Friday, October 31, 2014

Maritain: Natural Law known through inclination or connaturality

IV. Moral Experience

Finally moral experience offers to us the most widespread instance of knowledge through connaturality. As we have noticed, it is the experiential—not philosophical—knowledge of moral virtues that Thomas Aquinas saw the first and main example of knowledge through connaturality that moral consciousness attains a kind of knowing—inexpressible in words and notions—of the deepest dispositions—longings, fears, hopes or despairs, primeval loves and options—involved in the night of the subjectivity. When a man makes a free decision, he takes into account, not only that he possesses of moral science and factual information, and which is manifested to him in concepts and notions, but also all the secret elements of evaluation which depend on what he is, and which are known to him through inclination, through his own actual propensities. And his own virtues, if he has any.

But the point on which I should like to lay stress deals with that most controversial tenet in moral philosophy, Natural Law. I don’t intend to discuss Natural Law now, I shall only emphasize an absolutely essential element, to my mind, in the concept of Natural Law. The genuine concept of Natural Law is the concept of a law which is natural not only insofar as it expresses the normality of functioning of human nature, but also insofar as it is naturally known, that is, known through inclination or connaturality, not through conceptual knowledge.

You will allow me to place myself in the perspective of a philosophy of Natural Law: I do not do so in order to assume that you take such a philosophy for granted, but in order to clarify the very idea of Natural Law. My contention is that the judgments in which Natural Law is made manifest to practical Reason do not proceed from any conceptual, discursive, rational exercise of reason; they proceed from that connaturality or congeniality through which what is consonant with the essential inclinations of human nature is grasped by the intellect as good; what is dissonant, as bad.

Be it immediately added, to avoid any misunderstanding, first, that the inclinations in question, even if they deal with animal instincts, are essentially human, and therefore, reason-permeated inclinations; they are inclinations refracted through the crystal of reason in its unconscious or preconscious life. Second, that, man being an historical animal, these essential inclinations of human nature either developed or were released in the course of time: as a result, man’s knowledge of Natural Law progressively developed, and continues to develop. And the very history of moral conscience has divided the truly essential inclinations of human nature from the accidental, warped or perverted ones. I would say that these genuinely essential inclinations, have been responsible for the regulations which, recognized in the form of dynamic schemes from the time of the oldest social communities, have remained permanent in the human race, while taking forms more definite and more clearly determined.

But let us close this parenthesis. What are the consequences of the basic fact of Natural Law being known through inclination or connaturality, not through rational knowledge?

First: not only the prescriptions of positive law, established by human reason, but even those requirements of the normality of functioning of human nature which are known to men through a spontaneous or a philosophical exercise of conceptual and rational knowledge are not part of Natural Law. Natural Law, dealing only with regulations known through inclination, deals only with principles immediately known (that is known through inclination, without any conceptual or rational medium) of human morality.

Second: being known through inclination, the precepts of Natural Law are known in an undemonstrable manner. Thus it is that men (except when they make use of the reflective and critical disciplines of philosophy) are unable to give account of and rationally to justify their most fundamental moral beliefs: and this very fact is a token, not of the irrationality and intrinsic invalidity of these beliefs, but on the contrary, of their essential naturality, and therefore of their greater validity, and of their more than human rationality.

Third: this is so because no conceptual and rational exercise of human reason intervenes in its knowledge of Natural Law, so that human reason knows Natural Law, but has no part, either in causing it to exist, or even in causing it to be known. As a result, uncreated Reason, the Reason of the Principle of Nature, is the only reason at play not only in establishing Natural Law (by the very fact that it creates human nature), but in making Natural Law known, through the inclinations of this very nature, to which human reason listens when it knows Natural Law. And it is because Natural Law depends only on Divine Reason that it is possessed of a character naturally sacred, and binds man in conscience, and is the prime foundation of human law, which is a free and contingent determination of what Natural Law leaves undetermined, and which obliges by virtue of Natural Law.

Philosophers and philosophical theories supervene in order to explain and justify, through concepts and reasoning, what, from the time of the cave-man, men have progressively known through inclination and connaturality. Moral philosophy is reflective knowledge, a sort of after-knowledge. It does not discover moral law. The moral law was discovered by men before the existence of any moral philosophy. Moral philosophy has critically to analyze and rationally elucidate moral standards and rules of conduct whose validity was previously discovered in an undemonstrable manner; it has also to clear them, as far as possible, from the adventitious outgrowths or deviations which may have developed by reason of the coarseness of our nature and the accidents of social evolution. Eighteenth-century rationalism assumed that Natural Law was either discovered in Nature or a priori deduced by conceptual and rational knowledge, and from there imposed upon human life by philosophers and by legislators in the manner of a code of geometrical propositions. No wonder that finally “eight or more new systems of natural law made their appearance at every Leipzig booksellers’ fair” at the end of the eighteenth Century, and that Jean-Paul Richter might observe that “every fair and every war brings forth a new natural law.” I submit that all the theories of Natural Law which have been offered since Grotius (and including Grotius himself) were spoiled by the disregard of the fact that Natural Law is known though inclination or connaturality, not through conceptual and rational knowledge.

~Jacques Maritain: Natural Law: Reflectionson Theory and Practice, Chap. 1, “On Knowledge through Connaturality,” section iv; pp. 19-23. (St. Augustine’s Press; 1 edition, April 6, 2001).

