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VIRTUE & NATURAL LAW - the stuff of Christian Ethics.

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Presentation on theme: "VIRTUE & NATURAL LAW - the stuff of Christian Ethics."— Presentation transcript:

1 VIRTUE & NATURAL LAW - the stuff of Christian Ethics

2 The Stuff of Christian Ethics Unique to Christian ethics - 4 Sources: 1. Virtues 2. Natural Law 3. Scripture 4. Notion of ‘the Good’

3 Value & VIRTUE Value & VIRTUE according to Plato and Aristotle values are “goods” (i.e., something cherished/ important to us) according to Plato and Aristotle values are “goods” (i.e., something cherished/ important to us)  virtues are “ongoing patterns of behavior that develop through free and intentional choices” - Jozef Zalot

4 For example, one develops the virtue of honesty by freely choosing to always tell the truth For example, one develops the virtue of honesty by freely choosing to always tell the truth One develops the virtue of justice by consistently rendering to others their due One develops the virtue of justice by consistently rendering to others their due When virtues are developed, a person also develops their moral character When virtues are developed, a person also develops their moral character

5 VIRTUE VIRTUE Aristotle believed that virtue is a habitual way of acting that is voluntary and purposeful; virtue is a habitual way of acting that is voluntary and purposeful; done for its own sake and done for its own sake and not for another motive. not for another motive. there is a hierarchy of values/“goods”. there is a hierarchy of values/“goods”.

6 VIRTUE VIRTUE Aristotle believed in a “hierarchy of goods” with the highest “good” being something that is desirable for its own sake (i.e. is its own end and not a means) Aristotle believed in a “hierarchy of goods” with the highest “good” being something that is desirable for its own sake (i.e. is its own end and not a means) Can you think of any ‘good’ at the top of your hierarchy?

7 VIRTUE VIRTUE Aristotle put HAPPINESS at the top of the hierarchy. Aristotle put HAPPINESS at the top of the hierarchy. HAPPINESS

8 KINDS OF VIRTUE KINDS OF VIRTUE  Theological  Moral

9 KINDS OF VIRTUE KINDS OF VIRTUE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES - THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES - Faith Faith Hope Hope Charity Charity

10 KINDS OF VIRTUE KINDS OF VIRTUE MORAL VIRTUES -  Cardinal  Cardinal (4 “hinge” virtues)  Other moral virtues (e.g., honesty, patience, empathy)

11 Natural Law is the belief is the belief in an objective, in an objective, eternal eternal moral order of Divine origin.

12 Natural Law, like the whole of the universe, exists…

13 whether we are aware of it or not; whether we believe in it or not.

14 God’s revelation to us, through Sacred Scripture (and especially through the teaching of Jesus Christ), is the primary source of Catholic Moral and Social Teaching.

15 The source of these “revelations” is is Natural Law.

16 NATURAL LAW is the basis of: 1. Revealed Law- (Old & New Testaments) 2. Civil Law 3. Ecclesiastical Law (ekklesia = church)

17 Because the Natural Law is “written on the human heart” and can be discovered through human reason, every thinking person can discover it. (don’t even have to be religious!)

18 Moral and human law, for the Greeks, have their foundation in the harmony of nature or the natural law.

19 Natural law for the Greeks provided objective principles and ideals to which human beings should conform. Thus civil law should be parallel to the cosmic order… to the cosmic order….

20 Socrates- ( BCE) Became the first philosopher to make a clear distinction between body and soul and to place higher value on the soul Socrates- ( BCE) Became the first philosopher to make a clear distinction between body and soul and to place higher value on the soul.

21 Socrates- ( BCE) Believed that Socrates- ( BCE) Believed that the concept of law is an objective standard to be declared or discovered (rather than created) by legislators.

22 Plato- ( BCE) Believed that all humans can discern what is Good/Right/True by using Reason (basis of Natural Law)

23 Humans are rational beings (reason) Law is in us as a requirement of reason Universe=order of transcendent reason  ‘Reason’ a core term of the system  Natural law is imprinted on each thing  Aristotle ( BCE) - Believed that

24 Aquinas: C.E. Natural Law is an objective, eternal moral order of Divine origin.

25 According to St. Thomas, the Natural Law is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law" (I-II, Q. xciv) (I-II, Q. xciv)

26 The concept of NATURAL LAW underlies basic underlies basic  moral principles  human rights

27  moral principles- such as the “Common Good” the “Golden Rule” and “the Consistent Ethic”  human rights- such as social justice, basic human dignity and the right to life

28 Natural Law mediates moral law and is found within creation; It can be discerned through the use of Reason. It seeks the Common Good It seeks the Common Good. Aquinas - Aquinas -

29 Aquinas’ concept of Natural Law of Natural Law provides the basis provides the basis of traditional of traditional Catholic morality. Catholic morality.

30 “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” Aquinas also said,

31 Quoting Aquinas, John Paul II defined Natural Law as “the light of understanding infused in us by God, whereby we understand what must be done and what must be avoided.” -The Splendor of Truth

32 ThoughAquinas ThoughAquinas did not intend did not intend for this concept for this concept to imply legalistic to imply legalistic conclusions based on conclusions based on absolute moral principles, absolute moral principles,

33 Unfortunately his successors did so (in some cases) rigidly interpreting Natural Law unfortunately some of his successors did so by rigidly interpreting Natural Law. unfortunately some of his successors did so by rigidly interpreting Natural Law.

34 Today there is general agreement with teachings based on Natural Law (particularly in the area of Catholic Social Teaching). But in some Moral areas (e.g. homosexuality, women’s equal rights) there is some disagreement.

35 NATURAL LAW (ideally) is the basis of Civil Law. NATURAL LAW (ideally) is the basis of Civil Law.

36 Therefore, in most cases obedience to the Civil Law is the moral obligation for the Christian. Therefore, in most cases obedience to the Civil Law is the moral obligation for the Christian.

37 However sometimes Civil Law (due to human error) does not always follow Natural Law. Can you think of Can you think of any examples? any examples?

38 When such a law is immoral a Christian is not morally obligated to obey it (e.g., consciencious (e.g., consciencious objection). objection).

39 “On his/her part, a person perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience…

40 “…In all activity a person is bound to follow his/her conscience in order that s/he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that s/he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her conscience.” -- Pope Paul VI in DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

41 “…an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.” -- M. L. King, jr.

42 “One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly…and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”

43 “… an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust… is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.” -Martin Luther King, jr. -Martin Luther King, jr.

44 “The dignity of persons requires obedience to a higher law…” - Gandhi obedience to a higher law…” - Gandhi

45 civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. Every humanly created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law” (n. 6). “…civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. Every humanly created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law” (n. 6).

46 “… a law which violates “… a law which violates an innocent person’s an innocent person’s natural right to life natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is unjust and, as such, is not valid as law.” is not valid as law.” - The Gospel of Life - The Gospel of Life (e.g., anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany)

47 Civil disobedience goes as far back as Socrates and early Hebrews -- Shiprah & Puah (midwives in Egypt) and Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego in Babylon.

48 Natural Law is God’s law written on our hearts.


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