Man, Law and Nation

Law has both served and betrayed humans beginning from the creation of Adam. It has greatly influenced our way of life and dictated how we should act accordingly. It has transformed over time which caused both happiness and satisfaction for some but it also produced grief and despair for the many. It has been discussed in different perspectives and were categorized in different manner yet it remains a concept very difficult to grasp especially for an individual who failed to practice the virtue of obedience and submission. This paper primarily aims to discuss the development of law and its effect on man. Thomas Aquinas is an advocate of Aristotelian principles and supported his views regarding human nature, society and law as presented in Prima Secundae Partis of the Summa Theologica.  Both of them believed that law are promulgated to make men good and this essay will analyze their arguments in order to justify the need to enact laws for the purpose of making good citizens.   This paper will also use Josef Piepers redefinition of the term leisure as elaborated in his work, Leisure the Basis of Culture, and George Wills conceptual analysis of the states ultimate purpose in his controversial work, Statescraft as Soulcraft, side by side the works of Aristotle and Aquinas to bring into union two historical worlds which are both wonderfully influenced by laws and man.

In Book I of the Republic, Plato already pointed out that society arises because of the needs of mankind. Aristotle supported this by stating in stating that man is by nature political. He does so by elucidating the naturalness of associations prior to defining the purpose of law in order to substantiate its importance. An association starts with the relationship that exists between a man and a woman. This basic relationship, vital for reproduction, is a natural tendency driven mostly by instinct that exists intrinsically in living organisms. Another association is that of the ruler and the ruled. In a sense, Aristotle argued that those with intelligence would naturally be a master while those that lack expertise would be the slave. These two associations are present in the household. Nevertheless, the household in itself is not self-sufficient. This implies that a single household could not provide the basic needs of all its members. Thus, it is inevitable that households collaborate and form a village. Yet, a village could either establish friendship or form rivals among their neighbors. Thus, villages in friendly terms group together for the sake of mutual benefit and protection. The fruit of the unity among villages is an established city which is soon ruled by a ruler with an established constitution which contains laws that  would be enacted any obeyed by the constituents.

The polis then becomes the ultimate creation of mankind to support his ultimate goal which is to live happily. But happiness is not established through a single source, the polis, rather it is achieved through the cooperation of constituents who belong to the polis. The polis is the highest form of community and aims at the highest good  Justice. Justice is the ultimate virtue which should be present inside the polis. The constituents being part of the polis ought to have this virtue present inside their soul because this is the only way in which happiness can be attained by everyone inside the polis. Thus the intention of every lawgiver is to make good citizens.

Thomas Aquinas supported the attainment of happiness through the enactment and obedience of laws inside the state. He stated the following lines
 . . . every man is part of the state. It is impossible that a man be good, unless he be well proportionate to the common good nor can the whole be well consistent unless its parts be proportionate to it. ( Summa Theologica, II-I, Q 92)

He further continues by stating that law in order to produce happiness should be dictated by reason and the proper end of law is to lead its constituents to their proper virtue, in this case justice. In addition, Aristotle further stated the following in relation to one of the characteristics of law

Laws are made to prevent the citizens from doing acts that are considered as wrong or evil. If a person would violate the law, the person would receive the necessary punishment. Nonetheless, despite the fact that laws also inflict punishments, these are necessary to persuade humans to do good things. Just actions or moral acts produce happiness. ( Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, p. 140)

Thus in the words of Thomas Aquinas tyrannical lawis not a lawrather a perversion of law and in effect fails to produce virtues. In as much as laws have a particular power to move its constituents if it is not grounded for the common good then the state will not flourish.

In like manner, George Will highlighted in his book Statescraft as Souldcraft that one of the aims of government is justice. Aquinas defended the idea that an object of justice is the just and that the just is equivalent to right. If the government ought to achieve justice, then it must uphold what is right. Justice in this context means adhering to the common good which is the right.  This does not imply that the government should provided all its constituents demands rather government should always bear in mind that laws should be grounded for the common good and is guided by reason. Reason and the common good should always be the main reason for the formulation of laws and nothing else. To prove this point, let us consider the following scenario If the law is based on desire, then it would refer to personal interests The fulfillment of personal benefits, however, implies the practical nature of the common needs. If laws would be directed toward the common needs, it would create a community where the people in power are able to abuse their authority to their hearts content. Thus, the existence of the rule of law could prevent subjective rulers from doing whatever they want. It also would maintain a governmental structure that would not be swayed by the whims of the citizenry.

