St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province

 

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OF THE EFFECTS OF LAW (TWO ARTICLES)

Deinde considerandum est de effectibus legis. Et circa hoc quaeruntur duo.    We must now consider the effects of law; under which head there are two points of inquiry:
Primo, utrum effectus legis sit homines facere bonos.     (1) Whether an effect of law is to make men good?
Secundo, utrum effectus legis sint imperare, vetare, permittere et punire, sicut legisperitus dicit.     (2) Whether the effects of law are to command, to forbid, to permit, and to punish, as the Jurist states?

 

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Whether an effect of law is to make men good?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod legis non sit facere homines bonos. Homines enim sunt boni per virtutem, virtus enim est quae bonum facit habentem, ut dicitur in II Ethic. Sed virtus est homini a solo Deo, ipse enim eam facit in nobis sine nobis, ut supra dictum est in definitione virtutis. Ergo legis non est facere homines bonos.   Objection 1: It seems that it is not an effect of law to make men good. For men are good through virtue, since virtue, as stated in Ethic. ii, 6 is "that which makes its subject good." But virtue is in man from God alone, because He it is Who "works it in us without us," as we stated above (Question [55], Article [4]) in giving the definition of virtue. Therefore the law does not make men good.
Praeterea, lex non prodest homini nisi legi obediat. Sed hoc ipsum quod homo obedit legi, est ex bonitate. Ergo bonitas praeexigitur in homine ad legem. Non igitur lex facit homines bonos.   Objection 2: Further, Law does not profit a man unless he obeys it. But the very fact that a man obeys a law is due to his being good. Therefore in man goodness is presupposed to the law. Therefore the law does not make men good.
Praeterea, lex ordinatur ad bonum commune, ut supra dictum est. Sed quidam bene se habent in his quae ad commune pertinent, qui tamen in propriis non bene se habent. Non ergo ad legem pertinet quod faciat homines bonos.   Objection 3: Further, Law is ordained to the common good, as stated above (Question [90], Article [2]). But some behave well in things regarding the community, who behave ill in things regarding themselves. Therefore it is not the business of the law to make men good.
Praeterea, quaedam leges sunt tyrannicae, ut philosophus dicit, in sua politica. Sed tyrannus non intendit ad bonitatem subditorum, sed solum ad propriam utilitatem. Non ergo legis est facere homines bonos.   Objection 4: Further, some laws are tyrannical, as the Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 6). But a tyrant does not intend the good of his subjects, but considers only his own profit. Therefore law does not make men good.
Sed contra est quod philosophus dicit, in II Ethic., quod voluntas cuiuslibet legislatoris haec est, ut faciat cives bonos.   On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 1) that the "intention of every lawgiver is to make good citizens."
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, lex nihil aliud est quam dictamen rationis in praesidente, quo subditi gubernantur. Cuiuslibet autem subditi virtus est ut bene subdatur ei a quo gubernatur, sicut videmus quod virtus irascibilis et concupiscibilis in hoc consistit quod sint bene obedientes rationi. Et per hunc modum virtus cuiuslibet subiecti est ut bene subiiciatur principanti, ut philosophus dicit, in I Polit. Ad hoc autem ordinatur unaquaeque lex, ut obediatur ei a subditis. Unde manifestum est quod hoc sit proprium legis, inducere subiectos ad propriam ipsorum virtutem. Cum igitur virtus sit quae bonum facit habentem, sequitur quod proprius effectus legis sit bonos facere eos quibus datur, vel simpliciter vel secundum quid. Si enim intentio ferentis legem tendat in verum bonum, quod est bonum commune secundum iustitiam divinam regulatum, sequitur quod per legem homines fiant boni simpliciter. Si vero intentio legislatoris feratur ad id quod non est bonum simpliciter, sed utile vel delectabile sibi, vel repugnans iustitiae divinae; tunc lex non facit homines bonos simpliciter, sed secundum quid, scilicet in ordine ad tale regimen. Sic autem bonum invenitur etiam in per se malis, sicut aliquis dicitur bonus latro, quia operatur accommode ad finem.   