Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Basic Strengths and Weaknesses of Natural Law

Main strengths of Natural Law:


  • Rational - being based on reason alone shouldn't be a strength of NL, because the other theories are mostly based on reason too and they don't get the leg-up of having that as one of their advantages. However, Natural Law is rational and you do not have to believe in God for it to count, even if Aquinas goes on and on about the Divine Law. Rachels also argues that "natural law suggests morality is autonomous."
    • a rational theory is good for sexual, environmental and business ethics
  • Purpose - Natural Law seeks us, as humans, to push and become the best we can be. We are told to aim for a purpose and maintain an ordered society. The theory isn't belittling, and isn't a "single factor theory" like utilitarianism
    • striving for purpose is important in business in keeping things focussed and clear
    • maintaining an ordered society, as well as certain other primary precepts, is a good system for preserving the environment
  • More Flexible Than You Think - although the primary precepts are unchanging and absolute, the secondary precepts can actually change to incorporate different things

Main weaknesses of Natural Law:

  • Idealistic - Aquinas says that humans have a "tendency to do good and avoid evil", but do we? This is perhaps too general and idealistic
  • No Single Human Nature - we are all different. We have different lifestyles and opinions, but Aquinas is having none of that. He seems to presume that we are inherently all the same and fit under the bracket of one human nature. This presents the theory as partially inflexible
    • homosexuality will be persecuted under NL because it doesn't seek to reproduce - we do not fit under the same umbrella
  • Immoral Outcomes - Natural Law could result in poor outcomes if the primary precepts are rigidly adhered to
    • in terms of sexual ethics, Natural Law would rule out contraception - the removal of contraception in many strictly religious countries has already led to more and more cases of AIDS across the globe
    • in terms of business ethics, following the precept of education (for example) could lead to other areas of business being severely neglected
  • Purpose Confusion - how do we know our purpose is reproduction?
    • the existence of a male G-spot (sorry if anyone cringed) suggests that homosexuality may not be totally immoral. Certain body parts such as the clitoris suggest that our purpose may be pleasure in terms of sexual ethics, not reproduction
  • Absolutist Nature - in being absolute, Natural Law is ignorant of the situation
  • Outdated - the theory is arguably based on outdated social norms and is not relevant to modern society
    • in terms of sexual ethics, it is not socially acceptable to suggest that homosexuality is immoral. Furthermore, society has moved on since Aquinas's time; sex for pleasure is just part of our society - it's not necessarily moral, it's just different to what Aquinas would've liked to see 'back in the day'...

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