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Law and Conscience
This chapter expounds on the three essential
ingredients that make up the Thomistic
definition of law, the components of the
common good, the six characteristics of true
law, the distinction between law and percept,
and the classes of law. It also provides the
meaning of conscience, its dignity and
inviolability, the types of conscience, the moral
responsibilities for ones conscience, and how
to form ones conscience correctly.
Is an ordinance of reason promulgated by
competent authority for the common good (St.
Thomas Aquinas)

Three Essential Elements of Law

1. Ordinance of Reason
The law is in the proper order of reason.
It is dictated by reason.
It is not an arbitrary mandate of the one
making the law.
It is a prescription of that w/c is to be
followed and a prohibition of that w/c is
to be evaded on the basis of the
dictates of reason and not on the basis
of a mere option or wish
enlightened comprehension of the
proper end or purpose toward w/c it is
The law must be reasonable otherwise,
it ceases to be such
2. Promulgated by Competent Authority
The law must be made publicly known
to its subjects those who are bound by
it so that corresponding demandable
obedience can be exercised.
The law becomes unreasonable when it
is not properly promulgated
3. Common Good
The purpose for which the law is
promulgated is the common good
community or a society of people who
are the subjects of the law and whose
public or general welfare is ensured
Components of the Common Good
1. Public and external order
The enforcement of the law w/c ensures
the common good is designed to foster
public order by protecting life and
property, upholding rights and freedom
advocating peace, justice and social
security, and employing necessary
defense of the territorial integrity of the
2. Material prosperity
promulgates the law should ascertain
economic development among its
constituents by creating employment
for as many individuals as possible,
taking care of the marginalized,
maintaining equilibrium between salary
wages and prices of commodities,
making available the goods and
establishment of quality life among
people, sustaining equitable distribution

of goods, and providing more and more

opportunities for a good standard of

3. Intellectual, moral, and spiritual values

Common good is holistic. It does not
only pertain to public order and
economic prosperity but also to the
other aspects of the person
In the intellectual order, common good
requires education and training of the
people, whether on basic, professional,
technical and vocational, cultural or
artistic areas.
In the moral order, mans rational
nature and conscience should be
informed and formed according to
higher laws w/c foster greater virtues
and values along w/ nobler ideals in life.
In the spiritual order, common good
demands of the attainment of the
supreme good man can ever aim. It is
that from w/c the common good
fulfillment in the different aspects of
human existence
Characteristics of True Law
1. True law is just
It serves the general welfare (common
good) of its subjects
It allows them to enjoy equal protection
of the law and equity in terms of rights
flowing from human dignity
EXAMPLE: the right to vote is enjoyed
by all citizens who have already
attained 18 yrs of age (right to suffrage)
2. True law is honest
It does not contradict the provision of a
higher law w/c it is supposed to uphold
considering that the higher law
possesses higher truths from w/c an
honest law proceeds
EXAMPLE: in adherence to the
principle of quality life, a law is enacted,
recognizing and protecting the right of
everyone to quality education
3. True law is capable of fulfillment
Its provisions can be observed by its
subjects and there is no exaction of
undue or extraordinary efforts upon
them that causes undue inconvenience
and sufferings in its fulfillment
A law w/c is not possible of being
fulfilled is unreasonable
EXAMPLE: A law is enacted mandating
all educators to stay in classrooms w/ or
w/o students for 24/7. This is an
example of a law that cannot be
fulfilled. Human persons as they are,
educators get tired and they have to
take a rest and re-energize themselves
for the next days work as mandated by
natural law.
4. True law is useful
It is utilized to cater to the needs of its
subjects for w/c it is promulgated
EXAMPLE: A law is enacted that
educators, considering lifes difficulties
that they have been experiencing.

