Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LVII.: OF RIGHT. 2 - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LVII.: OF RIGHT. 2 - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
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 right the object of justice?
R. The proper office of justice in its place among virtues is to direct a man in his dealings with another. For justice involves a certain equality, as the name itself shows; for the things that are equalized are said to be adjusted; and equality is a relation of one thing with another. Other virtues perfect a man only in what is his own private concern. They regard the agent, and the agent exclusively, in the rectitude of conduct which they determine and aim at as their object; but justice fixes its rectitude of conduct in reference to some one else—even passing over the agent. That is called just in our doings, which is in some sort of equality corresponding to something else, as in the instance of wages corresponding to work done. So then that is just, which is the term of a just action, even irrespectively of the disposition of the agent. But in other virtues right action always supposes a certain disposition of the agent.1 And therefore what is called just, that is, right, is determined to be the proper object of justice above other virtues.
§ 3. Because justice involves equality, and we cannot make an equivalent return to God, hence we cannot render to God what is just in the proper sense of the word. Justice, however, tends to this end, that man so far as he can, should make a return to God, subjecting his whole soul to Him.
Article II.—Is right properly divided into natural right and positive right?
R.Right, or a just settlement, is some work made adequate to another work according to some measure of equality. Now a man may get an adequate return in two ways: in one way, by the very nature of the thing, as when one gives so much to receive exactly as much; and this is called natural right. In another way, one thing is adequate to, or commensurate with another thing by convention, or some common resolve, that is, when a party reckons himself satisfied if he receives so much. And this may be either by private agreement or by public convention, as when a whole people agree that one thing be held adequate to and commensurate with another: or when the prince, who bears the person of the people, ordains this. And this is called positive right.1
§ 2. The will of men by common agreement can make a thing just in matters that of themselves are not irreconcilable with natural justice; and in these matters positive law has place. Hence the Philosopher says: “Legal justice is in a case where, to start with, it makes no difference whether the thing be so or otherwise; but when the enactment is made, it does make a difference.” But whatever is of itself irreconcilable with natural law, cannot be made just by human will. Hence it is said: “Woe to them that make wicked laws.”2
Article IV.—Is paternal right to be placed in a special category?
R.Right, or a just claim, implies the proportion of one thing to another. That is absolutely other, which is altogether distinct, as in the case of two men, one of whom is not under the other, though they are both under one civil ruler; and between such parties a transaction is possible that can be called absolutely just. In another way a being is called other, not absolutely, but as being a part of another being; and in this way the child is in a manner part of the father. And therefore the father is not matched with his child as with something absolutely other than himself; and therefore there is not here a case of absolute justice, or absolute right, but of a certain sort of right, namely, paternal right. Whereas, though the wife is part of the husband, standing to him as his own body,1 still she is more distinct from the husband than the child from the father, inasmuch as she is taken into partnership in matrimonial life; and therefore there is more of the nature of justice between husband and wife than between father and child.
§ 1. It is a point of justice to render to every one what is by rights his own, on the supposition, however, of a diversity between the two parties; for if any one gives to himself what is due to himself, that is not properly called just dealing.
§ 2. The son, as a son, is his father’s chattel; and in like manner the slave, as a slave, is his master’s chattel. But both the one and the other, considered as a man, is something subsisting by himself distinct from other beings. And therefore, inasmuch as both the one and the other is a man, justice in some way extends to them. Therefore also there are sundry laws given for the dealings of a father with his son, or of a master with his slave. But to the extent that either son or slave is the chattel of another, the perfect idea of a just claim or right so far fails to be verified in them.
[2 ]In Latin, as in French, the same word stands for both law and right. An English translator must give the meaning which seems to him predominant each time the word occurs. (Trl.)
[1 ]Cf I-II. q. 64. art. 2. (Trl.)
[1 ]This does not coincide with the modern division of natural and acquired rights; nor does it show in what sense we affirm that a man has a natural right to live, to marry, to acquire property, &c. Cf. Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 244—246. (Trl.)
[2 ]Isaias x. 1.
[1 ]Ephes. v. 28.