Aquinas: Political Writings by Thomas Aquinas, R. W. Dyson

By Thomas Aquinas, R. W. Dyson

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is a really influential determine within the historical past of Western proposal and the Catholic church. during this significant addition to the Cambridge Texts within the heritage of Political idea sequence, Robert Dyson has translated texts via Aquinas that replicate the total variety of his pondering, and obviously exhibit his improvement of a Christian model of the philosophy of Aristotle. His translations are supported through short biographies, notes for extra interpreting and a concise severe creation.

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First, St Thomas was by far the ablest and most active of those responsible for reintroducing the political and ethical thought of Aristotle into the educational curriculum of the Latin West. This in itself is a fact of considerable significance. Second, and as a direct consequence of the rehabilitation of Aristotle, he was largely responsible for a wholesale re-evaluation of political activity and participation as worthwhile activities apart from any connection with the Church. At the xxxv Introduction cost of some oversimplification, we may say that, in this regard, he helped to make ‘modern’ normative political theory possible.

Thus, human laws can be changed or dispensed from in order to suit changing times or exceptional circumstances; but the general principles of the natural law cannot be changed and must always be honoured. Moreover, St Thomas shares with Aristotle the belief that, if we are required by human law to conform outwardly to standards of virtuous conduct, this can form genuinely virtuous habits in us. Human law can in this way also be a force in moral education. By the same token, ‘laws’ which are not derived from the natural law – laws which are unjust in the sense of oppressing those subject to them or xxxiii Introduction failing to secure their good – are not really laws at all, and so we are not bound to obey them.

These laws are what Roman law traditionally designates as the ius gentium. Other, more particular, ‘civil’ laws may be peculiar to a given political community and, to that extent, separated from the natural law by a longer chain of reasoning. But all human law properly so called takes its character as law from the fact that it reflects, however remotely, the general principles of the natural law. Thus, human laws can be changed or dispensed from in order to suit changing times or exceptional circumstances; but the general principles of the natural law cannot be changed and must always be honoured.

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