Arguments Agsinst Natural Law . . .?


#1

Anyone care to respond to these?

  1. Our conceptions of “natural law” are justly culturally conditioned. What one culture believes to be unnatural may not be so considered by other cultures, and in fact beleives which we consider “self-evident” evidently aren’t to cultures not our own. These include our beleifs about slavery, religious freedom, the dignity of man, and sexual issues (especially homosexuality).

  2. If contraception and homosexuality are wrong because they are “unnatural,” then so is using any other body part just for pleasure. For example, eating junk food, eating when not hingry, and drinking when not thirsty. If it’s okay for me to drink alcohol just for pleasure, and not to quench thirst, then why isn’t it okay to have homo-sex just for pleasure?

  3. Cars and airplanes and other technologies are unnatural, yet still considered good.

Any responses? It’s hard to disucss natural law with people, I find.


#2

[quote=Sacramentalist]Anyone care to respond to these?

  1. Our conceptions of “natural law” are justly culturally conditioned. What one culture believes to be unnatural may not be so considered by other cultures, and in fact beleives which we consider “self-evident” evidently aren’t to cultures not our own. These include our beleifs about slavery, religious freedom, the dignity of man, and sexual issues (especially homosexuality).

  2. If contraception and homosexuality are wrong because they are “unnatural,” then so is using any other body part just for pleasure. For example, eating junk food, eating when not hingry, and drinking when not thirsty. If it’s okay for me to drink alcohol just for pleasure, and not to quench thirst, then why isn’t it okay to have homo-sex just for pleasure?

  3. Cars and airplanes and other technologies are unnatural, yet still considered good.

Any responses? It’s hard to disucss natural law with people, I find.
[/quote]

First, there is an enormous body of literature on the subject that will answer your questions, only some of which I can mention.

Some very brief, off the top of my head, responses:

  1. Our conceptions my vary but that is no argument against the existence of natural law. It is possible to see, for example, in the great variety of conceptions an underlying consistency. From a sociological perspective, James Q. Wilson’s The Moral Sense is good. From an evolutionary/scientific perspective, The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. From a more philosophical perspective, The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis has some good arguments and there are books by John Finnis, J. Budziszewski, Charles Rice, Germain Grisez, and others.

  2. Homosexuality and contraception are acts against the natural goods of sex: unity and procreation. Eating when not hungry, drinking when not thirsty, etc. are not acts against natural goods but acts of gluttony concerning human goods. They are “unnatural” in different senses.

  3. This is not the sense of “unnatural” that is morally relevant. For example, in Catholic moral theology it is not wrong to use technology to assist nature–to restore natural function. It is wrong to use technology to harm natural goods. A pill to help a woman conceive, can be an example of the former; to give a pill to prevent conception is to act against a natural good. A contraceptive works to prevent the natural functioning of a woman’s body; it does not work to help or restore it.

David


#3

I’m actually discussing this very thing on another forum with a advocate for homosexual behavior. And it has come down to a very basic point that the complimentarity of the design of the male and female bodies in terms of sexual contact points to the intention for that act. The opposing poster stated that if other “avenues” for pleasuring the partner are available–why is that against natural law?

(I’ll try to be delicate here)…
My response was that first, NL presupposes God and his design of nature. The point I made was that when males reach a specific point of arousal, sperm is always released (unless they have modified their bodies). The ONLY function of sperm is procreation. If homosexual sex was intended by the Creator in his design of man, why is sperm released during homosexual unions? Or, why don’t men have eggs that can be fertilized by other men? Sperm becomes pointless and that fact points to the proper role and function sex–it is PRIMARILY for procreation–God put the evidence in our bodies so that we can use right reason to determine His will for our destined end.


#4

These are arguments you can never win, but you can have lots of fun and learn a great deal about human nature by having them!

Basically, if it can and does happen in nature, it is hard to argue that a thing is unatural, no matter what your religious preferences are.

The church argues that pleasure is not one of the natural purposes of sex. Don’t know how any normal functioning person could argue that with a straight face, but it is done all the time. The only natural purpose is for union and pro-creation, we’ll just ignore the whole “it feels better than almost anything else” aspect and call that “tiny” fact unnatural because it suits our purpose…OK then!

In the end, it all comes down to opinion.

In my opinion, natural law is simple, if it can happen, then obviously, it is within natural law, otherwise, it would not be possible, Anything we add to that is AN ADDITION, and that is fine, we need to create order to function in societies, but that doesn’t make the rules and regulations natural, they are OUR rules and regulations. Neccessary perhaps, but human created.

