Some criticisms 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 The natural moral law theory doesn't make sense because it is based on a physics and cosmology that are outdated.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.

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. 4. How do we know which of the many moral imperatives are the self-evident laws of morality? 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

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.

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').