"FROM the conclusions we have drawn above (III, 86, 4-5; Suppl., 12, 1) it is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life. For if the debt of punishment is not paid in full after the stain of sin has been washed away by contrition, nor again are venial sins always removed when mortal sins are remitted, and if justice demands that sin be set in order by due punishment, it follows that one who after contrition for his fault and after being absolved, dies before making due satisfaction, is punished after this life. Wherefore those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God: for which reason such a statement is erroneous and contrary to faith. Hence Gregory of Nyssa, after the words quoted above, adds: "This we preach, holding to the teaching of truth, and this is our belief; this the universal Church holds, by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins." This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory: and whosoever resists the authority of the Church, incurs the note of heresy." ~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologiae, Suppl. IIIae, Append. 2, A. 1.
Virgin and Child with Souls in Purgatory, by Luca Giordano.
Oil on canvas, c. 1650; San Pietro di Castello, Venice.
"BESIDES the natural and the human law it was necessary for the directing of human conduct to have a Divine law. And this for four reasons. First, because it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end. And indeed if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction of the part of his reason, besides the natural law and human law which is derived from it. But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man's natural faculty, as stated above (Q. 5, A. 5), therefore it was necessary that, besides the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God." ~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologiae, I-II, Q. 91, A. 4.
"CHRIST dwells in us, namely, when we know that we hold the faith which the Catholic Church teaches and holds. But if it is taken in regard to the affectivity, then Christ dwells in us by formed faith; and in this way no one can know that Christ dwells in him, or that he has charity, unless this certainty be granted to a person by revelation and a special grace. But there is nothing to prevent us from having a conjecture [coniecturum] that we are in charity, namely, when a person finds himself so ready and disposed that he would not wish to do anything against Christ in any way for something temporal: “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 Jn. 3:21)." ~St. Thomas Aquinas: Commentary on 2 Corinthians, (2 Cor. 13:5-10) 13, lect. 2, 527.
The Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas, by Bernardo Daddi.
“A LIVING Christianity is necessary to the world. Faith must be actual, practical, existential faith. To believe in God must mean to live in such a manner that life could not possibly be lived if God did not exist. For the practical believer, gospel justice, gospel attentiveness to everything human must inspire not only the deeds of the saints, but the structure and institutions of common life, and must penetrate to the depths of terrestrial experience.” ~Jacques Maritain: The Range of Reason.
"RATIONAL natures are poised between alternatives. God moves the human spirit to good; nevertheless it could resist. It is God's doing, then that a man prepares himself to receive grace. If he lacks grace, then the cause of the failure lies in him, not in God." —Quodlibets, I, 4, 2. "HENCE man, by his natural endowments, cannot produce meritorious works proportionate to everlasting life; and for this a higher force is needed, viz. the force of grace. And thus without grace man cannot merit everlasting life; yet he can perform works conducing to a good which is natural to man, as to toil in the fields, to drink, to eat, or to have friends, and the like." —Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 109, A. 5. "MAN'S nature may be looked at in two ways: first, in its integrity, as it was in our first parent before sin; secondly, as it is corrupted in us after the sin of our first parent. Now in both states human nature needs the help of God as First Mover, to do or wish any good whatsoever, as stated above (A. 1). But in the state of integrity, as regards the sufficiency of the operative power, man by his natural endowments could wish and do the good proportionate to his nature, such as the good of acquired virtue; but not surpassing good, as the good of infused virtue. But in the state of corrupt nature, man falls short of what he could do by his nature, so that he is unable to fulfil it by his own natural powers. Yet because human nature is not altogether corrupted by sin, so as to be shorn of every natural good, even in the state of corrupted nature it can, by virtue of its natural endowments, work some particular good, as to build dwellings, plant vineyards, and the like; yet it cannot do all the good natural to it, so as to fall short in nothing; just as a sick man can of himself make some movements, yet he cannot be perfectly moved with the movements of one in health, unless by the help of medicine he be cured. "And thus in the state of perfect nature man needs a gratuitous strength superadded to natural strength for one reason, viz. in order to do and wish supernatural good; but for two reasons, in the state of corrupt nature, viz. in order to be healed, and furthermore in order to carry out works of supernatural virtue, which are meritorious. Beyond this, in both states man needs the Divine help, that he may be moved to act well." —Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 109, a. 2. “SINCE the aptness for grace is part of human nature’s good estate, we can now appreciate how sin diminishes nature. And because grace perfects nature, heightening mind and will and the sensitive parts which serve reason, we can appreciate also how sin, by depriving us of grace and clogging our natural abilities, also hurts nature. The results of sin are ignorance, malice, and concupiscence, and these are called the wounds of nature.” —Disputations concerning Evil, 11, 11. "THE justification of the ungodly is brought about by God moving man to justice. For He it is "that justifieth the ungodly" according to Romans 4:5. Now God moves everything in its own manner. . . . It is man's proper nature to have free-will. Hence in him who has the use of reason, God's motion to justice does not take place without a movement of the free-will; but He so infuses the gift of justifying grace that at the same time He moves the free-will to accept the gift of grace, in such as are capable of being moved thus." —Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 113, A. 3.
St. Thomas Aquinas, by Fra Angelico. Tempera on wood, 1340-45; Collezione Vittorio Cini, Venice.
Surnamed DOCTOR SUBTILIS, died 8 November, 1308; he was the founder and leader of the famous Scotist School, which had its chief representatives among the Franciscans. Of his antecedents and life very little is definitely known, as the contemporary sources are silent about him. It is certain that he died rather young, according to earlier traditions at the age of thirty-four years (cf. Wadding, Vita Scoti, in vol. I of his works); but it would seem that he was somewhat older than this and that he was born in 1270. The birthplace of Scotus has been the subject of much discussion and so far no conclusive argument in favour of any locality has been advanced. The surname Scotus by no means decides the question, for it was given to Scotchmen, Irishmen, and even to natives of northern England. The other name, Duns, to which the Irish attach so much importance, settles nothing; there was a Duns also in Scotland (Berwick). Moreover, it is impossible to determine whether Duns was a family name or the name of a place. Appeal to supposedly ancient local traditions in behalf of Ireland's claim is of no avail, since we cannot ascertain just how old they are; and their age is the pivotal point. This discussion has been strongly tinged with national sentiment, especially since the beginning of the sixteenth century after prominent Irish Franciscans like Mauritius de Portu (O'Fihely), Hugh MacCaghwell, and Luke Wadding rendered great service by editing Scotus's works. On the other hand, the English have some right to claim Scotus; as a professor for several years at Oxford, he belonged at any rate to the English province; and neither during his lifetime nor for some time after his death was any other view as to his nationality proposed. It should not, however, be forgotten that in those days the Franciscan cloisters in Scotland were affiliated to the English province, i.e. to the custodia of Newcastle. It would not therefore be amiss to regard Scotus as a native of Scotland or as a member of a Scottish cloister. In any case it is high time to eliminate from this discussion the famous entry in the Merton College manuscript (no. 39) which would make it appear that Scotus was a member of that college and therefore a native of Northern England. The statutes of the college excluded monks; and as Scotus became a Franciscan when he was quite younger he could not have belonged to the college previous to joining the order. Besides, the entry in the college register is under the date of 1455, and consequently too late to serve as an argument. The case is somewhat better with the entry in the catalogue of the library of St. Francis at Assisi, under date of 1381, which designates Duns Scotus's commentary on the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard as "magistri fratris Johannis Scoti de Ordine Minorum, qui et Doctor Subtilis nuncupatur, de provincia Hiberniæ" (the work of master John Scotus of the Franciscan Order known as the subtle doctor, from the province of Ireland). This, though it furnishes the strongest evidence in Ireland's favour, cannot be regarded as decisive. Since Scotus laboured during several years in