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Wisdom, Law, and VirtueEssays in Thomistic Ethics$
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Lawrence Dewan

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823227969

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823227969.001.0001

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St. Thomas, John Finnis, and the Political Good

St. Thomas, John Finnis, and the Political Good

(p.279) Chapter 17 St. Thomas, John Finnis, and the Political Good
Wisdom, Law, and Virtue

Lawrence Dewan

Fordham University Press

This chapter questions John Finnis's interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, concerning the specifically political common good. It is evident that Thomas limits the zone of human life subject to direction by the human legislator. Not only is God to be obeyed rather than man, but man's jurisdiction over man is not all embracing and leaves room for personal responsibility in such key areas as marriage. Finnis finds Thomas's justification of the limits not altogether clear, and proposes a conception of specifically political society as that of Thomas—a conception that is held to help clarify the situation. The said conception seeks to present political society as something less that a “basic human good.” It is argued that the “society” mentioned in Summa theologiae (ST) 1-2.94.2 is primarily political society; that we have a natural inclination to life in political society; and that the goal of the legislator is the development of virtue in the citizen. Thomas gives good reasons for limiting the role of the legislator, and indeed limits the common good of political society (to merely human virtue). Those limits imply the wider common good of the whole of reality. Thus, the Finnis appeal to private or personal zones is inadequate if the goal is to interpret Thomas.

Keywords:   Thomas Aquinas, political society, John Finnis, God, common good

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