This is a universal system of law that is determined by natural forces.

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It entails the analysis of personal and social aspects of human nature and the binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law ethics describe the role of virtues and personal character in evaluating and determining individual character. This plays a big role in providing the principles of practical rationality that determines the goodness or badness of an activity. Natural law orders human beings to discover through the use of reason (Taylor, 2002). It constitutes fundamental and basic functions within human beings and general definition of common characteristics in human beings without any specific legal or judicial decision. This is the force that provides binding in the society. Several theories have been advanced to demystify and explain natural law ethics.

Natural law provides a moral obligation through which reasoning and conformity is established among human beings. All activities that are consistent to the natural law ethics are said to be morally good, whereas, activities against natural law ethics are said to be morally bad. This law is very crucial in guiding societal needs. It requires very high precision because human beings are guided by free will and reason. By embracing natural ethics, human beings choose what suits them naturally.

In the study of ethics, there are many different systems by which people make their decisions. Even though it is not the most known of the ethical frameworks, natural law ethics play an important role in forming and shaping the societal customs of many countries. While many ethical systems are designed around the theory of consequentialism, meaning that a decision should be assessed for “goodness” based upon the effect of the action rather than the intent, natural law ethics take a different approach. According to the natural law ethical tradition, “natural” law is universal and is handed down by God. The concept follows that the natural law is understood by every man, and it defines ordered society. Natural law, then, is “good,” and people ought not to do anything that disrupts the natural order divined by God. Likewise, natural law depends heavily upon reason. Natural law is knowable based upon a rational inquiry of the world around a person, and one cannot know and understand natural law without employing reason. Likewise, natural law proposes that there are many different ways that conduct can run counter to the “good.” According to the theory, it is possible to understand and capture some of these ways, putting these ways into human law in order to come up with a system by which society can survive and potentially prosper.

First, natural law ethics, put into common language, is a system where there is a universal good that is applicable to all people. While the theory was most expertly articulated by St. Thomas of Aquinas in the form of a Christian narrative, the concept that the law is handed down by God can apply to both theists and atheists. Rather than focusing on the inclusion of God into the mix, one would be wise to instead focus on the natural law as simply being something universal that has been handed down by a power greater than any individual man. This is primarily how natural law is applicable against all people. One of the most difficult elements of the study of natural law is to determining just what the natural law is. As what many ethical philosophies would think, natural law ethics depends tremendously on reason to be its guiding force. This system asserts that people can know what the natural good is by following reason, and it depends heavily on the philosophy that if something is well reasoned by rational human beings, then it is a part of the good that is divined by the natural law. In seeking to explain the foundations of natural law, Hobbes wrote, “A precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same”. The concept of “good” is important because it informs the concept of what is “right.”
This ethical framework is very different from utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a consequential system that asks about the effects of the action on other people. Natural law ethics, on the other hand, does not ask this question at all. Regardless of the consequence, an action is right or wrong based simply upon the action itself. Under utilitarianism, there is no universal principle that dictates wrong or right without considering the circumstances.

Second, moral duty in natural law ethics implicates two different things. First, a person must use his reason to determine that which is good. If one is to assume that the natural law ethics theory requires one to do what is good, and one can only do what is good by first using reason to discover it, then the theory imposes a moral duty on individuals to employ this reason. Those who fail to do so fail in their moral duty according to the theory. Likewise, the moral duty is always to ensure do what is right according to the universal concept of good. There are many different ways that a person can upset the natural order. The moral duty in natural law ethics impresses upon people the importance of not taking any step to disrupt this order. In Rhetoric, Aristotle spoke of the universality of duty, writing, “And so Empedocles, when he bids us kill no living creature, says that doing this is not just for some people while unjust for others. ‘Nay, but, an all-embracing law, through the realms of the sky” (Grimaldi). Moral duty, then, is to all creatures and not just to those that a person is familiar with. To the contrary, natural law imposes a universal duty to maintain the natural order and to do no unnecessary harm.

Finally, in February 2014, President Barack Obama signed a food stamp cut of more than eight billion dollars into law. While this law was passed by congress and was not entirely on Obama, his signing of this law necessarily implicates an ethical dilemma. According to the natural law framework, there is a natural order to things that take place in the world, and doing harm to a man goes against that natural law. It asserts, as Aristotle noted, that there is a duty of men toward even those men that they do not know. Likewise, there can be no consequentialist agenda when assessing an action or decision on the basis of the natural law. Regardless of what the positives might have been for some group, reason dictates that it is wrong to take food out of the mouths of people who need it. Of the action, the MSNBC reported, “On Friday, President Obama added his signature to legislation that will cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits over the next 10 years, causing 850,000 households to lose an average of $90 per month” (Resnikoff). President Obama’s decision to sign the food stamp cut into law is not abated because congress wrote and passed the bill, as he had the choice of whether to sign or veto the bill. By choosing not to, he showed a good example of what it means to run afoul of the natural law.

To conclude, in today’s world, the natural law ethical framework is still very important. It is perhaps becoming even more important, as people are more willing than ever to justify their actions based upon some result or some consequence. The truth behind the natural law ethical framework is that people deserve to be treated with a tremendous amount of dignity and respect. Each person is a part of the natural order, and any action that disrupts the natural order is an affront to those naturally given rights. With certain rights such as the right to eat and survive under attack, the natural law framework can be an important protection. In addition, few are now approaching their decisions with reasoning. One of the critical elements of the natural law framework is that people are supposed to determine the good by using reasoning. This is being lost more and more, making natural ethics less persuasive in a society that needs this framework more and more.