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Explain How a Follower of Natural Law Theory Might Approach the Issue Surrounding Abortion.

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a) Explain how a follower of Natural Law theory might approach the issue surrounding abortion.

The Natural Law Theory has developed over time since the era of the ancient Greeks, and it is not necessarily based on one single theory. Natural law is the belief that God has created the universe to work in certain ways. The structure of Natural Law is not accidental; it is deliberate and has important implications to the human race (this can also be used to argue the existence of God in the teleological argument). Humans have a duty to conform to Natural Law. If they do not conform it is morally bad.

St Thomas Aquinas linked his idea of Natural Law with Aristotle’s view that people have a specific nature, purpose and function. Aristotle said that not only does everything have a purpose, but also it achieves supreme good when it fulfill its purpose. Aristotle stated that the supreme good for humans is to achieve happiness, which can be related to mill’s utilitarianism where our aim is to gain happiness by avoiding pain and gaining pleasure, but Aristotle did not follow the consequentialist nature of utilitarianism. Aristotle said we were to achieve the final goal by living a life of reason based on what we experience, and this follows the deontological nature of Kantian ethics. Aquinas said that humans beings have an essential rational nature given by God in order for us to live and flourish, even without God reason can discover laws that lead to human flourishing, this is why it is also accepted by atheist. Aquinas also said that Natural Law is universal and should be used to judge laws of particular societies.

In this theory we have primary precepts and secondary precepts. Primary precepts are fundamental principles revealed to us by God. Aquinas applied these to everyone without exception. The primary precepts are; the preservation of life; reproduction; the nurture and education of the young; living peacefully in society; to worship God. These precepts are always true and there is no exception. Then we have secondary precepts, which are dependent on our own judgment of what we would do in a certain situation, and are open to faulty reasoning. Secondary precepts require the use of reasoning and experience. You must use the secondary precepts to keep the primary precepts in order for humanity to flourish. If we were to look at the primary precept of the preservation of life, abortion for example would not be acceptable.

Natural Law does not consider unknown consequences but it is the action itself in which is wrong. When we look at abortion and look at the situations through Natural Law, we realize that we should never take part in abortion. Just like Christianity, Natural Law looks at human life as though it is sacred, so in cases of rape and incest, the mother will have to give birth to the child. Another one of the primary precept to Natural Law is to protect the innocent. The unborn child will have no choice in the matter so therefore it must be protected.

When the mother’s life is at risk we can look at this through different angels within Natural Law. Abortion would not be an option if the fetus were to be harmed so the choice would be for the mother to pass and the child to be born as we are protecting the innocent in this case. Utilitarians would agree because they will measure someone’s life through the hedonic calculus and the more years a person has to live, the more good he could achieve, even though this is based entirely on prediction. However, if we were looking at an ectopic pregnancy, both the mother and the fetus will die. If we were to look at the double effect, there is still a way in which to save the mother. Abortion is still considered an evil act, so that is not an option to keep in mind but there is another way. If we look at the situation where our motive is to save the mother, a rightful act would be to cut the fallopian tube, the act is just as it is not technically an abortion, and we have preserved the life of the mother.

It is important in Natural Law that we do not let our desire or our emotions come into play (just like is Kantian ethics), and we need to based our decisions on pure reason. When it is life threatening to the mother, the mother must choose to let her child live or to stay alive and not let her feeling towards her family or her life goals get in the way of preserving and protecting her innocent child’s potential life. If you were to agree to have an abortion you may see it as a clean choice as you will have the chance to have another child and be able to live a longer life, but this is not real good. This is known as apparent good. Another example of apparent Good can be committing adultery, you may see it as good, as no one is getting hurt and there is only pleasure to gain as long as your spouse does not find out, but it is not real good as you are betraying your partner and if they were to figure out that you are having an affair all that can come from that is pain and suffering. In the case of abortion the real good would be to allow the child to be born as you are conforming to two of the primary precepts.

If we are to go down a virtuous path when it comes to abortion, we must take caution, circumspection, foresight, ingenuity, memory, passivity, reason and understanding and all of this will fall under duty. As a follower of Natural Law your duty is to follow the primary precepts, and in the case of abortion we must preserve human life and protect the innocent so the virtuous path would be to not commit abortion.

Overall Natural Law does not agree with abortion. As followers of Natural Law are to preserve life and protect the innocent, abortion is not an option. In ectopic pregnancy if our motive is to preserve the mothers life it is right to cut the fallopian tube and it is not technically and abortion. The main thing in is to follow the primary precepts, which will lead human life to flourish.

b) Natural Law has no serious weaknesses. Discuss.