5. True law is relatively permanent

Its provisions are capable of enduring
for a certain considerable period w/in
w/c its maturity is attained and its
purpose is met.
It is not repealed and its binding force is
in effect until it becomes unnecessary
for being proven to be futile or for
having achieved the goal for w/c it is

EXAMPLE: A law w/c protects teachers

who serve during elections from
illegitimate manipulation and pressure
into acceding to politicians interests, is
enacted and binding as long as political
manipulations exist and until such time
the law is repealed in the country.
6. True law is promulgated
EXAMPLE: a newly ratified education
law is published in newspapers,
television, radio, and internet. It marks
the beginning of its binding force.
Distinction between Law
It is public. It is done for
the good of all the
It is territorial. It is
binding its subjects in the
promulgated. It is not
binding in another society
w/ a different law
It is always enacted by
public authority
authors are already dead
or out of office until it is
repealed by the legislating

and Precept
It is private. It is done
for the good of an
individual or a group of
It is personal. It is
binding the subject
wherever he/she may
go unless it is revoked
by the one who gives
It is enacted by either
the public or private
It automatically ceases
to bind w/ the death or
removal from office of

Classes of Law
1. Eternal law
Define as the Divine Reason and Will
commanding that the natural order of
things be preserved and forbidding that
it be disturbed
Eternal law directs all things in the
universe, making them tend toward the
end w/c is God Himself.
Eternal law directs everything by

necessarily follows the direction of said
law via tendency of its nature except
man in his rationality.
2. Natural law
Is the expression of Gods eternal law as
intangible to man by the light of his
The natural law provides man the
general rule as to known to his reason:
the good is to be done and evil is to be
avoided or simple do good and avoid
EXAMPLE: knowing what is good and
keeping it and avoiding evil and not to
keep them.

Properties of Natural Law

a. Natural law is obligatory
Since it is intrinsically inscribed
w/in human nature, natural law
is obligatory. No one in his
demands of his nature.
Deep w/in, he can experience
the binding force of the said law
and its rewards and sanctions
He may have the inner sense of
peace, happiness and well-being
as a result of a good act done,
guilt as a consequence of an evil
act performed.

EXAMPLE: a child may feel

guilty or disturbed after having
gotten money from the pocket of
his father.
b. Natural law is recognizable
By reason, man recognizes
natural law mandating that god
should be done while evil should
be avoided
human barriers of different
nonChristians and nonbelievers alike
have the natural capacity to
know that good is to be done
and evil is to be avoided
parents, respecting ones life
and dignity, and helping the
needy are the acts recognized in
themselves as good and worth
doing whereas, murder, theft,
and adultery are recognize in
themselves as evil to be avoided
c. Natural law is universal
Since it is deeply embedded in
the nature of man, the binding
force of natural law extends to
all human beings all over the
It does not solely apply to the
Roman Catholic Church but
applies to all who have the use
of reason
As mandated by the natural law,
murder, stealing, cheating, graft
and corruption, and the like are
acts blatantly contrary to it. No
human authority has the power
to dispense, alter, or abrogate
any precept of the natural law
3. Human positive law
Defined as an ordinance of reason
derived from the natural law or making
a concrete and determinate application
of the natural law promulgated for the
common good by a human agency in
charge of a society.
Since the principal purpose of natural
law is the establishment of natural
order, then human positive law, in all

its forms, has to be patterned after the

said purpose: to adhere to and sustain
the observance of natural order. Natural
order dictates that the law which ought
to be observed must necessarily be
reasonable or true, characterized by
permanency and promulgation
Kinds of Human Positive Law
a) State Law (Legal/ Civil)
Refers to the human positive law
enacted by the State through its
legitimate body of legislature for
the temporal common good
EXAMPLE: Family code
b) Church Law (Ecclesiastical Law)
Refers to the human positive law
enacted by the Church through
authority that is ultimately
geared towards the final end of
man w/c is God

Where laws of church and state

clash, there is injustice on one
side or the other, and in case of
dispute, presumption favors the
community the church

Definition of Conscience
Conscience is a practical judgment of reason
on the goodness of an act that has to be done
and the evil of an act that has to be avoided
1. A Practical Judgment of Reason
The judgment of reason presupposes
the use of a certain basis form w/c the
said judgment proceeds
This basis is a set of moral principles,
many of w/c were learned as early as
childhood, serving as the starting point
for human reason to make the
necessary mental assessment that ends
in its judgment on whether an act is
good to be performed or evil to be
2. On the Goodness and Evil of an Act
Before an act is performed or
unperformed, it is judged as to its
worthiness or unworthiness of being
performed, as something permissible or
prohibitory. After it is done or omitted,
an act is judged to be deserving of
approval or disapproval, reward or
punishment, felicitation or reprimand.
The act as judged to be good gives a
sense of relief and joy as a natural form
of reward. Whereas, an act done as
judged to be evil gives guilt feeling and
Types of Conscience
1. Correct and Erroneous
Correct Conscience is present in the
judgment of an act as good when it is
truly good or as evil when it is truly evil.

