Through his wisdom God is the founder of the universe of things . . . .

And so, as being the principle through which the universe is created, divine wisdom means art, or exemplar, or idea, and likewise it also means law, as moving all things to their due ends. Accordingly the Eternal law is nothing other than the St. Thomas exemplar of divine wisdom Aquinas 1274) directing the motions and Natural acts of everything. Law  

(1225 –

St. Thomas Aquinas: Natural Law 1. Pre-Notes:
Moral Case Biographical notes Metaphysical Background 6. Theory of the Natural Law Law in General Eternal Law Natural Law in particular: Precepts of the Natural Law Further questions 13.Contemporary Moral Principles Principle of Double Effect Theory of Proportionate Reason

Suggested Readings: Timothy McDermott, ed., “Preface: What the Summa is About,” St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Maryland: Christian Classics,1989), xvii-lviii. Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas. Vol. I: The Person and His Work, trans. Robert Royal (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996) Ramon Reyes, Ground and Norm of Morality (Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989), Ch. 5. Frederick Copleston, Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1976), pp. 9-15; 199-242.

Choosing Death: Physicians, Patients, and End-of-Life Care Today, many physicians have come to believe that prolonged, life-sustaining treatment is not always in the patient's best interest, even if providing such treatment would mean life over death. . . . As medical technology advances with unprecedented speed, physicians are more able than ever to help patients with a slew of aggressive, life-saving treatments. But in treating the diseases, the physicians often

1. Pre-Notes

In tonight's episode of ER, we are confronted with a wrenchingly painful situation: a mother watches her child suffer agonizing pain as he slowly dies from ADL, a degenerative disease for which there is no cure. Joi, his mother, is well acquainted with the suffering her son is going through: her older son died of the same genetic disorder a few years earlier. In order to spare her younger son the trauma of dying in a cold, impersonal hospital, she seeks a way to have him spend his final days at home. Dr. Ross helps make that wish a reality by prov-

As Joi watches her son die, she and Dr. Ross discuss ways in which her child's suffering can be relieved even further, since the amount of pain medication she is administering to her son seems to be having little effect. Dr. Ross explains how much is safe to give, but then goes on to explain how she can increase the medicine doses so that she will eventually drug her child to the point of death -should she wish to make that

This episode raises a series of tangled ethical questions. First and foremost, there is the question of Dr. Ross' role. Did he do the right thing when he explained to the patient’s mother how to medicate her son such that death will occur? Second, there is also the issue of the mother’s decision.

As Joi watches her son die, she and Dr. Ross discuss ways in which her child's suffering can be relieved even further, since the amount of pain medication she is administering to her son seems to be having little effect. Dr. Ross explains how much is safe to give, but then goes on to explain how she can increase the medicine doses as demanded to ease the pain. He also tells her that since the heart can only take so much, an increased dose could also lead to death. Doing as Dr. Ross instructed, Joi gradually

Life of St. Thomas: 1225-1274
– Born 1225 at Roccasecca of noble family on the decline; – At age 5, Thomas was brought to the Oblate of Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino for education; At age 6 when asked what he wanted most to know, answered: "What is God?" All his life he sought to fill out the answer. – In Naples, Thomas was captivated by preaching of new Dominican friars, enters novitiate. Sent off quickly to Paris because of opposition of family, captured and interned by family for a year; could not be budged. – In 1244, at age twenty, start his studies as Dominican friar in the university of Paris under master Albert the Great, the famous German friar who was just beginning his encyclopedic commentaries on the work of Aristotle. – 1273: Back in Naples, Dec. 6, refuses to write anymore despite urging of his devoted secretary Brother Reginald: "All that I have written now seems

Best Known treatises):




