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Irvin A.


Aquinas, Treatise on Law, Questions 92-93. Main Points: 1. Law and Goodness of Human Beings: Law is a rulers dictates of reason that induces subjects to their requisite virtue (I-II, Q. 92, A.1). Since subjects are subject to law, and law brings forth the subjects virtue, law makes its subjects good, absolutely or in some respect. And so also the Philosopher says in the Politics that lawmakers make subjects good by habituating them to good deeds (I-II, Q. 92, A. 1). 2. Designation of Legal Acts: Aquinas asserts that laws are dictates of reason by way of commanding things and that reason leads us to assent to legal precepts which are designed to either command what is virtuous, forbid what is vicious, permit what is morally indifferent and in order to induce obedience, punishes since it is the fear of punishment that ensures obedience (I-II, Q. 92, A. 2). 3. Eternal law as Supreme Law: Eternal law is the supreme plan that we should always obey (I-II, Q. 93, A. 1). The plan of a ruler (in this case, God) for his subjects actions has the same nature of law, assuming that God governs all actions and movements. The plan of divine wisdom has the nature of a craft or type or idea because all things are created through itso the eternal law is simply the plan of divine wisdom that directs all the actions and movements of created things (I-II, Q. 93, A. 1). 4. Does everyone know eternal law? Aquinas says no. Only those who are blessed, who see God by his essence, can know the eternal law as it is in itself. BUT, what we can see are the effects of eternal law and he claims everybody knows truth to some extent, at least regarding the general principles of the natural law (Think back to the sun and heat example). Lastly, Aquinas says all laws derive from the eternal law, as long as they partake in right reason (I-II, Q. 93, A 3). 5. Natural things and Human affairs: Aquinas says that human law cannot be imposed on irrational things-think back to definition of law- and that Nature is subject to eternal law since it is controlled by God (I-II, Q. 93, A 5). In terms of human affairs, there are two ways that things (rational) are subject to law: 1) partaking in eternal law consciously and 2) by acting and being acted upon as things partake of the eternal law by reason of causes acting on them (I-II, Q. 93, A. 6). Intriguing/beautiful passage: But fear of punishment is what law makes use of to induce obedience, and we in this respect posit punishment as an effect of law (III, Q.92, A. 2). Contradicting passage: By beginning to become habituated to avoid evil deeds and to do good deeds out of fear of punishment, persons are sometimes brought to behave in such a way with pleasure and of their own will. And so law even by inflicting punishments induces human beings to be good (I-II, Q. 92, A. 2). Five Discussion Questions: 1. In Q. 2, A 2, Aquinas states the light of natural reason whereby we discern good and evil is simply the imprint of Gods light in us. Yet, in the contradicting passage above, it appears that Aquinas says that a persons decision to behave in a certain way is determined by habit and punishment. Is he contradicting himself? Or is this a distinction between acts and legal acts?

Irvin A. Gomez

2. Think about Aquinas and the way he sees the role of punishment. Also, think back about the distinction he made between Old/New Testament, calling Old Testament the incomplete and attributing fear to it (I-II, Q. 91, A. 5). Is Aquinas embracing the incomplete version of the divine law? 3. Aquinas states Human law has the nature of law insofar as it is in accord with right reason, and then it is evidently derived from eternal law (I-II, Q 93, A 3, ad. 2). Would the death sentence be a law derived from eternal law? 4. Aquinas mentions that no one except the blessedcan know the [eternal law] as it is in itself (I-II, Q 93, A. 2). With this in mind, and the fact that humans can only know the truth of eternal law to some extent, does this affect our inclination towards natural law? 5. Think back to Aquinas take on promulgation of human law. Is promulgation of the eternal law necessary given the fact that we do not know eternal law to its full extent? Or is partial knowledge good enough?