EXAMPLE: A college dean admonishes

his faculty members that it is wrong to
accept any form of bribery from
students in exchange of high grades.
Acceptance of any form of bribery is not
morally permissible
Erroneous Conscience is present in
the judgment of an act as good when it
is evil and an act as evil when it is good
EXAMPLE: a 4th yr education student
believes that cheating during the final
justifiable when it derives a noble
purpose of ensuring his graduation and
of landing a good job to support his
A person who has an erroneous
conscience, through no fault of his own
and w/o any knowledge about being in
error, is one w/ an invisibly or
inculpably erroneous conscience.
Whereas, one who has an erroneous
conscience through his own fault and
neglect has a visibly or culpably
erroneous conscience.

Erroneous Conscience
A. If a person performs an act that is
objectively a light sin, when his conscience
tells him it is a serious sin, he has
committed a serious sin.
EXAMPLE: A student, who thinks that
cheating a little is a moral sin, and yet
advertently and freely does so, is guilty of
mortal sin.
B. If a person commits what is objectively a
serious sin, truly thinking it is a light
offense, he is guilty only of a light offense.
EXAMPLE: A schools district supervisor,
who truly thinks that hampering a teachers
supposed promotion by reason of right and
merits is not that seriously wrong, only
commits a light sin. Although, the said act
is seriously wrong in itself for it is blatantly
against justice along w/ a lot of social,
economic and emotional deprivations to
the teacher, the inculpable, erroneous
conscience of the supervisor (truly thinking
that it is only a slight offense)makes him
guilty of a light offense
C. If a person performs an action that is not
evil, but his conscience tells him it is evil,
he is guilty of (doing) wrong.
A student who thinks that
making a pure joke w/ his classmates is evil
becomes guilty of evil by making a joke.
This is how binding the state of conscience
is because of its inviolability.
2. Certain and Doubtful or Dubious
Certain Conscience is present when
there is an assured and firm judgment
of an act w/o any fear of being in error.
This type of conscience indicates a firm
conviction and belief w/o any hesitation
of being in error.

EXAMPLE: A student refuses to salute

the Phil. flag during school flag
ceremony for he firmly believes, as
thought by his religion, w/o any fear of
being in error, that saluting a flag is
tantamount to adoring it and is a form
of idolatry.
Doubtful or Dubious Conscience - is
present when there is no sure judgment
of whether an act is good or bad. In this
state, the agent is aware of the
possibility that what his conscience tells
him is erroneous.
EXAMPLE: A teacher is in doubt that
whether or not it is all right to give a
passing grade to a student who, after
having taken and failed the subject for
several semesters, once again fails to
3. Lax and Scrupulous
Lax Conscience is a type of
conscience w/c perceives even morally
grave evils as allowable. It finds and
makes excuses of evil acts, though
seriously evil, by rationalizing and
justifying them. When lacks conscience
goes on and on w/o being corrected, it
may become callously blinded w/ the
truth of goodness that has to be done
and of evil that has to be avoided.
EXAMPLE: A teacher who, every now
and them, gets sums of money from her
academically problematic students in
exchange for passing grade saying that
the said act is just normal as it is also
done by the other teachers, has a lax
conscience w/c fuels her practice of

Scrupulous Conscience - is a type

of conscience w/c perceives evil in act
even when there is none
EXAMPLE: A student who thinks that
what he has done is unforgivable (even
a very minor offense) manifests a

