In his famous work Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas discusses such a concept as natural law or a system of rules which has to guide the actions of people irrespective of their culture, nationality, or religion. Moreover, in the author’s opinion, this set of rules is unchangeable.
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This paper is aimed at discussing Aquinas’s ideas in more detail. In particular, it is vital to show some of limitations of Aquinas’s ideas that are based on the assumption that omnipotent God has designed rules that can be intuitively comprehended by every human being.
One of the arguments that the author makes is that “the normative force is the same for everyone and known by all” (Aquinas 112). This statement implies that every individual has an inherent understanding of the natural law, especially if one is speaking about ethical principles. Therefore, the actions of an individual should be evaluated according to these principals. It is possible to dispute this claim because this approach does not explain why the laws can differ dramatically in various countries or cultures.
Aquinas says that “man is inclined to natural law” (Aquinas 112). However, he does not tell why this universal inclination did not lead to the creation of the state in which natural law is observed by everyone. This is one of the paradoxes that should not be overlooked. Furthermore, in many cases, people, who possess the knowledge of the natural law, can commit cruel crimes. This is one of the main objections that one can raise.
Certainly, Thomas Aquinas might have responded to this objection. In particular, he could have said that a person can violate the natural law because of ignorance. Furthermore, in his work, the author speaks about the so-called “evil disposition” (Aquinas 113). This means that a person can be inclined to evil.
Furthermore, Aquinas speaks about passions that prevent people from understanding the natural law. Nevertheless, Aquinas’s theory overlooks the complexity of human behavior. The problem is that a person’s actions can be both moral and immoral. So, one cannot speak about the so-called evil disposition. It is unlikely that this disposition exists. Moreover, intelligence does not mean that an individual will always comply with the principles of natural law. Such an assumption can hardly be called realistic.
Despite these limitations, the ideas of Thomas Aquinas have profound theological implications. His conception of natural law implies that there are certain rules and principles that should be observed by every individual regardless of his/her religion, country, or culture.
Currently, the concept of natural law guides the work of policy-makers and lawyers. Later the works of Thomas Aquinas influenced many philosophers who tried to identify a set of principles that could be applicable to every community. Therefore, his pioneering work should not be disregarded by people who study the history of religion or theology.
This discussion indicates that the idea of natural plays an important role in the religious views of Thomas Aquinas. His belief in the omnipotence of God requires the system of ethical rules that every person has to follow. However, there are certain inconsistencies in his theory. For instance, one can speak about the complexity of people’s behavior that can involve both ethical and unethical actions. Furthermore, the author does not prove that the inclination to natural law is universal.
Aquinas, Thomas. “Summa Theologica.” Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction. Ed.
Michael Boylan. New York: Westview Press, 2010.111-113.Print.