(a) Summa Contra Gentiles (A Summary Against the Gen-tiles): an apology for the Christian faith; aims was to show that the Christian faith rests on a rational foundation and that the principles of philosophy do not necessarily lead to a view of the world which excludes Christianity either implicitly or explicitly. (b) Summa Theologica (A Summary of Theology): a sys-tematic and summary exposition of theology for "novices" in this branch of study; divided into 3 parts; but the second part is itself divided into 2 parts, known respectively as the Prima secundae

Revie w

What distinguishes the metaphysician within philosophical inquiry is his thrust toward articulating a vision of reality as a whole, not just some part of it. (meta ta physica)- transcending the scope of philosophy of nature or physics to inquire into the ultimate causes of all things. In metaphysics we focus our inquiry explicitly on the ultimate context of all experience, that of reality or being itself, as such--rather than on any Metaphysical particular part of it. world-View

Influences (1) Aristotle’s metaphysics – the study of the real requires the study their causes. 4 Causes – Formal – that in a being that makes it to be such, this kind of being; Material – that in a being out of which it is made; Efficient – that which by its action makes a being to be; Final – that for the sake of which Metaphysical something is made or done. world-View

Influences (2) • Neo-Platonic Theory of Participation –
Where many beings are found to be – intrinsically similar in that they share some one perfection common to all yet are diverse (dissimilar), this common perfection of similarity cannot find its adequate sufficient reason in these many participants precisely as many and diverse. The only adequate sufficient reason for this common sharing must be some one unitary source from which this common perfection derives. What all beings share in common is the act of existence itself. Hence, all beings Metaphysical to one necessarily point back world-View single ultimate source of existence itself.


Thomistic Synthesis: Synthesis

- Aristotle’s concern with change, Aquinas transformed into the question of existence: God is both efficient and final cause of all beings. - Relation between beings and Being is conceptualized in terms of the NeoAquinas existentialized both Aristotle Platonic theory of Participation. and
Plato to show that all beings not only come from God as their First Cause but also return to Him as to their perfection as the Final Cause.

Metaphysical world-View

The Great Circle of Being: The Universe as Journey.

But no there is has the outgoingjourney journey First, sooner the exodus, or begun thanof all created being and starts outward it pivots upon itself from its back on a Source, homeemanationits Source Infinite journey the again to of the (reditus), drawn by the . pull of the Good in Many from the One . . This outward each being. This pull arises asin God as the inner act movement is grounded of exercising each thing pours .over into its being of efficient causality . . actively characteristicout of His ownaction, seeking goal-oriented self-diffusive producing the fullness of itswholeperfection, and drawn goodness the own ordered system of to multiple, participated, finite beings, the this goodness ultimately, through the channels of of the Many from the the same procession participation, by One. Infinite Goodness from which its original act

Conclusio n
It is this metaphysical framework–God as both first and final cause--that enables Aquinas to assert that from the very fact that the human being has a nature, he is dyna-mically oriented toward a goal, a final end. This orienta-tion to­ward a final end is not something up to the hu-man being's free choice; it is already inscribed in her nature, and her will in particular, as an a priori necessary tendency she can do nothing about. The moral life, in this context, involves the realm of the human being's free

2. Theory of the Natural Law

Excursus: Format of the Summa
Medieval Debate Format: 8The text is divided into hundreds of topics called Questions; Questions 8 Each topic consists of a sequence of dilemmas called Articles, Articles 8 Each dilemma is posed by three short arguments called Objections, Objections 8 Against some traditional position called the Sed Contra, Contra 8 And resolved by an argued point of view called the Response applied to each objection in Answers to the Natural Law Objections.

2. Theory of the Natural a. The Law Nature of Law in“Law is a kind of direction or measure for General 1 human activity through which a person is led to do something or held back.” (Q.90,a.1) 1 “Now direction and measure come to human acts from reason.” (Q.90,a.1) Taken as a rule and measure, law can be present in two man-ners, first, and this is proper to the reason, as in the ruling and measuring principle, and in this manner it is in the reason alone; second, as in the subject ruled and measured, and in this man-ner law is present wherever it communicates a tendency to something, which tendency can be called derivatively, though not essentially, a ‘law.’

