Outline Thomas Aquinas Treatise on Law

Question 90: Of the essence of law

  1. law is a rule and measure of acts
  2. The principal and object in practical matters is the last end, beatitude.

Question 91: Of the various kinds of law

  1. There is an eternal law. It is the divine Reason.
  2. Natural law, as a rule and measure, partakes in a greater rule and measure, the Eternal Law.
  3. Human law is practical reason.  Man has natural law by creation, but he does not have the particular determinations of individual cases
  4. The divine law is twofold, Old Law and New Law.

Question 92: Of the effects of Law

  1. Law does not make men good absolutely, but relatively.

Question 93: Of the eternal law

  1. The eternal law is the type of Divine wisdom.
  2. All laws, insofar as they partake of right reason, are derived from the eternal law.

Question 94: Of the natural law

  1. There is an analogy between the precepts of natural law and the first principles of demonstrations of speculative reason.
  2. The natural law is unchangeable in its first principles, but changeable in its secondary principles, which are proximate conclusions.
  3. Sin blots out the law of nature in particular cases, but not universally.

Question 95: Of Human Law

  1. A thing is said to be just from being right according to the rule of reason.

Question 96: Of the power of human law:

  1. human laws should be proportionate to the common good.
  2. Human law isn’t intened to represes all vices.
  3. On unjust laws
    1. a law is unjust when it is contrary to the human good
      1. with respect to an end
      2. with respect to an author of the law
    2. contrary to the divine good.

Question 97: Of change in laws

  1. Even though human law participates in natural law (which is unchangeing), human law is still subject to change, because the mind of man is imperfect.
  2. Can custom be as strong as law? Well….kind of.  When a thing is done again and again, it proceeds from rational deliberation.
    1. Further, custom can act as a temporary check when human law fails.

Question 98: The Old Law

  1. The Old Law was good because it was in accordance with Divine reason
    1. It repressed concupiscience
    2. And other sins that were contrary to reason.
  2. The Old Law was given by angels
    1. All good things were given by angels.
    2. The Old Law represents an order, and angels mediate in that hierarchy.

Question 99: Of the precepts of the Old Law

  1. A precept implies a relation to an end. The OT law is one in respect of relation to the End, but many in respect in how things are ordered to that end.

Question 100: Of the precepts of the Moral Law

  1. all moral precepts belong to the law of nature.
  2. all moral precepts of the old law are reducible to the Decalogue.
    1. knowledge of which man has immediately from God.
    2. Aquinas is excluding general principles that are self-evident.
  3. No man can act virtuously unless he has the habit of virtue, thus the mode of virtue does not fall among the precepts.
  4. Aquinas allows for other moral precepts besides those in the Decalogue.
    1. Moral precepts derive their efficacy from reason.
    2. In this section Aquinas also explains the reasons why Catholics enumerate the Decalogue differently.
  5. Justification is the causing of justice (ST I-II, q.100. art.12)
    1. It exists in the habit and/or the act.
    2. Man is made just by becoming possessed of the habit of justice
      1. This is both acquired virtue and infused virtue.
      2. The latter is caused by God through his grace.  

Question 101–103: Of the Ceremonial Precepts in themselves

  1. Thomas spends an inordinate amount of time on ceremonial ordinances, showing once again that his Treatise on Law has little to do with natural law.
  2. Ceremonial precepts were instituted with a dual purpose: the proper worship of God and the foreshadowing of Christ.

Question 104: The Judicial Precepts

  1. In every law some precept derives its binding force from the dictate of reason itself.
  2. Judicial precepts do not merely concern actions at law, but also are directed towards the ordering of actions of one man to another.
  3. Aquinas approaches profound and even “modern” exegesis at points, noting that the “entire state of that people had to be prophetic and figurative” (ST I-II, q. 104. Art. 2)

Question 105: The reason for the judicial precepts (Thomas is addressing the charge that the OT law is faulty because it didn’t prescribe a monarchy).

  1. The best form of government is one where one is given power to preside over all, while others under him have governing power.
  2. Right ordering of a state: all should take some share in the government.
  3. Loans: the difference between is that a loan is in respect of goods transferred for the use of the person to whom they are transferred, while a deposit is for the benefit of the depositor (art. 2).

Question 106: Of the New Law, the Gospel

  1. The New Law is both written and unwritten.
  2. It contains things to dispose us to receive grace, and things actually pertaining to the use of that grace.

Question 107: The New Law Compared with the Old

  1. It is different from the Old in that it is ordered towards a different end.

Question 108: Of the things contained in the New Law

  1. Some things in the New Law prompt us to receive grace
  2. The grace of the Holy Ghost is an interior habit.  It inclines us to do rightly and those we do freely those things in keeping with that grace.
  3. Difference between commands and counsels
    1. Commands are word of God status
    2. Counsels is left open to us.



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