Natural law ethics

In natural law ethics, nature and the natural processes of life are good while going against nature and natural human inclinations is bad.

According to Aristotle and his great Catholic commentator, Thomas Aquinas, there are four very basic natural human inclinations which are the good desires to (1) stay alive; (2) produce and care for a child; (3) learn the truth; (4) live amicably with others. In terms of morality, natural law says that our duties go along with these four natural inclinations.

In the late 1980s, a Long Island couple married and tried to have children but couldn’t so Maureen and Steven Kass turned to in vitro fertilization. For something like 9 years they kept trying but none of the fertilized eggs from Steven and Maureen ever came to the successful birth of a child. Finally, in their early 40s and still childless, Maureen and Steven decided to divorce. But then they faced a problem: What to do with the fertilized eggs still frozen in storage. Steven wanted the fertilized but frozen eggs destroyed as the contract they had signed said. Maureen wanted them saved for possible future implantation because she still wanted children and these frozen fertilized eggs were her only chance.

For this week’s discussion, answer ONLY TWO of the following three questions. Please answer the first question and then either one of the other following two:

[1] Do some research into the case of Maureen Kass vs. Steven Kass and answer the following (if you use a quote on the case, you must reference it and limit it to no more than 40 words and no more than one quote): What was and what was not natural or in keeping with our natural inclinations in this case of Maureen and Steven Kass and what difference does that make in terms of the moral questions at issue here? Who should have won this case and why based on natural law or natural inclinations? Are frozen fertilized eggs the property of anyone and if so whose and if not why not? How would the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb change its status as property or person or what?

[2] Explain to a friend or someone you know the basics of natural law ethics as related to the four central natural inclinations of human beings. Tell the person how natural law ethics via John Locke also influenced the claims and wording of the U.S.’s Declaration of Independence (as noted in the eText) and ask them to explain their feelings about natural law ethics and how they influence this Declaration. What did they say? And then tell the person also that the most common criticism of natural law ethics in philosophy is that what IS should not be confused with what OUGHT TO BE. Ask them what does this mean and do they agree or disagree? Why? And what do you yourself think?

[3] Discuss the Heinz Dilemma (LINK (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.) with two different people (one male and one female) and, before discussing the feminist ethics of care, ask each of them separately how they’d resolve it. Share their ideas with the class. And, whatever the results, indicate also what you think about Gilligan’s ethics of care as a feminist moral theory (see the list on page 67 of the eText of traits generally associated with a male as compared to a female ethical perspective).