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For moral order to exist, there must be an objective moral law easily perceived, common to all men and obliging to all equally. Without an objective moral law, social order is impossible.

Therefore, an objective moral law must exist to guide human behavior, and prevent that individual freedom and the good of society be endangered. In that case, morality would depend entirely on the number of policemen, and each man would need a policeman to watch him a tall times. Let us consider another point. All law is a manifestation of the will of a legislator who imposes, commands, forbids, permits and punishes.


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Since we all have the same nature, the will of any man is equal to that of another, and no one man can impose his will on another. Saint Paul makes this clear when he affirms that all authority comes from God: Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.

The law that precedes all human law is called Eternal Law. How can we prove through reason the existence of Eternal Law? We begin by observing reality. As we contemplate the universe, we sense a harmony, an order that reverberates deeply in our souls and fills us with peace and awe.

Order is the proper disposition of things according to their end. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that the order of the universe is not random but of God. As Supreme Wisdom, God could not create without a goal in mind. Being infinite, God has in Himself all that is necessary to the perfection of His nature. This goal is what orders and gives meaning to the universe. The order of the universe is only possible because created beings are endowed with perfection, with laws that guide them to their individual and general finality.

For instance, all celestial bodies move in an orderly manner following a specific pattern. In this orderly universe—guided by the laws of nature that God uses to direct things—there are creatures that, though having material bodies, are endowed with a spiritual soul superior to matter: The laws of nature compel material things to react in a predetermined manner. These are applicable to the human body, not to the soul. Would man in his superior part, the soul, not also have laws to help him understand and make decisions?

In a universe guided by laws, could the creature whose intelligence and free will place him above all others be the only one not guided by laws?


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In his intelligence and will, man is also guided by laws that help him without impairing his liberty. He is naturally subject to the laws of logic that direct his reasoning, and to the principles of morals that direct his behavior. And since for God there is no time, He conceived Creation and its laws from all eternity. This is why we call eternal the laws that Infinite Divine Wisdom conceived. By his natural reason, man perceives what is good or bad for him.

Natural Law Theory: Crash Course Philosophy #34

He preserves his life, his property; he tends to marry and procreate. At the same time, the fact that he shares the same nature with all men creates a natural link of fraternity to his fellow men. He also knows the end of each of his acts and how they must be in accordance with happiness on this earth and eternal beatitude. As a consequence, he knows it is wrong to transform the means that help him accomplish an act into the finality of that act. For instance, if he did not take some pleasure in eating, an act that is fundamental for maintaining his life and health, he would tend to neglect eating.

The Essence of Divine Law

The same goes for procreation. If some pleasure were not linked to it, it would also be neglected, thereby causing problems for the perpetuation of the human race. But, if man transforms pleasure, which is a means that facilitates the aforementioned acts, into an end in itself, he goes against his own reason that shows it as a disorder. And in doing so he contradicts natural law and violates the objective norm of morality.

Saint Thomas Aquinas affirms that order is connatural with nature, and thus, when something is disordered, it does not proceed from nature. On the contrary, Augustine says De Lib.

Article 2. Whether the eternal law is known to all?

And just as the type of the things yet to be made by an art is called the art or exemplar of the products of that art, so too the type in him who governs the acts of his subjects, bears the character of a law , provided the other conditions be present which we have mentioned above Article Now God , by His wisdom, is the Creator of all things in relation to which He stands as the artificer to the products of his art, as stated in the I: Moreover He governs all the acts and movements that are to be found in each single creature, as was also stated in the I: Wherefore as the type of the Divine Wisdom, inasmuch as by It all things are created , has the character of art, exemplar or idea ; so the type of Divine Wisdom, as moving all things to their due end, bears the character of law.

Accordingly the eternal law is nothing else than the type of Divine Wisdom, as directing all actions and movements. Reply to Objection 1. Augustine is speaking in that passage of the ideal types which regard the proper nature of each single thing; and consequently in them there is a certain distinction and plurality, according to their different relations to things, as stated in the I: But law is said to direct human acts by ordaining them to the common good , as stated above I-II: And things, which are in themselves different, may be considered as one, according as they are ordained to one common thing.

Wherefore the eternal law is one since it is the type of this order. Reply to Objection 2. With regard to any sort of word, two points may be considered: For the spoken word is something uttered by the mouth of man , and expresses that which is signified by the human word. The same applies to the human mental word, which is nothing else that something conceived by the mind , by which man expresses his thoughts mentally.

