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(Trans. Alfred J. Freddoso)


The Different Kinds of Law



Is there any such thing as natural law in us?


It seems that there is no such thing as natural law in us:


Objection 1:  Man is sufficiently governed by eternal law, since, as Augustine says in De Libero Arbitrio 1, “Eternal law is the law by which it is just that all things should be well ordered.”  But nature does not abound in what is superfluous, just as it is not deficient in what is necessary.  Therefore, there is no such thing as natural law for man.


Objection 2:  As was established above (q. 90, a.1), it is through law that man is ordered to the end in his acts.  But the ordering of human acts to their end does not stem from nature in the way that this occurs in non‑rational creatures, which act for the sake of an end by natural appetite alone; instead, man acts for the sake of an end through his reason and will.  Therefore, there is no law that is natural to man.


Objection 3:  The more free someone is, the less subject he is to law.  But man is more free than all the [other] animals because of the power of free choice (liberum arbitrium), which he has in contrast to all the other animals.  Therefore, since the other animals are not subject to a natural law, neither is man subject to any natural law.


But contrary to this:  In the Gloss on Romans 2:14 (“For when the Gentiles, who do not have the Law, do by nature those things that are of the Law”) says, “Even if they do not have the written Law, they nonetheless have the natural law, by which everyone understands and knows within himself what is good and what is evil.”


I respond:  As was explained above (q. 90, a. 1), since law is a rule and a measure, there are two senses in which it can exist in something:  first, in the sense of existing in that which regulates and measures and, second, in the sense of existing in that which is regulated and measured.  For a thing is measured and regulated to the extent that it has some participation in the rule and measure.  Hence, as is clear from what was said above (a. 1), since all things that are subject to divine providence are regulated and measured by eternal law, it is clear that all things in some way participate in eternal law—more precisely, insofar as they have inclinations toward their own proper acts and ends because eternal law is imprinted upon them. Now among all other creatures, the rational creature is subject to divine providence in a more excellent manner, because he himself is a participant in providence, providing for himself and for others.  Hence, in him, too, there is a participation in eternal reason through which he has a natural inclination to his due act and end.  And the rational creature’s mode of participation in the eternal law is called natural law. Hence, after the Psalmist (Psalm 4:6) has said, “Offer up the sacrifice of justice,” he adds, as if someone were asking what the works of justice are, “Many say, ‘Who is there to show us good works?”   In reply to this question he says, “The light of Your countenance, Lord, is imprinted upon us”—as if to say, the light of natural reason, by which we discern what is good and what is evil.  This has to do with natural law, which is nothing other than the imprint of God’s light within us.
Hence, it is clear that natural law is nothing other than a participation in eternal law on the part of a rational creature.


Reply to objection 1:  This argument assumes that natural law is something diverse from eternal law.  However, as has been explained, natural law is nothing other than a certain kind of participation in eternal law.


Reply to objection 2:  As was established above (q. 10, a. 1), every operation of reason and will in us is derived from what is in accord with nature.  For every instance of discursive reasoning stems from principles that are naturally known to us, and every desire for things that are ordered to an end stems from a natural desire for the ultimate end.  And so it is likewise necessary that the first ordering of our acts to their end must should be brought about through natural law.


Reply to objection 3:  Non‑rational animals participate in natural law in their own way, just as rational creatures do.  However, since a rational creature participates in natural law in an intellectual and rational way, a rational creature’s participation in the eternal law is itself properly called a law.  For as was explained above (q. 90, a. 1), law belongs to reason.  By contrast, a non‑rational creature does not participate in the eternal law in a rational way, and so its participation cannot be called law except by way of a likeness.





I-II, q. 90, The Essence of Law

I-II, q. 91, The Different Kinds of Law

I-II, q. 92, The Effects of Law


Eternal law

I-II, q. 93, Eternal Law

Natural law

I-II, q. 94, The Natural Law

Human law

I-II, q. 95, Human Law

I-II, q. 96, The Force of Human Law

I-II, q. 97, Changes in Human Law

The old law

I-II, q. 98, The Old Law

I-II, q. 99, The Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 100, The Moral Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 101, The Ceremonial Precepts of the Old Law in Themselves

I-II, q. 102, The Causes of the Ceremonial Precepts

I-II, q. 103, The Duration of the Ceremonial Precepts

I-II, q. 104, The Judicial Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 105, The Nature of the Judicial Precepts

The new law

I-II, q. 106, The Law of the Gospel, called the New Law, in Itself

I-II, q. 107, The Relation between the Old Law and the New Law

I-II, q. 108, The Contents of the New Law