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Thomas Aquinas on Governance - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 148
Governance/Community/Thomas Aquinas/Höffe: The authorities must (...) not act arbitrarily. To enact any laws and not being authorized, it has to concretize the highly general law of nature in relation to the historical situation, and where necessary to develop it further.
Law: It should serve the welfare of the community and prevent harm to the people by prohibiting murder and theft.
Exceptions: Because of the situation the detailed regulations can vary, and can also be changed again. >Equity.
Höffe I 151
About the reign of Princes/Thomas: (De regno): Despite its fragmentary character Thomas Aquinas' intention becomes clear (...): Aristotle's political philosophy should (...) come alive as an independent thought, additionally concretized under the conditions of the time. The preface points to God as the "King of all kings and Lord of all rulers". It determines as object "the origin of royal rule (regni origo) and everything that is connected with the profession of a king".
Realistic view: Thomas remains (...) true to his basic intellectual attitude that the human is able to recognize the things essential to him or her by means of his or her autonomous and experience-enriched reason, even without revelation.
Höffe I 152
De regno: The text can be simplified into four parts:
(1) the justification of rule, which includes a plea for the monarchy and against tyranny (Book I, chap. 1-6: ratio regiminis), (...)
(2) an indirect mirror of princes, namely a reflection on the motives of a just ruler (1 7-11: ratio regentis) (...)
(3) which correspond to the tasks of government (1 12-15: ratio gubernationis),(...)
(4) the unfinished Book II [discusses] the most important task of government, the foundation of a a community, a city or an empire (...) (II 1-4).
Monarchy: is not considered by Thomas Aquinas to be naturally legitimate.
Human/Citizen/Anthropology: Aristotle's definition of the human being as a political being by nature is further developed into the concept of the animal sociale et politicum, the social and political being. (...) [Thomas Aquinas'] view is that the human, both a deficient and a rational being, must take care of his or her own life with his or her own hands and work.
Höffe I 155
Common good: In the ruler's commitment to the common good [Thomas Aquinas] again proves to be a realist open to experience. For he does not bind this obligation to an altruistic sense of responsibility.
ThomasVsCicero: Against Cicero, the appropriate reward does not consist in honor or fame, which are held in low esteem by the good,
Höffe I 156
and, moreover, result in such dangerous evils as pernicious warfare and hypocrisy.
Corruption: It should come down to money even less what is reminiscent of Plato(2). Rather, what counts is the reward to be expected from God, the highest degree of heavenly bliss(3).
Moreover, even in this world the righteous king receives a fair reward. This assumption is not reminiscent of Aristotle's politics, but rather of Plato's claim in the Politeia that a just ruler, far more than a tyrant, receives the goods of the earth such as wealth, power, honour and a good reputation.
Expectation of salvation: Both the expectation of this worldly good and the other worldly good motivate the king to rule well, rather than to become a tyrant(4).


1. Thomas De regno ad regem Cypri
2. Ebenda I, 7
3. Ebenda I, 9
4. Ebenda I, 10f


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-07-30
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