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Explain How Natural Law Theory Can Be Used to Decide the Right Moral Action

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Explain how Natural Law theory can be used to decide the right moral action [25]
Natural law is an absolutist theory which is most commonly associated with Thomas Aquinas. It mainly relies on Aquinas’ theory that humans try to do good things and try to avoid evil in order to find fulfilment and happiness in life. However, according to Aquinas there are two types of good. There is the real good and the apparent good. The ‘real good’ is something that genuinely leads us to fulfil our purpose and achieve perfection. And the ‘apparent good’ is something that only appears good to us but it isn’t genuinely good. For example, a real good would be to study and revise for exams, whereas an apparent good would be to enjoy ourselves by watching television. We might think the second option is the real good for us but it’s the apparent good as we are not really benefiting from it. Aquinas is arguing that for a person to be happy, they must do good actions which can be one of the two types of good. He is also arguing that if humans do evil, they will be lead to the path of unhappiness. This could be interpreted as our actions determine the extent of happiness in our lives. This is known as the Synderesis Rule.
Natural law in itself is based on five primary precepts which were, according to Aquinas, revealed to us by God. In defining the Primary Precepts, Aquinas was stating 'self-evident principles' that are universal and absolute - they are part of our very nature as humans, this sounds deontological. However, looking at Aristotle's theory of telos, we learn that the Primary Precepts are not concerned with actions themselves, but with our telos or purpose. Natural Law is a deontological theory based on ‘duty’. Theories such as this contain rules that we must follow, rather than judging something of value such as pleasure or happiness. The Secondary Precepts are absolute and they are acquired from the Primary Precepts and have no exceptions. For example, as one of the Primary Precepts is reproduction so using contraceptives is always wrong and cannot be justified. The Secondary Precepts are derived from the Primary Precepts using reason.
Sometimes people do bad things with good intentions. Natural Law would include abortion in this category. If you help someone have an abortion, this could be done with the very best intentions. An example would be in the case of rape, the mother would be left scarred and the baby could be a reminder of the traumatising incident. Aquinas would go against this as it goes against religious aspects because it goes against the sanctity of life. Hence, Aquinas would say it is still a bad act, as the exterior act is wrong, even though the intention was good. For an action to be right there needs to be a good intention and the act itself must be right. Another example would be soldiers. If they fight to defend someone under attack, their exterior actions are good, but if they attack the enemy with the intention of revenge, their interior acts are wrong even if their exterior acts are good.
In essence, it could be argued that Natural Law is the best theory to follow when deciding what moral actions are right. Natural Law is a clear cut theory which provides the follower a simple solution. It’s absolute and tells people what is right and wrong so they wouldn’t have to question the theory a lot.

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