The Moral Philosophy Of Thomas Aquinas On Human Rights

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This paper inquires into the impact of the moral philosophy of Thomas Aquinas on human rights. It will examine the background of the moral philosophy of Thomas Aquinas; the influence of Thomas Aquinas’ moral philosophy on later philosophers’ contribution to the development of the human rights approaches and humanitarian law.
Thomas Aquinas was an influential Christian medieval philosopher, jurist and theologian. He was a foremost proponent of moral philosophy or ethics. Moral philosophy or ethics as it is referred to by Fieser (2006) as “a branch of philosophy that involves systemizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct” (para. 1). According to Wikipedia the free Encyclopaedia (2017), the word ethics derives from
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The naturalistic conception of human hights can be traced back to natural rights and natural law theories which were propounded by Thomas Aquinas in his works. These theories influenced the works of 17th and 18th century philosophers like; Grotius, Pufendorf, Locke, Hobbes and Kant. The doctrine of natural law also called moral law was at the centre of Thomas Aquinas’ moral philosophy. Thomas Aquinas’ moral philosophy also influenced Consequentialist, Normative and Teleogical approaches to human…show more content…
In his famous work Summa Theologiae an incorporation of Aristotelian philosophical insights modified by the Hebraic and Islamic philosophers into the developed theology of the Christian Fathers and Doctors of the Church especially Augustine; Aquinas suggested that natural law is a habit and not an act. According to him the human soul has three constructs; powers, habits and emotions. Natural law is not an emotion or a power but a habit. Conscience which Aquinas calls Synderesis is the law of human intellect. Aquinas maintains that conscience is a habit hence natural law is itself a habit as it is constituted by reason. Natural law belongs to the genus of precept and abides in human beings and it has only one founding precept upon which other precepts are based i.e. good is to be done and evil is to be avoided, “bonum facendum et proseguendum et malu evitandum” (Summa Theologiae, Article 2). Natural law results from the nature of human beings. Human nature as a whole is one, because of unity of the whole there is only one precept of natural law. Aquinas argues that law (lex) belongs to reason and there is only one power of reason in human beings which is conscience or
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