By D. J. O’Connor (auth.)
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Extra resources for Aquinas and Natural Law
Specific kinds of men, like carpenters and shoemakers, have specific jobs to do suited to their special abilities and training. Similarly, specific organs or parts of the body have their own specific functions. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that the human individual has his own appropriate function. 1 Clearly this is not a cogent argument. The fact that, for example, the eyes of an animal are adapted to seeing and its limbs to walking is no evidence that the animal itself has a function.
If he is right, essences are to be grasped by intellectual intuition. Nevertheless, he admits7 that to survey the facts is a useful and perhaps indispensable preliminary to our knowledge of essences. Moreover, if there is a common human nature, it may reasonably be supposed to be manifested in a common bodily structure, common intellectual powers, and common patterns of behaviour -common, that is, to all creatures possessing this common core of humanity. ) Now we do not in fact find this unity of structure, capacity and behaviour among human beings any more than we do among other species.
The following examples, taken from different parts of his writing, are given as major premisses of the practical syllogism: (a) Good ought to be done and evil avoided. (b) God's precepts should be obeyed. (c) Sexual intercourse outside marriage is wrong. (d) One should not kill one's father. It is not clear if they are all supposed to be the product of synderesis. (c) and (d) seem derivative rather than basic moral principles and could well be disputed unless they are so qualified as to make them empty tautologies.