Thomas Aquinas on The Natural Law Written on Our Hearts

Eileen C. Sweeney

in Reason, Religion, and Natural Law

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199767175
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979592 | DOI:
Thomas Aquinas on The Natural Law Written on Our Hearts

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This chapter shows the origins of diverse views of natural law in Aquinas as modern or anti-modern, secular or Christian in tensions present within Aquinas. Four areas of tension are traced: nature as informed by the biblical story of fall and redemption vs. nature as essence, the origin of natural law principles in nature (especially non-rational nature) vs. reason, the theological context of the “treatise on law” within the Summa theologiae vs. the largely non-theologically based reasoning within the questions on law, and traditionalist vs. modern sounding determinations on particular political questions. Aquinas' natural law position has breadth and nuance but also tensions, giving rise to interpretations emphasizing only some of its parts. The chapter concludes by showing some mixed results of Aquinas' own application of natural law and with some criticisms of those who claim that natural law reliably yields wise, just, and uncontroversial determinations.

Keywords: natural law; nature; Epistle to the Romans; Thomas Aquinas; political views; ethical views

Chapter.  12709 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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