Is Anesthesia Intrinsically Wrong? On Moral Absolutes and Natural Law Methodology

Christian Bioethics 14 (2):206-216 (2008)
This article engages two fundamentally different kinds of so-called natural law arguments in favor of specific moral absolutes: Elizabeth Anscombe's claim that certain actions are known to be intrinsically wrong through intuition (or mystical perceptions), and John Finnis's claim that such actions are known to be wrong because they involve acting directly against a basic human good. Both authors maintain, for example, that murder and contraceptive sexual acts are known to be wrong, always and everywhere, through their respective epistemological lens. This article uses the counter-example of anesthesia to challenge these two approaches to substantiating natural law claims. The paper concludes by rejecting the view shared by Professors Finnis and Anscombe that once one rejects these foundations for moral absolutes, one is left with moral subjectivism. In fact, one is left with moral absolutes of a more restricted nature, which are known philosophically, and with more robust moral absolutes held on religious grounds. Virtues are needed in the moral life, among other reasons, because such norms require discernment and integrity for their correct application
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DOI 10.1093/cb/cbn012
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R. Mary Hayden (1990). Natural Inclinations and Moral Absolutes. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 64:130-150.

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