Aquinas and the Non-Aggression Principle

Human Law, part 1 Having laid its ultimate metaphysical foundation in God’s eternal law governing all created reality, and having then laid its ultimate moral foundation in the natural law governing all human action, St. Thomas Aquinas turns to the question of man-made law, or what he calls human law. The question he begins with …

In Defense of Libertarianism

(The following are my opening remarks in a recent informal public debate over libertarianism held at New Saint Andrews College between myself and Pr. Douglas Wilson.) "When is it moral for a civil society to permit, authorize, or use coercion?" This, I contend, is the foundational question of all political philosophy, and the answer I’m …

Aquinas on Old Testament Inheritance Law (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 12 One manifestation of Aquinas’s confusion of the common versus private nature of possessions is in his account of Mosaic inheritance law. His explanation of why the judicial precepts determined that, upon a man’s death, his property should pass to his next of kin is the social utilitarian …

Fruit of private property is not common but can privately be made common (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 11 In the previous post I critiqued Aquinas's argument for why the "care" of goods in the Old Law was "common." Much the same critique might also be made of Aquinas’s scriptural prooftext for why, in addition to their care, the enjoyment or “fruits” of private possessions are …

Communal care is in the service of private use (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 10 Similarly questionable are Aquinas’s scriptural prooftexts for his second Aristotelian principle of good property relations, namely that while the ownership of things should generally be private, the use of things (usus rerum) should nevertheless belong to all in common. Aquinas divides this communal use of things into …

The division of the land was political, not praxeological (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 9 Not having found a theory of personal property acquisition in Aristotle, neither, in his defense of the judicial precepts, does Aquinas look for, much less find, one in the Law of Moses. On the contrary, the scriptural prooftext he cites for the Aristotelian principle of a bare …

The sphere of private action confirms the naturalness of private property (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 8 One example of inconsistency on Aquinas's part, I submit, is the very issue of private property at the heart of the present article. According to the Aquinas, both reason and revelation confirm that the power or right to dispose of one’s own property belongs to the will …

The sphere of private action is distinct from and even prior to that of public enforcement (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 7 The significance of Aquinas’s division of human relations into those brought about by private will and action and those brought about by public authority would also be difficult to exaggerate, as it implies the existence of a distinct sphere of individual human initiative and enterprise that is …

The foundation of a political community is the consent of the governed (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 6 The Ciceronian definition of a commonwealth with which Aquinas begins his argument—“a body of men united together by consent to the law and by community of welfare”—is important as it returns us to a question that arose in connection with his thesis, back in question 90, article …

The sphere of private, voluntary action is distinct from that of public enforcement (ST I-II.105.2)

The Reasonability of the Judicial Precepts, part 5 Aquinas begins his defense of how the Old Law’s judicial precepts ordered subjects with respect to each other with Cicero’s famous definition of a political community or commonwealth as “a body of men united together by consent to the law and by community of welfare.” From this …