England, he cannot, simply on the strength of this evidence, be assigned to the Irish province. The library entry, moreover, cannot possibly be accepted as contemporary with Scotus. Add to this the geographical distance and it becomes plain that the discussion cannot be settled by an entry made in far-off Italy seventy-three years after Scotus's death, at a time too when geographical knowledge was by no means perfect. Finally, no decisive evidence is offered by the epitaphs of Scotus; they are too late and too poetical. The question, then, of Scotus's native land must still be considered an open one. When he took the habit of St. Francis is unknown; probably about 1290. It is a fact that he lived and taught at Oxford; for on 26 July, 1300, the provincial of the English province of Franciscans asked the Bishop of Lincoln to confer upon twenty-two of his subjects jurisdiction to hear confessions. The bishop gave the permission only to eight; among those who were refused was "Ioannes Douns". It is quite certain, too, that he went to Paris about 1304 and that there he was at first merely a Bachelor of Arts, for the general of the Franciscans, Gonsalvus de Vallebona, wrote (18 November, 1304) to the guardian of the college of the Franciscans at Paris to present John Scotus at the university for the doctor's degree. The general's letter mentions that John Scotus had distinguished himself for some time past by his learning ingenioque subtilissimo. He did not teach very long in Paris; in 1307 or 1308 he was sent to Cologne, probably as a professor at the university. There he died, and was buried in the monastery of the Minorities. At the present time (1908) the process of his beatification is being agitated in Rome on the ground of a cultus immemorabilis. Duns Scotus's writings are very numerous and they have often been printed; some, in fact, at a very early date. But a complete edition, in 12 folio volumes, was published only in 1639 by Wadding at Lyons; this, however, included the commentaries of the Scotists, Lychetus, Poncius, Cavellus, and Hiquæus. A reprint of Wadding's edition, with the treatise "De perfectione statuum" added to it, appeared 1891-95 at Paris (Vives) in 26 vols. 4to. Whether all the writings contained in these editions are by Duns Scotus himself is doubtful; it is certain, however, that many changes and additions were made by later Scotists. A critical edition is still wanting. Besides these printed works, some others are attributed to Scotus, especially commentaries on several books of Scripture. The printed writings deal with grammatical and scientific, but chiefly with philosophical and theological subjects. Of a purely philosophical nature are his commentaries and quæstiones on various works of Aristotle. These, with some other treatises, are contained in the first seven volumes of the Paris edition. The principal work of Scotus, however, is the so-called "Opus Oxoniense", i.e. the great commentary on the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard, written in Oxford (vols. VIII-XXI). It is primarily a theological work, but it contains many treatises, or at least digressions, on logical, metaphysical, grammatical, and scientific topics, so that nearly his whole system of philosophy can be derived from this work. Volumes XXII-XXIV contain the "Reportata Parisiensia", i.e., a smaller commentary, for the most part theological; on the "Sentences". The "Quæstiones Quodlibetales", chiefly on theological subjects, one of his most important works, and the above-mentioned essay, "De perfectione statuum", fill the last two volumes. As to the time when these works were composed, we know nothing for certain. The commentaries on Aristotle were probably his first work, then followed the."Opus Oxoniense" and some minor essays, last the "Quæstiones Quodlibetales", his dissertation for the doctor's degree. The "Reportata" may be notes written out after his lectures, but this is merely a surmise. Scotus seems to have changed his doctrine in the course of time, or at least not to have been uniformly precise in expressing his thought; now he follows rather the sententia communis as in the "Quæstiones Quodlibetales"; then again he goes his own way. Many of his essays are unfinished. He did not write a summa philosophica or theologica, as did Alexander of Hales and St. Thomas Aquinas, or even a compendium of his doctrine. He wrote only commentaries or treatises on disputed questions; but even these commentaries are not continuous explanations of Aristotle or Peter Lombard. Usually he cites first the text or presupposes it as already known, then he takes up various points which in that day were live issues and discusses them from all sides, at the same time presenting the opinions of others. He is sharp in his criticism, and with relentless logic he refutes; the opinions, or at least the argument, of his opponents. In his fervour he sometimes forgets to set down his own view, or he simply states the reasons for various tenable opinions, and puts them forward as more or less probable; this he does especially in the "Collationes". Hence it is said that he is no systematizer, that he is better at tearing down than at building up. It is true that none of his writings plainly reveals a system; while several of them, owing no doubt to his early death, betray lack of finish. His real teaching is not always fully stated where one would naturally look for it; often enough one finds instead the discussion of some special point, or a long excursus in which the author follows his critical bent. His own opinion is to be sought elsewhere, in various incidental remarks, or in the presuppositions which serve as a basis for his treatment of other problems; and it can be discovered only after a lengthy search. Besides, in the heat of controversy he often uses expressions which seem to go to extremes and even to contain heresy. His language is frequently obscure; a maze of terms, definitions, distinctions, and objections through which it is by no means easy to thread one's way. For these reasons the study of Scotus's works was difficult; when undertaken at all, it was not carried on with the requisite thoroughness. It was hard to find a unified system in them. Not a few unsatisfactory one-sided or even wrong opinions about him were circulated and passed on unchallenged from mouth to mouth and from book to book, growing more erroneous as they went. Nevertheless, there is in Scotus's teaching a rounded-out system, to be found especially in his principal work, a system worked out in minutest details. For the present purpose, only his leading ideas and his departures from St. Thomas and the sententia communis need be indicated. System of philosophy
The fundamental principles of his philosophical and theological teaching are his distinctio formalis and his idea of being. The distinctio formalis is intermediate between the distinctio rationis tantum, or the distinction made by the intellect alone, and the distinctio realis or that which exists in reality. The former occurs, e.g., between the definition and the thing defined, the latter, within the realm of created reality, between things that can exist separately or at least can be made to exist separately by Divine omnipotence, as, e.g., between the different parts of a body or between substance and accident. A thing is "formally distinct" when it is such in essence and in concept that it can be thought of by itself, when it is not another thing, though with that other it may be so closely united that not even omnipotence can separate it, e.g. the soul and its faculties and these faculties among themselves. The soul forms with its faculties only one thing (res), but conceptually it is not identical with the intellect or the will, nor are intellect and will the same. Thus we have various realities, entities, or formalities of one and the same thing. So far as the thing itself exists, these entities have their own being; for each entity has its own being or its own existence. But existence is not identical with subsistence. The accident e.g., has its own being, its own existence, which is different from the existence of the substance in which it inheres, just because the accident is not identical with the substance. But it has no subsistence of its own, since it is not a thing existing by itself, but inheres in the substance as its subject and support; it is not an independent being. Moreover, only actually existing; things have real being: in other words, being is identical with existence. In the state of mere ideality or possibility, before their realization, things have an essence, an ideal conceivable being, but not an actual one; else they could not be created or annihilated, since they would have had an existence before their creation. And since being is eo ipso also true and good, only those things are really good and true which actually exist. If God, therefore, by an act of His free will gives existence to the essences, He makes them by this very act also true and good. In this sense, it is quite correct to say that according to Scotus things are true and good because God so wills. By this assertion, however, he does not deny that things are good and true in themselves. They have an objective being, and thence also objective truth and goodness, because they are in the likeness of God, Whose being, Goodness, and truth they imitate. At the same time, in their ideal being they are necessary; the ideas of them are not produced by the Divine free will, but by the Divine intellect, which, without the co-operation of God's will, recognizes His own infinite essence as imitable by finite things and thus of necessity conceives the ideas. In this ideal state God necessarily wills the things, since they cannot but be pleasing to Him as images of His own essence. But from this it does not follow that He must will them with an effective will, i.e. that He must realize them. God is entirely free in determining what things shall come into existence.
God alone is absolutely immaterial, since He alone is absolute and perfect actuality, without any potentiality for becoming other than what He is. All creatures, angels and human souls included, are material, because they are changeable and may become the subject of accidents. But from this it does not follow that souls and angels are corporeal; on the contrary they are spiritual, physically simple, though material in the sense just explained. Since all created things, corporeal and spiritual, are composed of potentiality and actuality, the same materia prima is the foundation of all, and therefore all things have a common substratum, a common material basis. This materia, in itself quite indeterminate, may be determined to any sort of thing by a form—a spiritual form determines it to a spirit, a corporeal form to a material body. Scotus, however, does not teach an extreme Realism; he does not attribute to the universals or abstract essences, e.g. genus and species an existence of their own, independent of the individual beings in which they are realized. It is true, he holds that materia prima, as the indeterminate principle, can be separated from the forma, or the determining principle, at least by Divine omnipotence, and that it can then exist by itself. Conceptually, the materia is altogether different from the forma; moreover, the same materia a can be determined by entirely different forms and the same form can be united with different materiæ, as is evident from the processes of generation and corruption. For this reason God at least can separate the one from the other, just as in the Holy Eucharist He keeps the accidents of bread and wine in existence, without a substance in which they inhere. It is no less certain that Scotus teaches a plurality of forms in the same thing. The human body, e.g., taken by itself, without the soul, has its own form; the forma corporeitatis. It is transmitted to the child by its parents and is different from the rational soul, which is infused by God himself. The forma corporeitatis gives the body a sort of human form, though quite imperfect, and remains after the rational soul has departed from the body in death until decomposition takes place. Nevertheless, it is the rational soul which is the essential form of the body or of man; this constitutes with the body one being, one substance, one person, one man. With all its faculties, vegetative sensitive and intellectual, it is the immediate work of God, Who infuses it into the child. There is only one soul in man, but we can distinguish in it several forms; for conceptually the intellectual is not the same as the sensitive, nor is this identical with the vegetative, nor the vegetative with that which gives the body, as such, its form; yet all these belong formally, by their concept and essence, to the one indivisible soul. Scotus also maintains a formal distinction between the universal nature of each thing and its individuality, e.g. in Plato between his human nature and that which makes him just Plato—his Platoneity. For the one is not the other; the individuality is added to the human nature and with it constitutes the human individual. In this sense the property or difference, or the hæccitas, is the principium individuationis. Hence it is clear that there are many points of resemblance between matter and form on the one hand and universal natures and their individualization on the other. But Scotus is far from teaching extreme Realism. According to his view, matter can exist without form, but not the universal essence without individuation; nor can the different forms of the same thing exist by themselves. He does not maintain that the uniform matter underlying all created things is the absolute being which exists by itself, independent of the individuals, and is then determined by added forms, first to genera, then to species, and lastly to individuals. On the contrary, materia prima, which according to him can exist without a form, is already something individual and numerically determined. In reality there is no materia without form, and vice versa. The materia which God created had already a certain form, the imperfect form of chaos. God could create matter by itself and form by itself, but both would then be something individual, numerically, though not specifically, different from other matter and other forms of the same kind. This matter, numerically different from other matter, could then be united with a form, also numerically different from other forms of the same kind; and the result would be a compound individual, numerically different from other individuals of the same kind. From such individualized matter, form, and compound we get by abstraction the idea of a universal matter, a universal form, a universal compound, e.g. of a universal man. But by themselves universal matter and universal form cannot exist. The universal as such is a mere conception of the mind; it cannot exist by itself, it receives its existence in and with the individual; in and with the individual it is multiplied, in and with the individual it loses again its existence. Even God cannot separate in man the universal nature from the individuality, or in the human soul the intellectual from the sensitive part, without destroying the whole. In reality there are only individuals, in which, however, we can by abstraction formally separate both the abstract human nature from the individuality and the several faculties from one another. But the separation and distinction and formation of genera and species are mere processes of thought, the work of the contemplating mind.
The psychology of Scotus is in its essentials the same as that of St. Thomas. The starting-point of all knowledge is the sensory or outer experience, to which must be added the inner experience, which he designates as the ultimate criterion of certitude. He lays stress on induction as the basis of all natural sciences. He denies that sense perception, and a fortiori intellectual knowledge, is merely a passive process; moreover, he asserts that not only the universal but also the individual is perceived directly. The adequate object of intellectual knowledge is not the spiritual in the material, but being in its universality. In the whole realm of the soul the will has the primacy since it can determine itself, while it controls more or less completely the other faculties. The freedom of the will, taken as freedom of choice, is emphasized and vigorously defended. In presence of any good, even in the contemplation of God, the will is not necessitated, but determines itself freely. This doctrine does not imply that the will can decide what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, nor that its choice is blind and arbitrary. Objects, motives, habits, passions, etc. exert a great influence upon the will, and incline it to choose one thing rather than another. Yet the final decision remains with the will, and in so far the will is the one complete cause of its act, else it would not be free. With regard to memory, sensation, and association we find in Scotus many modern views.
