About Us  :  Online Enquiry


Origin of Ethics -Divine command theory and Natural Law theory N1

Ethics lectures for UPSC | Ethics lecture series 

Origin of Ethics -Divine command theory and Natural Law theory N1

Divine command theory (also known as theological voluntarism) is a meta-ethical theory which proposes that an action’s status as morally good is equivalent to whether it is commanded by God. The theory asserts that what is moral is determined by what God commands, and that for a person to be moral is to follow his commands. Followers of both monotheistic and polytheistic religions in ancient and modern times have often accepted the importance of God’s commands in establishing morality.

What is Natural Law theory?

Natural law theory is a legal theory that recognizes the connection between the law and human morality. This lesson explores some of the principles of the natural law theory, as well as provides examples of ethical scenarios and how natural law theory would attempt to resolve those dilemmas.

What is Natural Law Theory? | Ethics lecture series 

Have you ever told a lie? Or taken something that didn’t belong to you? If so, you probably weren’t proud of how you acted in those moments. But why? What was it about doing something ‘wrong’ that made you feel bad deep, down inside?

Natural law theory is a legal theory that recognizes law and morality as deeply connected, if not one and the same. Morality relates to what is right and wrong and what is good and bad. Natural law theorists believe that human laws are defined by morality, and not by an authority figure, like a king or a government. Therefore, we humans are guided by our human nature to figure out what the laws are, and to act in conformity with those laws.

The term ‘natural law’ is derived from the belief that human morality comes from nature. Everything in nature has a purpose, including humans. Our purpose, according to natural law theorists, is to live a good, happy life. Therefore, actions that work against that purpose — that is, actions that would prevent a fellow human from living a good, happy life — are considered ‘unnatural’, or ‘immoral’.

Laws have a purpose too: to provide justice. From a natural law perspective, a law that doesn’t provide justice (an unjust law) is considered ‘not a law at all.’ Therefore, a law that is flawed is one that no one should follow. In short, any law that is good is moral, and any moral law is good. Legal positivism is a legal theory that is the opposite of the natural law theory. Legal positivists believe that a law can be deeply flawed, and yet still be considered a law.

Ethics | Ethics lecture series 

The concept of morality under the natural law theory is not subjective. This means that the definition of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ is the same for everyone, everywhere.

The natural law approach to solving ethical dilemmas begins with the basic belief that everyone has the right to live their life. From there, natural law theorists draw a line between an innocent life and the life of an ‘unjust aggressor.’ The natural law theory recognizes the legal and moral concept of self-defense, which is often used to justify acts of war.

Natural law theory is not always a simple school of thought. It should come as no surprise that the ethics associated with natural law are equally complicated. The idea that the definition of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ is the same for ‘every person’ is sometimes difficult to apply to complex ethical dilemmas.


Consider the following examples…

Example 1:

You are a passenger on a ship sailing across the ocean. Suddenly, your ship is overtaken in a powerful storm. You escape to a lifeboat with 25 other passengers. You notice that four of the passengers are badly injured, and unlikely to survive for more than a week. You also know that the lifeboat only has enough food and water to sustain 22 passengers. Some of the other passengers are considering throwing the four injured passengers overboard in order to save the other survivors. If you were a natural law theorist, how would you solve this ethical dilemma?

Watch ethics lecture series by G.Rajput sir.


Send this to a friend