AQUINAS: THE TREATISE ON LAW
GOV 382M / PHL 387 / LAW 397S
Office: MEZ 3.106
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Thomas Aquinas is regarded by more than a few scholars as one of the two or three greatest philosophers and theologians in Western history, as well as one of the most illuminating students of Augustine and Aristotle. His Treatise on Law is the locus classicus of the natural law tradition, and indispensable for anyone seriously interested in ethical philosophy, political philosophy, jurisprudence, natural law, or the respective roles of faith and reason in each of these areas. Though it is brief, as treatises go, it is not the sort of book one can browse through an evening, and requires close reading.
Written in the form of a scholastic disputation, the Treatise takes up 19 disputed questions, for example whether there is such a thing as natural law and whether one may disobey unjust laws. We will close study each of the first eight (qq. 90-97), as well as a few selections from the other eleven (qq, 98-108), taking them up in sequence and in context. I say “in context” because the Treatise is but a single part of a much larger work, the Summa Theologiae, which takes up a variety of related matters including the ultimate purpose of human life, the nature of human acts, the passions, the virtues, and the vices. I do not expect you to be familiar with the whole Summa; we will explore the connections as necessary.
Research paper: 2/3. Vigorous participation in seminar: 1/3.
You do not have to purchase the text, because we will be using the Dominican Fathers translation, which is in the public domain and can be read in various locations on the internet. For English only, go to http://www.newadvent.org/summa , scroll down and click on “Secunda Secundæ Partis” (which means “second part of the second part”), then scroll down again to the section entitled “Law” and select the question that you want. Latin and English in parallel columns are also available on the internet, and if you want a hard copy, a number of inexpensive printed editions are published, any of which are acceptable so long as they include all of qq. 90-108. If you would like to compare the Dominican Fathers translation with a more recent one, I would suggest Alfred J. Freddoso, Treatise on Law: The Complete Text.