- In this essay I present the core of St. Thomas Aquinas’s theory of law. The aim is to introduce students both to the details of Aquinas’s particular theory of law, as well as to the features of his view that define what has come to be known as “the natural law” conception of law more generally. Though the essay is for the most part non-critical, some of the more important implications of the natural law position are raised for further thought and to pave the way for the study of alternative views which have been developed in the subsequent history of the philosophy of law.
One brief note about the structure of the essay will complete my introductory remarks: The essay tries to present as much of Aquinas’s theory in his own words as possible. Material taken directly from Aquinas appears in bold type throughout, with the origin of the quotation given in parentheses following the text. Unless otherwise noted, the material is taken from Aquinas’s Summa Theologica; the translation from Latin is that of the Fathers of the English Dominican Province.