« Prev Chapter CXXIX. That the things commanded by the… Next »

CHAPTER CXXIXThat the things commanded by the Divine Law are Right, not only because the Law enacts them, but also according to Nature

BY the precepts of the divine law the human mind is subordinated to God, and all the rest of man is subordinated to reason. But this is just what natural order requires, that the inferior be subject to the superior. Therefore the things commanded by the divine law are in themselves naturally right.

2. Divine providence has endowed men with a natural tribunal of reason (naturale judicatorium rationis), to be the ruling principle of their proper activities. But natural principles are ordained to natural purposes. There are 292certain activities naturally suited to man, and these activities are in themselves right, and not merely by positive law.779779The term right may be taken in two senses: (1) as the contradictory of wrong, thus it means not wrong, but permissible. So it is right to wear a red waistcoat. Positive laws can command nothing which is not right to begin with, in this sense. (2) Right may mean requisite, incumbent upon human nature as such, and requiring to be made obligatory upon all, e.g., sobriety and the payment of debts. This sense of right includes the former sense and adds to it. The law commanding such right is not called positive but natural law. St Thomas calls it divine law, meaning the natural law as revealed. Right in this chapter is right in the second sense of the term.

3. Where there is a definite nature, there must be definite activities proper to that nature: for the proper activity of every nature is consequent upon the nature. Now it is certain that men’s nature is definite.780780This is precisely what Nominalism denies, or ignores. Nominalism eradicates the conception of ‘nature’ (φύσις), and reduces everything to ‘convention’ (νόμος). This chapter, an admirable one, containing the very pith and marrow of moral philosophy, is written against the Nominalists. It tells against Hobbes. For its importance see notes, pp. 261, 286, with the text corresponding [3.97 and 3.123]. There must therefore be certain activities that in themselves befit man.

4. Wherever a thing is natural to any one, any other thing also is natural, without which the first thing cannot be had, for nature fails not in necessities. But it is natural to man to be a social animal. Those things therefore naturally befit man, without which the maintenance of human society would be impossible. Such things are the securing to every man of his own, and abstinence from wrongdoing. Some points therefore of human conduct are naturally right.

5. The use of lower creatures to meet the need of human life is a natural property of man. Now there is a certain measure in which the use of the aforesaid creatures is helpful to human life. If this measure is transgressed, as in the disorderly taking of food, it results in harm to man. There are therefore certain human acts naturally appropriate, and others naturally inappropriate.

6. In the natural order man’s body is for his soul, and the lower powers of the soul for reason. It is therefore naturally right for man so to manage his body and the lower faculties of his soul as that the act and good of reason may least of all be hindered, but rather helped. Mismanagement in this regard must naturally be sinful. We count therefore as things naturally evil carousings and revellings and the disorderly indulgence of the sexual instinct, whereby the act of reason is impeded and subjected to the passions, which do not leave the judgement of the reason free.

7. To every man those things are naturally befitting, whereby he tends to his natural end; and the contraries are naturally unbefitting. But God is the end to which man is ordained by nature (Chap. CXV). Those things therefore are naturally right, whereby man is led to the knowledge and love of God; and the contraries are naturally evil for man.

Hence it is said: The judgements of the Lord are righteous, having their justification in themselves (Ps. xviii, 10).

Hereby is excluded the tenet of those who say that things just and right are the creation of positive law.

« Prev Chapter CXXIX. That the things commanded by the… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection