“Common Good: the Law’s End”

Topics: Natural law, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle Pages: 8 (2790 words) Published: July 10, 2012
“COMMON GOOD: The Law’s End”
(A Commentary on Summa Theologica Question 90, Article 2)


“Et ideo omnis lex ad bonum commune ordinatur (Therefore every law is ordained to the common good).” This is the second component on the definition of law by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. For him, law “is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.” In this definition of St. Thomas, he provides four main elements of the law namely: an ordinance of reason, for the common good, made by the legislator, and promulgated. He distributes each one of these factors into four articles with the main heading of the essence of law.

In this commentary, I just want to focus on the second component which is the end-point of the law: the common good. I divide my work into three main parts in congruence with the style of St. Thomas Aquinas. The first part of this paper deals with the exposition of the main contention of St. Thomas with regards to the common good. This includes some of the objections that are in disagreement to the main argument of St. Thomas with regards to the common good.

The second part, then, speaks of the main thoughts of St. Thomas on the concept of the common good as the end-point of law. This is subdivided into two main points. First is the relationship between the law and the human acts. Second is the relationship between the law and the common good.

The third part of this commentary is the exposition and analysis of the responses of St. Thomas to the different objections raised around the concept of the common good. II.) THE COMMON GOOD AS THE END OF LAW

A.) The Main Thesis and Its Objections

In order to understand better the thoughts of St. Thomas, it is helpful to begin with the basic structure of his literary style in developing a topic for discussion. Generally, throughout his whole work of Summa Theologica, he has consistent and organized way of dealing with his topic. He first begins with the exposition of the main thing, the main thesis of his topic. Usually he constructs this in the form of a question and ordinarily it is found in the title itself of the article. Afterwards, he enumerates some of the arguments against the main thesis in order to have reference for his proceeding discussion of the topic. Then he goes to the meat of his topic, the presentation of his main thoughts on the thesis being given. In the end, he provides the answers to the main objections.

Now, this present topic on the common good can be found on the Summa Theologica, on questions ninety to ninety seven on St. Thomas’ treaties on law. This belongs to the first question which deals with the essence of law which is question ninety, article two. The main thesis of St. Thomas with regards to the common good is contained in the question: “Is law always ordained to the common good?” This means that the law is created not for the individual gain but for the common good of the society. Every law has its own social dimension and purpose. The law is always towards the common good. The law then is seen as prescription of an act that is proportionate to the social end and can mean two things. “....En primer lugar, que la ley es un elemento de la vida social y parte solo de la vida moral total. Y, en segundo lugar, que, cuantas sean las formas de asociación de los hombres, habrá tantas formas de fin social o de bien común y, consiguientemente, de leyes.”

After giving this main thesis of St. Thomas in a form of a question, he proceeds to some of the objections in contrast with the concept of the law that is towards the common good. He gives three main arguments which are interrelated. All of these three talk about the priority of the individual and particular good above the common good.

The first argument tells that the law is not directed to the common good as its end because law is made to...
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