Chapter 1 topics:
I. Saint Thomas and the Notion of Knowledge through Connaturality
II. Mystical Experience
III. Poetic Knowledge
IV. Moral Experience
V. Metaphysics and Knowledge through Connaturality

Jacques Maritain

Friday, October 24, 2014

Maritain: Natural law, the gnoseological element

NATURAL LAW is not a law written by men. Men know it with greater or less difficulty, and in different degrees, running the risk of error here as elsewhere. The only practical knowledge all men have naturally and infallibly in common, as a self-evident principle intellectually perceived by virtue of the concepts involved, is that we must do good and avoid evil. This is the preamble and the principle of natural law; it is not the law itself. Natural law is the ensemble of things to do and not to do which follow therefrom in a necessary fashion. That every sort of error and deviation is possible in the determination of these things merely proves that our sight is weak, our nature course, and that innumerable accidents can corrupt our judgment. Montaigne remarked that, among certain peoples, incest and thievery were considered virtuous acts. Pascal was scandalized by this. All this proves nothing against the natural law, any more than a mistake in addition proves anything against arithmetic [or, the mistakes of certain primitive peoples, for whom the stars were holes in the tent which covered the world, prove anything against astronomy].

By the very fact that the Natural law is an unwritten law, man’s knowledge of it has increased little by little as man’s moral conscience has developed. The latter was at first in a twilight state. Anthropologists have taught us within what structures of tribal life and in the midst of what magic this knowledge of the natural law was awakened, and how it was primitively formed. This shows simply that the knowledge men have had of the unwritten law has passed through more diverse forms and stages than certain philosophers or theologians have believed. At the same time, we become aware of the fact that the knowledge which our own moral conscience has of this law is doubtless still imperfect, and very likely it will continue to develop and to become more refined as long as humanity exists. Only when the Gospel has penetrated to the very depth of human substance will natural law appear in its flower and its perfection.

[So the law and the knowledge of the law are two different things.] Yet the law has force of law only when it is promulgated. It is only insofar as it is known and expressed in assertions of practical reason that the natural law has force of law. The gnoseological element is therefore fundamental in natural law.

It is important to recognize that human reason does not discover the regulations of natural law in an abstract and theoretical manner, as a series of geometrical theorems. Moreover, it does not discover them through the conceptual exercise of the intellect, or by way of rational knowledge. I think the teaching of St Thomas here should be understood in a much deeper and more precise fashion than is usual. When he says that human reason discovers the regulations of natural law through the guidance of the inclinations of human nature, he means that the very mode or manner in which human reason knows natural law is not rational knowledge, but knowledge through inclination.

Saint Thomas largely developed this notion of knowledge by inclination, but elsewhere—in the Summa theologiae, II-II, 45, 2. Knowledge by inclination or by connaturality is a kind of knowledge that is not clear, like that obtained through concepts and conceptual judgments. It is obscure, unsystematic, vital knowledge, by means of instinct or sympathy, and in which the intellect, in order to make its judgments, consults the inner leanings of the subject—and listens to the melody produced by the vibration of deep-seated tendencies made present in the subject. All this leads to a judgment—not to a judgment based on concepts, but to a judgment which expresses simply the conformity of reason to tendencies to which it is inclined. […]

~Jacques Maritain: from Natural Law: Reflections On Theory & Practice.

• Amazon

Feser: What is a Soul?

"What is a soul? Or to be more precise, what is a human soul?  Or to be even more precise, what is a human being?  For that is really the key question; and I sometimes think that the biggest obstacle to understanding what the soul is is the word “soul.”  People too readily read into it various erroneous notions (erroneous from an Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view, anyway)—ghosts, ectoplasm, or Cartesian immaterial substances.  Even the Aristotelian characterization of the soul as the form of the living body can too easily mislead.  When those unfamiliar with Aristotelian metaphysics hear “form,” they are probably tempted to think in terms of shape or a configuration of parts, which is totally wrong.  Or perhaps they think of it in Platonic terms, as an abstract universal that the individual human being participates in—also totally wrong.  Or they suspect that since it is the form of the living body it cannot coherently be said to subsist apart from that body—totally wrong again. So let us, for the moment, put out of our minds all of these ideas and start instead with the question, what is a human being?"

• Continue reading this article by Dr. Edward Feser at Strange Notions

Fagothey: "The natural law exists virtually in every rational being"

“A common Latin word for faculty is “virtus” and from which we derive the word “virtual.” We have a thing virtually if we have the faculty for producing it, even though we have not yet the thing itself. The natural law considered virtually is practical reason insofar as it has a natural tendency for making moral judgments. The natural law exists virtually in every rational being even before his reason is sufficiently developed to form the actual judgments. As a person advances in the use of reason and “forms” his moral principles, either with the help of moral training or by his own efforts, in him the natural law passes from the “virtual” to the “formal” state. To aid people in this process of moral growth is the aim of ethics as a practical science.”

~Fr. Austin Fagothey: Right And Reason: Ethics Based on the Teachings of Aristotle & St. Thomas Aquinas

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Maritain: "The concept of Natural Law"

The concept of Natural Law is given its definitive meaning only when that of Eternal Law has been established.

“This concept of Eternal Law is not solely theological. In the Summa theologiae, Saint Thomas insisted on the existence of the eternal law on the basis of theological arguments, but it is a philosophical truth as well, one which the philosopher with his means alone can reach and establish. God exists. He is the first cause of being, activating all beings. It is by his intellect and will that he acts: from which we have the notion of Providence. The entire community of the universe is governed by divine reason. Hence there is in God, as in one who governs the entirety of created beings, this very reality which is the judgment and command of the practical reason applied to the governing of a unified community: in other words, this very reality which we call “law”. Eternal Law is one with the eternal wisdom of God and the divine essence itself. Saint Thomas defines this Eternal Law as “nothing other than the exemplar of divine wisdom insofar as this wisdom directs all the actions and movements of things.”

“It is evidently to this Eternal Law that we must have recourse if we are in search of the first foundation of Natural Law. Because every law is a work of reason, at the source of Natural Law there must be reason: not human reason but Subsistent Reason, the Intelligence which is one with the First Truth itself; there we have the Eternal Law.”

~Jacques Maritain: Natural Law: Reflections on Theory and Practice.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Of the Natural Law

Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part (Prima Secundæ Partis)

Question 94: Of the Natural Law
We must now consider the natural law; concerning which there are six points of inquiry:
1. What is the natural law?
2. What are the precepts of the natural law?
3. Whether all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law?
4. Whether the natural law is the same in all?
5. Whether it is changeable?
6. Whether it can be abolished from the heart of man?

Article 1. Whether the natural law is a habit?

Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law is a habit. Because, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 5), "there are three things in the soul: power, habit, and passion." But the natural law is not one of the soul's powers: nor is it one of the passions; as we may see by going through them one by one. Therefore the natural law is a habit.
Objection 2. Further, Basil [*Damascene, De Fide Orth. iv, 22] says that the conscience or "synderesis is the law of our mind"; which can only apply to the natural law. But the "synderesis" is a habit, as was shown in I, 79, 12. Therefore the natural law is a habit.
Objection 3. Further, the natural law abides in man always, as will be shown further on (A. 6). But man's reason, which the law regards, does not always think about the natural law. Therefore the natural law is not an act, but a habit.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xxi) that "a habit is that whereby something is done when necessary." But such is not the natural law: since it is in infants and in the damned who cannot act by it. Therefore the natural law is not a habit.
I answer that, A thing may be called a habit in two ways. First, properly and essentially: and thus the natural law is not a habit. For it has been stated above (Q. 90, A.1, ad 2) that the natural law is something appointed by reason, just as a proposition is a work of reason. Now that which a man does is not the same as that whereby he does it: for he makes a becoming speech by the habit of grammar. Since then a habit is that by which we act, a law cannot be a habit properly and essentially.
Secondly, the term habit may be applied to that which we hold by a habit: thus faith may mean that which we hold by faith. And accordingly, since the precepts of the natural law are sometimes considered by reason actually, while sometimes they are in the reason only habitually, in this way the natural law may be called a habit. Thus, in speculative matters, the indemonstrable principles are not the habit itself whereby we hold those principles, but are the principles the habit of which we possess.
Reply to Objection 1. The Philosopher proposes there to discover the genus of virtue; and since it is evident that virtue is a principle of action, he mentions only those things which are principles of human acts, viz. powers, habits and passions. But there are other things in the soul besides these three: there are acts; thus "to will" is in the one that wills; again, things known are in the knower; moreover its own natural properties are in the soul, such as immortality and the like.
Reply to Objection 2. "Synderesis" is said to be the law of our mind, because it is a habit containing the precepts of the natural law, which are the first principles of human actions.
Reply to Objection 3. This argument proves that the natural law is held habitually; and this is granted.
To the argument advanced in the contrary sense we reply that sometimes a man is unable to make use of that which is in him habitually, on account of some impediment: thus, on account of sleep, a man is unable to use the habit of science. In like manner, through the deficiency of his age, a child cannot use the habit of understanding of principles, or the natural law, which is in him habitually.

Article 2. Whether the natural law contains several precepts, or only one?

Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law contains, not several precepts, but one only. For law is a kind of precept, as stated above (Q. 92, A. 2). If therefore there were many precepts of the natural law, it would follow that there are also many natural laws.
Objection 2. Further, the natural law is consequent to human nature. But human nature, as a whole, is one; though, as to its parts, it is manifold. Therefore, either there is but one precept of the law of nature, on account of the unity of nature as a whole; or there are many, by reason of the number of parts of human nature. The result would be that even things relating to the inclination of the concupiscible faculty belong to the natural law.
Objection 3. Further, law is something pertaining to reason, as stated above (Q. 90, A. 1). Now reason is but one in man. Therefore there is only one precept of the natural law.
On the contrary, The precepts of the natural law in man stand in relation to practical matters, as the first principles to matters of demonstration. But there are several first indemonstrable principles. Therefore there are also several precepts of the natural law.
I answer that, As stated above (Q. 91, A. 3), the precepts of the natural law are to the practical reason, what the first principles of demonstrations are to the speculative reason; because both are self-evident principles. Now a thing is said to be self-evident in two ways: first, in itself; secondly, in relation to us. Any proposition is said to be self-evident in itself, if its predicate is contained in the notion of the subject: although, to one who knows not the definition of the subject, it happens that such a proposition is not self-evident. For instance, this proposition, "Man is a rational being," is, in its very nature, self-evident, since who says "man," says "a rational being": and yet to one who knows not what a man is, this proposition is not self-evident. Hence it is that, as Boethius says (De Hebdom.), certain axioms or propositions are universally self-evident to all; and such are those propositions whose terms are known to all, as, "Every whole is greater than its part," and, "Things equal to one and the same are equal to one another." But some propositions are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions: thus to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is self-evident that an angel is not circumscriptively in a place: but this is not evident to the unlearned, for they cannot grasp it.
Now a certain order is to be found in those things that are apprehended universally. For that which, before aught else, falls under apprehension, is "being," the notion of which is included in all things whatsoever a man apprehends. Wherefore the first indemonstrable principle is that "the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time," which is based on the notion of "being" and "not-being": and on this principle all others are based, as is stated in Metaph. iv, text. 9. Now as "being" is the first thing that falls under the apprehension simply, so "good" is the first thing that falls under the apprehension of the practical reason, which is directed to action: since every agent acts for an end under the aspect of good. Consequently the first principle of practical reason is one founded on the notion of good, viz. that "good is that which all things seek after." Hence this is the first precept of law, that "good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided." All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided.
Since, however, good has the nature of an end, and evil, the nature of a contrary, hence it is that all those things to which man has a natural inclination, are naturally apprehended by reason as being good, and consequently as objects of pursuit, and their contraries as evil, and objects of avoidance. Wherefore according to the order of natural inclinations, is the order of the precepts of the natural law. Because in man there is first of all an inclination to good in accordance with the nature which he has in common with all substances: inasmuch as every substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature: and by reason of this inclination, whatever is a means of preserving human life, and of warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law. Secondly, there is in man an inclination to things that pertain to him more specially, according to that nature which he has in common with other animals: and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law, "which nature has taught to all animals" [*Pandect. Just. I, tit. i], such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth. Thirdly, there is in man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him: thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to the natural law; for instance, to shun ignorance, to avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things regarding the above inclination.
Reply to Objection 1. All these precepts of the law of nature have the character of one natural law, inasmuch as they flow from one first precept.
Reply to Objection 2. All the inclinations of any parts whatsoever of human nature, e.g. of the concupiscible and irascible parts, in so far as they are ruled by reason, belong to the natural law, and are reduced to one first precept, as stated above: so that the precepts of the natural law are many in themselves, but are based on one common foundation.
Reply to Objection 3. Although reason is one in itself, yet it directs all things regarding man; so that whatever can be ruled by reason, is contained under the law of reason.

Article 3. Whether all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law

Objection 1. It would seem that not all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law. Because, as stated above (Q. 90, A. 2) it is essential to a law that it be ordained to the common good. But some acts of virtue are ordained to the private good of the individual, as is evident especially in regards to acts of temperance. Therefore not all acts of virtue are the subject of natural law.
Objection 2. Further, every sin is opposed to some virtuous act. If therefore all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law, it seems to follow that all sins are against nature: whereas this applies to certain special sins.
Objection 3. Further, those things which are according to nature are common to all. But acts of virtue are not common to all: since a thing is virtuous in one, and vicious in another. Therefore not all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law.
On the contrary, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 4) that "virtues are natural." Therefore virtuous acts also are a subject of the natural law.
I answer that, We may speak of virtuous acts in two ways: first, under the aspect of virtuous; secondly, as such and such acts considered in their proper species. If then we speak of acts of virtue, considered as virtuous, thus all virtuous acts belong to the natural law. For it has been stated (A. 2) that to the natural law belongs everything to which a man is inclined according to his nature. Now each thing is inclined naturally to an operation that is suitable to it according to its form: thus fire is inclined to give heat. Wherefore, since the rational soul is the proper form of man, there is in every man a natural inclination to act according to reason: and this is to act according to virtue. Consequently, considered thus, all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law: since each one's reason naturally dictates to him to act virtuously. But if we speak of virtuous acts, considered in themselves, i.e. in their proper species, thus not all virtuous acts are prescribed by the natural law: for many things are done virtuously, to which nature does not incline at first; but which, through the inquiry of reason, have been found by men to be conducive to well-living.
Reply to Objection 1. Temperance is about the natural concupiscences of food, drink and sexual matters, which are indeed ordained to the natural common good, just as other matters of law are ordained to the moral common good.
Reply to Objection 2. By human nature we may mean either that which is proper to man─and in this sense all sins, as being against reason, are also against nature, as Damascene states (De Fide Orth. ii, 30): or we may mean that nature which is common to man and other animals; and in this sense, certain special sins are said to be against nature; thus contrary to sexual intercourse, which is natural to all animals, is unisexual lust, which has received the special name of the unnatural crime.
Reply to Objection 3. This argument considers acts in themselves. For it is owing to the various conditions of men, that certain acts are virtuous for some, as being proportionate and becoming to them, while they are vicious for others, as being out of proportion to them.

Article 4. Whether the natural law is the same in all men?

Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law is not the same in all. For it is stated in the Decretals (Dist. i) that "the natural law is that which is contained in the Law and the Gospel." But this is not common to all men; because, as it is written (Rom. 10:16), "all do not obey the gospel." Therefore the natural law is not the same in all men.
Objection 2. Further, "Things which are according to the law are said to be just," as stated in Ethic. v. But it is stated in the same book that nothing is so universally just as not to be subject to change in regard to some men. Therefore even the natural law is not the same in all men.
Objection 3. Further, as stated above (2, 3), to the natural law belongs everything to which a man is inclined according to his nature. Now different men are naturally inclined to different things; some to the desire of pleasures, others to the desire of honors, and other men to other things. Therefore there is not one natural law for all.
On the contrary, Isidore says (Etym. v, 4): "The natural law is common to all nations."
I answer that, As stated above (2, 3), to the natural law belongs those things to which a man is inclined naturally: and among these it is proper to man to be inclined to act according to reason. Now the process of reason is from the common to the proper, as stated in Phys. i. The speculative reason, however, is differently situated in this matter, from the practical reason. For, since the speculative reason is busied chiefly with the necessary things, which cannot be otherwise than they are, its proper conclusions, like the universal principles, contain the truth without fail. The practical reason, on the other hand, is busied with contingent matters, about which human actions are concerned: and consequently, although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects. Accordingly then in speculative matters truth is the same in all men, both as to principles and as to conclusions: although the truth is not known to all as regards the conclusions, but only as regards the principles which are called common notions. But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all.
It is therefore evident that, as regards the general principles whether of speculative or of practical reason, truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all. As to the proper conclusions of the speculative reason, the truth is the same for all, but is not equally known to all: thus it is true for all that the three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, although it is not known to all. But as to the proper conclusions of the practical reason, neither is the truth or rectitude the same for all, nor, where it is the same, is it equally known by all. Thus it is right and true for all to act according to reason: and from this principle it follows as a proper conclusion, that goods entrusted to another should be restored to their owner. Now this is true for the majority of cases: but it may happen in a particular case that it would be injurious, and therefore unreasonable, to restore goods held in trust; for instance, if they are claimed for the purpose of fighting against one's country. And this principle will be found to fail the more, according as we descend further into detail, e.g. if one were to say that goods held in trust should be restored with such and such a guarantee, or in such and such a way; because the greater the number of conditions added, the greater the number of ways in which the principle may fail, so that it be not right to restore or not to restore.
Consequently we must say that the natural law, as to general principles, is the same for all, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge. But as to certain matters of detail, which are conclusions, as it were, of those general principles, it is the same for all in the majority of cases, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge; and yet in some few cases it may fail, both as to rectitude, by reason of certain obstacles (just as natures subject to generation and corruption fail in some few cases on account of some obstacle), and as to knowledge, since in some the reason is perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition of nature; thus formerly, theft, although it is expressly contrary to the natural law, was not considered wrong among the Germans, as Julius Caesar relates (De Bello Gall. vi).
Reply to Objection 1. The meaning of the sentence quoted is not that whatever is contained in the Law and the Gospel belongs to the natural law, since they contain many things that are above nature; but that whatever belongs to the natural law is fully contained in them. Wherefore Gratian, after saying that "the natural law is what is contained in the Law and the Gospel," adds at once, by way of example, "by which everyone is commanded to do to others as he would be done by."
Reply to Objection 2. The saying of the Philosopher is to be understood of things that are naturally just, not as general principles, but as conclusions drawn from them, having rectitude in the majority of cases, but failing in a few.
Reply to Objection 3. As, in man, reason rules and commands the other powers, so all the natural inclinations belonging to the other powers must needs be directed according to reason. Wherefore it is universally right for all men, that all their inclinations should be directed according to reason.

Article 5. Whether the natural law can be changed?

Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law can be changed. Because on Ecclus. 17:9, "He gave them instructions, and the law of life," the gloss says: "He wished the law of the letter to be written, in order to correct the law of nature." But that which is corrected is changed. Therefore the natural law can be changed.
Objection 2. Further, the slaying of the innocent, adultery, and theft are against the natural law. But we find these things changed by God: as when God commanded Abraham to slay his innocent son (Gn. 22:2); and when he ordered the Jews to borrow and purloin the vessels of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35); and when He commanded Osee to take to himself "a wife of fornications" (Osee 1:2). Therefore the natural law can be changed.
Objection 3. Further, Isidore says (Etym. 5:4) that "the possession of all things in common, and universal freedom, are matters of natural law." But these things are seen to be changed by human laws. Therefore it seems that the natural law is subject to change.
On the contrary, It is said in the Decretals (Dist. v): "The natural law dates from the creation of the rational creature. It does not vary according to time, but remains unchangeable."
I answer that, A change in the natural law may be understood in two ways. First, by way of addition. In this sense nothing hinders the natural law from being changed: since many things for the benefit of human life have been added over and above the natural law, both by the Divine law and by human laws.
Secondly, a change in the natural law may be understood by way of subtraction, so that what previously was according to the natural law, ceases to be so. In this sense, the natural law is altogether unchangeable in its first principles: but in its secondary principles, which, as we have said (A. 4), are certain detailed proximate conclusions drawn from the first principles, the natural law is not changed so that what it prescribes be not right in most cases. But it may be changed in some particular cases of rare occurrence, through some special causes hindering the observance of such precepts, as stated above (A. 4).
Reply to Objection 1. The written law is said to be given for the correction of the natural law, either because it supplies what was wanting to the natural law; or because the natural law was perverted in the hearts of some men, as to certain matters, so that they esteemed those things good which are naturally evil; which perversion stood in need of correction.
Reply to Objection 2. All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inflicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Kings 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive." Consequently, by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery is intercourse with another's wife; who is allotted to him by the law emanating from God. Consequently intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft, which is the taking of another's property. For whatever is taken by the command of God, to Whom all things belong, is not taken against the will of its owner, whereas it is in this that theft consists. Nor is it only in human things, that whatever is commanded by God is right; but also in natural things, whatever is done by God, is, in some way, natural, as stated in the I, Q. 105, A. 6, ad 1.
Reply to Objection 3. A thing is said to belong to the natural law in two ways. First, because nature inclines thereto: e.g. that one should not do harm to another. Secondly, because nature did not bring in the contrary: thus we might say that for man to be naked is of the natural law, because nature did not give him clothes, but art invented them. In this sense, "the possession of all things in common and universal freedom" are said to be of the natural law, because, to wit, the distinction of possessions and slavery were not brought in by nature, but devised by human reason for the benefit of human life. Accordingly the law of nature was not changed in this respect, except by addition.