There simply are no “natural laws” in the way many people wish there were. The concept is wishful thinking. We are left the confusing and difficult task of governing ourselves. When we get cold feet we like to call out our imaginary friend “natural law” and blame it on him. Human psychology is a funny thing.

When a horny bunny humps a beachball, is it sinning against nature? No, the funny thing is…it is doing what comes naturally!

cheddar


#5

[quote=cheddarsox]The church argues that pleasure is not one of the natural purposes of sex. Don’t know how any normal functioning person could argue that with a straight face, but it is done all the time. The only natural purpose is for union and pro-creation, we’ll just ignore the whole “it feels better than almost anything else” aspect and call that “tiny” fact unnatural because it suits our purpose…OK then!

[/quote]

Woah Cheddar, I can’t let that one go. The Church doesn’t argue that all. Here is just one Catechism entry, 2362:

"The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude."145 Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure:

The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation.146

I have always thought that the Church, almost alone, has preserved the beauty and truth of authentic sexuality and by so doing actually amplifies pleasure. The Church protects the pleasure sex.

Why do you think that the Church argues that pleasure is not a natural purpose? I hope you were never taught that! I would feel robbed.:mad:


#6

If it is just your opinion that “it all comes down to opinion,” then there is no reason to pay any attention to you. If it is true that “it all comes down to opinion,” then you should support the claim to truth.

Regarding the “if it can happen, then obviously it is within natural law,” confuses natural law as scientific and as moral. In other words it misses the point of the original discussion.

As to your claim that there “simply are no 'natural laws,” and assuming this time you mean in the moral sense, I refer you to the books I suggested above where there are contemporary arguments for natural law from Christians (and other religions) and from non-Christians (non-religious). Evolutionary psychology and sociology have increasingly come to see moral values as having a ground in human nature and basic human experience. In additon there are numerous philosophical and theological arguments against you. Standing behind your own opinion isn’t much of a defense.

No one ever said that natural law takes away the difficult task of “governing ourselves” or that it provides every possible rule we could need. For example, see Aquinas on law in the Summa , Lon Fuller’s The Morality of Law , Lloyd Weinreb’s Natural Law and Justice , and any number of works by Robert P. George.

By the way, bunnies can’t sin.

David


#7

[quote=Sacramentalist]It’s hard to disucss natural law with people, I find.
[/quote]

I guess that it is necessary to first define and agree on what is meant by the term “natural law”. Is the definition one which is solid and to the point or is it vague and open to interpretation. If the latter, then you might be running into problems trying to discuss it with someone who has a different interpretation.


#8

[quote=stanley123]I guess that it is necessary to first define and agree on what is meant by the term “natural law”. Is the definition one which is solid and to the point or is it vague and open to interpretation. If the latter, then you might be running into problems trying to discuss it with someone who has a different interpretation.
[/quote]

I find that this is so. In that other forum I mentioned, I explaind the concept quite thoroughly, but I foud that I had to simplify it even more because some words like “natural”, “moral”, “happiness”, “purpose”, etc…have definitions that can be very slippery if the two participants in the discussion are not clear on EXACTLY what they mean. The following is my second attempt to clearly explain the natural law position.

The existence of God is assumed.

God is the creator of all.

God created each thing in nature with unique characteristics to serve His purpose for creation.

God’s creation of man is a unique creation—he can reason, has a sense of what is right and wrong, has a will, and can act upon that will—in those qualities, man reflects the nature of God in the nature of his (man’s) being.

Since man has a sense of right and wrong, and the ability to act upon his rational judgment through the use of his will, man must consciously determine what is right and wrong and apply objective criteria for reaching that determination to ensure that other baser desires or illegitimate conclusions are not drawn.

The ONLY criteria that can be OBJECTIVE is that of God’s purpose for His creation. We are capable of determining that objective criteria and how to achieve it via the use of our reason.

The criteria for determining right and wrong is also the same for determining the MORALITY of an act. One could say a moral act is “right” and an immoral act is “wrong”.

What makes an act right (or moral) is that it is in accord with God’s purpose for man. What makes an act wrong (or immoral) is that it is not in accord with God’s purpose for man.

How do we know God’s purpose? We look to creation and use our reason to objectively determine His purpose—THERE ARE CLUES EVERYWHERE such as those I expressed when discussing the physical form of our bodies!

I’d appreciate any help in being even MORE clear because it really is difficult to express the concept to those who have difficulty looking at thing OBJECTIVELY rather than SUBJECTIVELY.


