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Aquinas on Law April 12, 2013

Posted by anagasto in law.
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1] Aquinas believes that man is defined by reason. And reason is to be used to make laws.

2] Aquinas believes that man belongs essentially to a community, and so the laws are to be made for the common good.

3] In order to be binding on everybody, laws have to be  public.

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Aquinas’ prime idea is that our reason is part of the divine wisdom.

Before him,  the Jews, the Greeks, and later the Romans had worked on the concept of a supreme law that was not man-made. According to Cicero there is a supreme law that existed prior to all written law and even before there were any cities.

Cicero thinks that this law is part of nature as a rational design valid not just for humans, but also for the gods.

This is a long way from more recent systems where man’s basic guidance is labeled as “drive” or “instinct” of biochemical or some other,  inner origin.

Quoting Aquinas : “Reason in man is rather like God in the world” meaning that reason is the prime governing principle

The photo is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/Monte_Cassino_Opactwo_1.JPG

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Aquinas was born in Sicily at his father’s castle of Roccasecca.

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His family expected him to become a church dignitary, for instance as the abbot of the Monte Cassino monastery.

When he showed inclinations of a different kind, they kidnapped him and kept him for two years as an in-home detainee at the family castle of Monte San Giovanni of this  photo :

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He never gave up and they had to let him go back to his studies. He studied Avicena and Maimonides, Plato and Aristotle, most of it recently translated from Arabic into Latin by Jewish scholars in Andalusia, and he taught at Paris university and in all the most famous schools of Europe.

There weren’t any language barriers then, because all the academic work was done in Latin. His philosophy largely became official Church doctrine. He ended up writing the  synthesis of all knowledge available from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sources.

His work became standard and is still relevant in law school and in international law, but it is too extensive and not read anymore. On the net there are only about a dozen quotes, the same everywhere, copied from each other, suggesting that he was last read some centuries ago.

The photo is under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Castello_di_Monte_San_Giovanni_Campano_9.JPG

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See photos of the monastery  at Papa’s Places in Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI Forum

Monte Cassino became famous as the scene of a savage WWII battle :

Italy_EU_Europe

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……… On February 15 1944 the Americans destroyed the monastery considering it an enemy hide-out

………. Two days later, German paratroopers invaded the ruins trying to defend them

………. They were assaulted by the Allies at a loss of over 70,000 lives, German + Allied.

German prisoners at Monte Cassino  guarded by soldiers from New Zealand. — Doesn’t it look like the prisoners are not afraid and the New Zealanders are not trying to scare them?!  This would mean there is after all still a remnant of civilation somewhere in the world, there, in New Zealand.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1975-014-31,_Monte_Cassino,_deutsche_Kriegsgefangene.jpg.

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More Aquinas quotes:

“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine.”

“If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.”

“Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man’s own will.”

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NYT, Aquinas, and End-of-Life Legislation

“The medical profession still treats its role as an art as much as a science, relying on philosophical principles like the rule of double effect. Under this rule, attributed to the 13th century Roman Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas, even if there is a foreseeable bad outcome, like death, it is acceptable if it is unintended and outweighed by an intentional good outcome — the relief of unyielding suffering before death. The principle has been applied to ethical dilemmas in realms from medicine to war, and it is one of the few universal standards on how end-of-life sedation should be carried out.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/health/27sedation.html

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