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Learning objective:
to explore whether there is a universal moral code within all
To know what Aquinas said about the 4 types of law.
• Give examples of moral beliefs held by most/all
people that might indicate a common law in all
• Give examples of differing moral beliefs that
counter the suggestion of a common moral law.
• Can we use our human reason to deduce what
these principles might be? In other words, is
there any evidence in the world that there are
fixed principles that all humans should adhere to?
What do you think is meant
by the term
How do you think natural
moral law differs from the
laws of nature
Saint Thomas Aquinas
1225 –1274
An Italian priest and
influential theologian
and philosopher.
We will learn about his
moral theory.
Romans 1.20
How could this point to the actuality of a
universal moral law?
Think about it…
… is there is a universal moral code
within all people?
Having considered this key question during our
lesson, write either a YES or a NO on your
Give one brief reason for your opinion. Be ready
to display your board and justify your view.
We are looking at an attempt to ground morality in
something objective and universal, namely, human
Consider the following moral claims:
- Soldiers who were just ‘obeying orders’ in aiding the
extermination of Jews in the Holocaust were
nevertheless acting wrongly, as the Nuremburg Trials
recognized, and the trial of Adolf Eichmann showed.
- An unjust law, such as one that discriminates on the
basis of race, is not a law (Martin Luther King Jr).
- Slavery is wrong, and always was wrong, even when it
had legal sanction.
Moral claims such as these seem to presuppose
that there is an objective human morality, that
can in principle be known by any reasonable
human being, and which is not relative to a
particular culture, religion or period of history.
The argument is that there are some ways of
acting that are required or prohibited by our
very humanity
“The horrors of the [twentieth] century –
from the Holocaust to Rwanda – point to a
level of moral perversity that is unimaginable.
There is widespread recognition by all but the
most indifferent and cynical that these evils
amount to something more than a violation
of mere social customs, aesthetic taste or
Stephen Pope
How far do you agree?
Read the sheet Aquinas and the 4 types of law.
Can you summarise each type of law in 3 lines
1. Eternal law – God’s unchanging law remaining the
same for all people in all places. It is absolute and
universal. It is part of God.
2. Divine law – how God reveals his eternal law through
divine revelation e.g. the Bible.
3. Natural law – we can also find out the eternal law
through our reason. This marks us from animals.
4. Human law – our response to these messages. Human
law is the customs and practices of society. It is only
proper law if it is in accordance with divine and
natural law.