Political Life And Man’s Ultimate End: Reading The De Regno Of St. Thomas Aquinas

1476 words - 6 pages

St. Thomas’ purpose in writing the De Regno is to provide practical guidance for a Christian king on how it is that he ought to conduct his proper authority. The king, imitating God, is to lead those subject to him to their proper end, and this will be nothing other than communal virtue. This instantiation of the practice of citizen-wide virtue is the intrinsic finality belonging to political society, and for St. Thomas, it is the genuine concern of the king to lead and direct citizens towards the common good. However, before treating of the precise content of the common good of political society, and the specific means through which the king should bring this about, St. Thomas will present ...view middle of the document...

Following these initial remarks, St. Thomas will then proceed to argue dialectically to establish the truth of his first principle. Man’s reason has been given to him for the purpose of providing all those things which are necessary for his life, but an individual man is incapable of garnering all these necessities on his own. Furthermore, unlike other animals, each individual man is unable to create all the things necessary for his life. With these two points taken together, Thomas has arrived at his first principle: “It is therefore necessary for man that he lives in a multitude so that each one may assist his fellows, and different men may be occupied in seeking, by their reason, to make different discoveries—for example, one in medicine, one in this and another in that.” Notice that this affirmation of man’s natural orientation to live in political society is not a fully developed account; Thomas has not yet accentuated the unique difference of political society from all other associations. He will take up this point later on in chapter 3 of book 2, wherein he treats of the finality of political society.
After establishing that man is political by nature, St. Thomas goes on to defend why it is necessary for there to be a political authority governing a multitude:
“For where there are many men together and each one is looking after his own interest, the multitude would be broken up and scattered unless there were also an agency to take care of what pertains to the good of the multitude (ad bonum multitudinis). In like manner, the body of a man or any other animal would disintegrate unless there were a general ruling force within the body which would direct the common good of all members.”

Notice that St. Thomas is providing an account here of the primacy of the common good, which ranks higher than the individual good, but is not something that is in opposition to it. The common good and the individual good have there own proper order, and vary according to the diversity of their causes. Men direct and order their lives in variety of ways that naturally direct them to choose a number of differentiated particular goods. The necessity of having a political authority over a multitude is not only for the sake of guiding the choices of these particular goods to the common good, but also in order that citizens are committed to choosing the various practical goods that actually help to build up the social order and the organic parts that constitute it. These various particular goods chosen must be willed as the necessary part of the common good, as good in themselves, but never chosen at the detriment of, or in contrast to, the good of the whole. This is precisely the reason why St. Thomas argues for the necessity of a governing principle “which impels towards the common good of the many, over and above that which impels towards the particular good of each individual.”
The necessity of political authority is rooted in the...

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