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FREEDOM AND LAW IN THOMAS AQUINAS

Project Topic: THE NOTION OF FREEDOM AND LAW IN THOMAS AQUINAS


INTRODUCTION

  1. Statement of the Problem

Man in his very nature is a free being. He is endowed with the gift of freewill. However, that man is free does not imply freedom to the absolute degree, he is not absolutely free. One man’s freedom ends where that of the other begins. This would not have been the case if the law is not there. Therefore, law helps to keep the infringement of people’s freedom in check.

Despite all these, the struggle for freedom in essence, is people’s struggle to be able to satisfy their individual needs. Therefore, mankind continually moves towards the advancement and always on the road to the realization of freedom.

To maintain order, man tries to adhere to the laws guiding him. This makes man moral. And as it were, first thing in morality is the inherent freedom in man. Everybody pursues freedom. Freedom makes man a human person. Poets write about freedom, government officials promise and proclaim it; some people nearly loose their precious lives to win this freedom for themselves and for others. But what actually is this freedom?

This work considered in the light of St Thomas Aquinas deals on Freedom and Law. It is neither a deterministic nor purely indeterministic solution to the problem of freedom and law; it is an appraisal, arrived by reconciling the positions of freedom and law. As regards Aquinas’ proximate ends, man enjoys freedom of judgment and of choice, that is, of judging freely of the things to be done and not to be done.

Man’s experience of his own behaviors and decisions includes an awareness of his own freedom, of his own ability to decide for himself, to deliberate about what to do in various situations (bearing in mind not to trespass another’s boundary), and to come to his own conclusion about what to believe and what to do.

Nevertheless, man’s deliberation on what to do necessarily involves the dictates of the law; not to “infringe on once freedom in a quest to achieve his own freedom.” It then becomes quite pertinent to understand fully what freedom is before delving into law. This is because they are like the two sides of the same coin, as we shall see. And this was what resulted to my treating freedom first before law in this work. Aquinas conceives law as an ordinance of reason promulgated by one who has the community’s interest at heart. In order for us to act well as human beings, our actions should proceed from reason of what we are about to do. According to Mary Clark:

Man, if perfect in virtue is the best of animals, but if he becomes separated from law and morality, he is the worst of animals. For man, unlike other animals, has the weapons of reason with which to exploit his best desire and cruelty![1]

Man is by nature a social animal, and every rational being would testify to the fact that a society of whatever level which does not establish and apply freedom and law to its subjects, is comparatively similar to a train full of people, heading towards the Atlantic ocean. Law connotes some sort of regulations that govern our actions and affairs. It involves something more than mere reprobation.

Just as all men see that there are good acts and bad acts so also they acknowledge some kind of compulsion to do the good and avoid the evil. In the same manner, having observed certain development caused by man in many societies, a medieval theologian and philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, took it upon himself and deemed it necessary to render a good example by stressing the significance of, and as well advocating the existence of freedom and law.

  1. Purpose of Study

In the face of the contemporary clamour for true freedom, this work could be said to be both necessary and timely. This is corroborated by the fact that the natural law makes it intrinsic for every person to seek after freedom. This work is, therefore, a thought-pattern, which seeks to unravel the authenticity and credibility of this claim that the search for freedom is ontological to man. Taking the Thomistic viewpoint as a case study, this work will assess every argument for and against the law and freedom, after making a historical survey of the meaning of the notion of freedom.

  1. Scope of Study

In this thesis, we shall unveil the Thomistic notion of law and freedom as outlined in chapters three. We shall also try to consult other authorities who have written or spoken on this very issue. However, this thesis may not exhaust the whole notion of freedom and law as Aquinas understood it, but can suffice as a mere appraisal of the notion

  1. Method of Study

Because of the nature and the purpose of this work, its major methodology will be critical analysis. However, I will also employ exposition, history and interpretation in order to give this work a reasonable approach.

  1. Division of Work

In the first chapter, we shall examine in details the general notion of freedom. The second chapter deals with the term ‘law’ in general and equally the Thomistic notion of law. Chapter three deals with the two major sub-headings of this thesis, that is, freedom and law and juxtaposed with morality. Finally, chapter four deals with the Thomistic approach to the implications of freedom and law and the appraisal of Aquinas notion of law through critical evaluation and conclusion.

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Topic: THE NOTION OF FREEDOM AND LAW IN THOMAS AQUINAS

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