Natural Law and the Environment

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‘Natural Law is of no use when dealing with issues concerning the environment.’ Discuss. (35) Natural Law is an ethical theory first developed by Thomas Aquinas. It is an absolutist and deontological approach where humans use their reason to fulfil their purpose in order to achieve the ultimate good – eternal happiness with God in heaven. Nowadays, the environment has become a polemic issue, causing disagreement amongst many circles. A follower of natural law would say that the statement is flawed, and that the theory can be extremely useful when dealing with issues concerning the environment. However, there are those who would believe otherwise, and suggest an alternative ethical approach to be more appropriate. One way in which natural law is of no use when dealing with issues concerning the environment is that some rules formulated by the theory do not work when applied. For example, Aquinas’ synderesis rule of ‘do good, avoid evil’ is the foundation of his ethical theory, this principle implying that the exploitation and abuse of the environment would be wrong as it is regarded as evil. Despite this, his synderesis rule consequently cannot be applied to all situations when dealing with issues concerning the environment as it is impossible to ‘avoid evil’ completely. When dealing with an issue such as pollution for example, a follower of natural law could interpret it as evil as it contributes to the destruction of God’s creation, and also causing harm to some humans in the form of asthma. The theory would eradicate pollution altogether, though this is very unrealistic as pollution has to be committed in some degree in order for the world to function as it does today. Therefore natural law is of no use when dealing with issues concerning the environment due to the fact that its arguments cannot be applied to every situation. A further way in which natural law

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