I answer that, as stated above (Question [90], Article [1], ad 2; Articles [3],4), a law is nothing else than a dictate of reason in the ruler by whom his subjects are governed. Now the virtue of any subordinate thing consists in its being well subordinated to that by which it is regulated: thus we see that the virtue of the irascible and concupiscible faculties consists in their being obedient to reason; and accordingly "the virtue of every subject consists in his being well subjected to his ruler," as the Philosopher says (Polit. i). But every law aims at being obeyed by those who are subject to it. Consequently it is evident that the proper effect of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue is "that which makes its subject good," it follows that the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good, either simply or in some particular respect. For if the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on true good, which is the common good regulated according to Divine justice, it follows that the effect of the law is to make men good simply. If, however, the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on that which is not simply good, but useful or pleasurable to himself, or in opposition to Divine justice; then the law does not make men good simply, but in respect to that particular government. In this way good is found even in things that are bad of themselves: thus a man is called a good robber, because he works in a way that is adapted to his end.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod duplex est virtus, ut ex supradictis patet, scilicet acquisita, et infusa. Ad utramque autem aliquid operatur operum assuetudo, sed diversimode, nam virtutem quidem acquisitam causat; ad virtutem autem infusam disponit, et eam iam habitam conservat et promovet. Et quia lex ad hoc datur ut dirigat actus humanos, inquantum actus humani operantur ad virtutem, intantum lex facit homines bonos. Unde et philosophus dicit, II Polit., quod legislatores assuefacientes faciunt bonos.   Reply to Objection 1: Virtue is twofold, as explained above (Question [63], Article [2]), viz. acquired and infused. Now the fact of being accustomed to an action contributes to both, but in different ways; for it causes the acquired virtue; while it disposes to infused virtue, and preserves and fosters it when it already exists. And since law is given for the purpose of directing human acts; as far as human acts conduce to virtue, so far does law make men good. Wherefore the Philosopher says in the second book of the Politics (Ethic. ii) that "lawgivers make men good by habituating them to good works."
Ad secundum dicendum quod non semper aliquis obedit legi ex bonitate perfecta virtutis, sed quandoque quidem ex timore poenae; quandoque autem ex solo dictamine rationis, quod est quoddam principium virtutis, ut supra habitum est.   Reply to Objection 2: It is not always through perfect goodness of virtue that one obeys the law, but sometimes it is through fear of punishment, and sometimes from the mere dictates of reason, which is a beginning of virtue, as stated above (Question [63], Article [1]).
Ad tertium dicendum quod bonitas cuiuslibet partis consideratur in proportione ad suum totum, unde et Augustinus dicit, in III Confess., quod turpis omnis pars est quae suo toti non congruit. Cum igitur quilibet homo sit pars civitatis, impossibile est quod aliquis homo sit bonus, nisi sit bene proportionatus bono communi, nec totum potest bene consistere nisi ex partibus sibi proportionatis. Unde impossibile est quod bonum commune civitatis bene se habeat, nisi cives sint virtuosi, ad minus illi quibus convenit principari. Sufficit autem, quantum ad bonum communitatis, quod alii intantum sint virtuosi quod principum mandatis obediant. Et ideo philosophus dicit, in III Polit., quod eadem est virtus principis et boni viri; non autem eadem est virtus cuiuscumque civis et boni viri.   Reply to Objection 3: The goodness of any part is considered in comparison with the whole; hence Augustine says (Confess. iii) that "unseemly is the part that harmonizes not with the whole." Since then every man is a part of the state, it is impossible that a man be good, unless he be well proportionate to the common good: nor can the whole be well consistent unless its parts be proportionate to it. Consequently the common good of the state cannot flourish, unless the citizens be virtuous, at least those whose business it is to govern. But it is enough for the good of the community, that the other citizens be so far virtuous that they obey the commands of their rulers. Hence the Philosopher says (Polit. ii, 2) that "the virtue of a sovereign is the same as that of a good man, but the virtue of any common citizen is not the same as that of a good man."
Ad quartum dicendum quod lex tyrannica, cum non sit secundum rationem, non est simpliciter lex, sed magis est quaedam perversitas legis. Et tamen inquantum habet aliquid de ratione legis, intendit ad hoc quod cives sint boni. Non enim habet de ratione legis nisi secundum hoc quod est dictamen alicuius praesidentis in subditis, et ad hoc tendit ut subditi legi sint bene obedientes; quod est eos esse bonos, non simpliciter, sed in ordine ad tale regimen.   Reply to Objection 4: A tyrannical law, through not being according to reason, is not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law; and yet in so far as it is something in the nature of a law, it aims at the citizens' being good. For all it has in the nature of a law consists in its being an ordinance made by a superior to his subjects, and aims at being obeyed by them, which is to make them good, not simply, but with respect to that particular government.

