Aquinas on Law 01/28/2014
Aquinas’ treatises on Law
Law =lex from “ligo or ligare” (“to bind or tie tg” as in ligament)
This etymology is extremely important anticipating much that will come with law
For Hobbes d Locke “natural law is a discovery of reason that constricts (binds) human behavior
Diff in Hobbes, the only way natural law is legitimized is through the force of a sovereign’s fiat (positivist/
contractarian). The sovereign “represents” you and, s such, you don’t question him
Aquinas says its binding if it conforms with reason and divine law
Aquinas’ primary concern in this treatise:
What are the origins of law?
Aquinas says its God that reason grasps as divine order of uni
What is the source of the obligation that law imposes?
Doesn’t the power to “bind” the consciences of people belong to God alone?
If not, by what warrant does the human legislator bind the consciences of people
And if people possess this warrant what are the limits within which they may exercise it?
Three reasons this treatise is important:
1) it reasserts the value of politics to argue that oplitics and political life are morally positive activities that
are in accordance with the intention of God for man
Key analogy: providence: community of beings in uni :: law: community of people
Try to emulate law in universe
2) it combines trad hierarchal and feudal views of the structure of society and political with emerging
community oriented and incipiently egalitarian views of the proper ordering of society
3) Develops a logically coherent heory of natural law that continues to be an important source of legislature,
Aquinas’ first answr:
The source of Law is God
The root of obligation is in the divine conception of the order proper to the universe
Human Law, to be just and morally obligating must therefore be rooted in divine law
People cannot originate the law themselves No authority, not even the sovereign can impose an obligation ion the citizen where it is not already latent in
the nature of things.
Aquinas on the Essence of Law
Aquinas’ Definition of Law is: An ordinance of reason for the common good made by one who has care for
the community and is