#9

[quote=cheddarsox]Basically, if it can and does happen in nature, it is hard to argue that a thing is unatural, no matter what your religious preferences are.
[/quote]

You are confusing Natural Law with Laws of Nature. They are two separate concepts. Laws of Nature include things that occur naturally. Natural Laws are moral laws that differentiate between right and wrong. Murder transgresses Natural Law. We all know it’s wrong to murder - we don’t need government legislation to tell us to refrain from murdering our neighbor.


#10

[quote=st_felicity]The existence of God is assumed.
[/quote]

Natural Law does not presume the existence of God. We can all agree that we know murder, rape and theft are wrong. Some say those laws were written in our hearts by God. Others say they evolved as society developed because a society without these concepts society would not survive.


#11

[quote=Verbum Caro]Woah Cheddar, I can’t let that one go. The Church doesn’t argue that all. Here is just one Catechism entry, 2362:

I have always thought that the Church, almost alone, has preserved the beauty and truth of authentic sexuality and by so doing actually amplifies pleasure. The Church protects the pleasure sex.

Why do you think that the Church argues that pleasure is not a natural purpose? I hope you were never taught that! I would feel robbed.:mad:
[/quote]

I have to be honest, I don’t own a catechism, but from what I read here, and what people quote from the catechism, (and yeah, what I was taught as a kid in Catholic school, church and home) the purpose of sex is holy union and procreation. To have sex with the intent of pleasure is sin because it goes against God’s plan, we must do it for union and procreation. I guess we are grudgingly allowed pleasure as a side effect, but it seems to make the whole act rather morally suspect. Again, that is what I see here, and was taught as a kid. The pleasure part is the part Satan gets in there to tempt us to sin.

I would love to see, for all the Catholic’s sake, that this is a misrepresentation of the church’s teachings, because, I don’t know how most thinking people could deny that pleasure is a huge part of sex. My apologies to those who for various reasons do not find pleasure in sex, I know that this occurs for a variety of physical or emotional reasons, and that those folks have a good reason to feel as they do.

cheddar


#12

[quote=Maranatha]You are confusing Natural Law with Laws of Nature. They are two separate concepts. Laws of Nature include things that occur naturally. Natural Laws are moral laws that differentiate between right and wrong. Murder transgresses Natural Law. We all know it’s wrong to murder - we don’t need government legislation to tell us to refrain from murdering our neighbor.
[/quote]

I would like to think we all know this, but I’m not so sure…
You are right, I was confusing Natural Law with the laws of Nature.

I still have a hard time accepting the existence of natural law though. Different cultures do what is expedient for them. For the majority of cultures, most of the time murder and rape do not suit. But during war, famine, or when people live in small tribes, they fit right in and are often culturally supported. If these laws were “written in our hearts” it doesn’t seem like that would happen as often as it does.

cheddar


#13

[quote=Maranatha]Natural Law does not presume the existence of God. We can all agree that we know murder, rape and theft are wrong. Some say those laws were written in our hearts by God. Others say they evolved as society developed because a society without these concepts society would not survive.
[/quote]

Are you sure about that? Isn’t our communal “nature” an aspect of our design? I mean–one could imagine that we could have “evolved” without “societies” at all–what led to our forming communities?


#14

That shows a poor understanding of natural law. They don’t make us behave like robots - and no one claims they do. They CAN be violated (and frequently ARE). So pointing to examples of horrific behavior doesn’t invalidate the idea of natural law. Secondly, groups that violate the natural law don’t last. That’s what makes it a law. So pointing to some small tribe, or the behavior of a large amount of people for a short time (i.e. during war), also do not invalidate the idea of natural law. Natural law can be equated to “survival of the fittest” (without any divine attributes) and its obvious that the societies and large number of individuals surviving today are following the “natural law”.


