Natural Law and Natural Justice: A Thomistic Perspective

Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory (Crowe and Lee (eds.), Edward Elgar, 2019), 304–325

27 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2019

See all articles by Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

This chapter offers Thomistic accounts of natural law and natural justice that differ in important respects from other accounts often associated with Aquinas. The discussion begins by considering Aristotle’s taxonomy of justice in the Nicomachean Ethics and adopted by Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae. This view of justice does not emphasise rules or norms laid down by some higher source, as contemporary natural law accounts often do; rather it emphasises what Aristotle calls particular justice: the personal virtue through which individuals are disposed to respect the legitimate claims - that is, the entitlements - of others. This conception of justice differs significantly from the general or social justice that is emphasized in contemporary political philosophy and jurisprudence. According to the interpretation advanced in this chapter, natural justice is what is owed naturally to members of the community - it provides a pre-conventional yardstick for social dealings, independently of formal legal codes or institutions - and Thomistic natural law is primarily an ethical phenomenon that has been consistently misconstrued in voluntarist and positivist accounts of what natural law entails. Instead of the idea that natural law represents some kind of juridical standard, the author insists that Aquinas’s theory of natural law concerns the intrinsic ethical demand on individuals to act reasonably and responsibly.

Keywords: natural law, natural justice, Thomas Aquinas, virtue theory

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Tim, Natural Law and Natural Justice: A Thomistic Perspective (2019). Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory (Crowe and Lee (eds.), Edward Elgar, 2019), 304–325. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3479926

Tim Murphy (Contact Author)

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid ( email )

Calle Madrid
Getafe, Madrid 28903
Spain

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