Article 6. Whether the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man?

Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law can be abolished from the heart of man. Because on Rom. 2:14, "When the Gentiles who have not the law," etc. a gloss says that "the law of righteousness, which sin had blotted out, is graven on the heart of man when he is restored by grace." But the law of righteousness is the law of nature. Therefore the law of nature can be blotted out.
Objection 2. Further, the law of grace is more efficacious than the law of nature. But the law of grace is blotted out by sin. Much more therefore can the law of nature be blotted out.
Objection 3. Further, that which is established by law is made just. But many things are enacted by men, which are contrary to the law of nature. Therefore the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Confess. ii): "Thy law is written in the hearts of men, which iniquity itself effaces not." But the law which is written in men's hearts is the natural law. Therefore the natural law cannot be blotted out.
I answer that, As stated above (4, 5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Q. 77, A. 2). But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rom. i), were not esteemed sinful.
Reply to Objection 1. Sin blots out the law of nature in particular cases, not universally, except perchance in regard to the secondary precepts of the natural law, in the way stated above.
Reply to Objection 2. Although grace is more efficacious than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring.
Reply to Objection 3. This argument is true of the secondary precepts of the natural law, against which some legislators have framed certain enactments which are unjust.

See also:
Natural Law (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Natural Law

Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)

In English this term is frequently employed as equivalent to the laws of nature, meaning the order which governs the activities of the material universe. Among the Roman jurists natural law designated those instincts and emotions common to man and the lower animals, such as the instinct of self-preservation and love of offspring. In its strictly ethical application-the sense in which this article treats it-the natural law is the rule of conduct which is prescribed to us by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed us.

According to St. Thomas, the natural law is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law" (I-II, Q. xciv). The eternal law is God's wisdom, inasmuch as it is the directive norm of all movement and action. When God willed to give existence to creatures, He willed to ordain and direct them to an end. In the case of inanimate things, this Divine direction is provided for in the nature which God has given to each; in them determinism reigns. Like all the rest of creation, man is destined by God to an end, and receives from Him a direction towards this end. This ordination is of a character in harmony with his free intelligent nature. In virtue of his intelligence and free will, man is master of his conduct. Unlike the things of the mere material world he can vary his action, act, or abstain from action, as he pleases. Yet he is not a lawless being in an ordered universe. In the very constitution of his nature, he too has a law laid down for him, reflecting that ordination and direction of all things, which is the eternal law. The rule, then, which God has prescribed for our conduct, is found in our nature itself. Those actions which conform with its tendencies, lead to our destined end, and are thereby constituted right and morally good; those at variance with our nature are wrong and immoral.

The norm, however, of conduct is not some particular element or aspect of our nature. The standard is our whole human nature with its manifold relationships, considered as a creature destined to a special end. Actions are wrong if, though subserving the satisfaction of some particular need or tendency, they are at the same time incompatible with that rational harmonious subordination of the lower to the higher which reason should maintain among our conflicting tendencies and desires (see ). For example, to nourish our bodies is right; but to indulge our appetite for food to the detriment of our corporal or spiritual life is wrong. Self-preservation is right, but to refuse to expose our life when the well-being of society requires it, is wrong. It is wrong to drink to intoxication, for, besides being injurious to health, such indulgence deprives one of the use of reason, which is intended by God to be the guide and dictator of conduct. Theft is wrong, because it subverts the basis of social life; and man's nature requires for its proper development that he live in a state of society. There is, then, a double reason for calling this law of conduct natural: first, because it is set up concretely in our very nature itself, and second, because it is manifested to us by the purely natural medium of reason. In both respects it is distinguished from the Divine positive law, which contains precepts not arising from the nature of things as God has constituted them by the creative act, but from the arbitrary will of God. This law we learn not through the unaided operation of reason, but through the light of supernatural revelation.

We may now analyse the natural law into three constituents: the discriminating norm, the binding norm (norma obligans), and the manifesting norm. The discriminating norm is, as we have just seen, human nature itself, objectively considered. It is, so to speak, the book in which is written the text of the law, and the classification of human actions into good and bad. Strictly speaking, our nature is the proximate discriminating norm or standard. The remote and ultimate norm, of which it is the partial reflection and application, is the Divine nature itself, the ultimate groundwork of the created order. The binding or obligatory norm is the Divine authority, imposing upon the rational creature the obligation of living in conformity with his nature, and thus with the universal order established by the Creator. Contrary to the Kantian theory that we must not acknowledge any other lawgiver than conscience, the truth is that reason as conscience is only immediate moral authority which we are called upon to obey, and conscience itself owes its authority to the fact that it is the mouthpiece of the Divine will and imperium. The manifesting norm (norma denuntians), which determines the moral quality of actions tried by the discriminating norm, is reason. Through this faculty we perceive what is the moral constitution of our nature, what kind of action it calls for, and whether a particular action possesses this requisite character.

