Two approaches to Theological Ethics

Download 18,62 Kb.
Date conversion19.05.2017
Size18,62 Kb.

Two approaches to Theological Ethics

  • Divine Command
  • &
  • Natural Law
  • Natural Law also has a secular appeal

Today’s Assignment: Natural Law

  • EMP (15 pages)
    • The Tradition of Natural Law (Lucas), pp. 195-198; from “Summa Theologica (St. Thomas Aquinas), pp. 199-202; from The Ethics of Natural Law (Harris), pp. 203-209.
  • Objectives from reading:
  • Natural Law
  • Know difference between descriptive (scientific ), prescriptive (natural and divine), & human (civil, positive, statue) laws
  • Comprehend Aquinas’ features of a law, how natural law can be explained in terms of moral standards and the 4 natural inclinations of human beings.
  • Comprehend the concept of “the common good” vs. concept of “greatest good for the greatest number.”
  • Know & apply the Principle of Forfeiture and the Principle of Double Effect

Questions of the Day…

  • Is it Right because God
  • commands it?
  • or
  • Does God command it
  • because it is Right?

The Peacemaker

Natural Rights & Natural Law

  • In the “Declaration of Independence,” Thomas Jefferson (following the English philosopher, John Locke) makes reference to “self-evident” truths, among which are certain “inalienable rights
  • Martin Luther King makes reference explicitly to “natural law” (as well as the U. S. Constitution) to argue that racist laws are inherently unjust
  • What is this “natural law”?

Natural Law

  • Two important things about natural law theory:
  • (1) Natural laws are prescriptive; they tell us how we ought to behave. In this sense, they are unlike physical laws aka laws of nature (e.g., gravitation), which tell us how things do in fact behave and are, therefore, descriptive. “Unlike rocks, we are always at liberty to disobey the natural laws that pertain to us. This is how we sin.”

Natural Law

  • (2) Natural laws are absolute, because the goods in which they are grounded are incommensurable
    • that is, there is no common metric that would allow us to compare them.
  • Hence, there can be no ‘trade-offs’ between, say, protecting life and seeking knowledge; or, more importantly, between protecting this life rather than that life.

Natural Law

  • Encompasses tradition of moral and legal philosophy reaching back to Aristotle & Roman Stoics (Cicero)
  • There is a secular and a theological version
    • (the latter connect nicely to the notion of “divine command” theory; cf. St Paul)
  • Neither focuses upon “civil” law (what we normally mean by “law”);
    • instead, these traditions use “Law” in the same sense as Kant – the “moral law”

Sources of Natural Law Tradition

  • Suppose we took the world’s current major legal systems and threw out any provisions that were unique to one or only some.
    • Would there be anything left?
  • Political Problem of the Roman Empire:
    • “How do we govern a multinational, multicultural, pluralistic commonwealth encompassing many nationalities, religions, ethnicities, and legal systems?
    • What laws shall we uniformly enforce upon ALL subjects (regardless of race, color, or religious creed)?”

Transition from Secular to Sacred

  • Solution: Common legal core, the Roman code
  • But of this code, Cicero writes:
    • “True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions. . . …We cannot be freed from its obligations by Senate or People, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it . . . …There will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.”
  • Cicero(106 BC-43 BC)

Natural Law: St Thomas Aquinas

  • God’s law is “imprinted upon us . . . The light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the divine light”
  • There are at least some moral truths, derived from God and grounded in God, that everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or cultural background, must be responsible for knowing
  • Distinguish this (as Romans did) from “civil” or “positive” law, and also from “divine” or “revealed” law (the Church has custody of this)
  • 1225-1274
  • In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas acknowledges universal moral truths

Examples of Natural Law

    • “Golden” Rule
    • Principle of reciprocity
    • Prohibition of unjustifiable homicide
    • Respect for Life Everyone, everywhere seems to have some versions of these
  • e.g., Which of the 10 Commandments would you challenge as not being a “Natural Law”?

