Aquinas vs. Hobbes on Natural Law

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“Aquinas and Hobbes
“Natural Law”

November 5/08
Snezana Miletic
PHIL 221
Paul Simard Smith
Assignment # 2
(with extension)
The theory of “Natural Law” first originated in Ancient Greece. Many philosophers discussed their own views on natural law, as it played an important part in Greek government. Some of these philosophers included St. Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Hobbes. For Aquinas, natural law exists in the individual’s conscience, opposing to Hobbes belief that individuals had limited access to virtue, and therefore needed to be coerced into doing good by the state. Throughout their views of natural law, each is vital to show an idea of how human beings and the government should function in the world. In the book Classics of Western Moral Theory, Aquinas states that “Law is a measure of action by which one is led to act or refrain” (Aquinas, 69). The idea of natural law is that moral ideals are derived from the nature of humans; as well as being given to a higher being, God. Through natural law, Aquinas believed that a citizen is not bound to obey an unjust law if he can do so without harm or causing turmoil. He also believed that positive law originated from natural law.

Initially, Aquinas believed that natural law has important precepts. He believes that the primary precept of law is, “ good is to be done, and evil to be avoided ” (Aquinas, 70). For Aquinas, anything that individuals do is thought to be done with goodness. Through this, positive law is really contained within natural law. Natural law is determined by human nature and the inherent qualities within us, while positive law is determined by the will of the individual. The two also differ in regards to when something is determined as wrong. Under natural law, it is wrong when it is against reason or morals, as opposed to be wrong simply because the law says so under positive law. Within natural law there is room for discernment and choice, yet under...
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