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Aquinas: Natural Law and Human Law

Updated on June 19, 2016

Synderesis is the moral conscious in every person that pushes him or her towards good rather and away from evil. Is the conscience in our soul or by nature is the question that is brought forth by Aquinas. We see that the conscience is not a power but a habit and that not everybody obeys their conscience. This brings in that the conscience is not a power because you have free will. There are some people that argue that conscience is higher than reason, which brings us to Natural Law.

Natural Law means that rights of the human are characteristics by virtue of human nature and can be seen through reason of the human. Some say that it is reason itself rather than the reason of the human and that it is naturally known. Natural Law as said by Aquinas is the domain of conscience and it does not regulate your life.


Synderesis forms the basis of his natural law teaching because it is based off of the five precepts of natural law. The five precepts all come from synderesis. The first is the human’s purpose. Aquinas sees that good is not only seen in humans but as well in plants, animals, and other living things. This also brings in God and the fact that all people have the inclination to think about who God is. This is because within society we have to live with others and their beliefs and to question who or what God is natural. Aquinas says that is Theology there are two part, faith and reason., God and science. This brings us to practical reason, which can be derived from Natural Law as well. If we don’t need to do it then why do we do it for example theft is there a reason for that no but the person who commits the theft does not obey our conscience. Aquinas uses synderesis as a basis because we see that the conscience may not be obeyed and that there is free will. The reason for your actions is outweighed by your conscience but it can also be the other way around.

To summarize, Aquinas says that people have the ability to see the right from wrong naturally. Again bringing in God we see that Aquinas believes that people will not do bad because they are serving God but if God I brought out of it then what would happen, the Natural Law then comes into play because it is human nature to do good as he says it. The conscience is brought in because we listen to our conscience but not all the time because the conscience is but a habit. It is something that you are taught in a way and see. The conscience is not power but synderesis is power. This is contradictory to what he says because if synderesis is the moral conscience then that means that the conscience is not the power it is the morality of it.


Human Law as said by Aquinas is that we create our own laws that fit our surroundings or society. Aquinas like Aristotle rejects democracy but says that a government and living under a rule is important and necessary to society. Even though the State of Nature Teachers says the opposite they believe that you have to be free and equal. But if you believe that there should be no government then why would you need one? In the end what we all need depends on others because we are not kings to ourselves.

Aquinas states that Human Law comes from Natural Law. What is good and what is bad can be brought into it with the rule that you society is under. The conscience see what it wants and you have the free will to do what you want but under law you cannot because there would be things that are illegal but that comes from Natural Law, good and bad. Although some things come from human law not all do in fact. There is also evidence in nature that there is a ruling in every organic. This brings us to Divine Law, which is the law that can only be known through God. The question this brings forth to me is what if God is nothing. Who decides what the divine law is if there is no God. But supposedly God is reason and if this is true then no truth can ever contradict religion. Divine law is the contrast of human law because human law is a man made law and the divine law is the law of God by which you follow. It contradicts each other because how can you have both?

But it is also the basis for each other because some governments might base off their laws by what God or the bible said. By nature animals have a system where they know what is good and bad, they too also have a conscience, internal radar. But what determines good or bad? God? If the law of the divine law is only known through God then how do we know what it is if God is not a physical being?


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