Natural Law has a large number of strengths and weaknesses. One of the main strengths must be its universal application. Natural Law will give you the basic moral approach to living a good life no matter the culture or society as the purpose of morality to humans is the fulfillment of our natures. This will connect all monotheistic religions. Consequently, major monotheistic religions have similar view on complex matters such as abortion and euthanasia due to Aquinas’ Natural Law. The universal application strength can also be supported through Kant’s categorical imperative, where we must act as if the action we are to commit would be acceptable if all humans are to do the same. Jesus’ Golden rule also supports the strength along with J.S Mill’s although an atheist, he agreed that Jesus’ Golden rule is the kernel to morality.

What we could say that would go against this strength is that there is no common human nature, there is no common culture, and there is no common approach to complex matters such as abortion and euthanasia. This would destroy its universal application as different cultures may interpret nature is different ways such as in the Amazonian tribe the Suruwahá. They would bury a disabled child alive, as they believe it has no soul. This of course goes against Aquinas’ Natural Law as he states that all life is precious and we must protect the innocent. Kia Neilsen supports the argument that there is no single human nature common to all societies by saying that for example; some of us may have changeable natures such as not all men born on this earth may be heterosexual.

Another strength of Natural Law can be that it does not dictate what you should do in certain situations. The primary precepts are general but must be followed; you still have the choice to act on your own accord as long as you follow the primary precepts. We can argue that Natural Law does not allow us free will. This is because Natural Law forbids certain acts such as Abortion. If we look at ectopic pregnancy, we need to find a way around it to commit abortion without actually naming it an abortion, if we were to cut the fallopian tube, people will still see it as an abortion due to the fetus dying through man intervention.

In order for Natural Law to work we must identify what is good. According to G.R Moore this goes against the naturalistic fallacy. He argues that the notion of goodness is unanalyzable and unnatural so it cannot be defined by any reference to nature. Aquinas argues the humans are social animals and it is part of our nature to want to live peacefully in the company of others. As caring for others in a righteous act and is in our nature it must be good. Moore will then say ‘ you cannot derive an ought from an is’ which means that even though we may be naturally inclined to care for other does not mean we ought to.

Karl Barth thinks that Natural Law depends too much on reason and that humans cannot be trusted as their nature can be corrupt. He also states that we do not depend enough on the grace of God and the revelation in the Bible. This criticism can be put down, as Natural Law is the moral law in which God has built into our nature. Followers of Natural Law do depend on authority; they depend on God for guidance and to influence us in our moral behavior. Karl Barth may be looking too much at the Kantian influence on Natural Law and religion ethics. Yes, follower of Natural Law and religious ethics are to base their actions on pure reason, but we also take into consideration the known consequences that can be achieved. Kant says that we do not need an authority figure where as in Natural Law and religion ethics says we do. Our authority Figure in Natural Law is God, he has given us the moral Laws. Karl Barth may be concerned with the secondary precepts where we use reason to justify our actions, but there is nothing to be concerned about as long as our actions justify the primary precepts and we are to commit real good.

Peter Vardy argues that the general moral laws in Natural Law are too broad to apply to specific personal situations. We can argue against this criticism by saying that although it can be a challenge to narrow the broadness of the law, it can still be applied as long as the primary precepts are followed. If we take the question ‘ should more money be spent on schools rather than on hospitals?’ it seems that Natural Law will not be ale to justify either side. This question concerns two of the primary precepts, the preservation of life, and protection of the innocent. In school we educate our children to protect them from falling into debt, or peer pressure, to gain qualifications in order to achieve a stable job, which can protect them from a bad life and welcome in a good life. In hospitals we save the life of young children and pensioners in order to preserve their life. As no primary precept is worth more than the other, the answer would be to spend equal amount of money in both areas.

Some scholars argue that Natural Law may not work as they think it is that you must follow what come naturally to you. If you are in a situation where anger arises and your instincts tell you to conform your anger with violence, you must do so as it comes naturally to you, this of course does not justify goodness. What Aquinas may say to revive his theory is that Natural Law is not about what comes to us naturally but nature interpreted by human reason.

Overall I do not think there is a serious weakness to Natural Law. Most criticisms can be answered rationally. The main criticism that I think is the strongest must be the taking away of free will. Free will is a gift given to us from God, it would be wrong to say that we are forbidden to commit acts such as abortion or active euthanasia. Natural Law is a happy balance between deontological and teleological theories as it looks at known consequences and pure reason. I agree with Aquinas’ Natural Law, I think if we are to live a just life as humans, the primary precepts are essential. My response to the argument of free will is that although it is forbidden to commit abortion, there is nothing physically stopping us to proceed with the action so the essence of free will is still there.

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