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Natural Law Ethics



貝德著Craig A. Boyd),孔祥烱譯



Natural law morality boasts one of the longest genealogies in the history of ethics. From the ancient Greeks down through the Middle Ages to today, professional philosophers, Christian theologians, and many lay people subscribe to some version of natural law morality which maintains that there are some basic truths about human nature which require the prohibitions of some values and the practice of others. Natural law theorists believe that they can discern in human nature—and its various inclinations and desires—a basic orientation to the goods that all people pursue. These inclinations, when rightly understood and ordered, direct us to some activities and away from others. There is, on the natural law perspective, a basic desire to seek peaceful coexistence with others since peaceful communal life is a necessary condition for pursuing other goods. Prohibitions on murder, lying, and adultery are all seen as violations of the ideal for “human nature” since they thwart the peaceful coexistence of humans in community. Moreover, natural law theorists also contend that all human societies know these precepts to be true regardless of particular cultural contexts since they all require peace as a basic good for communal life. These specific principles which ground various prescriptions and prohibitions can be discovered by all people without regard to cultural or religious diversity.


In an increasingly global society where religious and cultural differences are often accentuated and form the basis for conflict between peoples and among nations, it would seem that natural law morality, if it can be coherently defended, may provide a plausible common ground for people of diverse backgrounds. The issue of moral diversity has created problems for defenders of the natural law; if there is such diversity with regard to moral practices throughout the world, how can we say that there is some underlying notion of human nature that could serve as the basis for normative ethics?


The theory has frequently been attacked and its obituary has often been prematurely written by its critics. Yet, as Yves Simon observes, “The theory of natural law, attacked and rejected many times, always comes back with fresh energy.” The present work is an attempt to defend natural law despite the many challenges it currently faces.

自然律理論常常被攻擊,它的批評者多次過早地為它寫了訃告。然而,西蒙Yves Simon指出:「自然律理論多次攻擊和拒絕,但它帶着活力歸來。這本書嘗試辯護自然律,儘管目許多挑戰。

Although the arguments here appeal to the classic articulation of natural law morality formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the book is not merely an apologetic for eight centuries of Thomism. Rather, I attempt to salvage what still has value in his work while simultaneously rejecting those aspects of the theory that are hopelessly beyond rehabilitation. For example, I find his appeal to nature as a necessary condition for morality an important corrective to much of analytic philosophy’s preoccupation with linguistic analysis. His emphasis on transcultural moral norms serves an important role in refuting various kinds of relativism; and his articulation of virtue as a necessary development of the precepts of natural law enables us to see the two elements in a complementary relationship.

雖然這裏的論點辯護阿奎那Thomas Aquinas1225-1274年)表達的古典自然律道德,但這本書不僅是八世紀的托馬斯主義Thomism衛道。我是試圖挽救他的工作還有價值的地方,同時拒絕這理論中不值得改善的地方。舉例來說,我覺得他訴諸於自然作為道德的一個必要條件,這是非常重要的糾正,因為分析哲學過份語言分析。他強調跨文化的道德規範具有重要的角色,用來駁斥各種相對主義;他主張德行為自然律戒律必要的發展,這樣使我們看到兩個要素有互相充的關係。

Although these valuable insights in Aquinas’s work offer the contemporary ethicist much to ponder, unfortunately there are those elements that simply need to be abandoned or stand in need of serious rehabilitation. Contemporary natural law moralists should resist the temptation to follow Aquinas down the path of Aristotelian ontology and archaic medieval patterns of human nature. A genuine theory of the natural law must move beyond the sexism of the medieval church as well as the confusion of identifying cultural norms with transcendent moral principles.