The above discussion reflects that law should not be affected by passion. We should be very careful at this point by the meaning of passion because passion is regarded in a different context by different users of the language. Interestingly, Will mentions passion in this manner Purpose of politics is to facilitate the existence of worthy passions and the achievements of worthy aims.  Will referred to worthy passion. But what will count as worthy passion In the Politics, on the other hand, Aristotle describes passion as the, Quality of the soul which begets friendship and enables us to love. Is this the type of worthy passion that Will was referring to in is statement because in the latter passages of his book he also argued that laws ought to be passionless. If politics must facilitate passion and law must be devoid of passion, then the only way for these two premises to be compatible is to assume that politics is not the same as law because if you eliminate the element of passion in laws then it will not be human at all. Passion is one of the very elements that separates and distinguishes us from other creatures.

On the other hand of the discussion, we have Mill sharing the same perspective with Aristotle and Aquinas with regards to the ultimate purpose of a state or government when he stated that Government is properly concerned with the character of the citizens. It must aim to instill virtue in them thus statecraft is soulcraft.  The state promulgates law and enforces this law to form a habit among its constituents. Formation of habit is vital to the success of this endeavour since virtues are not achieved overnight. In Aristotles words, Moral virtue, like the arts, is acquired by repetition of the corresponding acts. Citizens are likened to a piece of clay which should be molded and fashioned to produce an excellent work of art. Man is like a piece of wood that should be properly treated to get its maximum potential. Individual flourishing is one of the ultimate ends of man and this resides in the good and the good inside man is achievable by constant reminders and imposition of the laws. At times, others may judge that punishments devoid law of passion, which is a vital element which distinguishes us among other animals, but our ability to subdue passion from time to time is also the mark which raises us above all the animals in the animal kingdom.

So far we have discussed that laws are promulgated to shape and fashion the individual in a state so as to form an excellent and good citizen. Both Aquinas and Aristotle shared the same perspective that ultimately, states were formed in order to achieve happiness and happiness inside the polis is attained through justice. We were able to clarify the definition of justice in terms of rule of man and rule of law but we still fail to discuss the happiness which the individual man aims to achieve within the polis.

Aristotle asserts that happiness seems to be the very antithesis of a busy life, in that it is compatible with perfect leisure. Since happiness and leisure are compatible, it follows that laws must also be compatible with leisure. In contemporary society, the term leisure is used to describe the free time that could be spent for relaxation. Does it then imply that individual happiness is equated with leisure If so what kind of leisure is that which is supported by Aristotle

Joseph Pieper, in Leisure the Basis of Culture, states, One of the foundations of Western culture is leisure for leisure in Greek is skole the English school.Understood in Greek terms, leisure is equivalent to contemplation. Pieper, defines leisure as a form of silencewhich is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality. It is a form of silence that involves thinking and deliberation on important matters. Leisure is not about the quite time that a person spends alone while watching television, for example, or sitting on the sofa doing nothing. Leisure during the ancient period was not the same as idleness. In fact, in the words of Pieper, Idlenessis the source of many faults and among others of that deep-seated lack of calm which makes leisure impossible. Idleness, in this context, means that the person is not working or simply being lazy.

Aristotle defined leisure very differently. This may be due to the fact that the ancient Greek frame of mind is far from the mind setting of most contemporary thinker. He defined it as the property of the mind manifested through pure speculation that has no further end beyond itself, which is demonstrated with carelessness and all sufficiency. Unlike thinking or studying done to learn about practical matters or practical affairs, leisure is done for its own sake. Aristotle acknowledges intellectual thinking as a leisurely activity that is part of humans quest in achieving final human happiness. Law, according to Aquinas, is an order of reason for the common good. Therefore, the creation of law is made through the contemplation of the common good. Pieper distinguished the common good from the common need. The common need is a product of the practical mind. It is derived from the utilitarian world of work and toil. Actions directed toward the common need are not leisurely activities and does not involved thinking. Thus, the end of law is the common good created for the common benefit of citizens, whereas the end of work is the common need that satisfies the practical desires of the citizens.


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