You are on page 1of 2

Natural Law and Human Law

St Thomas Aquinas says that there is a natural ethical feeling that guides us and is intrinsic to the world. He calls it the Natural Law. He says that although it is better to be a Christian it is not necessary as long as you follow this natural law. He thinks you can work out the natural law by observing and using logic, this was frowned upon by the church but St Thomas Aquinas argued "if our reason is god given, why would it be a sin to use it? It was of the opinion of many other monks that you should have faith in god and trust in him to have things reviled to them. There argument for this was how can we know the truth were you there when I placed the cornerstone of the world? The only way we can know is if god tells us through revelation. The basic principle to natural law is do good and avoid evil. However this is very vague and vague theories are easy to misinterpret. St Thomas Aquinas also had the five primary precepts. These precepts were part of the original theory of natural law. The precepts are;
o o o o o

Preserve life, especially that of the innocent Reproduce Worship God Educate the young Live in society

The problems with these theories are obvious because they are all absolutist. Preserve life for example does not allow euthanasia. However one advantage with this arrangement of rules is that you could allow euthanasia by saying that you are living in society by doing so. However some may say this is actually a disadvantage because you could justify any act as long as you can say which precept it is for. You could take heroin with the apparent intention of worshiping God. St Thomas Aquinas also talks of human law. This would be what we describe as our legal system. It is necessary to have says Aquinas because without it you are not living in a proper society. Aquinas did not actually specify any human laws but we can work out what they would be in our modern world. For example educate the young is a primary precept and compulsory education would be the secondary precept. Real and Apparent Goods St Thomas Aquinas said that things are only actually good if they fulfils our purpose otherwise they are only apparent goods. For example eating healthy food is a real good because it preserves life. But it is an apparent good to eat a cake. This is so because it does not bring us any closer to our purpose which is unity with god. Interior and Exterior Acts

An exterior act is the actual act it could be anything from giving to charity to genocide. They are both exterior acts. But an interior act is the reason or motive to why something is done. For example a person can give money to charity because he thinks it is a good idea to because it is a good act, it fulfils one of the five primary precepts so it is a good exterior act as well. But someone that gives money to charity to impress some friends would be a bad interior act because you are doing it to achieve an apparent good. Aquinas says that an act is only completely good if it is good in both exterior and interior acts. Double Affect Aquinas said that an act that causes harm is permissible as long as the harm is an unavoidable side effect of a good action. For example in a situation where there was a pregnant mother dying of a mortal wound. And if she dies the unborn child dies also. But to rescue the child the surgeons must kill the mother. St Thomas Aquinas would say that as long as the surgeon did not think that I have to kill the mother to save the child but instead thought that I must save the child however to do this I will inevitably kill the mother then it would be a good act. By: Alfred. E. Veevers