1 “Law is engaged above all with the plan of things for human happiness…every law is shaped to the common good.” (Q.90, a.2)

It is nothing than a reasonable direction of beings toward the common good, promulgated by the one who is charged with the community. (ST,I-II,q.90,a.4,c) Natural Law

V As stated above, law is nothing but a dictate of practical reason issued by a sovereign who governs a complete community. Granted that the world is ruled by divine Providence, . . . [then] it is evident that the whole community of the universe is governed by God’s mind. Therefore the ruling idea of things which exists in God as the effective sovereign of them all has the nature of V Ideas in the divine mind and in the law. . . . It follows that this law should human mind do not stand in the same be called eternal. (Q.91,a.1,c) relationship to things. For the human mind is measured by things, in such wise that its concept is not true of itself, but because it agrees with a thing. According to what a thing is or is not objectively so the view we form of it is true or false. God’s mind, however, is the measure of things, for, as we have shown, each has truth to the extent that it reflects the

b. Eternal Law

The Eternal Law is nothing other than the exemplar of divine wisdom directing the motions and acts of Eternal everything. Law (Q.93,a.1)

Pre-Note 1:

Law is a rule and measure, as we have said, and therefore can exist in two manners, first as in the thing which is the rule and measure, second as in the thing that is ruled and measured, and the closer the second to the first the more regulated and measured it will be. Since all things are regulated and measured by Eternal Law, as we have seen, it is evident that all somehow share in it, in that their tendencies to their own proper acts and ends are from its impression. (Q.91,a.2)

Natural Law

c. Natural Law
Pre-Note 2: V A thing may be known in two ways, the first, in itself, the other, in its effects, in which some likeness to it is discovered, as when not seeing the sun itself we nevertheless see daylight. So then it should be said that no one, except God himself and the blessed who see him in his essence, can know the Eternal Law as it is in itself, but that every rational creature can

Natural Law

The natural law is nothing other than the sharing in the Eternal Law by intelligent creatures.

Precepts of the Natural law 1 The precepts of the natural

1 The precepts of the natural law are to human conduct what the first principles of thought are to demonstration. There are several first principles of thought, and so, also, several precepts of natural law. (Q.94,a.2)

That which first appears is the real, and some insight into this is included in whatsoever is apprehended. This first indemonstrable principle, ‘There is no affirming and denying the same simultaneously’, is based on the very nature of the real and the non-real: on this principle, as Aristotle notes, all other propositions are based.

To apply the analogy: as to be real first enters into human apprehending as such, so to be good first enters the practical reason’s apprehending when it is bent on doing something. For every agent acts on account of an end, and to be an end carries the meaning 1 of to beThe first principle for the practical reason is good. based on the meaning of good, namely that it is

Precepts of the Natural law

based on the meaning of good, namely that it is what all things seek after. And so this is the first command of law, ‘that good is to be sought and done, evil to be avoided’. (Q94,a.2)


Primary Precepts of the Natural Law
Reason, reflecting upon human beings’ natural inclinations, promulgates the order of the primary precepts of natural law which follows the order of natural inclinations: • Every substance tends to conserve its existence according to its own kind. Together with all substances, human beings have a natural tendency to preserve their being, and reason reflecting on this tendency as present in human beings promulgates the precept, that life is to be preserved. Human beings have inclinations that is common to all animals. These are inclinations involving propagation of species


Primary Precepts of the Natural Law

Human beings have inclinations proper to rational beings. In virtue of the rational nature of human beings, there are those inclinations to know the truth, live in society . . . etc. Again, reason, reflecting on these inclinations of the rational nature, promulgates such precepts as human beings should seek the truth and avoid ignorance, especially about those things knowledge of which is necessary for the right ordering of According to the human beings should law, then, human lives, and that natural everything that is right by nature is right live in society with others.

