Aristotle vs Aquinas Case Study

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Aristotle and Aquinas

Law and Justice

Aristotle and Aquinas disagreed on law and justice as Aristotle held that justice was inherent to the individual in terms of a sense of reasoning or inner knowing of that, which was right and wrong. Aristotle had the belief that law should be grounded in a natural divine order of some type and that this cosmic order is that which vested law with a binding authority.

Aristotle additionally believed as did Plato that law's function at its core was to provide compensation for the judgment of men, which is at best erratic and differentiated from one man or culture to another man or culture. In one example provided by Aristotle in which he drew upon Plato's 'Socrates' Aristotle noted the passions of people and their randomness which however, can be, by reason, brought together and focused toward a higher purpose. Aristotle's view of political systems or proper government included the kingship, aristocracy and polity all of which are capable of overseeing the common interest. Aristotle held the tyranny is opposed to Kingship, Oligarchy is opposed to Aristocracy, and Democracy opposed to Polity.

However, Aquinas held in his objections that law is "…not something pertaining to reason" and based this upon the writings in Roman 7:23 in which the apostle states that he see law as something that does not "pertain to reason" according to the writings of Aquinas who states that Romans 7:23 states as follows: "I see another law in my members…But nothing pertaining to reason is in the members; since the reason does not make use of a bodily organ. Therefore, law is not something pertaining to reason." (Aquinas, p.1)

Secondly, Aquinas states that all that is left other than reason is "power, habit and act" (p.1) However, Aquinas states that it is also not "a habit of reason" since the habits of reason "are the intellectual virtues of which we have spoken above" and it is not an act of reason since the result is that there would cease to be law for example when the individual is asleep. Aquinas goes on to state that the law causes those subject to the law to act in a way that is right but is causative to the "will to move to act therefore, is not relative to the individual's reason but instead to the individual will. Law has the power to command and law has the power to forbid the individual but this is the reason to command so in that the law does belong to the reason to command.

Law according to Aquinas "is a rule and measure of acts" which can motivate a man to act or to motivate a man to be restrained from committing an action. Aristotle on the other hand held that all decent individuals have certain agreements including that they should treat the dead with respect and that they should obey laws.

Aristotle contemplated the problem of defining justice in a manner that is practical as justice is not merely an abstraction of philosophy and how to define justice in an empirical manner or in other words how to applicably define justice. Aristotle desired to avoid the extremes of the definition of justice and to avoid idealist and relativist definitions of justice. In fact, Aristotle is quite difficult to pin down on his meaning of justice.

To Aristotle, justice is a characteristic of a man's character and is based on degrees of accountability in terms of voluntary and involuntary actions and excusable lack of knowledge and willful lack of knowledge. In addition, Aristotle held that amorality is the inability of the individual to discern from right and wrong and he held that justice allows for equity and injustice is avoided when the rule is applied in its strictest sense.

II. Types of Laws

According to Aristotle there are two types of law:

(1) Natural law; and (2) Conventional law.

The natural law is that which is applicable everywhere in the world while the conventional law is that which has been set down by people through legislative means. Aristotle held that the unequal and the unlawful are not identical and states that everything that is unequal is truly unlawful but that however that everything that is unlawful is not unequal.

Justice in a court of law involves the judge attempting to establish equity through equalizing the situation. For example, the individual who has attacked another individual is given a sentence which is supposed to result in an equitable resolution. Justice can be said to have been achieved when the legal rules and practices are "economically efficient." (Parisi and Rowley, nd)

Aquinas stated three objections on whether the law is always directed to the common good and specifically that the law is not always directed to the common good since the commands are directed towards the goods of individuals and therefore, is not always directed to the common good of all. The law additionally addresses the actions of a man and since a man's actions are concerned with specific matters then the law would be directed to some specific good rather than the common good.

Finally, Aquinas held that the law, which has reason as its foundation is not only what is the common good but as well is that which is directed on private goods and matters and therefore is not focused on the common good of all but on the private individual good. Aquinas held that nothing is firm in relation to practical reason unless it is focused on the common good and that which is focused on the common good then has the nature of a law. In regards to whether man has the competency to make laws, quotes Romans 2:14 and states that by this verse it can be known that anybody is able to make a law for themselves.

Aquinas states that a law is directed to the common good and that a law should be made by the entirety of the people otherwise the law belongs to the individual who has their focus on an end that they see fit. Aquinas held that law is imposed "by way of a rule and measure" and that a law is "nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated" [the law].

Aquinas stated of the eternal law that the objection could be stated that there is no eternal law since all laws are imposed upon someone and that there was not anyone from eternity who a law could be imposed upon because only God is from eternity. Aquinas states that a law is nothing more than "a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community." However, Aquinas states since is it clear that the world is ruled by Divine Providence that the universe as a whole is governed by Divine Reason.

In regards to Natural law, Aquinas states several objections and the first of these being that there is no natural law in the human being since man is governed by the eternal law. The second objection stated by Aquinas is that the law directs man in his actions therefore the law is not a function of nature. In addition, if man is free then he is not subject to the natural law as he is freer than are the animals in nature. Aquinas states that all things are subject to divine law and measured by eternal law and that man has a share of the "eternal reason" and is therefore instilled with a natural inclination to act properly with the proper intentions.

In Aquinas' objectives on divine law he states that it appears that is not a need for divine law since natural law is participative in eternal law. And Aquinas states that since God left man to his own counsel that human law dictates human reason leaving no reason for man to be under divine law. The third object is that human law suffices better than irrational creatures who do not have a divine law other than their natural instinct. However, the truth, according to Aquinas is tht David prayed asking God to set his law before him therefore human beings desire a divine law and divine law is needed for four reason:

(1) it is by law than the human being is instructed on performing proper acts for his good;

(2) because of the frailty of human judgment different opinions on right and wrong acts arise depending on who is judging;

(3) while man can judge actions man cannot guage the internal thoughts of the individual; and (4) human law does not have the capacity to punish or even forbid all that is evil because in the process it would do away with good things thereby barring the advancement of the common good.

III. Distributive Justice, Collective Justice and Reciprocity

The basis of the idea of distributive justice is the treating of equals…

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