System of theology
__________________________________________________ It has been asserted that according to Scotus the essence of God consists in His will; but the assertion is unfounded. God, he holds, is the ens infinitum. It is true that according to him God's love for Himself and the spiration of the Holy Ghost by Father and Son are not based upon a natural instinct, so to say, but upon God's own free choice. Every will is free, and therefore God's will also. But His will is so perfect and His essence so infinitely good, that His free will cannot but love it. This love, therefore, is at once free and necessary. Also with regard to created things Scotus emphasizes the freedom of God, without, however, falling into the error of merely arbitrary, unmotived indeterminism. It has been asserted, too, that according to Scotus, being can be attributed univocally to God and creatures; but this again is false. Scotus maintains that God is the ens per essentiam, creatures are entia per participationem—they have being only in an analogical sense. But from the being of God and the being of creatures, a universal idea of being can be abstracted and predicated univocally of both the finite and the infinite; otherwise we could not infer from the existence of finite things the existence of God, we should have no proof of God's existence, as every syllogism would contain a quaternio terminorum. Between God's essence and His attributes, between the attributes themselves, and then between God's essence and the Divine Persons, there is a formal distinction along with real identity. For conceptually Divinity is not the same as wisdom, intellect not the same as will; Divinity is not identical with paternity, since Divinity neither begets, as does the Father, nor is begotten, as is the Son. But all these realities are formally in God and their distinction is not annulled by His infinity; on the other hand it remains true that God is only one res. The process constituting the Blessed Trinity takes Place without regard to the external world. Only after its completion the three Divine Persons, as one principle, produce by their act of cognition the ideas of things. But quite apart from this process, God is independent of the world in His knowledge and volition, for the obvious reason that dependence of any sort wood imply imperfection. The cognition, volition, and activity of the angels is more akin to ours. The angels can of themselves know things; they do not need an infused species though in fact they receive such from God. The devil is not necessarily compelled, as a result of his sin always to will what is evil; with his splendid natural endowments he can do what in itself is good; he can even love God above all things, though in fact he does not do so. Sin is only in so far an infinite offense of God as it leads away from Him; in itself its malice is no greater than is the goodness of the opposite virtue. In his Christology, Scotus insists strongly on the reality of Christ's Humanity. Though it has no personality and no subsistence of its own, it has its own existence. The unio hypostatica and the communicatio idiomatum are explained in accordance with the doctrine of the Church, with no leaning to either Nestorianism or Adoptionism. It is true that Scotus explains the influence of the hypostatic union upon the human nature of Christ and upon His work differently from St. Thomas. Since this union in no way changes the human nature of Christ, it does not of itself impart to the Humanity the beatific vision or impeccability. These prerogatives were given to Christ with the fullness of grace which He received in consequence of that union. God would have become man even if Adam had not sinned, since He willed that in Christ humanity and the world should be united with Himself by the closest possible bond. Scotus also defends energetically the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. All objections founded on original sin and the universal need of redemption are solved. The merits of Christ are infinite only in a broader sense, but of themselves they are entirely sufficient to give adequate satisfaction to the Divine justice; there is no deficiency to be supplied by God's mercy. But there is needed a merciful acceptation of the work of Christ, since in the sight of God there is no real merit in the strictest sense of the word. Grace is something entirely supernatural and can be given only by God, and, what is more, only by a creative act; hence the sacraments are not, properly speaking, the physical or instrumental cause of grace, because God alone can create. Sanctifying grace is identical with the infused virtue of charity, and has its seat in the will; it is therefore conceived rather from the ethical standpoint. The sacraments give grace of themselves, or ex opere operato, if man places no obstacle in the way. The real essence of the Sacrament of Penance consists in the absolution; but this is of no avail unless the sinner repent with a sorrow that springs from love of God; his doctrine of attrition is by no means lax. As to his eschatology it must suffice to state that he makes the essence of beatitude consist in activity, i.e. in the love of God, not in the Beatific Vision; this latter is only the necessary condition. In ethics Scotus declares emphatically that the morality of an act requires an object which is good in its nature, its end, and its circumstances, and according to the dictate of right reason. It is not true that he makes God's free will decide arbitrarily what is good and what is bad; he only asserts that the Commandments. Of the second table of the Decalogue are not in such strict sense laws of nature as are those of the first table; because God cannot grant a dispensation from the laws of the first, whereas He can dispense from those of the second; as in fact He did when He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. But the precepts of the second table also are far more binding than the other positive laws of God. In the present order of things God cannot permit manslaughter universally, taking the property of others, and the like. There are also indifferent actions in individuo. Absolutely speaking, man should direct all his actions towards God; but God does not require this, because He does not wish to burden man with so heavy a yoke. He obliges man only to observe the Decalogue; the rest is free. Social and legal questions are not treated by Scotus ex professo; his works, however, contain sound observations on these subjects. Relation between philosophy and theology __________________________________________________ Scotus does not, as is often asserted, maintain that science and faith can contradict each other, or that a proposition may be true in philosophy and false in theology and vice versa. Incorrect, also, is the statement that he attaches little importance to showing the harmony between scientific knowledge and faith and that he has no regard for speculative theology. Quite the contrary, he proves the dogmas of faith not only from authority but, as far as possible, from reason also. Theology presupposes philosophy as its basis. Facts which have God for their author and yet can be known by our natural powers especially miracles and prophecies, are criteria of the truth of Revelation, religion, and the Church. Scotus strives to gain as thorough an insight as possible into the truths of faith, to disclose them to the human mind, to establish truth upon truth, and from dogma to prove or to reject many a philosophical proposition. There is just as little warrant for the statement that his chief concern is humble subjection to the authority of God and of the Church, or that his tendency a priori is to depreciate scientific knowledge and to resolve speculative theology into doubts. Scotus simply believes that many philosophical and theological proofs of other scholars are not conclusive; in their stead he adduces other arguments. He also thinks that many philosophical and theological propositions can be proved which other Scholastics consider incapable of demonstration. He indeed lays great stress on the authority of Scripture, the Fathers, and the Church but he also attaches much importance to natural knowledge and the intellectual capacity of the mind of angels and of men, both in this world and in the other. He is inclined to widen rather than narrow the range of attainable knowledge. He sets great value upon mathematics and the natural sciences and especially upon metaphysics. He rejects every unnecessary recourse to Divine or angelic intervention or to miracles, and demands that the supernatural and miraculous be limited as far as possible even in matters of faith. Dogmas he holds are to be explained in a somewhat softened and more easily intelligible sense, so far as this may be done without diminution of their substantial meaning, dignity, and depth. In Scripture the literal sense is to be taken, and freedom of opinion is to be granted so far as it is not opposed to Christian Faith or the authority of the Church. Scotus was much given to the study of mathematics, and for this reason he insists on demonstrative proofs in philosophy and theology; but he is no real sceptic. He grants that our senses, our internal and external experience, and authority together with reason, can furnish us with absolute certainty and evidence. The difficulty which many truths present lies not so much in ourselves as in the objects. In itself everything knowable is the object of our knowledge. Reason can of its own powers recognize the existence of God and many of His attributes, the creation of the world out of nothing, the conservation of the world by God, the spirituality, individuality, substantiality, and unity of the soul, as well as its free will. In many of his writings he asserts that mere reason can come to know the immortality and the creation of the soul; in others he asserts the direct opposite; but he never denies the so-called moral evidence for these truths. Theology with him is not a scientific study in the strictest sense of the word, as are mathematics and metaphysics, because it is not based upon the evidence of its objects, but upon revelation and authority. It is a practical science because it pursues a practical end: the possession of God. But it gives the mind perfect certainty and unchangeable truths; it does not consist in mere practical, moral, and religious activity Thus Scotus is removed from Kant and the modern Gefühlstheologen, not by a single line of thought but by the whole range of his philosophical speculation. Scotus is no precursor of Luther; he emphasizes ecclesiastical tradition and authority, the freedom of the will, the power of our reason, and the co-operation with grace. Nor is he a precursor of Kant. The doctrine regarding primacy of the will and the practical character of theology has quite a different meaning in his mind from what it has in Kant's. He values metaphysics highly and calls it the queen of sciences. Only as a very subtle critic may he be called the Kant of the thirteenth century. Nor is he a precursor of the Modernists. His writings indeed contain many entirely modern ideas, e.g. the stress he lays on freedom in scientific and also in religious matters, upon the separateness of the objective world and of thought, the self-activity of the thinking subject, the dignity and value of personality; yet in all this he remains within proper limits, and in opposition to the Modernists he asserts very forcibly the necessity of an absolute authority in the Church, the necessity of faith, the freedom of the will; and he rejects absolutely any and every monistic identification of the world and God. That he has so often been misunderstood is due simply to the fact that his teaching has been viewed from the standpoint of modern thought. Scotus is a genuine Scholastic philosopher who works out ideas taken from Aristotle, St. Augustine, and the preceding Scholastics. He is universally recognized as a deep thinker, an original mind, and a sharp critic; a thoroughly scientific man, who without personal bias proceeds objectively, stating his own doctrines with modesty and with a certain reserve. It has been asserted that he did more harm than good to the Church, and that by his destructive criticism, his subtleties, and his barbarous terminology he prepared the ruin of Scholasticism, indeed that its downfall begins with him. These accusations originated to a great extent in the insufficient understanding or the false interpretation of his doctrines. No doubt his diction lacks elegance; it is often obscure and unintelligible; but the same must be said of many earlier Scholastics. Then too, subtle discussions and distinctions which to this age are meaningless, abound in his works; yet his researches were occasioned for the most part, by the remarks of other Scholastic philosophers, especially by Henry of Ghent, whom he attacks perhaps even more than he does St. Thomas. But the real spirit of scholasticism is perhaps in no other Scholastic so pronounced as in Scotus. In depth of thoughts which after all is the important thing, Scotus is not surpassed by any of his contemporaries. He was a child of his time; a thorough Aristotelean, even more so than St. Thomas; but he criticizes sharply even the Stagirite and his commentators. He tries always to explain them favourably, but does not hesitate to differ from them. Duns Sootus's teaching is orthodox. Catholics and Protestants have charged him with sundry errors and heresies, but the Church has not condemned a single proposition of his; on the contrary, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which he so strongly advocated, has been declared a dogma. __________________________________________________ Minges, Parthenius. "Bl. John Duns Scotus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.
Finally moral experience offers to us the most widespread
instance of knowledge through connaturality. As we have noticed, it is the
experiential—not philosophical—knowledge of moral virtues that Thomas Aquinas
saw the first and main example of knowledge through connaturality that moral consciousness
attains a kind of knowing—inexpressible in words and notions—of the deepest
dispositions—longings, fears, hopes or despairs, primeval loves and options—involved
in the night of the subjectivity. When a man makes a free decision, he takes
into account, not only that he possesses of moral science and factual information,
and which is manifested to him in concepts and notions, but also all the secret
elements of evaluation which depend on what he is, and which are known to him
through inclination, through his own actual propensities. And his own virtues,
if he has any.
But the point on which I should like to lay stress deals
with that most controversial tenet in moral philosophy, Natural Law. I don’t intend
to discuss Natural Law now, I shall only emphasize an absolutely essential
element, to my mind, in the concept of Natural Law. The genuine concept of
Natural Law is the concept of a law which is natural not only insofar as it
expresses the normality of functioning of human nature, but also insofar as it
is naturally known, that is, known
through inclination or connaturality, not through conceptual knowledge.
You will allow me to place myself in the perspective of a
philosophy of Natural Law: I do not do so in order to assume that you take such
a philosophy for granted, but in order to clarify the very idea of Natural Law.
My contention is that the judgments in which Natural Law is made manifest to
practical Reason do not proceed from any conceptual, discursive, rational
exercise of reason; they proceed from that connaturalityor congeniality through which what is
consonant with the essential inclinations of human nature is grasped by the
intellect as good; what is dissonant, as bad.
Be it immediately added, to avoid any misunderstanding,
first, that the inclinations in question, even if they deal with animal
instincts, are essentially human, and therefore, reason-permeated inclinations;
they are inclinations refracted through the crystal of reason in its
unconscious or preconscious life. Second, that, man being an historical animal,
these essential inclinations of human nature either developed or were released
in the course of time: as a result, man’s knowledge of Natural Law
progressively developed, and continues to develop. And the very history of
moral conscience has divided the truly essential inclinations of human nature
from the accidental, warped or perverted ones. I would say that these genuinely
essential inclinations, have been responsible for the regulations which,
recognized in the form of dynamic schemes from the time of the oldest social
communities, have remained permanent in the human race, while taking forms more
definite and more clearly determined.
But let us close this parenthesis. What are the consequences
of the basic fact of Natural Law being known through inclination or
connaturality, not through rational knowledge?
First: not only the prescriptions of positive law,
established by human reason, but even those requirements of the normality of functioning
of human nature which are known to men through a spontaneous or a philosophical
exercise of conceptual and rational knowledge are not part of Natural Law. Natural
Law, dealing only with regulations known through inclination, deals only with
principles immediately known (that is
known through inclination, without any conceptual or rational medium) of human
Second: being known through inclination, the precepts of Natural
Law are known in an undemonstrable
manner. Thus it is that men (except when they make use of the reflective and
critical disciplines of philosophy) are unable to give account of and
rationally to justify their most fundamental moral beliefs: and this very fact
is a token, not of the irrationality and intrinsic invalidity of these beliefs,
but on the contrary, of their essential naturality,
and therefore of their greater
validity, and of their more than human
Third: this is so because no conceptual and rational
exercise of human reason intervenes in its knowledge of Natural Law, so that
human reason knows Natural Law, but has no part, either in causing it to exist, or even in causing it to be known. As a result, uncreated
Reason, the Reason of the Principle of Nature, is the only reason at play not only
in establishing Natural Law (by the
very fact that it creates human nature), but in makingNatural Law known,
through the inclinations of this very nature, to which human reason listens
when it knows Natural Law. And it is because Natural Law depends only on Divine
Reason that it is possessed of a character naturally sacred, and binds man in
conscience, and is the prime foundation of human law, which is a free and
contingent determination of what Natural Law leaves undetermined, and which
obliges by virtue of Natural Law.
Philosophers and philosophical theories supervene in order
to explain and justify, through concepts and reasoning, what, from the time of
the cave-man, men have progressively known through inclination and
connaturality. Moral philosophy is reflective
knowledge, a sort of after-knowledge. It does not discover moral law. The moral
law was discovered by men before the existence of any moral philosophy. Moral
philosophy has critically to analyze and rationally elucidate moral standards
and rules of conduct whose validity was previously discovered in an
undemonstrable manner; it has also to clear them, as far as possible, from the
adventitious outgrowths or deviations which may have developed by reason of the
coarseness of our nature and the accidents of social evolution.
Eighteenth-century rationalism assumed that Natural Law was either discovered
in Nature or a priori deduced by conceptual and rational knowledge,
and from there imposed upon human life by philosophers and by legislators in
the manner of a code of geometrical propositions. No wonder that finally “eight
or more new systems of natural law made their appearance at every Leipzig
booksellers’ fair” at the end of the eighteenth Century, and that Jean-Paul
Richter might observe that “every fair and every war brings forth a new natural
law.” I submit that all the theories of Natural Law which have been offered
since Grotius (and including Grotius himself) were spoiled by the disregard of
the fact that Natural Law is known though inclination or connaturality, not
through conceptual and rational knowledge.
Chapter 1 topics:
I. Saint Thomas and the Notion of Knowledge through Connaturality
II. Mystical Experience
III. Poetic Knowledge
IV. Moral Experience
V. Metaphysics and Knowledge through Connaturality
NATURAL LAW is not a law written by men. Men know it with greater or less difficulty, and in different degrees, running the risk of error here as elsewhere. The only practical knowledge all men have naturally and infallibly in common, as a self-evident principle intellectually perceived by virtue of the concepts involved, is that we must do good and avoid evil. This is the preamble and the principle of natural law; it is not the law itself. Natural law is the ensemble of things to do and not to do which follow therefrom in a necessary fashion. That every sort of error and deviation is possible in the determination of these things merely proves that our sight is weak, our nature course, and that innumerable accidents can corrupt our judgment. Montaigne remarked that, among certain peoples, incest and thievery were considered virtuous acts. Pascal was scandalized by this. All this proves nothing against the natural law, any more than a mistake in addition proves anything against arithmetic [or, the mistakes of certain primitive peoples, for whom the stars were holes in the tent which covered the world, prove anything against astronomy]. By the very fact that the Natural law is an unwritten law, man’s knowledge of it has increased little by little as man’s moral conscience has developed. The latter was at first in a twilight state. Anthropologists have taught us within what structures of tribal life and in the midst of what magic this knowledge of the natural law was awakened, and how it was primitively formed. This shows simply that the knowledge men have had of the unwritten law has passed through more diverse forms and stages than certain philosophers or theologians have believed. At the same time, we become aware of the fact that the knowledge which our own moral conscience has of this law is doubtless still imperfect, and very likely it will continue to develop and to become more refined as long as humanity exists. Only when the Gospel has penetrated to the very depth of human substance will natural law appear in its flower and its perfection. [So the law and the knowledge of the law are two different things.] Yet the law has force of law only when it is promulgated. It is only insofar as it is known and expressed in assertions of practical reason that the natural law has force of law. The gnoseological element is therefore fundamental in natural law. It is important to recognize that human reason does not discover the regulations of natural law in an abstract and theoretical manner, as a series of geometrical theorems. Moreover, it does not discover them through the conceptual exercise of the intellect, or by way of rational knowledge. I think the teaching of St Thomas here should be understood in a much deeper and more precise fashion than is usual. When he says that human reason discovers the regulations of natural law through the guidance of the inclinations of human nature, he means that the very mode or manner in which human reason knows natural law is not rational knowledge, but knowledge through inclination. Saint Thomas largely developed this notion of knowledge by inclination, but elsewhere—in the Summa theologiae, II-II, 45, 2. Knowledge by inclination or by connaturality is a kind of knowledge that is not clear, like that obtained through concepts and conceptual judgments. It is obscure, unsystematic, vital knowledge, by means of instinct or sympathy, and in which the intellect, in order to make its judgments, consults the inner leanings of the subject—and listens to the melody produced by the vibration of deep-seated tendencies made present in the subject. All this leads to a judgment—not to a judgment based on concepts, but to a judgment which expresses simply the conformity of reason to tendencies to which it is inclined. […] ~Jacques Maritain: from Natural Law: Reflections On Theory & Practice.
"What is a soul? Or to be more precise, what is a human soul? Or to be even more precise, what is a human being? For that is really the key question; and I sometimes think that the biggest obstacle to understanding what the soul is is the word “soul.” People too readily read into it various erroneous notions (erroneous from an Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view, anyway)—ghosts, ectoplasm, or Cartesian immaterial substances. Even the Aristotelian characterization of the soul as the form of the living body can too easily mislead. When those unfamiliar with Aristotelian metaphysics hear “form,” they are probably tempted to think in terms of shape or a configuration of parts, which is totally wrong. Or perhaps they think of it in Platonic terms, as an abstract universal that the individual human being participates in—also totally wrong. Or they suspect that since it is the form of the living body it cannot coherently be said to subsist apart from that body—totally wrong again. So let us, for the moment, put out of our minds all of these ideas and start instead with the question, what is a human being?" • Continue reading this article by Dr. Edward Feser at Strange Notions
“A common Latin word for faculty is “virtus” and from which we derive the word “virtual.” We have a thing virtually if we have the faculty for producing it, even though we have not yet the thing itself. The natural law considered virtually is practical reason insofar as it has a natural tendency for making moral judgments. The natural law exists virtually in every rational being even before his reason is sufficiently developed to form the actual judgments. As a person advances in the use of reason and “forms” his moral principles, either with the help of moral training or by his own efforts, in him the natural law passes from the “virtual” to the “formal” state. To aid people in this process of moral growth is the aim of ethics as a practical science.” ~Fr. Austin Fagothey: Right And Reason: Ethics Based on the Teachings of Aristotle & St. Thomas Aquinas
The concept of Natural Law is given its definitive meaning only when that of Eternal Law has been established. “This concept of Eternal Law is not solely theological. In the Summa theologiae, Saint Thomas insisted on the existence of the eternal law on the basis of theological arguments, but it is a philosophical truth as well, one which the philosopher with his means alone can reach and establish. God exists. He is the first cause of being, activating all beings. It is by his intellect and will that he acts: from which we have the notion of Providence. The entire community of the universe is governed by divine reason. Hence there is in God, as in one who governs the entirety of created beings, this very reality which is the judgment and command of the practical reason applied to the governing of a unified community: in other words, this very reality which we call “law”. Eternal Law is one with the eternal wisdom of God and the divine essence itself. Saint Thomas defines this Eternal Law as “nothing other than the exemplar of divine wisdom insofar as this wisdom directs all the actions and movements of things.” “It is evidently to this Eternal Law that we must have recourse if we are in search of the first foundation of Natural Law. Because every law is a work of reason, at the source of Natural Law there must be reason: not human reason but Subsistent Reason, the Intelligence which is one with the First Truth itself; there we have the Eternal Law.” ~Jacques Maritain: Natural Law: Reflections on Theory and Practice.
Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part (Prima Secundæ Partis) Question 94: Of the Natural Law
We must now
consider the natural law; concerning which there are six points of inquiry:
1. What is the
2. What are the
precepts of the natural law?
3. Whether all acts
of virtue are prescribed by the natural law?
4. Whether the
natural law is the same in all?
5. Whether it is
6. Whether it can
be abolished from the heart of man?
Article 1. Whether the natural law is a
Objection 1. It would seem that
the natural law is a habit. Because, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 5),
"there are three things in the soul: power, habit, and passion." But
the natural law is not one of the soul's powers: nor is it one of the passions;
as we may see by going through them one by one. Therefore the natural law is a
Objection 2. Further, Basil
[*Damascene, De Fide Orth. iv, 22] says that the conscience or "synderesis
is the law of our mind"; which can only apply to the natural law. But the
"synderesis" is a habit, as was shown in I, 79, 12.
Therefore the natural law is a habit.
Objection 3. Further, the
natural law abides in man always, as will be shown further on (A. 6). But man's
reason, which the law regards, does not always think about the natural law.
Therefore the natural law is not an act, but a habit.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De
Bono Conjug. xxi) that "a habit is that whereby something is done when
necessary." But such is not the natural law: since it is in infants and in
the damned who cannot act by it. Therefore the natural law is not a habit.
I answer that, A thing may be
called a habit in two ways. First, properly and essentially: and thus the
natural law is not a habit. For it has been stated above (Q. 90, A.1, ad 2)
that the natural law is something appointed by reason, just as a proposition is
a work of reason. Now that which a man does is not the same as that whereby he
does it: for he makes a becoming speech by the habit of grammar. Since then a habit
is that by which we act, a law cannot be a habit properly and essentially.
Secondly, the term
habit may be applied to that which we hold by a habit: thus faith may mean that
which we hold by faith. And accordingly, since the precepts of the natural law are
sometimes considered by reason actually, while sometimes they are in the reason
only habitually, in this way the natural law may be called a habit. Thus, in
speculative matters, the indemonstrable principles are not the habit itself
whereby we hold those principles, but are the principles the habit of which we
Reply to Objection
1. The Philosopher proposes there to discover the genus of
virtue; and since it is evident that virtue is a principle of action, he
mentions only those things which are principles of human acts, viz. powers,
habits and passions. But there are other things in the soul besides these
three: there are acts; thus "to will" is in the one that wills;
again, things known are in the knower; moreover its own natural properties are
in the soul, such as immortality and the like.
Reply to Objection
2. "Synderesis" is said to be the law of our mind,
because it is a habit containing the precepts of the natural law, which are the
first principles of human actions.
Reply to Objection
3. This argument proves that the natural law is held
habitually; and this is granted.
To the argument
advanced in the contrary sense we reply that sometimes a man is unable to make
use of that which is in him habitually, on account of some impediment: thus, on
account of sleep, a man is unable to use the habit of science. In like manner,
through the deficiency of his age, a child cannot use the habit of
understanding of principles, or the natural law, which is in him habitually.
Article 2. Whether the natural law
contains several precepts, or only one?
Objection 1. It would seem that
the natural law contains, not several precepts, but one only. For law is a kind
of precept, as stated above (Q. 92, A. 2). If therefore there were many
precepts of the natural law, it would follow that there are also many natural
Objection 2. Further, the
natural law is consequent to human nature. But human nature, as a whole, is
one; though, as to its parts, it is manifold. Therefore, either there is but
one precept of the law of nature, on account of the unity of nature as a whole;
or there are many, by reason of the number of parts of human nature. The result
would be that even things relating to the inclination of the concupiscible
faculty belong to the natural law.
Objection 3. Further, law is
something pertaining to reason, as stated above (Q. 90, A. 1). Now reason is
but one in man. Therefore there is only one precept of the natural law.
On the contrary, The precepts of
the natural law in man stand in relation to practical matters, as the first
principles to matters of demonstration. But there are several first
indemonstrable principles. Therefore there are also several precepts of the
I answer that, As stated above
(Q. 91, A. 3), the precepts of the natural law are to the practical reason,
what the first principles of demonstrations are to the speculative reason;
because both are self-evident principles. Now a thing is said to be
self-evident in two ways: first, in itself; secondly, in relation to us. Any
proposition is said to be self-evident in itself, if its predicate is contained
in the notion of the subject: although, to one who knows not the definition of
the subject, it happens that such a proposition is not self-evident. For
instance, this proposition, "Man is a rational being," is, in its
very nature, self-evident, since who says "man," says "a
rational being": and yet to one who knows not what a man is, this
proposition is not self-evident. Hence it is that, as Boethius says (De
Hebdom.), certain axioms or propositions are universally self-evident to all;
and such are those propositions whose terms are known to all, as, "Every
whole is greater than its part," and, "Things equal to one and the
same are equal to one another." But some propositions are self-evident
only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions:
thus to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is self-evident
that an angel is not circumscriptively in a place: but this is not evident to
the unlearned, for they cannot grasp it.
Now a certain order
is to be found in those things that are apprehended universally. For that
which, before aught else, falls under apprehension, is "being," the
notion of which is included in all things whatsoever a man apprehends.
Wherefore the first indemonstrable principle is that "the same thing
cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time," which is based on the
notion of "being" and "not-being": and on this principle
all others are based, as is stated in Metaph. iv, text. 9. Now as
"being" is the first thing that falls under the apprehension simply,
so "good" is the first thing that falls under the apprehension of the
practical reason, which is directed to action: since every agent acts for an
end under the aspect of good. Consequently the first principle of practical
reason is one founded on the notion of good, viz. that "good is that which
all things seek after." Hence this is the first precept of law, that
"good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided." All
other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the
practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good (or evil) belongs to the
precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided.
good has the nature of an end, and evil, the nature of a contrary, hence it is
that all those things to which man has a natural inclination, are naturally
apprehended by reason as being good, and consequently as objects of pursuit,
and their contraries as evil, and objects of avoidance. Wherefore according to
the order of natural inclinations, is the order of the precepts of the natural
law. Because in man there is first of all an inclination to good in accordance
with the nature which he has in common with all substances: inasmuch as every
substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature: and
by reason of this inclination, whatever is a means of preserving human life,
and of warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law. Secondly, there is
in man an inclination to things that pertain to him more specially, according
to that nature which he has in common with other animals: and in virtue of this
inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law, "which
nature has taught to all animals" [*Pandect. Just. I, tit. i], such as
sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth. Thirdly, there is in
man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature
is proper to him: thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about
God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this
inclination belongs to the natural law; for instance, to shun ignorance, to
avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things regarding
the above inclination.
Reply to Objection
1. All these precepts of the law of nature have the
character of one natural law, inasmuch as they flow from one first precept.
Reply to Objection
2. All the inclinations of any parts whatsoever of human
nature, e.g. of the concupiscible and irascible parts, in so far as they are
ruled by reason, belong to the natural law, and are reduced to one first
precept, as stated above: so that the precepts of the natural law are many in
themselves, but are based on one common foundation.
Reply to Objection
3. Although reason is one in itself, yet it directs all
things regarding man; so that whatever can be ruled by reason, is contained
under the law of reason.
Article 3. Whether all acts of virtue
are prescribed by the natural law
Objection 1. It would seem that
not all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law. Because, as stated
above (Q. 90, A. 2) it is essential to a law that it be ordained to the common
good. But some acts of virtue are ordained to the private good of the individual,
as is evident especially in regards to acts of temperance. Therefore not all
acts of virtue are the subject of natural law.
Objection 2. Further, every sin
is opposed to some virtuous act. If therefore all acts of virtue are prescribed
by the natural law, it seems to follow that all sins are against nature:
whereas this applies to certain special sins.
Objection 3. Further, those
things which are according to nature are common to all. But acts of virtue are
not common to all: since a thing is virtuous in one, and vicious in another.
Therefore not all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law.
On the contrary, Damascene says (De
Fide Orth. iii, 4) that "virtues are natural." Therefore virtuous
acts also are a subject of the natural law.
I answer that, We may speak of
virtuous acts in two ways: first, under the aspect of virtuous; secondly, as
such and such acts considered in their proper species. If then we speak of acts
of virtue, considered as virtuous, thus all virtuous acts belong to the natural
law. For it has been stated (A. 2) that to the natural law belongs everything
to which a man is inclined according to his nature. Now each thing is inclined
naturally to an operation that is suitable to it according to its form: thus
fire is inclined to give heat. Wherefore, since the rational soul is the proper
form of man, there is in every man a natural inclination to act according to
reason: and this is to act according to virtue. Consequently, considered thus,
all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law: since each one's reason
naturally dictates to him to act virtuously. But if we speak of virtuous acts,
considered in themselves, i.e. in their proper species, thus not all virtuous
acts are prescribed by the natural law: for many things are done virtuously, to
which nature does not incline at first; but which, through the inquiry of
reason, have been found by men to be conducive to well-living.
Reply to Objection
1. Temperance is about the natural concupiscences of food,
drink and sexual matters, which are indeed ordained to the natural common good,
just as other matters of law are ordained to the moral common good.
Reply to Objection
2. By human nature we may mean either that which is proper
to man─and in this sense all sins, as being against reason, are also against
nature, as Damascene states (De Fide Orth. ii, 30): or we may mean that nature
which is common to man and other animals; and in this sense, certain special
sins are said to be against nature; thus contrary to sexual intercourse, which
is natural to all animals, is unisexual lust, which has received the special
name of the unnatural crime.
Reply to Objection
3. This argument considers acts in themselves. For it is
owing to the various conditions of men, that certain acts are virtuous for
some, as being proportionate and becoming to them, while they are vicious for
others, as being out of proportion to them.
Article 4. Whether the natural law is
the same in all men?
Objection 1. It would seem that
the natural law is not the same in all. For it is stated in the Decretals
(Dist. i) that "the natural law is that which is contained in the Law and
the Gospel." But this is not common to all men; because, as it is written
(Rom. 10:16), "all do not obey the gospel." Therefore the natural law
is not the same in all men.
Objection 2. Further,
"Things which are according to the law are said to be just," as
stated in Ethic. v. But it is stated in the same book that nothing is so universally
just as not to be subject to change in regard to some men. Therefore even the
natural law is not the same in all men.
Objection 3. Further, as stated
above (2, 3), to the natural law belongs everything to which a man is
inclined according to his nature. Now different men are naturally inclined to
different things; some to the desire of pleasures, others to the desire of
honors, and other men to other things. Therefore there is not one natural law
On the contrary, Isidore says
(Etym. v, 4): "The natural law is common to all nations."