Relation of Natural Law to Other Kinds of Law

  • Descriptive “laws of nature” by contrast summarize known physical conditions or constraints that apply in fact w/o exception
    • i.e., cannot be “disobeyed”
    • e.g., Law of Gravity
  • Civil or Positive Law:
    • speed limits, tax laws, torts and contracts, property
    • Can be added to, but cannot contravene natural law (cf. Martin Luther King)


  • Eternal Law
    • The law of God’s regulative reason
  • Divine Law
    • The Law that man receives by special revelation from God
  • Natural Law
    • That part of God’s Law that is incorporated into human nature
  • Human Law
    • Law devised by man for specific purposes

Divine, Natural and Civil Law

  • Natural Law
  • (from Reason)
  • “Divine” or “Revealed” Law
  • (From Deity)
  • Law of Nature
  • (Descriptive)
  • Human Laws
  • Civil Laws
  • Eternal Law (Divine+ Natural)

Impact/Influence of Natural Law Tradition

  • International Law (Grotius, Pufendorf)
  • Constitution & U. S. Declaration of Independence (Jefferson)
  • JUST WAR THEORY (jus ad bellum AND jus in bello – law of war)
  • Kant and the Categorical Imperative
  • Gandhi, King, and notion of principled civil disobedience

Natural Inclinations

  • Self-preservation
    • Natural inclination to live
  • Procreation
    • Natural inclination to reproduce
  • Knowledge
    • Natural inclination to learn
  • Sociability
    • Natural inclination to love and seek affection

Two Important Principles of Natural Law (“Casuistry” in Harris’s essay)

Principle of Forfeiture:

  • If I threaten your life…
  • (i.e., violate the principle concerning the protection of life),
  • …I forfeit my right to life.
  • Thus, killing in self-defense is morally permissible.
  • “If you take another life, you forfeit your own right to life”

Principle of Double Effect

  • A wrong or evil result brought about as a consequence of some morally right action (undertaken with intention to do good) is not itself blameworthy
    • Most common in medicine & military
  • Sometimes it is permissible to perform an action that has, besides its desired (good) effects, a second effect that it would be impermissible to bring about, either as an end or as a means.
  • Secondary evil must be a consequence…not a catalyst!

Principle of Double Effect

  • Is the act good / morally permissible?
  • Is the bad effect unavoidable?
  • Is bad effect means to achieve good effect?
  • Does good effect outweigh bad effect?
  • Sometimes the answer to the middle two questions is not readily apparent…
  • Key points are: “intentions” and “avoidability

Doctrine of Double Effect

  • Is it Permissible?
  • Is the Bad Effect Avoidable?
  • Is the Bad Effect the Means of Producing a Good Effect?
  • Is the Bad Effect Disproportionate?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Intended
  • No
  • Not Permissible…
  • …Forbidden
  • No
  • Yes,
  • It is avoidable
  • Yes, Bad Effect is Intended
  • Yes
  • (Side Effect Only)
  • Act

Case 1

  • A pregnant women is diagnosed with uterine cancer. If her uterus is removed, she will be saved, but the fetus will die. So the hysterectomy will have evil effects.
  • May a surgeon perform the operation?
  • Similar case : Conjoined twins

Case 2

  • Terror Bombing vs Strategic Bombing
  • Sometime in 1940, British policy regarding bombing changed to mandate the targeting of built-up areas as opposed to military and industrial targets.
  • It’s estimated that 300,000 German civilians were killed and 780,000 injured as a direct result of this terror bombing. In Dresden alone, 100,000 civilians were killed.

Case 2 (con’t)

  • In the context of war, bombing the enemy is a morally legitimate action.
  • The direct effect of the bombing was the deaths of civilians and the promotion of terror. This is not morally acceptable.
  • The intent of the British policy was to incur terror. Killing civilians was indeed an essential part of the plan.

