Monday, June 25, 2012

Thomas Aquinas

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St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican monk who believed that law mirrored a natural world order made known to humans by their own process of reasoning and by the divine revelation of Christian prophets. This view, along with the influence of Plato and Aristotle, helped Aquinas to develop his own moral theory and philosophy of life. This allowed him to respond to the relationship between natural law and human law which Aquinas put together as this; ‘every human law has just so much of the character of law as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it differs from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a corruption of law ’(Aquinas,17).

Aquinas was the most famous exponent of the Natural Law ethic. Aquinas developed Aristotles ideas and argued that the natural purpose of the world is found in God. Humans are free beings and are capable of choosing to follow the natural law of God which is understood through reason. He believed the human purpose was, to reproduce, to learn, to live harmoniously in society and to worship God. Natural law describes not only how things are but how things should be and this happens when things are fulfilling their natural purpose. Aquinas believed human beings were created by God and that each one of us has a particular purpose that we are potentially capable of achieving. He also taught that morality is not primarily based on commands from God but on reason which by its application can raise people to an awareness of morality. Aquinas states that, ‘the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the divine light ’(Aquinas, 17). Aquinas also believed that even though an act may be good in itself like giving money to charity, it can be done for wrong reasons like if you are giving money to charity so that you can boast about it to others. He also saw a strong link between morality and happiness as he did not believe that moral life should be something humanity struggles to follow, instead he felt that it should come naturally. Aquinas also thought that it was important to distinguish between four types of laws which are Eternal law(God’s entire plan), Divine law(Part of the eternal law known by revelation), Natural law(Part of eternal law humans figure out themselves) and Human law or Positive law(We create to help give precision to the natural law).

All in all, Aquinas, the great theologist and philosopher of his time who followed in the footsteps of Aristotle and Plato, was a naturalist philosopher who viewed the world as being created by God according to a plan that establishes the proper purpose of each thing. As human beings, he states that, ‘humans have an intellect to understand the plan and the free will to choose or reject to conform to God’s plan’ (Aquinas, ), and this was his moral theory. Even though Aquinas unfortunately died from serious illness, he left behind a major influence on modern human rights theories and laws. Aquinas’ belief of natural law was able to carry on through many other philosophers after him, proving him to be successful in his teachings and arguments towards the opposing side.

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