Does natural law exist? What is it?

Does natural law exist?  What is it?

Natural law isn’t something talked about very much these days, except in Catholic theology, which has kept the teaching alive.  In this post I write about Saint Thomas Aquinas, the founder of modern natural law theory.  By the way, Aquinas is often just called Thomas, so when I refer to Thomas I’m not being overly familiar.

Not only is natural law not talked about these days, but it runs against the cultural current of the age: that you can’t judge other people’s values.  You can’t judge because, for many people, no culture is intrinsically better than another.  The same goes for values.  I taught natural law to undergraduates for several years, and I’m sure this affects my view of the cultural current.  The post that reflects on my teaching experience is on this site. 

Natural law doesn’t accept this relativity.  Some things are good for all people, and other things are bad for all people.  Not just good or bad just for others, but for yourself. 

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The difficulty of teaching natural law to undergraduates

This post stems from my difficulties in teaching the natural law to undergraduate and graduate students.  One difficulty is the lack of any decent accompanying text (I think mine is an exception, but I’m not writing this to promote my work).  Most texts argue along the following lines:

natural law is not about human nature as it is, but about human nature at its best . . . . . . [60,000 words] . . . . . . And so you see that abortion and homosexuality are against natural law. 

It is as if the point of natural law is to justify the author’s convictions.  An example is Morality and the Human Goods: An Introduction to Natural Law Ethics, by Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, but there are many others. 

I’m not sure how to best approach the natural law, but I’m pretty sure it’s best not to use it to justify an agenda.

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