Religion and Ethics - Natural Law

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How can we describe Natural Law?
A kind of universal moral gravity.
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What actually is Natural Law?
A theory of ethics which argues that what is good and right can be found in the world; it is an absolute.
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What did Aristotle claim about natural justice?
That is could be understood by all humans.
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Can Natural Law be applied universally?
Yes - it is also unchanging and everlasting.
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What is Natural Law evidence of?
That there is purpose and meaning in the universe, e.g reproduction.
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What is Aristotle's influence in Natural Law?
His focus on telos/final cause.
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Why is something good according to final cause?
If the final cause is a good thing then the object or action must be a good thing because it brought about the final cause.
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Give an example of how this works:
A knife's final cause is to cut. If the knife does not cut, it is a bad knife.
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Is Natural Law deontological or teleological?
Deontological (focuses on the action) but is derived from the teleological world view.
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Is Natural Law an absolutist theory (i.e it follows absolute moral rules that are unchanging)?
Yes
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What did Aquinas say about God creating the world?
God created the world with a purpose in mind that conformed to all natural laws. Predictable, goal driven systems whereby life is sustained and everything functions smoothly.
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How did Aquinas believe we could see this purpose that God gave us?
Through the application of reason (ratio).
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What is this reasoning?
God's gift to humanity.
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What do humans do with this reason?
Use it to see their final cause. They can then choose whether to follow their final good or not.
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What does Natural Law form the basis of?
Roman Catholic moral teaching.
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What are the Seven Basic Goods?
1) Life, 2) Reproduction, 3) Education, 4) Seeking God, 5) Life in society, 6) Avoid offence, 7) Shun ignorance.
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What are the Five Primary Precepts derived from?
Seven Basic Goods and Aquinas' synderesis "do good and avoid evil''.
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What did Aristotle say humans were?
Rational animals, because we have the ability to reason.
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Why can reason sometimes get in the way of us achieving our telos?
If we are clouded by passion/emotions.
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What did Aristotle argue for (human flourishing)?
Eudaemonia.
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What are we able to derive from the Primary Precepts?
Secondary Precepts.
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The Primary Precepts are what you should...
Do
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The Secondary Precepts are what...
You should NOT do. They are an application of the Primary Precepts in certain situations.
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Give an example of secondary precepts derived from ''preservation of human life":
Do not murder, abort the unborn, commit euthanasia or commit suicide.
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How do we know what we mustn't do?
If something goes against the telos of an action - then it is wrong.
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What goes against the ''reproduction'' primary precept?
Sex purely for pleasure, an*l/or*l intercourse, m*sturbation, or artificial contraception. These all go against the purpose of sex - to reproduce.
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Give an example of an apparent good:
Something which might bring us pleasure, but that is not ultimately good, e.g sex purely for pleasure.
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Give an example of a real good:
Something which brings about the purpose of that action/object - e.g sex for the purpose to reproduce.
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How can we distinguish between real goods and apparent goods?
By using our gift of reason.
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Which examples of wrong actions does Aquinas give in his Summa Theologica?
Theft, lying, fornicating, committing adultery, killing the innocent.
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What is casuistry?
Applying the principles of Natural Law to specific cases. E.g, Dresden bombing WWII was wrong because it went against the primary precept regarding the protection of life.
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Why is casuistry criticised?
It has come to represent the issues/extremes that can occur when we apply the same rule to every particular ethical situation.
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What do non-Catholics use casuistry for?
To attack the Roman Catholic Church.
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Give a famous example where Natural Law principles caused a moral extreme:
In a famous league table, r*pe was voted as less sinful than m*sturbation. Since r*pe fulfils the telos of conception/reproduction - it is considered to be less sinful than m*sturbation which provokes no telos.
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What is the Doctrine of Double Effect?
Refers to situations where there is an intended outcome (final cause) and another, significant but un-intentional outcome.
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What does Natural Law not permit in terms of Double Effect?
The unintended outcome to prove disastrous consequences/be un-proportionate to the intended outcome.
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Give an example of how Double Effect works:
A Roman Catholic doctor can prescribe the contraceptive pill to a woman to regulate her periods. Since, intended outcome of treatment is to regulate periods - no transgression of Natural Law principle, even if she takes advantage of contraceptive.
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What are some strengths of Natural Law:
Universal, values human reason/free will, values both action and outcome of the action, Double Effect means you can get away with things, protects human rights. Takes human nature into account.
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What are some weaknesses of Natural Law:
Relies on God to create purpose, Hume's is/ought/Naturalistic Fallacy, what about people who're infertile? Progression of science and technology means its irrelevant. We no longer live in a natural society. Evolution explains purpose.
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What did Dawkins say regarding purpose?
''There is no purpose''.
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Card 2

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What actually is Natural Law?

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A theory of ethics which argues that what is good and right can be found in the world; it is an absolute.

Card 3

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What did Aristotle claim about natural justice?

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Card 4

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Can Natural Law be applied universally?

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Card 5

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What is Natural Law evidence of?

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