 

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Whether the acts of law are suitably assigned?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod legis actus non sint convenienter assignati in hoc quod dicitur quod legis actus est imperare, vetare, permittere et punire. Lex enim omnis praeceptum commune est, ut legisconsultus dicit. Sed idem est imperare quod praecipere. Ergo alia tria superfluunt.   Objection 1: It would seem that the acts of law are not suitably assigned as consisting in "command," "prohibition," "permission" and "punishment." For "every law is a general precept," as the jurist states. But command and precept are the same. Therefore the other three are superfluous.
Praeterea, effectus legis est ut inducat subditos ad bonum, sicut supra dictum est. Sed consilium est de meliori bono quam praeceptum. Ergo magis pertinet ad legem consulere quam praecipere.   Objection 2: Further, the effect of a law is to induce its subjects to be good, as stated above (Article [1]). But counsel aims at a higher good than a command does. Therefore it belongs to law to counsel rather than to command.
Praeterea, sicut homo aliquis incitatur ad bonum per poenas, ita etiam et per praemia. Ergo sicut punire ponitur effectus legis, ita etiam et praemiare.   Objection 3: Further, just as punishment stirs a man to good deeds, so does reward. Therefore if to punish is reckoned an effect of law, so also is to reward.
Praeterea, intentio legislatoris est ut homines faciat bonos, sicut supra dictum est. Sed ille qui solo metu poenarum obedit legi, non est bonus, nam timore servili, qui est timor poenarum, etsi bonum aliquis faciat, non tamen bene aliquid fit, ut Augustinus dicit. Non ergo videtur esse proprium legis quod puniat.   Objection 4: Further, the intention of a lawgiver is to make men good, as stated above (Article [1]). But he that obeys the law, merely through fear of being punished, is not good: because "although a good deed may be done through servile fear, i.e. fear of punishment, it is not done well," as Augustine says (Contra duas Epist. Pelag. ii). Therefore punishment is not a proper effect of law.
Sed contra est quod Isidorus dicit, in V Etymol., omnis lex aut permittit aliquid, ut, vir fortis praemium petat. Aut vetat, ut, sacrarum virginum nuptias nulli liceat petere. Aut punit, ut, qui caedem fecerit, capite plectatur.   On the contrary, Isidore says (Etym. v, 19): "Every law either permits something, as: 'A brave man may demand his reward'": or forbids something, as: "No man may ask a consecrated virgin in marriage": or punishes, as: "Let him that commits a murder be put to death."
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut enuntiatio est rationis dictamen per modum enuntiandi, ita etiam lex per modum praecipiendi. Rationis autem proprium est ut ex aliquo ad aliquid inducat. Unde sicut in demonstrativis scientiis ratio inducit ut assentiatur conclusioni per quaedam principia, ita etiam inducit ut assentiatur legis praecepto per aliquid. Praecepta autem legis sunt de actibus humanis, in quibus lex dirigit, ut supra dictum est.   I answer that, Just as an assertion is a dictate of reason asserting something, so is a law a dictate of reason, commanding something. Now it is proper to reason to lead from one thing to another. Wherefore just as, in demonstrative sciences, the reason leads us from certain principles to assent to the conclusion, so it induces us by some means to assent to the precept of the law.
