Brief Note: "Natural Law" is an older term referring
to the Moral Law. It isn't a set of physical laws, that physical things cannot
help but obey. It is a set of spiritual or moral laws that things who have a
choice should obey.
Law: a reasonable order, promulgated by one who has charge
of a community, for the sake of the common good. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
1. Principles of human action (Practical Principles)
- (a) the proposition that good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be
avoided, and (b) propositions that identify real goods of human existence
as the goods that are to be pursued and done and whose opposites are evils
to be avoided, propositions such as life is a good to be pursued and protected,
knowledge of truth is a good to be pursued, friendship is a good to be pursued
- "good" means "what is perfective of a being, constitutive
of its flourishing or well-being
- these are the "starting-points" or beginnings of human action
(root mean of "principles"): this is how intelligent, purposeful
human choice (and there is no other kind!) operates. If we observe humans
participating in unintelligent, purposeless or meaningless activity, then
we should conclude that this is not the product of choice, but the effects
of something else, either a pathology or possession of some sort.
- these are truths about human action-they really are the starting-points
of human action, not proposed as a theory or a possibility about how to explain
- these are not moral truths; they are not normative--do not claim that humans
ought to act this way but that humans do act this way. It would be pointless
to prescribe actions to humans (tell them they ought to observe a rule or
principle) that they cannot but observe. (However, they aren't exactly descriptive
either: these principles are implied in the description of any action.)
- these principles cannot be proved-they are self- or immediately evident
for anyone who knows what they mean. St Thomas called the natural ability
of people to know the first or fundamental principles of natural law "synderesis."
Following St. Paul (Romans 1), Christian tradition has identified these laws
as "written on our hearts."