‘The strengths of Natural Law outweigh its weaknesses.’ Discuss
Perhaps the most famous Natural Law (NL) philosopher of the Middle Ages is Thomas Aquinas. His writings have had a significant impact on ethical thinking since his day. However not all philosophers accept his arguments. In this essay I will argue that the strengths of natural law do not outweigh its weakness.
Aquinas built his theory by developing the work of Aristotle. Aristotle argued that all creatures and objects have a telos or final cause which they should seek to realise. Indeed good was seen as actualising your telos (potential). Aquinas agreed that humans can discover their telos by using reason or revelation. He identified the end purpose for humans was union with God and this was achieved through following five primary precepts: protecting the innocent, reproduction, worshiping, education and living in an ordered society. Aquinas argued that all people seek to do good but due to their faulty reasoning sometimes they sometimes only achieve apparent good.
Some would argue that Natural Law has many strengths. They often claim that it is a good theory because observations of many cultures appear to show similar laws and customs. This supports the idea that there is a universal telos which all should follow and thus the primary precepts give us a successful way of determining right from wrong. Killing infants, marriage codes, having children and educating at least some young people appear universal.
Furthermore a universal telos is a huge strength for ethics because it allows different countries and cultures to evaluate each other. They all have the same standards they can be compared to. This stops one country claiming that it is good to abuse children because it is one of their traditions. The five primary precepts can be used to help all people live a good life.
It could also be argued that being an absolutist and deontological ethic is does not rely on consequences to know whether an action is right or wrong. Although some actions can be predicted life is often complex and so many long term consequences or even multiple consequences cannot always be foreseen. This is clearly a strength.
So far it seems that perhaps Natural Law has more strengths than weaknesses and clearly some people think so. Having said this it is important...