Salisbury vs. Aquinas - on the Principle of Law and Will

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Why does John of Salisbury contend that a just and well-ordered political system depends upon rulership conducted in accordance with law rather than will? Would Thomas Aquinas agree with John’s view? Why or why not?

By general definition, a political system embodies those of a social organization whom hold power. For John of Salisbury and the citizens of circa 1100, political power and social stability were placed in the hands of a very specific political system – the ruler. Like John of Salisbury, Thomas Aquinas also believed that allotted power should be placed in the hands of a central authority figure or ruler. Bound by a similar belief in political structure, it is no surprise that Salisbury and Aquinas share the conviction that a just and well-ordered political system must be ruled in accordance with law, specifically divine law, in opposition to will so as to rid both government and society of any thing that does not aim toward the common good or glorify the Lord - specifically varying individual interests that would lead to the ultimate ruin of a society (Salisbury 57).

In order to more clearly define the men’s shared view regarding rulership piloted in harmony with law, both Salisbury and Aquinas’ visions must first be fully comprehended separately. Beginning with Salisbury; in context, Salisbury draws on the importance and presence of divine law, or law trusted to be manifested from the will of God, in a well-ordered political system/society. Citing rulers as “image[s] on earth of divine majesty,” Salisbury asserts a certain connection of deity between those in authority and Divinity, where the rulers are necessitated to adhere to and follow the will of God (Salisbury 30). In addition, it is the responsibility of these rulers to shower their followers with piety and ensure that they, too, adhere to the obligations of divine law. If the rulership both obeys and enforces the will of God and the laws that encompass such then, Salisbury argues,...
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