Moral Philosophy and Understanding of Society by Thomas Aquinas (Thomas of Aquinas)June 26, 2021
Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of morality and society is a blend of Aristotle’s philosophy and rational understanding of Christianity.
The moral orders of Christians and the teleological method of Aristotelianism were blended and a huge system emerged. According to Thomas Aquinas, man strives for his own development and in this context, he tries to get a share from God and grow in his likeness. Because, according to him, everything that turns towards its own perfection is heading towards the divine model. Therefore, the moral structure of man is actually an expression of how he matures in the image of God (Aspell, 1999: 194).
We can say that some concepts and understandings are at important points in this great system. First of all, morality, like all other philosophers, is about human action. Of course, not all human actions will be considered within moral limits. Rather than physical or biological actions, actions caused by rational will are discussed here.
Thomas Aquinas says in question 90 of his great work, Summa Theologiae, that the word “Lex” (pronounced Lex) is derived from “Ligare”, the Latin equivalent of the word law. The Turkish word for ligare in Latin is to tie. The link here is understood on the basis of the relationship between a person and his action. The measure or rule of action, then, is reason, the first principle of human action. In other words, reason is the force that activates the will. For whenever something is desired, the mind commands what is necessary to achieve that goal. Therefore, the guidance of the mind is needed for any work that depends on the will.
To explain this situation better, Thomas Aquinas reminds us of a saying that is also a Roman law: “The will of the sovereign has the force of the law.” For the peace and welfare of the society headed by the ruler, this power of the law must function properly, and for this, the law must have a function for the common good. According to Aquinas, who tries to establish the relationship between the individual and the society here, the part progresses towards the whole, and the incompetent towards the competent. In parallel with this, the individual, of course, forms a part of the society. Therefore, the law must be especially for the happiness and welfare of the society. According to Thomas Aquinas, no one person can make a law, since the law is a matter of society as a whole. Law-making is either the business of an entire community or someone responsible for everyone in the community. However, it is possible to talk about many types of laws, not just one law.
According to Thomas Aquinas, reason is the root of moral obligation. Will is naturally directed towards what is good, and practical reason commands us to seek good and avoid evil. The law that emerged in this way, called natural law, guides every rational being within the framework of three natural tendencies: 1. to preserve his life and preserve his health; 2. to multiply and take care of his wife and family; 3. to develop his mental life by observing the truth and to grow up in social virtue. This third item makes it clear that a person must live in a society (Aspell, 1999: 198; Maurer, 1982: 188). Here, the issue that should be emphasized the most is that the creature that Aquinas understands from the rational being is the male. Plato, as is known, had a similar thought.
There is a kind of law common to all men. The foremost sign that this law is in all men is that all men have the ability to act for their own good. This law, which is owned by mental beings by taking a share from the eternal law, is called natural law. However, man can sometimes stray from this path and turn away from the command of natural law because of passions or bad tradition. In order to repair this irrational situation, another type of law is needed that enables the natural law to occur, and this is the eternal law (Aspell, 1999: 199).
The law that orders people how to live, what to do and what not to do is the eternal law. This law, which is the source of absolute obedience in humans, on the one hand determines the structure of everything in the physical world, on the other hand, dictates how rational beings should live. Inspired by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas argues that the eternal law is an analogy of the divine virtue that guides the actions and actions of all things. Just as the laws in the society are implemented by the ruler of that society, the eternal law is also implemented by divine foresight and fulfilled by divine power (Aspell, 1999: 199).
What is necessary for the people in the society to lead a decent life in peace and prosperity towards the goal they aim at is the administration of that society with proper laws. This administration is realized by the humanitarian law, which emerges as a result of the humane lawmaker’s application of the natural law to certain individual events. For example, murder is a natural law.