The Religious Challenge: Divine Command Theory


Divine Command Theory contends that human nature, among other things, is entirely too corrupt to function in a normative role. Humans are thoroughly sinful and their attempts at constructing a moral theory based upon the quicksand of a corrupt and perverse human nature is an exercise in futility. Humans are noetically corrupted by sin and, as a result, morally incapable of knowing the good—to say nothing of doing the good. Only a divine command can play this important role; any other attempts are sheer hubris. Furthermore, natural law morality, by starting with human nature and its normativity, seems to be committed to a position that must preclude the importance of God in moral theory. Surely this cannot be an acceptable position for the serious Christian.


In contrast to sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, divine command theory holds that the sole source of obligation can only be found in the will of God. Janine Marie Idziak writes, “Generally speaking, a ‘divine command moralist’ is one who maintains that the content of morality (i.e., what is right and wrong, good and evil, just and unjust, and the like) is directly and solely dependent upon the commands and prohibitions of God.”

對比社會生物學和進化心理學,神聖命令理論認為義務的唯一來源是神的意志。以茜阿Janine Marie Idziak寫道:「一般來說,一個神聖命令道德認為道德的內容(即什麼是正確和錯誤、善與惡、正義與非正義等等)直接和完全依賴神的命令和禁令。」

Defenders of divine command theory have a variety of reasons for preferring their own moral theory to others. These reasons invariably appeal to specific religious and theological claims.


[NOTE: Idziak catalogues these nicely in the introduction to her Divine Command Morality, 9-10. She lists seven reasons why the religious believer would think the DCM is plausible:

·         Divine command morality is a correlate of the divine omnipotence.

·         Divine command ethics is involved in the divine liberty.

·         Divine command ethics recognizes the importance of the divine will.

·         Divine command morality must be espoused in the realm of ethics because there cannot be anything independent of God.

·         Divine command ethics is related to man’s dependency on God as creator.

·         Divine command ethics satisfies the religious requirement that God be the supreme focus of one’s loyalties.

·         Divine command ethics is grounded in God’s graciousness to man in Jesus Christ.]


·         命令倫理和神聖全能相關聯。

·         命令倫理涉及神聖的自由。

·         命令倫理承認神的意志的重要性。

·         命令倫理必須收容在倫理學中,因為不可能有任何獨立於神的事物。

·         命令倫理有關人類依賴神作為創造者。

·         命令倫理滿足宗教的要求,就是神成為一個人效忠的最高焦點。

·         命令倫理是神在耶穌基督裏對人施恩的基礎。

William Ockham argued for one version of divine command theory on the basis of divine freedom. If God was bound by some principle other than God’s own being, then omnipotence was threatened.

岳金(William Ockham主張的神聖命令理論的基礎是神聖的自由。如果神是受一些神自己以外的原則限制,那麼神的全能受到威脅。

Others have maintained that it is hubris for the human mind to determine what God can and cannot command; while still others maintain that if we agree to any other theory (theological in tone or not), it represents a kind of sinful departure from our supreme loyalty to, and love for, God our Creator. Here human nature, especially human biology, is simply irrelevant to morality. Since morality is based upon the commands of God, nothing else has any relevance.


Idziak has recently attacked natural law morality as suspect for two reasons. First, it asks the believer to adopt “methodological atheism,” wherein God apparently becomes irrelevant to the tasks of ethics. That is, one can do ethics without ever appealing to God as creator and supreme object of our loyalties.


Her second criticism is one that appeals to a post-Darwinian construal of human nature that natural law simply cannot defend itself against. She asks,


Is it really so clear what constitutes “human nature” on which moral precepts are based? The post-Darwinian view of human beings is not the same as the traditional Judeo-Christian view .... The plausibility of a natural law approach to ethics can be challenged from a scientific point of view. Human beings no longer appear to be directly designed by God .... Since this is so, the question is seriously raised: “Why should ‘human nature’ be taken as morally normative?”


The approach of natural law, she contends, is impossible to maintain in an evolutionary world. I will argue that this is not so.


