St. Thomas Aquinas Kenneth L. Deutsch
Life and Times • St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) • Aquinas came from a noble family from Naples. • He joined the Dominican order against his family’s wishes • Aquinas studied with Albert the Great in Paris and participated in the Aristotelian revival of the Middle Ages. • He was canonized and became a saint in 1323. • Resisting the temptation of a prostitute and the discovery of Herring at night were the miracles used to justify his sainthood. • Aquinas’s extensive corpus of scholarship is perhaps a greater miracle than those mentioned above.
Existence as Superior to Essence Plato: maintained that ultimate reality consists of essence Think Forms. Observations For Aristotle, existence is primary. Where does existence come from? This is what interested Aquinas
Aquinas follows Aristotle in concluding that Plato’s theory is deficient, in part because it is unable to account for the origin of existence and in part because it is unacceptably dismissive of existence. Holy Scripture states that after each of the six days of Creation, God saw that the fruit of his day’s work was “good” or even “very good.” Furthermore, when Moses asks God how he should refer to him, God responds, “I am that I am,” thereby equating himself with being. In other words, God is pure existence or Being itself. Aquinas argues that man’s purpose consists exactly in developing himself toward Being, not in attempting to escape Being. In the traditional church view prior to Aquinas, the difference between God and his creatures was one of kind, as existence was something that in itself separated us from God. In Aquinas’s view, the difference between God and his creatures is one of degree, and we are separate from God insofar as we do not have as much existence as God. Prior to Aquinas, traditional church thought maintained that existence was the chief impediment to the realization of our spiritual destiny. Aquinas held that our spiritual destiny consists precisely in the enhancement of our existence.
Ultimate Reality Aquinas was primarily a Christian theologian. He viewed human wisdom as structured like a pyramid with the sciences of ethics and politics at its base with philosophy above and theology at its apex. Natural philosophy are not contradictory but complementary. Faith and reason are valid in their own realms. Aquinas’ scholastic method integrates Aristotle’s teleological view of nature into the biblical theology of creation and Christian salvation.
“Natural Law and Justice,” From the Summa Theologica I answer that, Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Prov. 8:15 “By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things.” Now laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to wit, they are ordained to the common good – and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver – and from their form, when, to wit, burdens are laid on the subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good.
God and Justice • Types of Law • Eternal Law • Divine Law • Natural Law • Human Law
Eternal Law • Unchanging reason of God. • God’s plan for the universe • Affects everything, including irrational creatures “Now it is evident, granted that the world is ruled by Divine providence… that the whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason (Question 91, Article 1)
Divine Law • Applies to religion and church issues • Apprehended through revelation “[s]ince man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man’s natural faculty… it was necessary that, besdies the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God (Question 91, Article 4)
Natural Law • The eternal law etched upon the human mind • Uniquely human • Determines an individual’s telos (end) • Helps you seek your essential human purpose
Natural Law “Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the nature law” (Question 91, Article 2)
Natural Law • Operates in 2 ways Appeal to one’s reason to know how to act in particular circumstances Human Law
Human Law • Emulate natural law to promote justice and the will of God • Necessary to help us when our own reason fails • Guide community to serve justice and the common purposes of all its members
God & Justice • To be “true” law, it must follow natural law • Purpose is to help one: • Fulfill his/her telos • Fulfill one’s function as a rational creature • Seek out the vision of God • If law deviates from natural law, it is non-binding • Implications?
God & Justice “A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the rule, as the Philosopher states. Consequently, thre is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind…”
God & Justice “…unless indeed the tyrant’s rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant’s government” (Question 42, Article 2)
God & Justice • An unjust law is no law at all • An unjust ruler is no ruler • Human law as its own telos – political authority and human law must obey God and natural law. • Both God and natural law act as external restrictions constraining what the ruler can and cannot do
God & Justice • Aquinas provides 2 sets of checks on tyrannical rulers: God/natural law and the threat of execution through insurrection
Divine Power Ecclesiastical Authority Political Authority