either – because the being is such, or – because the

universal universal

nature nature

of of

Secondary Precepts of the Natural Law further on human Reason, reflecting

nature can discover even less general and more particular precepts. There is a decreasing generality in the precepts. The moral agent's action may begin with the more universal precepts. But she cannot stop there because the more universal the precept is, the less it has to say about what action to pursue. Hence, the moral agent, in the process of practical reasoning, must move forward beyond the realm of general rules through a series of more and more particular

We can thus isolate three moments in the whole process of applying the natural law: First, we are disposed to “do good and avoid evil.” This is synderesis: the disposition by which a human being is in possession of the fundamental principle of morality. Second, reason discerns the matter at hand and applies the general principles of natural law to the concrete situation. Third, there is the judgment to do something because it is good or avoid it because it is evil. This whole process is what we call conscience
Do Good and Avoid Evil Primary Precepts Less General Precepts Judgment



Further Clarification s:
First: The term, “natural law” itself is misleading because it implies that ethical laws are like "laws of nature" or scientific laws. Second: It also misleading to think of it as being similar to civil law: they apply equally to all human beings, regardless of the conventions, customs, or beliefs of their particular society. Therefore, we can say that natural law refers to ethical guidelines or rules that stipulate what people ought to do rather than what they in fact do, and that they apply equally to all humanity because they are rooted in human nature itself.

Further Clarification s: Third: Note the Significant Role of Reason:
Through reason, the human being can reflect on his fundamental inclinations of his nature (Remember: these are inclinations to the dev-elopment of his potentials and attainment of his good). And then, having reflected on his fundamental inclinations, the human being promulgates to himself the natural moral law. Thus, by the light of his reason, the human being can arrive at some knowledge of the natural law. And since this law is a participation in or reflection of the eternal law – the human being is not left in ignorance of the eternal law which is the ultimate rule of all conduct.

Further Questions:
(a) But why should we take our "inclinations" seriously? There are two modes in the determination of judgment: x Way of cognition: I take a certain judgment, let us say, s is p, and I wonder how it is determined. Roughly, it may be determined by antecedent cognitions. Perhaps, the predicate is really contained in the subject (analytic). Or we take a proposition of experience, and we determine the truth of this proposition by antecedent knowledge. x Way of inclination: Many judgments are determined not by way of cognition but by way of inclination. We say "yes" or "no" to all sorts of propositions as a result of inclination. Is this arbitrary thinking? In many cases, cognition is not available and all we have is judgment by way of inclination.

Further Questions:
Very often though, in the case of natural law, the inclination involved is not purely intellectual. We cannot give a strictly demonstrable justification for our knowledge of the natural law. All we can say perhaps is that the inclination involved is that of the good, honest will, and the expert is the prudent, the wise. Thus: We can conclude that the natural law is known by reason, but reason sort of divines our inclinations.

Further Questions:
(b) Is natural moral law one and the same for all human beings? Obviously, one and the same for all, in its primary and more easily known rules. As for secondary precepts, although more complicated, they are still rather close in meaning to primary principles. Hence, they are relatively right for all and are known to all, in most cases. But the more particular we get, the more remote are these precepts from the primary. These precepts are not easily known by all. What this means is that the more particular moral precepts, requiring developed capacities of practical reasoning, may be erroneously or inadequately grasped by some people who are led astray by bad reasoning or corrupt habits.

