledge discovered, is only facts about our own experiences and perceptions.
Comparison between deontological and utilitarian ethics Deontological ethics Deontology is a normative theory attributed to Immanuel Kant, which focuses on the concept of the duty. It is concerned on fulfilling what is believed to be a moral duty without considering its impact to other people. It takes the stand that the duty defines the right actions regardless of the consequences. The hold of deontological ethics is that doing right is what conform the moral laws. According to Kant, right actions are not done by following inclinations, impulses or obeying the principle of greatest happiness but are done simply and purely from the sense of duty.
The theory of natural law is an absolutist theory, unlike others it is not rooted in duty or external law; it is within our human nature and our search for fulfilment and happiness. This is the same in all cultures and religions and it does not change to include circumstances or take into account relative situations. This idea of a natural law was first developed by the stoics and Aristotle. The stoics believed that, in every human being there is a divine spark which guides and helps us to live in the way god wants, they also say that we have a choice of whether to obey the laws which govern the universe, however we have to use our reason to understand whether we should obey the laws. The stoics also said that we should try to fit into the overall plan of the universe by finding our place or duty among society.