Natural Law approach to ethics

Natural Law creates ethical principals from "rules". It is a moral code that human beings should be naturally inclined to; rational reflection upon human existence. The natural law has no bias to one situation over another, and this makes it an absolute deontological approach to ethics. Thus, the question has to be asked, 'shouldn't every situation be judged individually? Isn't the substance of actions different for everyone? ' For years Aristotle and Aquinas, who developed the ideas of Natural Law, within the boundaries of their beliefs, dominated moral philosophy.

Existing within the purpose of nature, the natural law creates basic laws, which all other laws are carrying out. Shown in the bible as God's word, the natural law holds the ultimate purpose of life – fellowship with God. Aristotle rooted the theory of natural law in the 4th century BCE; his main belief that everything within life fulfils a purpose. He distinguished between efficient causes (getting something done), and final causes (having something done). He determined whether things were good or bad dependent on there final purpose.

Aquinas took Aristotle's ideas and influenced by them, he began to structure the natural law. He reasoned that humans are 'free', and that they have to choose to follow the natural law; understood through reason. Humans have purposes: to reproduce, to learn, to live harmoniously within society and to worship God. God created these purposes, and each individual is capable of achieving their purpose if they so wish. Aquinas taught however, that morals are not solely orders from God, but they should also be based upon philosophical investigation and this should lead people to a heightened awareness of morality.

The idea is that natural law becomes a habitual following, not something that man struggles to pursue. (Morality and happiness are also strongly linked in this way. ) All of these ideals can be developed by living life within the cardinal virtues. These are reasons which distinguish between a real good and apparent good. Real and apparent goods have to be distinguished from one-an-other; an apparent good meaning to think something is good when it is ultimately bad (drug taking for example; the drug may make someone feel good for a small amount of time, but the final cause will always be harm to the body, or even death.)

Differing from other ethical approaches, the natural law causes us to reflect upon the intrinsic value of actions rather than that of individual value. Natural law seems obviously satisfactory when it is looked upon in certain contexts. It is natural that one should care about animals and the environment, as we may feel better within ourselves for doing so. However, sexual acts that are performed for any other purpose other than procreation are condemned as unnatural. This ethic however, seriously denies ideas of happiness.

By following this precept, should couple's not enjoy sex? Should an expression of love be called unnatural? How about if a couple are unable to have a baby, sex between them could be viewed as aberrant? The natural law is against the termination of pregnancy, so what if a woman is raped? By not allowing her to abort, is the natural law condoning rape? And what about artificial inseminations, and IVF, are these techniques to be rejected too? Does not the natural law state that the final cause should the defining one?

If so, does it matter whether procreation is 'natural' or 'unnatural'? Shouldn't the idea of bringing a child into the world, be the ultimate idea? Although natural law can seem to be restrictive in its ideals, flexibility can be found in certain areas. As there are primary and secondary precepts laid down by Aquinas, the primary precepts being awfully general, yet quite expressive, at the same time, the secondary precepts are more specific but allow a lot of room for interpretation.

This leads us back to the opinion of whether situations should be based upon their uniqueness and individual merits, as well as their downfalls. Are outcomes to be based upon conscience or laws? Acceptance of eternal laws within the ever-changing society we live in is 'The Natural Law'. (B) "Common Sense – the ability to form opinions which reflect practical experience" Longman Modern English Dictionary By leading us towards a certain lifestyle, the natural law attempts to make good people out of us, and steer us towards our ultimate purpose.

Along the way, on this path to this "goal" we are supposed to have, we follow "guidelines", and accept certain aspects of life as good or evil. The management of situations we find ourselves in, has been assigned to us by those who first developed the concepts of natural law. We therefore find that conflict never arises within ourselves about how to deal with others actions, (our own actions would always be justifiable as we would be following the natural law! ). Experiences within the natural law are limited – as long as they conform to the "rules" they're accepted.

However, experiences that are not condoned by the natural law are frowned upon, as a deviation from the lifestyle you should be living. This confinement from "the real world" could be viewed as a denial of ability to form ones own opinions about how life should be lived and, how good and evil should be assigned. Practical decision making abilities come from previous knowledge of how consequences transpire as a result of actions. A following of the natural law would lead us, never to have a chance to know what it is like to make a wrong decision and learn from the consequences.

This sheltered approach to life would suit some, but not all of us. Many want to experience certain things for themselves and would not be happy with another telling them that it is wrong to do a certain thing. This perspective is one gained from the liberated society in which we do live, however ignorance of this (had we always been made to live within the natural law), would leave us without comprehension of whether or not something was "good or bad", for ourselves. How ideal would this existence be?

Everyday people tell themselves that they are going to try to be better people, live life more fully, and try and make fewer mistakes. An idyllic lifestyle one can only ever dream of. Natural instinct denies us a nai?? ve approach to the wonders of the world. Common sense leads us to understand why things happen, and learn valuable lessons in life. The natural law renounces people the ability to make practical decisions based on previous experience and specific circumstances. It rejects the idea that situations can be unique and should be dealt with as such.

A strict application of the natural law could never exist within today's modern society; it would cause havoc. However in saying this, it could be said that we live in a world without any common sense, so does it matter what laws are applied? Will they ever make sense to everyone? The ideal existence is far from a reality that humans have ever lived in whether they follow the natural law or not. Many societies around the world today accept murder or abortion as illegal; this however does make them wrong; sometimes they will make perfect sense.