I answer that, As stated above
(2, 3), to the natural law belongs those things to which a man is inclined
naturally: and among these it is proper to man to be inclined to act according
to reason. Now the process of reason is from the common to the proper, as
stated in Phys. i. The speculative reason, however, is differently situated in
this matter, from the practical reason. For, since the speculative reason is
busied chiefly with the necessary things, which cannot be otherwise than they
are, its proper conclusions, like the universal principles, contain the truth
without fail. The practical reason, on the other hand, is busied with
contingent matters, about which human actions are concerned: and consequently,
although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to
matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects. Accordingly then
in speculative matters truth is the same in all men, both as to principles and
as to conclusions: although the truth is not known to all as regards the
conclusions, but only as regards the principles which are called common
notions. But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same
for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and
where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known
It is therefore
evident that, as regards the general principles whether of speculative or of
practical reason, truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known
by all. As to the proper conclusions of the speculative reason, the truth is
the same for all, but is not equally known to all: thus it is true for all that
the three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, although
it is not known to all. But as to the proper conclusions of the practical
reason, neither is the truth or rectitude the same for all, nor, where it is
the same, is it equally known by all. Thus it is right and true for all to act
according to reason: and from this principle it follows as a proper conclusion,
that goods entrusted to another should be restored to their owner. Now this is
true for the majority of cases: but it may happen in a particular case that it
would be injurious, and therefore unreasonable, to restore goods held in trust;
for instance, if they are claimed for the purpose of fighting against one's
country. And this principle will be found to fail the more, according as we
descend further into detail, e.g. if one were to say that goods held in trust
should be restored with such and such a guarantee, or in such and such a way;
because the greater the number of conditions added, the greater the number of
ways in which the principle may fail, so that it be not right to restore or not
must say that the natural law, as to general principles, is the same for all,
both as to rectitude and as to knowledge. But as to certain matters of detail,
which are conclusions, as it were, of those general principles, it is the same
for all in the majority of cases, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge; and
yet in some few cases it may fail, both as to rectitude, by reason of certain
obstacles (just as natures subject to generation and corruption fail in some
few cases on account of some obstacle), and as to knowledge, since in some the
reason is perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition of
nature; thus formerly, theft, although it is expressly contrary to the natural
law, was not considered wrong among the Germans, as Julius Caesar relates (De
Bello Gall. vi).
Reply to Objection
1. The meaning of the sentence quoted is not that whatever
is contained in the Law and the Gospel belongs to the natural law, since they
contain many things that are above nature; but that whatever belongs to the
natural law is fully contained in them. Wherefore Gratian, after saying that "the
natural law is what is contained in the Law and the Gospel," adds at once,
by way of example, "by which everyone is commanded to do to others as he
would be done by."
Reply to Objection
2. The saying of the Philosopher is to be understood of
things that are naturally just, not as general principles, but as conclusions
drawn from them, having rectitude in the majority of cases, but failing in a
Reply to Objection
3. As, in man, reason rules and commands the other powers,
so all the natural inclinations belonging to the other powers must needs be
directed according to reason. Wherefore it is universally right for all men,
that all their inclinations should be directed according to reason.
Article 5. Whether the natural law can
Objection 1. It would seem that
the natural law can be changed. Because on Ecclus. 17:9, "He gave them
instructions, and the law of life," the gloss says: "He wished the
law of the letter to be written, in order to correct the law of nature."
But that which is corrected is changed. Therefore the natural law can be
Objection 2. Further, the
slaying of the innocent, adultery, and theft are against the natural law. But
we find these things changed by God: as when God commanded Abraham to slay his
innocent son (Gn. 22:2); and when he ordered the Jews to borrow and purloin the
vessels of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35); and when He commanded Osee to take to
himself "a wife of fornications" (Osee 1:2). Therefore the natural
law can be changed.
Objection 3. Further, Isidore
says (Etym. 5:4) that "the possession of all things in common, and
universal freedom, are matters of natural law." But these things are seen
to be changed by human laws. Therefore it seems that the natural law is subject
On the contrary, It is said in the
Decretals (Dist. v): "The natural law dates from the creation of the
rational creature. It does not vary according to time, but remains
I answer that, A change in the
natural law may be understood in two ways. First, by way of addition. In this
sense nothing hinders the natural law from being changed: since many things for
the benefit of human life have been added over and above the natural law, both
by the Divine law and by human laws.
Secondly, a change
in the natural law may be understood by way of subtraction, so that what
previously was according to the natural law, ceases to be so. In this sense,
the natural law is altogether unchangeable in its first principles: but in its
secondary principles, which, as we have said (A. 4), are certain detailed
proximate conclusions drawn from the first principles, the natural law is not
changed so that what it prescribes be not right in most cases. But it may be
changed in some particular cases of rare occurrence, through some special
causes hindering the observance of such precepts, as stated above (A. 4).
Reply to Objection
1. The written law is said to be given for the correction of
the natural law, either because it supplies what was wanting to the natural
law; or because the natural law was perverted in the hearts of some men, as to
certain matters, so that they esteemed those things good which are naturally
evil; which perversion stood in need of correction.
Reply to Objection
2. All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of
nature: which death of nature is inflicted by the power of God on account of
original sin, according to 1 Kings 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh
alive." Consequently, by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any
man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery
is intercourse with another's wife; who is allotted to him by the law emanating
from God. Consequently intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is
neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft, which is the
taking of another's property. For whatever is taken by the command of God, to
Whom all things belong, is not taken against the will of its owner, whereas it
is in this that theft consists. Nor is it only in human things, that whatever
is commanded by God is right; but also in natural things, whatever is done by
God, is, in some way, natural, as stated in the I, Q. 105, A. 6, ad 1.
Reply to Objection
3. A thing is said to belong to the natural law in two
ways. First, because nature inclines thereto: e.g. that one should not do harm
to another. Secondly, because nature did not bring in the contrary: thus we
might say that for man to be naked is of the natural law, because nature did
not give him clothes, but art invented them. In this sense, "the
possession of all things in common and universal freedom" are said to be
of the natural law, because, to wit, the distinction of possessions and slavery
were not brought in by nature, but devised by human reason for the benefit of
human life. Accordingly the law of nature was not changed in this respect,
except by addition.
Article 6. Whether the law of nature
can be abolished from the heart of man?
Objection 1. It would seem that
the natural law can be abolished from the heart of man. Because on Rom. 2:14,
"When the Gentiles who have not the law," etc. a gloss says that
"the law of righteousness, which sin had blotted out, is graven on the
heart of man when he is restored by grace." But the law of righteousness
is the law of nature. Therefore the law of nature can be blotted out.
Objection 2. Further, the law
of grace is more efficacious than the law of nature. But the law of grace is
blotted out by sin. Much more therefore can the law of nature be blotted out.
Objection 3. Further, that
which is established by law is made just. But many things are enacted by men,
which are contrary to the law of nature. Therefore the law of nature can be
abolished from the heart of man.
On the contrary, Augustine says
(Confess. ii): "Thy law is written in the hearts of men, which iniquity
itself effaces not." But the law which is written in men's hearts is the
natural law. Therefore the natural law cannot be blotted out.
I answer that, As stated above
(4, 5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general
precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more
detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from
first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the
abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts. But it is blotted out in
the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying
the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of
concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Q. 77, A. 2). But as to
the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from
the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters
errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and
corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the
Apostle states (Rom. i), were not esteemed sinful.
Reply to Objection
1. Sin blots out the law of nature in particular cases, not
universally, except perchance in regard to the secondary precepts of the
natural law, in the way stated above.
Reply to Objection
2. Although grace is more efficacious than nature, yet
nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring.
Reply to Objection
3. This argument is true of the secondary precepts of the
natural law, against which some legislators have framed certain enactments
which are unjust.
_____________________________________________________ See also: Natural Law (Catholic Encyclopedia)