Further Questions :
(c) Can Natural Law be Changed? It is sometimes claimed that human nature is always and everywhere the same, hence natural moral laws must be permanent and incapable of change. This claim is too rigorous and simplistic. On the basis of decreasing universality: the primary precepts remain immutable. But as we move to more particular precepts, these can be "changed"--i.e., the circumstances of an act may be such that it no longer falls under the class of actions prohibited by reason. In its general form then, the precepts remains

a All other things being equal, we hold that it is better to live than to die, that it is better that mothers should take care of their babies rather than dispose of them, that it is better not to lie than to lie. This is so because of what these things are: because a human being is a being, because a mother is a mother, because human beings are rational agents. a We express these natures rationally, and thus we have the first component of the definition of law: it is a work of the reason. But it is a reason measured by things, which bows before things: that is what we mean when we say that things are right by nature. Thus, the natural law exists in nature before it exists in our judgment, and it enjoys the latter existence – that is what natural law

Conclusio n:

Even then, human reason is not the ultimate, but only the proximate or immediate promulgator of the natural moral law. As mentioned before, this law is not without a relation to something above itself: it is related always to the eternal

Lifeboat Case

Moral Absolutism

Suppose you were on a military convoy from the United States to England during World War II. Your ship was attacked and sunk. Your life raft was carrying 24 persons, although it was designed to carry only 20. You had good reason to believe that the raft would sink unless four people were eliminated, and four people on board were so seriously injured in the catastrophe that they were probably going to die anyhow. Because no one volunteered to jump overboard, you, as the ranking officer on the boat, decided to have them pushed overboard. Were you morally justified in doing so?

Moral absolutism
Moral absolutism can refer either to "the belief that some objective standard of moral truth exists independently of us or that certain actions are right or wrong regardless of their consequences."

Reasons for absolutism

(i) Basic values cannot be measured or com-pared. They cannot be quantified, hence, they cannot be traded off for another. Basic values are incommensurable. (ii) Consequences cannot be used to determine moral judgments because we must make moral judgments also by evaluating the motives of the person performing the action. The motive of an action is what a person wants to

Principle of Double Effect
I Provides the conditions under which an indirectly willed evil may not be imputed to the agent and therefore is allowed. I It is morally permissible to perform an action that has two effects, one good and the other bad, if the following conditions are present:

1 2 3 4

A proportionately grave reason must be had and order to effect must The evil may the good justify the The act in not be evil in itself. admission equallyindirect,positively of the the agent proceed The least also of more at intention It is directlyevil effect. must be In other words, a act else proportionally good, the as the bad itself mustis from articulated act; i.e., the or effectthe serious reason even very good. unintended,or at must asexist for immediate effect the be good not must be least a direct performingeffect action. This fourth the is unavoidable if means to the good effect; The bad indifferent; condition effect is toknown as the the good is also be achieved; “principle of proportionality” or


Problems and Controversies

kind of action could be condemned The moral judgment is to be “made not so generally, that is, in most cases, Are there certain generally does much aboutthe actionact in itself as a because a humanactions which are always and absolutely evil, separate entity, and rather thelittle good. serious harm but relatively individual humanBut it is the be evaluated insofar as .independent of possibility of an . . act should any possible justifying intention of the agent? it contributes to or destroys the building absolute condemnation of any physical of the (human) society.” applying in action, a condemnation advance to all possible cases without exception, that leaves  C. van der Poel many a

According to the principle of double effect, an evil effect is only admissible if this effect is not the immediate result of the action, i.e., if the action is not evil in Some theologians “see how a specific itself (intrinsically evil). evil

According to the principle, directly willed evil effects are never permissible, while indirectly willed effects at times are. E.g., direct therapeutic abortion is never permissible, while indirect therapeutic abortion is.


What arenot reasons? Would the these arguments also hold If it were never allowed to true for some admit indirectly willed evil instances would become of directly effects, life willed evil effects? unbearable, much good could not be done, and it would be unreasonable to act in a contrary manner.