So then in God the Word conceived by the intellect of the Father is the name of a Person: And among other things expressed by this Word, the eternal law itself is expressed thereby. Nor does it follow that the eternal law is a Personal name in God: Reply to Objection 3. The types of the Divine intellect do not stand in the same relation to things, as the types of the human intellect. For the human intellect is measured by things, so that a human concept is not true by reason of itself, but by reason of its being consonant with things, since "an opinion is true or false according as it answers to the reality.

Consequently the Divine intellect is true in itself; and its type is truth itself. Whether the eternal law is known to all? It would seem that the eternal law is not known to all.

Article 1. Whether the eternal law is a sovereign type [ratio] existing in God?

Because, as the Apostle says 1 Corinthians 2: Therefore it is unknown to all save God alone. Further, as Augustine says De Lib. Therefore all do not know the eternal law. So then no one can know the eternal law , as it is in itself, except the blessed who see God in His Essence. But every rational creature knows it in its reflection, greater or less. For every knowledge of truth is a kind of reflection and participation of the eternal law , which is the unchangeable truth , as Augustine says De Vera Relig.

Now all men know the truth to a certain extent, at least as to the common principles of the natural law: We cannot know the things that are of God , as they are in themselves; but they are made known to us in their effects, according to Romans 1: Although each one knows the eternal law according to his own capacity, in the way explained above, yet none can comprehend it: Therefore it does not follow that anyone who knows the eternal law in the way aforesaid, knows also the whole order of things, whereby they are most orderly.

To judge a thing may be understood in two ways. First, as when a cognitive power judges of its proper object, according to Job In another way we speak of a superior judging of a subordinate by a kind of practical judgment, as to whether he should be such and such or not. And thus none can judge of the eternal law. Whether every law is derived from the eternal law? It would seem that not every law is derived from the eternal law.

For there is a law of the "fomes," as stated above I-II: Further, nothing unjust can be derived from the eternal law , because, as stated above Article 2, Objection 2 , "the eternal law is that, according to which it is right that all things should be most orderly. Further, Augustine says De Lib. Therefore not even every good law is derived from the eternal law. On the contrary, Divine Wisdom says Proverbs 8: Therefore all laws proceed from the eternal law.

I answer that, As stated above Question 90, Articles 1 and 2 , the law denotes a kind of plan directing acts towards an end.


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Now wherever there are movers ordained to one another, the power of the second mover must needs be derived from the power of the first mover; since the second mover does not move except in so far as it is moved by the first. Wherefore we observe the same in all those who govern, so that the plan of government is derived by secondary governors from the governor in chief; thus the plan of what is to be done in a state flows from the king's command to his inferior administrators: Since then the eternal law is the plan of government in the Chief Governor, all the plans of government in the inferior governors must be derived from the eternal law.

But these plans of inferior governors are all other laws besides the eternal law. Therefore all laws, in so far as they partake of right reason, are derived from the eternal law. Hence Augustine says De Lib. The "fomes" has the nature of law in man , in so far as it is a punishment resulting from Divine justice ; and in this respect it is evident that it is derived from the eternal law.

But in so far as it denotes a proneness to sin , it is contrary to the Divine law , and has not the nature of law , as stated above I-II: Human law has the nature of law in so far as it partakes of right reason; and it is clear that, in this respect, it is derived from the eternal law. But in so far as it deviates from reason, it is called an unjust law , and has the nature , not of law but of violence.

Nevertheless even an unjust law , in so far as it retains some appearance of law , though being framed by one who is in power, is derived from the eternal law ; since all power is from the Lord God , according to Romans Human law is said to permit certain things, not as approving them, but as being unable to direct them. And many things are directed by the Divine law , which human law is unable to direct, because more things are subject to a higher than to a lower cause. Hence the very fact that human law does not meddle with matters it cannot direct, comes under the ordination of the eternal law.

It would be different, were human law to sanction what the eternal law condemns. Consequently it does not follow that human law is not derived from the eternal law , but that it is not on a perfect equality with it. Whether necessary and eternal things are subject to the eternal law? It would seem that necessary and eternal things are subject to the eternal law.

For whatever is reasonable is subject to reason. But the Divine will is reasonable, for it is just. Therefore it is subject to the Divine reason.

The Essence of Divine Law

But the eternal law is the Divine reason. Therefore God's will is subject to the eternal law. But God's will is eternal. Therefore eternal and necessary things are subject to the eternal law. Further, whatever is subject to the King, is subject to the King's law. Now the Son, according to 1 Corinthians Further, the eternal law is Divine providence as a type. But many necessary things are subject to Divine providence: Therefore even necessary things are subject to the eternal law.

On the contrary, Things that are necessary cannot be otherwise, and consequently need no restraining. But laws are imposed on men, in order to restrain them from evil , as explained above I-II: