of natural law theories
In reviewing these various criticisms, you should
ask yourself the following questions: What, precisely, do these criticisms
attack in Maritain’s theory of natural law? (i.e., what do they mean and
how are they relevant?) How might Maritain respond to them? Is such a response
an adequate one?
1. The natural moral law theory doesn't make sense
because it is based on a physics and cosmology that are outdated.
2. ‘Knowledge by inclination’ or connatural knowledge
is not really ‘knowledge’ at all. It is more like a feeling or an attitude.
2a. it is questionable whether one can sensibly
speak of a kind of knowing ‘inexpressible in words and notions’. To call
something that cannot be conceptualized or expressed ‘knowledge’ is an
early retreat into a kind of obscurity that makes philosophical appraisal
3. Maritain is inconsistent: on the one hand, he
sets forth a naturalistic theory—i.e., what humanity strives for is good
and what humanity avoids is bad--but, on the other hand, he claims that
only a supernatural sanction will do for morality.
2b. here, ‘knowledge’ is used in a very different
way from the way we normally use it, while still keeping all the honorific
features of ‘knowledge.’
2c. when we consider the special way we ‘know’
these laws, this is no better than the kind of subjective ‘intuition’ that
3a. a person in moral perplexity needs only to
observe the wishes and desires of his fellow human beings to know what
4. How do we know which of the many moral imperatives
are the self-evident laws of morality?
4a. Human reason is not adequate to decide what
is a natural moral law or what is or is not self-evident.
5. A law of nature is a hypothesis, so a natural
moral law is just a hypothesis.
6. The first principle of natural moral law--to
do good and avoid evil--is vacuous
6a. unless we assign some definite meaning and
reference to the word ‘good’ , this first principle would be completely
compatible with the most extreme kind of relativism
7. What would Maritain say about the actual and anthropologically
confirmed exceptions to natural moral laws? To say that such inclinations...
are perverted or primitive... begs the question, for it is only by at least
an implicit reference to a moral standard that we can determine
which rules are ‘perverted,’ ‘primitive’ or ‘corrupt’.
8. It is not obvious or self-evidently true that
there is an essential human nature. And (see 7) all of the natural moral
laws... are broken somewhere by some people
9. It assumes that what most people find natural
and better is natural and better.
10. Even if it is the case that there is basic,
cross-cultural universal acceptance of certain fundamental moral beliefs...
it would not follow that Maritain’s natural moral law had been established.
11. (see 1) Aquinas and Maritain looked upon nature
as purposive, as having some kind of moral end in itself. But values
and facts are distinct, and this conception of a purposive nature is
at best false and at worst unintelligible.
11a. there is good reason against claiming that
there is purpose in nature .
12. Even if ‘teleological explanations’ best explain
how people behave, this does not entail any moral conclusion (such as 'they
should behave in this way').
12a. I (as a moral agent) still will have to
decide and to resolve to seek this end that I notice human beings in fact