Comparing Natural Law And The View Of Thomas Hobbes And Thomas Aquinas

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There have been many theories and interpretations on how one should view “natural law.” Thomas Hobbes interpretation of natural law is not only radically different, but also inconsistent with the traditional view of natural law, such as the view of Thomas Aquinas. (Finnis 15). This can be seen through the similarities and differences found when comparing Thomas Hobbes theory, and Thomas Aquinas in regards to their interpretation of three main topics; their view of man’s ultimate goal, their definition of natural law in regards to its relationship with human rationality, and how they view the meaning and relationship of divine providence and religion in natural law. The following pages will define natural law, and will then analyze all three issues listed above through comparing and contrasting the theories of Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Aquinas. However, in order to properly analyze this concept, one must first understand how to define natural law.
Defining Natural Law
According to page 34 of On Law, Morality, and Politics by William Thomas, “The roots of natural law lye in Aristotle’s doctrine that state that every substance or nature contains a ‘telso’, or in other words a law of development.” According to the same source, attempting to define “natural law” typically involves assertions to questions that cannot be directly answered. A Basic Form of Good: Knowledge, by John Finnis defines natural law on page 12 as:
“A set of basic practical principles which indicate the basic forms of human flourishing as goods to be pursued and realized, and which are in one way or another used by everyone who considers what to do, or what not to do.”
Thomas Aquinas is known for being one of the most influential moral philosophers of natural l...

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...in civil society through the precepts or general rules that are the laws of nature. Men follow these as it is in their own self-interest to do so. Hobbes’ laws of nature also differ from traditional conceptions, as he does not believe, unlike Aquinas, that natural law is innate through divine providence and God-given rationality. It is rather that men choose to form an agreement, as it is their best chance to escape a miserable life and horrific death. His view can thus be deemed as utilitarian.
It is crucial to understanding the theories and writings of Hobbes and Aquinas in order to understand the different theories of how man can view human natures innate or survival instincts. Through understanding how Hobbes and Aquinas’ theories contrast, one can better understand how to view natural law, and the writings of any political doctrines during their time period.
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