St. Thomas Aquinas: the Summa Theologica

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AP European History
May 14, 2011
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica

St. Thomas Aquinas’s “The Summa Theologica” is a document meant to summarize the difference between divine laws and human laws. This document explains whether these two types of laws are just or unjust. Aquinas demonstrates how laws are the reason for the common good which is made by those who care for their community, and how all the laws come from divine reasons which according to the document are understood by men.

The first part of this document analyzes how laws are just or unjust depending on the impact they have on our conscience. Aquinas seems to represent the idea that just laws are in our minds because they are the laws of God and they are just depending on three things; the purpose they have, the authority of the law maker, and their form (Aquinas 1). The author makes it clear that laws are also just when their main purpose is the common good, when the person that makes the law doesn’t surpass his rights when making that law, and when a person and everything they own belongs to the community. Finally, there are laws that burden one set of people and do not burden the others equally and these are the just and legal laws that stay in our minds. The second part of this document explains how laws are unjust because they go against the human good. A ruler can sometimes impose laws that are not good for the society but only good to himself, and also he might try to go beyond his own power in order to make those laws. Aquinas mentions, “Or, a law in its own form may look toward the common good, but not impose burdens which have a due proportion to the positions of the subjects within the community” (Aquinas 2). This quote means that a law might seem like it has a good purpose but it has no burden and this affects the people in the community.

According to St. Augustine a law that is not just is no law at all. As a result of this, these laws do not stay in your conscience,...
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