Chapter5St.ThomasAquinas.docx - St Thomas Aquinas Treatise on Law According to St Thomas the definition of law may be rendered thus “It is nothing

Chapter5St.ThomasAquinas.docx - St Thomas Aquinas Treatise...

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St. Thomas Aquinas Treatise on Law According to St. Thomas, the definition of law may be rendered thus: “It is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.” Let us briefly explore each of these four aspects of law. 1. LAW IS AN ORDINANCE OF REASON. For St. Thomas, it is the role of reason, first, to apprehend the good and, second, to determine the most appropriate means to secure the good. Law is that which induces man to act or refrain from acting in such a way as to achieve the practical reason’s primary object, namely the good. 2. THE LAW IS ALWAYS SOMETHING DIRECTED TO THE COMMON GOOD. The ultimate end or goal of human life is happiness, and consequently the law must pertain first and foremost to the attainment of this end. The purpose of law, therefore, is to make human beings virtuous and good, and this it accomplishes by directing human actions in such a way as to conduce to virtue as well as by incentivizing law abidingness through the fear of punishment. With respect to this latter, St. Thomas makes the following psychological insight: “From becoming accustomed to avoid evil and fulfill what is good, through fear of punishment, one is sometimes led on to do so likewise, with delight and of one's own accord. Accordingly, law, even by punishing, leads men on to being good.” Thus the threat of punishment or punishment itself seeks not merely to deter evil acts but also to help habituate human beings to virtue. Further, it is absolutely crucial to recognize that law is not the practical reason ordering what the individual must do with a view to his own private good simply, but rather it is the practical reason ordering what the individual must do with a view to the good of the whole community of which he is but a member: “since every part is ordained to the whole, as imperfect to perfect; and since one man is a part of the perfect community,2 the law must needs regard properly the relationship to universal happiness.” 3. THE LAW IS MADE BY HIM WHO HAS CARE OF THE COMMUNITY.
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