Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XC.: OF LAWS. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XC.: OF LAWS. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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Article I.—Is law a function of reason?
R. A law is a rule and measure of acts, whereby one is induced to act or is restrained from action. Now the rule and measure of human acts is reason: it being the part of reason to direct to the end, which is the first principle of conduct. Hence a law must be some function of reason.
Article II.—Is law always directed to the general good?
R. As reason is the principle of human acts, so in reason itself there is something which acts as a principle or mainspring in regard of all the rest; and upon this something law must mainly and chiefly bear. Now in matters of conduct, which are the domain of practical reason, the prime mainspring is the last end in view; and that is happiness. Hence law must especially regard the order that is to be followed in the attainment of happiness.
Again, seeing that every part is referred to the whole as the imperfect to the perfect, and one man is a part of a perfect community, it needs must be that law peculiarly regards the order that is to be followed in view of the general happiness.
Since the name of law denotes something bearing upon the general good; every other precept prescribing a particular work lacks the character of law, except inasmuch as it is referred to the general good of the community.
Article III.—Has the reason of any and every man the power of making laws?
R. Law properly regards first and foremost the order that is to be taken towards the general good. Now to order anything towards the general good belongs either to the whole people, or to some one who is the vicegerent of the whole people. And therefore the framing of a law either belongs to the whole people or belongs to a public personage who has care of the whole people: because in all other things also the ordering of means to the end belongs to him to whom the end belongs as his special concern.
§ 1. To the text, “These are a law to themselves,”1 it is to be said that a law is in a person, not only as in one regulating, but also by participation as in one regulated. In this latter way every man is a law to himself, inasmuch as he participates in the direction given by one who regulates him. Hence it is added in the same text: “Who show the work of the law written in their hearts.”
§ 2. A private person cannot induce another to virtue efficaciously: for he can only admonish; but if his admonition is not received, he has no coercive power, which the law must have, if it is to induce people to virtue efficaciously. This coercive power is held by the multitude, or by a public personage, to whom it belongs to inflict penalties; and therefore it is for the holder of this power alone to make laws.
§ 3. As the individual is part of the household, so the household is part of the State; and the State is a perfect community. And therefore, as the good of one individual is not the last end, but is directed to the general good, so also the good of one single household is directed to the good of one single State, which is a perfect community. Hence he who governs a family, may make regulations or standing orders, not however such as to have the character of law.
Article IV.—Is promulgation of the essence of law?
R. A law is imposed on others by way of a rule and measure. Now a rule and measure is imposed by its application to the subjects ruled and measured. Hence, for a law to have the binding force which is proper to a law, it must be applied to the men who are to be regulated by it. Such application is made by the law being brought under their notice by promulgation. Hence promulgation is necessary for the law to have force.
And thus from the four preceding articles may be gathered the definition of a law, which is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the general good, emanating from him who has the care of the community, and promulgated.
[1 ]For the definition of law, see Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 126—128. (Trl.)
[1 ]Romans ii 14.