Augustine: Political Writings by Dyson, R. W.; Aquinas Saint Thomas

By Dyson, R. W.; Aquinas Saint Thomas

"St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is a hugely influential determine within the heritage of western proposal and of the Catholic Church. during this significant addition to the Cambridge Texts sequence R.W. Dyson (whose sleek rendition of Augustine's urban of God has already been generally acclaimed) has selected texts through Aquinas that convey his improvement of a Christian model of the philosophy of Aristotle, its distinction with the Read more...

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an important addition to the Cambridge Texts sequence of writings via Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). Read more...

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Moreover, St Thomas shares with Aristotle the belief that, if we are required by human law to conform outwardly to standards of virtuous conduct, this can form genuinely virtuous habits in us. Human law can in this way also be a force in moral education. By the same token, ‘laws’ which are not derived from the natural law – laws which are unjust in the sense of oppressing those subject to them or xxxiii Introduction failing to secure their good – are not really laws at all, and so we are not bound to obey them.

Thus, human laws can be changed or dispensed from in order to suit changing times or exceptional circumstances; but the general principles of the natural law cannot be changed and must always be honoured. Moreover, St Thomas shares with Aristotle the belief that, if we are required by human law to conform outwardly to standards of virtuous conduct, this can form genuinely virtuous habits in us. Human law can in this way also be a force in moral education. By the same token, ‘laws’ which are not derived from the natural law – laws which are unjust in the sense of oppressing those subject to them or xxxiii Introduction failing to secure their good – are not really laws at all, and so we are not bound to obey them.

Why, in that case, is it also necessary for us to have human laws? To this question, Augustine had given a predictable answer: sin has so effaced the natural law from our hearts that we now need human law to repress our destructiveness by force and fear. St Thomas – again without explicitly disagreeing with Augustine – gives a quite different account. The law of nature is clear to us, he says, but its provisions are too general to furnish us with an immediate guide to conduct. We know that we ought to do good and avoid evil; but we do not necessarily know what is good or evil in specific circumstances; nor do we know what to do with people who do evil: what punishments should be and who should incur them.

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