Divine command theorists rightly point out that there is a problem with human nature serving as a normative basis for ethics. Indeed, any theory of ethics that didn’t see a problem here would certainly not have much value. However, this objection is hardly insurmountable since natural law morality recognizes that there is more than one sense in which we can understand the term “nature.” Divine command theorists also rightly insist that God must play an important role in any moral theory that aspires to being called “Christian,” as many natural law theories do. Once again, natural law theory not only accommodates God, but sees God as critical to the development of the theory.


The Ethics of Virtue


Different versions of narrative or virtue ethics contend that attempts to start with universally applicable rules for human morality are subject to the postmodernist critique of Enlightenment ethics. However, unlike postmodernism one can provide an epistemological basis for morality through the development of the virtues. According to Stanley Hauerwas, the Enlightenment version of natural law morality is guilty of a number of transgressions. “It confuses the claim that Christian ethics is an ethic that we should and can commend to anyone with the claim that we can know the content of that ethic by looking at the human .... (and) It fails to appreciate that there is no actual universal morality.” Hauerwas seems to object to the idea that natural law morality can provide a universal ethic; or rather he seems to think that since it is a product of the Enlightenment it is doomed to postmodernism’s deconstruction of it.

不同類型的敘述倫理或德行倫理主張:普遍適用的道德規則為起點的嘗試都受到啟蒙道德倫理學的後現代主義者的批判。然而,與後現代主義不同的,德行的發展可以為道德提供一個認識論的基礎。據侯瓦華斯Stanley Hauerwas),啟蒙時代的自然律道德有幾個錯誤。混淆基督教倫理的主張就是我們可以也應該將倫理推薦給所有人)和透過觀察人就知道倫理內容主張。它不明白這裏沒有實際的普遍的道德。」侯瓦華斯似乎反對自然律可以提供一個普遍的倫理也可能他認為啟蒙時代的注定現代主義去推翻

Instead of focusing on either the nature of moral language—as the analytic philosophers did in the 20th century—or considering the nature of the moral act itself—as Kant and the utilitarians did—virtue theorists have concentrated their efforts on specific character traits. Moral language is merely the reflection of morally mature persons, and moral acts originate from persons with relatively enduring character. Thus, the question of moral psychology and character formation lie at the heart of virtue ethics. And yet it may be the case that morally mature persons must be guided by the consideration that specific kinds of acts will never lead to the kind of happiness that all people desire. This is precisely the point that defenders of natural law morality make; it is not in competition with virtue ethics but rather provides a necessary basis for human character.


Natural Law Morality: A Provisional Definition


As an alternative to these competing theories of human nature and morality, I conclude this chapter with a preliminary account of natural law that will be fleshed out throughout the remainder of the book. That theory will include the following elements: (1) all human beings have a specific nature in common, (2) moral precepts are grounded in that human nature, (3) the basic moral precepts cannot change unless human nature changes, (4) these precepts are teleological in character—they direct human beings to their end, but this end also requires a theory of the virtues, and (5) all properly functioning human beings know what the basic moral precepts are.


What do we mean by saying that humans share a “nature in common”? Initially, at least, it means that there is an identifiable essence or species—biologically speaking—that each member shares with every other member of that species. Furthermore, the human species has evolved in such a way that there are clearly activities that promote survival and propagation (e.g., cooperation in groups). It also means that this nature in common is transcultural. Regardless of the culture or geographic location, certain kinds of activities will always necessarily be required for human cooperation. Although the manifestations of these principles may vary from culture to culture, the principle remains the same. Finally, a common human nature applies to both members of the sexes equally. Even though men and women differ in important ways regarding their biological nature, they are both equally human and whatever moral obligations are owed to, and expected from, them apply with equanimity. This nature also serves as the basis for our moral obligations.


The second element concerns what we might call philosophical anthropology. It serves as a necessary condition for ethics because in order to know the human good, one must first know what a human is. In this respect, biology is a necessary but insufficient condition for ethics. Rational evaluation and discernment among our various impulses are required. Moreover, it may be the case that reason provides goods of its own that transcend the merely biological.


Our third element of natural law is that moral precepts don’t change unless human nature changes. Certainly, if human nature does change—and this is an issue we must allow for if we admit that evolutionary theory is true—then there is the possibility that, in some respect, the most basic precepts of natural law morality may change as well. However, it seems that it would always be the case that we are required to “practice justice” and “seek truth,” since these principles would act as necessary formal constraints on human behaviors given our social nature. Yet the idea that the precepts of natural law morality may be open to change seems to confer an advantage on the theory, because its perceived rigidity has been a constant source of criticism throughout the ages. In any case, the precepts are always directed toward the human good.


Our fourth element of natural law morality concerns its teleological dimension. Since the Enlightenment, and even more so since Darwin, teleology has come into disrepute. When we say that moral precepts are teleological we need to ask what kind of statement we are making. It may be that biological organisms are not teleologically oriented toward pre-ordained goals, or ends; however, that does not mean that human activity is not teleological. I believe that the teleological orientation of the natural law is fulfilled by an account of the virtues.


The natural law does not delineate every detail of the moral life; rather, it lays down those commonly understood truths that provide the bare minimum for human coexistence. Traditionally understood, this means that natural law morality is not a complete moral system but requires the development and practice of the virtues as perfecting the agent. Thomas Aquinas, the “father of natural law morality,” says, “All the acts of the virtues are prescribed by natural law, since each person’s reason naturally dictates that he is to act according to virtue.” The key point here is that all the acts of the virtues fall under the sphere of the natural law since they are prescribed by reason.


However, the natural law does not dictate precisely how one is to act according to reason. For Aquinas, the natural law simply indicates what specific kinds of actions are per se good, and those that are evil. But he does not specify in his theory of the natural law just how one goes about determining what kind of behavior is required. Natural law morality does not simply provide prima facie obligations; it also requires the development of virtue, which enables a person to act consistently for the right reasons and in the right circumstances.


My fifth and final point, concerning the nature of natural law, is that its basic precepts are available to all humans whose reason is functioning in a normal fashion. Although this claim has been challenged by sociobiologists, divine command theorists, and postmodernists, I will argue that there is enough of the divine spark in all humans that enables them to apprehend the basic precepts of natural law morality. Thinkers from St. John the Apostle to C. S. Lewis have affirmed the ability of humans to know what the natural law requires. For St. Paul it consisted in natural revelation; for Augustine it was “divine illumination”; and for Aquinas it was the “natural light of reason.” There is a normative capacity in all human cultures to understand these moral principles. Moreover, these principles have their ontological and teleological basis in a relatively stable human nature that is accessible to anyone who will but consult it.

5)第五和最後一個要素有關自然律的本質,就是基本道德戒律是所有正常理性的人都可以獲得的。雖然這種說法社會生物學家、神聖命令理論家和後現代主義者所挑戰,我要辯說所有人類有足夠的神聖的火花,使他們領悟自然律道德的基本戒律。思想家使徒約翰至魯益師C. S. Lewis都認為人有能力知道自然律要求什麼。對於保羅它是自然的啟示;對於奧古斯丁,它是「神聖光照」;對於阿奎那,它是理性的自然光」。在所有人類文化中,都有規範容量去明白這些道德原則。此外,這些原則擁有本體論和目的論的基礎,加上穩定的本性,任何意願的人若去尋找它必定得到。





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SOURCE: Craig A. Boyd (2007): A shared morality: a narrative defense of natural law ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos), 11-32 (excerpts from Chapter 1).




The Religious Challenge: Divine Command Theory. 3

A宗教的挑戰:神聖命令理論... 3

The Ethics of Virtue. 7

B)德行倫理... 7

Natural Law Morality: A Provisional Definition. 8

C自然律道德:一個臨時定義... 8