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”?
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.”
(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.
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”
“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)
In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas acknowledges universal moral truths
Examples of Natural Law
Principle of reciprocity
Prohibition of unjustifiable homicide
Respect for Life Everyone, everywhere seems to have some versions of these
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.
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 forThursday…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:
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
Responsible for course material through Unit 13 (Applying the Doctrine of Double Effect)
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