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The Influence of Augustine in Aquinas in His Theory of Natural Law

Autor:   •  January 25, 2019  •  1,065 Words (5 Pages)  •  114 Views

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Augustine has a theory about the social nature of people, similar to Artistotle’s theory about man as a political animal. According to Augustine, men can form smaller units like families with domestic order and then larger units like states, because they have social intelligence. In other words, they can live within politically and legally organized societies. As well as children have to respect the will of their family members as long as they are not opposed to the command of the law of the state, citizens must obey the state law as long as it does not run contrary to the law of God. We can also find this theory in Aquinas’s philosophy: ’As one man is a part of the household, so a household is a part of the state: and the state is a perfect community. […] And therefore, as the good of one man is not the last end, but is ordained to the common good; so too the good of one household is ordained to the good of a single state, which is a perfect community. Consequently he that governs a family, can indeed make certain commands or ordinances, but not such as to have properly the force of law.’

Both Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are remarkably important regarding history of legal thought, especially about natural law. As we could see, despite the 800 years between them, Aquinas was influenced by Augustine in many ways. In his Summa Theologiae there are many objections that could not have been made without knowing the work of Augustine. As many philosophers and scientists, he stood on the shoulders of giants. Yet without his work, thinking about natural law would not be the same today.


Anton-Hermann Chroust, St. Augustine's Philosophical Theory of Law, 25 Notre Dame L. Rev. 285 (1950). Available at:

St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Available at:


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