Sunt autem tres differentiae humanorum actuum. Nam sicut supra dictum est, quidam actus sunt boni ex genere, qui sunt actus virtutum, et respectu horum, ponitur legis actus praecipere vel imperare; praecipit enim lex omnes actus virtutum, ut dicitur in V Ethic. Quidam vero sunt actus mali ex genere, sicut actus vitiosi, et respectu horum, lex habet prohibere. Quidam vero ex genere suo sunt actus indifferentes, et respectu horum, lex habet permittere. Et possunt etiam indifferentes dici omnes illi actus qui sunt vel parum boni vel parum mali. Id autem per quod inducit lex ad hoc quod sibi obediatur, est timor poenae, et quantum ad hoc, ponitur legis effectus punire.    Now the precepts of law are concerned with human acts, in which the law directs, as stated above (Question [90], Articles [1],2; Question [91], Article [4]). Again there are three kinds of human acts: for, as stated above (Question [18], Article [8]), some acts are good generically, viz. acts of virtue; and in respect of these the act of the law is a precept or command, for "the law commands all acts of virtue" (Ethic. v, 1). Some acts are evil generically, viz. acts of vice, and in respect of these the law forbids. Some acts are generically indifferent, and in respect of these the law permits; and all acts that are either not distinctly good or not distinctly bad may be called indifferent. And it is the fear of punishment that law makes use of in order to ensure obedience: in which respect punishment is an effect of law.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod, sicut cessare a malo habet quandam rationem boni, ita etiam prohibitio habet quandam rationem praecepti. Et secundum hoc, large accipiendo praeceptum, universaliter lex praeceptum dicitur.   Reply to Objection 1: Just as to cease from evil is a kind of good, so a prohibition is a kind of precept: and accordingly, taking precept in a wide sense, every law is a kind of precept.
Ad secundum dicendum quod consulere non est proprius actus legis, sed potest pertinere etiam ad personam privatam, cuius non est condere legem. Unde etiam apostolus, I ad Cor. VII, cum consilium quoddam daret, dixit, ego dico, non dominus. Et ideo non ponitur inter effectus legis.   Reply to Objection 2: To advise is not a proper act of law, but may be within the competency even of a private person, who cannot make a law. Wherefore too the Apostle, after giving a certain counsel (1 Cor. 7:12) says: "I speak, not the Lord." Consequently it is not reckoned as an effect of law.
Ad tertium dicendum quod etiam praemiare potest ad quemlibet pertinere, sed punire non pertinet nisi ad ministrum legis, cuius auctoritate poena infertur. Et ideo praemiare non ponitur actus legis, sed solum punire.   Reply to Objection 3: To reward may also pertain to anyone: but to punish pertains to none but the framer of the law, by whose authority the pain is inflicted. Wherefore to reward is not reckoned an effect of law, but only to punish.
Ad quartum dicendum quod per hoc quod aliquis incipit assuefieri ad vitandum mala et ad implendum bona propter metum poenae, perducitur quandoque ad hoc quod delectabiliter et ex propria voluntate hoc faciat. Et secundum hoc, lex etiam puniendo perducit ad hoc quod homines sint boni.   Reply to Objection 4: From becoming accustomed to avoid evil and fulfill what is good, through fear of punishment, one is sometimes led on to do so likewise, with delight and of one's own accord. Accordingly, law, even by punishing, leads men on to being good.

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