Some writers use the term with such a broad meaning that any moral theory that is a version of moral realism — that is, any moral theory that holds that some positive moral claims are literally true for this conception of moral realism, see Sayre-McCord — counts as a natural law view. Some use it so narrowly that no moral theory that is not grounded in a very specific form of Aristotelian teleology could count as a natural law view. But there is a better way of proceeding, one that takes as its starting point the central role that the moral theorizing of Thomas Aquinas plays in the natural law tradition. If any moral theory is a theory of natural law, it is Aquinas's.
This claim is meant to express a basic metaphysical idea, namely, that if something exists, then it necessarily has some degree of goodness.
We can divide existing things into two categories: If something is incorruptible, then by definition it cannot be made worse; Natural moral law is, it cannot lose whatever goodness it may have.
Otherwise, it would not have any goodness it could lose. While this argument may be sufficient to show that corruptible things necessarily have goodness, Augustine uses it to identify a problem with the view that something can exist even if it has no goodness at all.
For if something has no goodness, then it cannot lose goodness and must therefore be incorruptible. And since incorruptibility is better than corruptibility, it looks as if something lacking goodness is better than its corruptible counterpart, which has goodness.
Clearly, this is incoherent.
Yet this is precisely the implication of claiming that something with no goodness whatsoever can exist. According to Augustine, the only remedy for this problem is to deny the existence of things that have no goodness.
If something exists, then it must necessarily have goodness. Thus what Aquinas means to convey is that something is good insofar as it actual. By contrast, evil has no actuality in its own right. For him, something is evil insofar as its existence is diminished or corrupted in some way.
If something had no goodness whatsoever, it would lack all goods, even the good of existence itself. Following Aristotle, Aquinas says that living things are composites of matter and substantial form.
Aquinas goes on to argue that all substances seek their own perfection ST Ia 6. That is, they all seek as their final end a fully realized state of existence or actuality. Yet a substance cannot achieve that final end without exercising the powers it has in virtue of its substantial form. As Scott MacDonald explains: In other words, a substance achieves its perfection through the proper exercise of its species-defining powers.
Aquinas considers a fairly straightforward objection to this view: But being cannot be more or less. In other words, goodness is a relative property. Some people are morally better than other people.What is the relation between law and moral or ethical rules accepted by a community of people?
Do they influence each other? To which extent?
Natural moral law theory implies that we discover morality — we do not invent it. Belief in a natural moral law seems to square with the Scriptures themselves. Belief in a natural moral law seems to square with the Scriptures themselves.
First published in , Natural Law and Natural Rights is widely heralded as a seminal contribution to the philosophy of law, and an authoritative restatement of natural law doctrine. It has offered generations of students and other readers a thorough grounding in the central issues of legal, moral, and political philosophy from Finnis's distinctive perspective.
A government, a constitution, a law, or an amendment doesn’t grant personhood. It comes from human nature made in the image and likeness of God.
Jew and Christian, born and unborn; the natural moral law exists despite what political parties and civil authorities legislate to the contrary. Natural law and natural rights follow from the nature of man and the world. We have the right to defend ourselves and our property, because of the kind of animals that we are.
Print PDF. JOHN LOCKE and the NATURAL LAW and NATURAL RIGHTS TRADITION Steven Forde, University of North Texas. John Locke is one of the founders of “liberal” political philosophy, the philosophy of individual rights and limited government.