Problems and Controversies

Rightly it has been pointed out that The warning of Holy Scripture must common forgotten but must be taken not be sense takes it for granted that such a distinctionwe should a most seriously: that exists. If “not bombing that on a military object do evil raid good may come” (Rom causes the loss mere factlives as a 3:8). The of civilian that the side-effect, this is not imputed todoes purpose of an action is good the army men in the same way askind of if they not already justify any had killed the civilians caused by the means. If the evil directly to undermine the morale of the enemy. means is greater than the good realized by There is indeedthe purpose of the a morally relevant action, then it can directly allowed. difference between never beand indirectly willed evil effects. Indirectly willed evil effects are more readily justified than those directly

As a rule of thumb, indirectly willed evil effects are more readily allowed because they usually come about with less certainty and are pursued and aimed at with less determination of the will. Nevertheless the superior purpose of the ultimate end can also at times permit directly willed evil effects, more readily than those of a material nature, but at times also those of a biological and psychological nature. (An evil effect of a psychological nature would be the deception caused by a lie.) But since as a rule they bring about greater evil than indirectly willed evil effects and are caused with greater freedom of will, it stands to reason that such instances will be much rarer.

C o n c l u s i o n

Proportionate Reason

The theory seeks to reduce ethical decisions to a single fundamental principle of proportion – “An action is morally good if the pre-moral values that it promotes outweigh the premoral disvalues it promotes; otherwise it is morally evil.” More simply, "proportionate reason discerns whether there is sufficient reason to justify the pre-moral evil.”

Pre-moral values or disvalues Pre-moral evil is destructive of are physical, psychological, or social values some aspect prior of whoto are, of moral we their what considered it means toThe notionhuman. Preevaluation. be truly of pre-moral evil moral evil the result of human finitude, or good is makes us less fully i.e., all our human actions contain human. But these realities remain features that either all the pre-moral evil untilenhance or restrict our humanity and the potential for necessary conditions are human goodness and growth. Because considered. (Moral evil is pre- not of these pre-moral/ontic evils, we are moral evil which thedone without a able to realize all is values open to us in any one action (Kenneth causing sufficient reason.) without Overberg, SJ, or
Conscience in Conflict (Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony pretolerating some degree of Messenger Press, 1991), 37.

moral/ontic evil.

Proportionate Reason

Proportionate Reason

What “Proportionality” Entails: (a) There is an objective difference between a merely “good” reason and a truly proportionate one. (b) A proportionate reason is not to be identified only with the intention or end of a moral agent. (c) Proportionate reason is not convertible with the notion of “better results” or “net good.” (d) The concept of proportionate reason is not reducible to a simple numerical

Proportionate Reason
In cases where basic goods are in conflict (e.g., life vs. truth), the moral theory of proportionate reason uses the following criteria: Second criterion: There must be an First criterion: The value at essential link between the evil and stake is at least equal to that good aspect of the action and if the sacrificed. Negatively, an evil is necessary since there is no action is disproportionate ifvalue being sought will not be Third Criterion: The alternative a lesser value is preferred to run by theway of attaining the good undermined in the long contemplated that must be obtained. Evil in this a higher value. This criterionaction is disproportionate if the action. Negatively, an case is an effect of the action and a is sometimes called the manner of protecting the means to theundermine This is good will good desired. this “principle of best service.” good in the long run. also sometimes referred to as the “principle of last resort” -- we have exhausted all possible alternatives.

The theory of reason must be exercised with due caution and tentativeness because by its very nature, it appeals not to the usual way of cognition but to a certain connatural and prediscursive component to moral judgment that cannot be adequately subjected to analytic reflection. There is something that comes to us immediately and in an intuitive prediscursive way, prior to an adequate moral analysis, that springs from a delicate moral sensitivity. Reflective analysis reinforces what one grasps in this intuitive manner. Given this intuitive character of discerning by way of the theory of proportionate reason, it must be engaged in the spirit of discernment, i.e., an inner connaturality with what is good, and Richard A. McCormick. See “A Commentary on Commentaries” in which to Achieve from inner connaturality with God Doing Evil springs Good, ed.
Richard A. McCormick and Paul Ramsay, Chicago:

Conclusio n proportionate

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