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11 Dec 2012
Classical Natural Law Theory
1.What is a teleological metaphysics?
-Teleological metaphysics is the view that we understand knowledge of the world from the "end" or
purpose or telos
-This is also included in social institutions, natural objects and artifacts ex. rivers, trees we understand
these things because of their function
Aquinas's view of Law
-In Aquainas's view of law he says "Law is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common
good, made by him who has care of the community and promulgated".(p.34-35)
-It is a general definition of law, and applies to all types of law in Aquinas's view
-Aquinas's definition considers the operation of certain objects or the purpose of law(telos): a general
view of law, which has its own particular end, all things in the universe
-Government officials or any other political group has to act in accordance to the common good of the
-Two things to note about Aquinas’s definition:
(i) it identifies individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for the existence of law
(ii) it’s a general definition of law.
Types of Laws
-External law: dive reason for god's plan of the universe, perfection of the whole universe, god has
control of the community, promulgation of law is all things which apply to external law
-Natural law: part of external law which is understood by humans, common good is human happiness, ,
care of the community is by god, promuglation of law is in the human mind we use reason and rational
thinking for our decisions
-Human law: rules, standards, are determined by how humans follow natural law, common good is
order in society living, and it is promuglated through kings, queens, legislation and statues
-Divine law: Rules revealed by god, common good is spiritual good, care of the community is in god's
hands, promuglation is from 10 commandments or other commandments by god
2.In Aquinas’s view, what is human law and why is it necessary? How does it relate to civil obedience
or disobedience
-Human law is rules and standards which humans follow through natural law and the use of rational
-Human law is derived from the natural law in two ways:
1.Deduction: a more specific conclusion follows directly from a principle of the natural law.
E.g., from ‘one should do no harm’ it follows directly that ‘one should not murder’.
2.Determination: there is more than one possible conclusion; choice is required by society
E.g., it might be a general principle of the natural law that ‘everyone ought to contribute to the
maintenance of the state’, but human choice is required to determine, e.g., how much tax we ought to
pay, how often often we ought to pay, to whom, etc.
3.In Aquinas’s view, are there any conditions under which one should follow an unjust law?
-Laws maybe unjust when in contrary to human goods, and to the respect of the end when an authority
places a burden on his subjects
-(a) unauthorized uses of power-by force by a leader not just
-(b) laws which serve only the interests of some-benefits of only certain ppl.
-(c) laws imposing unequal burdens-slavery labor burdens
-(d) human laws opposing the Divine law-no laws can oppose the word of god
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- Unjust laws “are acts of violence rather than laws; because, as Augustine says…, a law that is not just,
seems to be no law at all.” (C44)
On the other hand laws maybe just, if they are just they have the
-power of binding in conscience, legal or moral tie between law
-from the external law whence they are derived
-laws are to be just from the end and from their authors, when the laws are made they do not exceed
the power of the lawgiver, burdens are laid on the subjects according to the common good
Laws and obligations
‘Real’ laws generate genuine obligations, while unjust laws are not binding.
Exception: sometimes unjust laws need to be obeyed to avoid ‘scandal and disturbance’ (C45)
Observing Law
(a) There are moral limits to legal systems. I.e., legal systems can’t have just any content.
(b) Natural law theory offers a morally-evaluative, prescriptive concept of law. It’s meant to provide an
account of law which is action-guiding. (This is often referred to as normative jurisprudence.)
(a) How much determination does the natural law allow?
The principles of the natural law (‘pursue good, avoid evil’, ‘preserve life’, ‘protect social living’, etc.) are
fairly vague, and seem to leave much to human choice. Just how much guidance does the natural law
really provide?
(b) Does natural law theory avoid the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ (the error of attempting to derive
conclusions about what we ought to do from observations of facts)?
Are things such as the good, life, reproduction, knowledge, social living, etc., good simply because we
value them?
(c) To what extent does Aquinas’s theory of law depend on his metaphysics (specifically, his
teleological, theistic world-view)?
If we give up his metaphysics, must we give up our commitment to things such as basic rights, freedoms,
and liberties?
Contemporary Natural Law Theory
4.Identify and explain the seven basic human goods.
-The 7basic goods are- Life, knowledge, play, aesthetic experience, friendship, practical reasonableness,
and religion.
-These goods are basic, irreducible, exhaustive, incommensurable, self-evident and known by reason
and fact, they are self-evident
-Judges have to respect these goods along with providing reasons for justification for basic rights liberty
and equality ex. life is valuable tort law, criminal law etc.. have to protect these rights and basic values
-Finnis says that we cannot pursue all 7 basic goods at the same time, we need to guide our choices,
actions, commitments
5.What role do the basic goods play in Finnis’s theory of law?
-Finnis says
(a) there are moral limits to legal systems
(b) Natural law theory offers a morally-evaluative, prescriptive concept of law.
-Natural law is a kind of morality which serves as a standard by which to judge human-made law.
Difference between Aquinas and Finnis !
-Aquinas adopts a ‘top-down’ view of morality, as he begins from an account of a God-created world
and then develops a theory of what’s valuable for humans.
-Finnis adopts a ‘bottom-up’ view of morality, as he begins from an account of what’s valuable for
humans and then develops a view of law.
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