Case Study Terror and Retaliation

  • Case I: The Palestinian man straps an explosive to his body and begins to walk down the street to the city center.
  • He grew up in a refugee camp and has been taught that if he dies while killing a large number of Jews, he will have eternal happiness in many ways. The importance to him is to ensure that his death results in the killing of his “enemy”.
  • Since he does not own any rifles or handguns, his weapon must be a bomb strapped to his body. He goes into a crowded café, says a short prayer to Allah, and detonates the bomb, killing himself and 14 men, 6 women, 4 children who were dining in the cafe.
  • Case II:
  • In retaliation, the Israeli Army orders a helicopter gunship to immediately fly to a Hammas training building. This is a well-known target, which ground intelligence confirms contains a terrorist bomb-maker inside.
  • The helo fires a rocket into the building, killing one terrorist inside the building. The rocket also kills 14 men, 6 women, 4 children who were sitting at picnic tables behind the building having lunch. The helo pilot did not see the civilians behind the building.
  • 1. Is there a moral difference between the two acts?
  • 2. What is the moral difference between the two acts?
  • 3. How would a terrorist answer question #2?
  • 4. Does the fact that the exact same number of people were killed in both cases affect your evaluation?

Three Minutes to Launch (CSME, p. 69) Homework for Thursday…Answer the questions

  • In CIC on your Aegis Cruiser, you are loading the targeting data of a “high value” target into the Tomahawk Launch Console in CIC for a missile launch in 12 minutes. According to procedures, you double check the GPS coordinates with the digital chart. When you “zoom” in on the target coordinates, you see that your target, an enemy ammo depot, is right next to a church and a boarding school. The programmed “time on target” is 0950 local, on a Tuesday.
  • With only a short time before launch, you wonder, “Did the staff that assigned your ship this target know about the church and the boarding school? They must know about this stuff, and they probably have a JAG lawyer look at it too.” You consider, “Should I bring this to the attention of the CIC officer or the Captain?
  • If I don’t say something, then it’s on my head that we will kill these civilians and children.
  • You only have 9 minutes to launch, now.
  • As your mind whirls through the images of the warhead detonating, you think, “Look, we need to hit this ammo depot. This is ammo the enemy will use against us our troops. It just isn’t avoidable. And it’s not like we mean to hurt the civilians. They’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I guess using a Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile we are trying to be as accurate as we can be. Maybe I’m Ok with the launch.”
  • You now have 3 minutes to launch.
  • 1. Does the Launch of the missile pass the Doctrine of Double Effect?
  • 2. Do you have a moral responsibility to say something?
  • 3. Do you bring this to the attention of the skipper, or CIC officer? Or do you assume that the staff that provides the target data has considered the proximity of the school and church?
  • 4. If you tell the CIC officer (a Lieutenant) and he does not pass the information up to the captain, are you morally absolved of responsibility for killing the children?
  • 5. If you launch the missile and find out it destroyed the collateral building, how do you morally defend your actions?
  • 6. How do you resolve your moral conscience?
  • You now have 1 minute to launch

Questions on Natural Law?

Reading for Next Class Applying the Doctrine of Double Effect

  • EMP (7 pages)
    • Natural Law and the Principle of Double Effect: Six Hypothetical Cases (Lucas), pp. 211-217.
  • CSME (6 pages)
    • Incident at Shkin (Schoultz), pp. 7-11; Terror and Retaliation-Who is Right?” (Rubel), p. 57.
  • Objectives from reading:
  • Natural Law
  • Comprehend the concept of “the common good” vs concept of “greatest good for the greatest number.”
  • Know & apply the Principle of Forfeiture and the Principle of Double Effect

Mid-term Review

  • Responsible for course material through Unit 13 (Applying the Doctrine of Double Effect)
  • 2 sections
    • Short essay: Using case study, discuss ethical decision making framework (Constitutional Paradigm, Categorical Imperative, Doctrine of Double Effect or Principle of Utility)
    • Short answer questions to validate knowledge of core concepts…
      • Example 1: Describe the major legal constraints on military force and give an example of each
      • Example 2: Describe differences between Jeremy Bentham’s and John Stuart Mills theory of Utilitarianism

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page