The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 19, Issue 2, Summer 2019

Defense of the New Natual Law

Sherif Girgis
Pages 221-248

The Wrongfulness of Any Intent to Kill

Germain Grisez’s philosophical argument for respecting human life has been developed by fellow new natural law (NNL) theorists and applied to a range of lethal actions, for its conclusion is vast: intending the death of any human being as a means or an end is wrong in itself. For some Thomists, the NNL view on killing is both lax and rigorist: They consider it lax because its narrow criterion for what is “intended” leaves out some acts, especially ones related to abortion, that the critics consider murder. And they consider the NNL view rigorist insofar as it apparently rules out the death penalty, contrary to the Thomistic tradition and perhaps even heretically. However, the most salient philosophical arguments for exceptions to the principle against intending anyone’s death are weaker than the case for any given premise of the contrary NNL argument. Nevertheless, some NNL theorists’ arguments on life are unsound, some can be defended better than they have been, and some nonphilosophical objections based on theological authority require more exploration.