Essays on thomas aquinas natural law

References and Further Reading 1. Two Kinds of Natural Law Theory At the outset, it is important to distinguish two kinds of theory that go by the name of natural law. The first is a theory of morality that is roughly characterized by the following theses.

Essays on thomas aquinas natural law

His theory sets the terms of debate for subsequent natural law theorizing. The first Question of the Summa so treats the nature and scope of theology itself, and once this is established, the work considers the very existence and nature of God: God first in His own inner and Trinitarian life, and then in His external activity of giving being to creatures and ordaining them to perfection or full realization for the manifestation or communication of His own glory.

The Summa and theology itself are all about God. The divine nature is the subject matter of the science [2]and the very first principles or premises that serve as inferential starting points in the systematic inquiry of theology are those items that God has revealed to us concerning His nature and His plan and purpose in creating the cosmos.

In the order of the Summa, the first part of the work treats the divine nature in itself and then the free creative production of creatures by God angels, humans, and all other animate and inanimate beings.

According to Thomas, human nature, a psychosomatic unity, is perfected or fully realized by harmonious and habitual excellence in the exercise of its intrinsic capacities and powers e. Highest among these capacities—the capacity with the most potential to enrich and enlarge human nature and so to realize it most completely—is the human intellect, with its power to come to some understanding of the nature of whatever exists.

Following Aristotle, Thomas teaches that through intellect the human soul is potentially all things: Put another way, in conjunction with the will the intellect expands the soul to become all that is by a cognitive and affective, but not a physical, union.

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Again with Aristotle, Thomas maintains that the highest object of this highest human power, and so the appropriate but often hidden or misperceived ultimate and crowning end of all human excellence-in-activity and striving is cognitive-affective union with the first uncaused cause of the totality of things: For Thomas, in contradistinction to Aristotle but closer to the teaching of Plato, this first uncaused cause is not merely the best, most self-sufficient, most fully realized being in the cosmos, but also the artisan-creator and ruler of the cosmos.

This first, self-existent, and infinite being loves the world into existence, according to the model of His own eternal creative ideas, and orders the totality of individual things, notes as it were in a symphony, to one integrated end or purpose: Created beings without intellect or will whether animate or inanimate are willed into being and directed toward their own perfection in the context of the perfection of the whole, which perfection they each approach automatically or spontaneously and without understanding or resistance.

It is here that we see the role in the divine plan and in human life for law, as human beings characteristically understand the term: Hence all law is meant to sub-serve human happiness. So the true purpose of law is to sub-serve the happiness of all in the community.

Is He not the lawmaker-lawgiver par excellence? He is, Thomas thinks, since God satisfies the condition for this appellation perfectly. This is the Eternal Law lex aeterna through which the divine intellect creatively designs and directs all creatures to a common end the common end of the universepromulgating in time this eternal ordinance of His reason by the very act of creating beings and endowing them with spontaneous natural inclinations to move toward their own perfection in the context of the universe and its overall and unified perfection.

Created beings without intellect and will observe the eternal law, the eternal directives in the creative mind of God, spontaneously or automatically and perfectly. In the case of human beings, this eternal law directs them spontaneously toward their full and complete good by ordaining their essential nature to acts of understanding and desire for the goods constitutive of human perfection or fulfillment.

But human beings have each their own intellect and will, so their spontaneous inclination and subsequent movement toward that full and complete good is brought about or not, since it can be resisted or rejected by conscious ratification and cooperation, that is, knowingly and willingly.

Thus, in the human world we have the Eternal Law as received and understood from the inside, as it were, and observed only conditionally: They are not making a law for themselves, but are discovering it and appropriating it for themselves.

They are discovering and potentially ratifying in action the divine design-plan for their nature, to which non-rational creatures witness in whatever they do and undergo, although they are neither cognizant of this plan as law, nor capable of knowingly instantiating or resisting it.

This for Thomas finally is the natural law lex naturalis: The basic precepts of the natural law command human nature to seek obvious human goods; when the status of some presumptive object of human action as a good is less evident, investigation is required to determine its status.


Not all, however, are equally fit for this task of discernment about what is good for human nature in general and good for this particular human being as such. Because of this inherent limitation of the human mind, humans must make their own laws to supplement that portion of the Eternal Law that they do spontaneously and readily grasp which portion includes the rudimentary parts of the natural law [15]to direct themselves in community to their fulfillment.

They do this correctly either by deriving specific norms from the most basic and general principles or precepts of the natural law [16]or when they give specific shape to one of these basic and discovered dictates or principles appropriate for a particular time and place [17].

Any human law, though, that directly contravenes a dictate of the natural law [19] ipso facto fails as a law and has the status of an irrational command instead.

Such commands ought only be observed for prudential reasons, such as to avoid some greater harm that might arise in the social order from the failure to observe what is really only a pseudo-law. Thomas Aquinas can profitably consult the faithful literal English translation of the Summa Theologiae also known as the Summa Theologica in the following edition: Fathers of the English Dominican Province, eds.

All quotations of the Summa in the present article are drawn from this English translation of the work, and citations are given in the form of part, question, article:It is important to note the analogous nature of law in Thomas's legal philosophy.

Thomas Aquinas | Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism

Natural law is an instance or instantiation of eternal law. Because natural law is what human beings determine according to their own nature (as rational beings), disobeying reason is disobeying natural law and eternal law.

Thomas Aquinas: A Historical and.

Essays on thomas aquinas natural law

The Natural Law by Thomas Aquinas - In every man there is an innate sense of right and wrong buried within him. This sense guides people, culture, and even whole countries to act in certain ways. Thomas Aquinas called this innate sense the natural law.

Natural Law | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The natural law is established by God in order to make men more virtuous. Thomas Aquinas was a one of the few philosophers to interpret the theology as a whole distinguishing the difference between theology and philosophy by explaining Law in general in a detailed account and focusing on kinds of law which he classified as Eternal, Human, Divine and Natural law.

Classical natural law theory such as the theory of Thomas Aquinas focuses on the overlap between natural law moral and legal theories. Similarly, the neo-naturalism of John Finnis is a development of classical natural law theory. Words: Length: 2 Pages Document Type: Essay Paper #: Thomas Aquinas is the most important figure of his age.

Many people have heard of Thomas Aquinas, but fewer know why he is the most important figure of the s and beyond. Thomas Aquinas . Thomas aquinas natural law essay.

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Thomas Aquinas Essays: Examples, Topics, Titles, & Outlines