#15

[quote=st_felicity]Are you sure about that? Isn’t our communal “nature” an aspect of our design? I mean–one could imagine that we could have “evolved” without “societies” at all–what led to our forming communities?
[/quote]

Others, not I, have argued that Natural Law has evolved. I’d rather not defend that position. I don’t like being on the loosing side of an argument.
:smiley:


#16

[quote=Maranatha]Others, not I, have argued that Natural Law has evolved. I’d rather not defend that position. I don’t like being on the loosing side of an argument.
:smiley:
[/quote]

Oh well now…THAT’S not very helpful!!!:slight_smile: :stuck_out_tongue: I’m telling you…I’m in quite the lengthy discussion on another board on this topic, and I am spending far more time than I want explaining the purpose and functions of sperm vs. saliva in an effort to explain how homosexual sex and kissing are not equivalent…help me out here will ya?:smiley:


#17

[quote=Sacramentalist]1) Our conceptions of “natural law” are justly culturally conditioned. What one culture believes to be unnatural may not be so considered by other cultures, and in fact beleives which we consider “self-evident” evidently aren’t to cultures not our own. These include our beleifs about slavery, religious freedom, the dignity of man, and sexual issues (especially homosexuality).
[/quote]

The fact that given societies can (and often do) pervert the natural law, doesn’t mean that truth of that natural law is “relative” to a given culture.

For instance, to an outsider it may seem like Western Culture’s natural law is that abortion is morally permissable, simply because it is legal and widespread. Is that premise true? Nope. Nazi Germany deemed Jewish folks unworthy of life, sub-human. Was that premise true? Nope. Their culture, like Western culture today, was simply not living up to the natural law.

  1. If contraception and homosexuality are wrong because they are “unnatural,” then so is using any other body part just for pleasure. For example, eating junk food, eating when not hingry, and drinking when not thirsty. If it’s okay for me to drink alcohol just for pleasure, and not to quench thirst, then why isn’t it okay to have homo-sex just for pleasure?

Eating when not hungry and drinking when not thirsty are not unnatural.

An unnatural thing that is sinful would be that which grossly perverts the very nature of the gift God gave us. In the examples you gave, the gift would be the gift of sexual relations, which has a two-fold purpose - babies and bonding. Contraception perverts the former because it deliberately says no to God in the area of babies, it is a deliberate act that deliberately rejects half of the gift God gave us. Homosexual sex does this as well, and also warps and twists the *nature of the bonding *by attempting to build a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex. This is a perversion of the very nature of humanity - the image that we are made in - God’s.

  1. Cars and airplanes and other technologies are unnatural, yet still considered good.

Why do you say cars and airplanes and other technologies are unnatural? God gave us initellegence and the ability to use the resources of this planet for our well being. To do just that for purposes of transportation or recreation is not unnatural. So long as we don’t make these things our “gods”, we are not violating natural law.

Any responses? It’s hard to disucss natural law with people, I find.

There you go. My advice to you in this area…don’t buy the founding premises of the moral relativists, challenge them…they crumble quite easily.

Peace in Christ,

DustinsDad


#18

[quote=cheddarsox]I have to be honest, I don’t own a catechism, but from what I read here, and what people quote from the catechism, (and yeah, what I was taught as a kid in Catholic school, church and home) the purpose of sex is holy union and procreation. To have sex with the intent of pleasure is sin because it goes against God’s plan, we must do it for union and procreation.
[/quote]

The pleasure of sex is a natural part of sex, I’d say a natural part of the “bonding” part of sex. But to have pleasure as the sole purpose of sex apart from bonding violates the natural law because in this action you reduce the other to the point of an object, a non-person. To have pleasure on your mind as a part of the sexual intent (as a part of bonding with your spouse, and with being open to life) is not a violation, for in this act you are acting in accord with the wonderful and sacred gift of marital sex as the Lord gave us, because in this way, you are not seeking selfish pleasure for yourself alone, but for your spouse as well:
…Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner’s self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.
(Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, cf 9)

[quote=cheddarsox]I guess we are grudgingly allowed pleasure as a side effect, but it seems to make the whole act rather morally suspect. Again, that is what I see here, and was taught as a kid. The pleasure part is the part Satan gets in there to tempt us to sin.
[/quote]

Why grudgingly? And if you were taught that Satan is the one who made sex pleasurable, you were taught wrong. Sorry.

[quote=cheddarsox]I would love to see, for all the Catholic’s sake, that this is a misrepresentation of the church’s teachings, because, I don’t know how most thinking people could deny that pleasure is a huge part of sex.
[/quote]

The idea that the Church teaches that pleasure is not a part of sex does not come from the Church - it comes from those who would like to discredit the Church, those who don’t understand what the Church teaches, and/or those who do understand it but reject it anyway.

Take a look at Humanae Vitae, since this is the big dividing line between authentic Church teaching and “modern” society, and see if you can find in there, anywhere, that the Church condemns or denies the pleasure of marital sex? Reality is that the Church holds marital sex in a much higher regard than modern society. One recognizes the awesomeness of this great gift, the other reduces it to mere selfish recreation.

Peace in Christ,

DustinsDad


#19

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