A Modest Reading of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Connection Between Natural Law and Human Law
22 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2009
This essay’s purpose is to articulate an alternative reading of St. Thomas Aquinas' Treatise on Law. The proposed alternative reading would accept the existence of natural law and even the legitimacy of its enforcement, to some extent, by the state. However, the alternative reading of Aquinas proposed here would not advocate a warrant for civil government to enforce the natural law generally (with only limited exceptions). Even if the guidance of Aquinas is generally accepted, as it is by most contemporary advocates of the natural law tradition, it is possible to read Aquinas more narrowly, in a way that gives due attention to the necessarily limited purpose of human law and that makes Aquinas’ connection between natural law and human law less threatening and more consistent with other important tenets of the natural law, such as human equality and liberty.
Keywords: Aquinas, natural law, human law, legal philosophy, legal history, political theory
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