Front Page Titles (by Subject) Man\'s End, Society & State in Aquinas - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1982, vol. 5, No. 3
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Man's End, Society & State in Aquinas - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1982, vol. 5, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Man's End, Society & State in Aquinas
“The Place of the State in Society according to Thomas Aquinas.” The Thomist 46 (July 1981): 407–428.
Aquinas' theory of the state takes off from Aristotle's formula, “Man is by nature a political animal,” but then goes beyond it in several important respects that stress the importance of society and individuality in reference to the state's claims.
Man is naturally a political animal because the laws of the state are ordered to fulfill man's need for a life of virtue, just as the family and household are ordered to fulfill man's daily needs. Further, man's ability to communicate through speech about the just and the unjust is fulfilled in the state. Also man has a unique need for friendship, and the state establishes a social atmosphere in which friendship is possible. As distinctly human virtues, the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance are all political virtues since they can be commanded by the legal justice of the state. On the other hand, insofar as these same virtues are ordered to God as man's supernatural end, there is an area of human action that is above and beyond the jurisdiction and competence of the state.
The growing complexity of medieval society, the development of urban and commercial life, tended to make the political come to be identified with “government” alone. Accordingly, Aquinas emphasized that man is both a political and a social animal. He thereby affirmed that the governmental dimension of society should not be divorced from the interests of society. He also intended to affirm that the religious and private life of the people is not part of the political order, thereby limiting the supremacy of the state.
Since man is a social animal, Aquinas inferred that man must be ruled by some governing agency to care for the common good, or else the group would disintegrate. Humans may pursue their own good on their own, but the common good is a distinct effect over and above individual goods and it therefore requires a distinct cause to promote it. A governing power is such a cause without which man's social nature cannot be fulfilled. The state, however, is always at the service of the body politic and society as a whole.