Radically, the natural law consists of one supreme and universal principle, from which are derived all our natural moral obligations or duties. We cannot discuss here the many erroneous opinions regarding the fundamental rule of life. Some of them are utterly false-for instance, that of Bentham, who made the pursuit of utility or temporal pleasure the foundation of the moral code, and that of Fichte, who taught that the supreme obligation is to love self above everything and all others on account of self. Others present the true idea in an imperfect or one-sided fashion. Epicurus, for example, held the supreme principle to be, "Follow nature"; the Stoics inculcated living according to reason. But these philosophers interpreted their principles in a manner less in conformity with our doctrine than the tenor of their words suggests. Catholic moralists, though agreeing upon the underlying conception of the Natural Law, have differed more or less in their expression of its fundamental formula. Among many others we find the following: "Love God as the end and everything on account of Him"; "Live conformably to human nature considered in all its essential respects"; "Observe the rational order established and sanctioned by God"; "Manifest in your life the image of God impressed on your rational nature." The exposition of St. Thomas is at once the most simple and philosophic. Starting from the premise that good is what primarily falls under the apprehension of the practical reason-that is of reason acting as the dictator of conduct-and that, consequently, the supreme principle of moral action must have the good as its central idea, he holds that the supreme principle, from which all the other principles and precepts are derived, is that good is to be done, and evil avoided (I-II, Q, xciv, a. 2).

Passing from the primary principle to the subordinate principles and conclusions, moralists divide these into two classes: (1) those dictates of reason which flow so directly from the primary principle that they hold in practical reason the same place as evident propositions in the speculative sphere, or are at least easily deducible from the primary principle. Such, for instance, are "Adore God"; "Honour your parents"; "Do not steal"; (2) those other conclusions and precepts which are reached only through a more or less complex course of inference. It is this difficulty and uncertainty that requires the natural law to be supplemented by positive law, human and Divine. As regards the vigour and binding force of these precepts and conclusions, theologians divide them into two classes, primary and secondary. To the first class belong those which must, under all circumstances, be observed if the essential moral order is to be maintained. The secondary precepts are those whose observance contributes to the public and private good and is required for the perfection of moral development, but is not so absolutely necessary to the rationality of conduct that it may not be lawfully omitted under some special conditions. For example, under no circumstances is polyandry compatible with the moral order, while polygamy, though inconsistent with human relations in their proper moral and social development, is not absolutely incompatible with them under less civilized conditions.

(a) The natural law is universal, that is to say, it applies to the entire human race, and is in itself the same for all. Every man, because he is a man, is bound, if he will conform to the universal order willed by the Creator, to live conformably to his own rational nature, and to be guided by reason. However, infants and insane persons, who have not the actual use of their reason and cannot therefore know the law, are not responsible for that failure to comply with its demands. (b) The natural law is immutable in itself and also extrinsically. Since it is founded in the very nature of man and his destination to his end-two bases which rest upon the immutable ground of the eternal law-it follows that, assuming the continued existence of human nature, it cannot cease to exist. The natural law commands and forbids in the same tenor everywhere and always. We must, however, remember that this immutability pertains not to those abstract imperfect formulæ in which the law is commonly expressed, but to the moral standard as it applies to action in the concrete, surrounded with all its determinate conditions. We enunciate, for instance, one of the leading precepts in the words: "Thou shalt not kill"; yet the taking of human life is sometimes a lawful, and even an obligatory act. Herein exists no variation in the law; what the law forbids is not all taking of life, but all unjust taking of life.

With regard to the possibility of any change by abrogation or dispensation, there can be no question of such being introduced by any authority except that of God Himself. But reason forbids us to think that even He could exercise such power, because, given the hypothesis that He wills man to exist, He wills him necessarily to live conformably to the eternal law, by observing in his conduct the law of reason. The Almighty, then, cannot be conceived as willing this and simultaneously willing the contradictory, that man should be set free from the law entirely through its abrogation, or partially through dispensation from it. It is true that some of the older theologians, followed or copied by some later ones, hold that God can dispense, and, in fact in some instances, has dispensed from the secondary precepts of the natural law, while others maintain that the bearing of the natural law is changed by the operation of positive law. However, an examination of the arguments offered in support of these opinions shows that the alleged examples of dispensation are: (a) cases where a change of conditions modifies the application of the law, or (b) cases concerning obligations not imposed as absolutely essential to the moral order, though their fulfillment is necessary for the full perfection of conduct, or (c) instances of addition made to the law.

As examples of the first category are cited God's permission to the Hebrews to despoil the Egyptians, and His command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. But it is not necessary to see in these cases a dispensation from the precepts forbidding theft and murder. As the Sovereign Lord of all things, He could withdraw from Isaac his right to life, and from the Egyptians their right of ownership, with the result that neither would the killing of Isaac be an unjust destruction of life, nor the appropriation of the Egyptians' goods the unjust taking of another's property. The classic instance alleged as an example of (b) is the legalization of polygamy among the Hebrews. Polygamy, however, is not under all circumstances incompatible with the essential principles of a rationally ordered life, since the chief ends prescribed by nature for the marital union-the propagation of the race and the due care and education of offspring-may, in certain states of society, be attained in a polygamous union. The theory that God can dispense from any part of the law, even from the secondary precepts, is scarcely compatible with the doctrine, which is the common teaching of the School, that the natural law is founded on the eternal law, and, therefore, has for its ultimate ground the immutable essence of God himself. As regards (c), when positive law, human or Divine, imposes obligations which only modify the bearing of the natural law, it cannot correctly be said to change it. Positive law may not ordain anything contrary to the natural law, from which it draws its authority; but it may-and this is one of its functions-determine with more precision the bearing of the natural law, and for good reasons, supplement its conclusions. For example, in the eyes of the natural law mutual verbal agreement to a contract is sufficient; yet, in many kinds of contract, the civil law declares that no agreement shall be valid, unless it be expressed in writing and signed by the parties before witnesses. In establishing this rule the civil authority merely exercises the power which it derives from the natural law to add to the operation of the natural law such conditions as the common good may call for. Contrary to the almost universally received doctrine, a few theologians held erroneously that the natural law depends not on the essential necessary will of God, but upon His arbitrary positive will, and taught consistently with this view, that the natural law may be dispensed from or even abrogated by God. The conception, however, that the moral law is but an arbitrary enactment of the Creator, involves the denial of any absolute distinction between right and wrong-a denial which, of course, sweeps away the very foundation of the entire moral order.

