St. Thomas Aquinas 's An Unjust Law

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St. Thomas Aquinas argues that an “an unjust law is no law at all.” (Aquinas in Dimock, ed., 2002, p.19) However, Aquinas also acknowledges that a human lawgiver may promulgate a command that has the form of law, and is enforced like a law, yet is unjust. This observation leads to the realization that these are two inconsistent claims. Yet Aquinas believes that these inconstancies can be reconciled. In Aquinas’ view an unjust law is not a law but yet is also able to be issued as law and imposed as law. Throughout the course of this essay, I will first define what Aquinas means by incorporating the claim that “an unjust law is no law at all”. This will include defining important terms that will correspond with evaluating Aquinas’ claim.…show more content…
It is imperative to understand Aquinas’ definition of just and unjust laws. Through defining these terms, we will be able to understand Aquinas’ claim. A law that is just has the power of “binding in conscience” (Aquinas in Dimock, ed., 2002, p.20). It is derived from eternal law and therefore inherently morally correct. An unjust law lacks this integral quality. Aquinas is willing to say that an unjust law is a so-called law, but a just law is a law proper in its entirety. A law is said to be just when it is ordained for the common good, does not exceed the power of the lawgiver and any burdens put on the subjects are done proportionally and equally and aim for the common good (Aquinas in Dimock, ed., 2002, p.20). In comparison an unjust law can be contrary to the human good and additionally opposing to the divine good. A law can conflict with the human good in one of three ways; either through its end, author or its form. A lawmaker issues an unjust law according to its end when he “imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory” (Aquinas in Dimock, ed., 2002, p.20). If a lawmaker imposes a law that favors the leader but at the same time imposes unfair burdens on the whole of society, it can be assumed that he is working for his glory and selfish desires. Secondly, a law according to its form would be
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