Natural Law: Too Vague to be Useful, Too Particular to be True?

It’s a common criticism of natural that it is either: 1) too vague to be actually useful in the ordering of human life, or 2) too particular to be truly “natural” in the concomitant sense of being “universal.”

I’m hoping to get some responses to these two (perhaps really just one) criticisms of natural law.

Some resources for you:

Scroll up a moment: Catechism


Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. What is the moral law?


The moral law is a work of divine Wisdom. It prescribes the ways and the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude and it forbids the ways that turn away from God.

  1. In what does the natural moral law consist?


The natural law which is inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every person consists in a participation in the wisdom and the goodness of God. It expresses that original moral sense which enables one to discern by reason the good and the bad. It is universal and immutable and determines the basis of the duties and fundamental rights of the person as well as those of the human community and civil law.

  1. Is such a law perceived by everyone?


Because of sin the natural law is not always perceived nor is it recognized by everyone with equal clarity and immediacy.

It sounds like you have met people that do not understand Natural Law Theory…it is true, and immune to the criticisms you have posted.

Michael Cronin; The Science of Ethics Volume 1 (Ethical Theory)

Michael Cronin; the Science of Ethics Volume 2 (Special/Applied Ethics)

Thanks to both posters.

Most of these people are my colleagues, who are all lawyers-to-be (Deo volente). Our perspective is more that of a day-to-day practitioner of law, not so much in terms of moral theory. But the Science of Ethics looks very fascinating, I’ll be sure to browse it.

For me there are just too many varieties of natural law which do not always agree with each other. That may be why some think it is too vague. Also, Aquinas based much of his reasoning on his understanding and knowledge of nature in the 13th century. Before people go off criticizing me or OP remember that Aquinas felt that we can not know everything through natural law and must rely on divine revelation to fill the gaps.

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