Moral Responsibilities for Ones Conscience

When conscience is properly formed and
informed, the agent is morally obliged to
obey it under all circumstances. If the
judgment of reason upon an act is good, then
the agent is duly bound to do it. Whereas, if it
judged to be evil, it ought to be avoided and he
has the moral obligation to live his conviction
flowing from a formed conscience.
A person should always act in conformity
w/ his certain conscience. Flowing from a
firm conviction w/o any fear of being in error,
the agent, though his conscience may be
mistaken inculpably or invincibly, may still do
what it tells him. . in fact, if ones conscience
points out a particular action as definitely bad,
even though objectively, that act is good, the
act must be avoided. Conversely, if the
conscience of an individual points out an act as
good and to be done, even though objectively,
the act is evil that individual must perform the

It is never morally permissible to act w/ a

doubtful conscience. The agent has to make
diligent and due investigation and inquiry in
order to dispel his doubtful conscience and
establish certainty as to the lawfulness of an
act to be done or to its unlawfulness to be

Resolution of a Doubtful Conscience

There is a need to dispel the doubt, and
ascertain moral certitude as to whether or not
a certain act, about w/c the conscience is in
doubt, is lawful. Moral certitude can be
achieved by either of the two means namely:
a. Direct inquiry and investigation w/c
takes away the doubt and acquires
certain knowledge about the existence
or applicability of a law in a given case.
If the doubt is eliminated and moral
certitude is on=obtained, the lawfulness
or unlawfulness of an act can be
determined and the problem is solved
b. Invoking and application of the reflex
principle: A doubtful law does not bind
The Doubtful Law
A law is doubtful when there is a solid, prudent
and reasonable uncertainty over the lawfulness
and permissibility of an act
It presupposes the fact that due and diligent
study and inquiry have been made in an effort
to get rid of the doubt and obtain certainty of
the nature of the act and its mortal
determinants thereby gaining clear knowledge
of its moral quality as good to be performed or
evil to be omitted.
The Doctrine of Probabilism
Extrinsic reasons pertain to the authority of
persons other than the agent, from whom the
solidly probable reasons are acquired. These
persons are seen to be knowledgeable and
wise along the area of that w/c is under

Amidst the proliferation of
hazardous school supplies w/ large amount of
lead, a student regains a certain formula in
chemistry to be the most accurate one in the
composition of a chemical compound, out of
w/c the safest school stuff could be
manufactured. It is because a renowned
scientist-professor (auhtoruty) has the opinion
of the said formula as the best and the safest.
In w/c case, the opinion of the student (agent)
is derived from extrinsic reason
Intrinsic reasons pertain to the personal
assessment and analysis of the agent whose
ability and competence are reasonably
presumed to be present.
EXAMPLE: A scientist-professor (the agent)
has the opinion that certain formula in
chemistry he conveys to his students are so far
the most accurate in the composition of a
chemical compound that will determine
distinctive scientific inventions for human
consumption and development.

Formation of Conscience
To discover true conscience is to form ans
inform ones conscience. It is to undergo a
process of education and acquisition of
knowledge about the moral quality of an act if
it is worthy or unworthy of performance
A formed and informed conscience is that w/c
knows how to make proper judgment on an act
as truly good to be done or truly evil to be
avoided in its three moral determinants,
namely; the act itself, the motive of the agent,
and the circumstances surrounding the act.
1. A sweeping broom at a public elementary
school classroom is nowhere to be found. The
teacher asks her pupils as to who took and did
not return it. A classmate says he saw Jojo as
the last one who used the broom. The other
classmates also say so. Jojo retorts that after
using it, he put the broom back to its proper
place. The teacher obliges Jojo to pay for the
lost broom

Is it lawful for the teacher to base her

judgment on someones statement (that Jojo
was the last one to use the broom)
corroborated by others and employ it as a
probable reason enough to hold Jojo
accountable for the lost broom? Why?
2. Stemming from his thorough academic
research and experimentation, an educatorspecialist has formulated a new secondary
taching method that gives him a well-founded
reason to believe that it is so far probably the
most effective teaching strategy amidst the
continuing deterioration of educational system
in the country. Aside from it, there is a method
applied that is tested and proven among high
school students w/c is not as

B.A Political Science III
Subject: Ethics