Founded in our nature and revealed to us by our reason, the moral law is known to us in the measure that reason brings a knowledge of it home to our understanding. The question arises: How far can man be ignorant of the natural law, which, as St. Paul says, is written in the human heart (Rom., ii, 14)? The general teaching of theologians is that the supreme and primary principles are necessarily known to every one having the actual use of reason. These principles are really reducible to the primary principle which is expressed by St. Thomas in the form: "Do good and avoid evil". Wherever we find man we find him with a moral code, which is founded on the first principle that good is to be done and evil avoided. When we pass from the universal to more particular conclusions, the case is different. Some follow immediately from the primary, and are so self-evident that they are reached without any complex course of reasoning. Such are, for example: "Do not commit adultery"; "Honour your parents". No person whose reason and moral nature is ever so little developed can remain in ignorance of such precepts except through his own fault. Another class of conclusions comprises those which are reached only by a more or less complex course of reasoning. These may remain unknown to, or be misinterpreted even by persons whose intellectual development is considerable. To reach these more remote precepts, many facts and minor conclusions must be correctly appreciated, and, in estimating their value, a person may easily err, and consequently, without moral fault, come to a false conclusion.

A few theologians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, following some older ones, maintained that there cannot exist in anyone practical ignorance of the natural law. This opinion however has no weight (for the controversy see Bouquillon, "Theologia Fundamentalis", n. 74). Theoretically speaking, man is capable of acquiring a full knowledge of the moral law, which is, as we have seen, nothing but the dictates of reason properly exercised. Actually, taking into consideration the power of passion, prejudice, and other influences which cloud the understanding or pervert the will, one can safely say that man, unaided by supernatural revelation, would not acquire a full and correct knowledge of the contents of the natural law (cf. Vatican Council, Sess. III, cap. ii). In proof we need but recall that the noblest ethical teaching of pagans, such as the systems of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, was disfigured by its approbation of shockingly immoral actions and practices.

As the fundamental and all-embracing obligation imposed upon man by the Creator, the natural law is the one to which all his other obligations are attached. The duties imposed on us in the supernatural law come home to us, because the natural law and its exponent, conscience, tell us that, if God has vouchsafed to us a supernatural revelation with a series of precepts, we are bound to accept and obey it. The natural law is the foundation of all human law inasmuch as it ordains that man shall live in society, and society for its constitution requires the existence of an authority, which shall possess the moral power necessary to control the members and direct them to the common good. Human laws are valid and equitable only in so far as they correspond with, and enforce or supplement the natural law; they are null and void when they conflict with it. The United States system of equity courts, as distinguished from those engaged in the administration of the common law, are founded on the principle that, when the law of the legislator is not in harmony with the dictates of the natural law, equity (æquitas, epikeia) demands that it be set aside or corrected. St. Thomas explains the lawfulness of this procedure. Because human actions, which are the subject of laws, are individual and innumerable, it is not possible to establish any law that may not sometimes work out unjustly. Legislators, however, in passing laws, attend to what commonly happens, though to apply the common rule will sometimes work injustice and defeat the intention of the law itself. In such cases it is bad to follow the law; it is good to set aside its letter and follow the dictates of justice and the common good (II-II, Q. cxx, a. 1). Logically, chronologically, and ontologically antecedent to all human society for which it provides the indispensable basis, the natural or moral law is neither-as Hobbes, in anticipation of the modern positivistic school, taught-a product of social agreement or convention, nor a mere congeries of the actions, customs, and ways of man, as claimed by the ethicists who, refusing to acknowledge the First Cause as a Personality with whom one entertains personal relations, deprive the law of its obligatory basis. It is a true law, for through it the Divine Mind imposes on the subject minds of His rational creatures their obligations and prescribes their duties.
On this subject consult: Summa Theol., I-II, QQ. xci, xciv; I, Q. lxxix, a. 12; Suarez, De Legibus, II, v-xvii; Meyer, Institutiones Juris Naturalis, II. The natural law is treated in all Catholic text-books of ethics. A good exposition in English will be found in Rickaby, Moral Philosophy (London, 1888); Hill, Ethics or Moral Philosophy (Baltimore, 1888). Consult also: Robinson, Elements of American Jurisprudence (Boston, 1900); Lilly, Right and Wrong (London, 1890); Ming, The Data of Modern Ethics Examined (New York, 1897);Bouquillon, Theologia Moralis Fundamentalis (Ratisbon and New York, 1890); Blackstone, Commentaries, I, introd., sec. i.
James J. Fox.

See also:
Of the Natural Law (Summa Theologica)

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