Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LX.: OF JUDGMENT. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
Return to Title Page for Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
QUESTION LX.: OF JUDGMENT. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Article III.—Is judgment unlawful when it proceeds upon suspicion?
R. Suspicion is an evil opinion entertained on slight grounds. It may arise in three ways. In one way from the evil character of him who entertains it, who conscious of his own wickedness, easily thinks ill of others; according to the text: “The fool when he walketh in the way, whereas he is himself a fool, esteemeth all men fools.”1 In another way from being ill-affected towards a neighbour: for when you despise or hate a person, or are angry with him or envy him, you are apt to think evil of him upon slight indications, because every one easily believes that which he desires. In a third way this arises from long experience: hence the Philosopher says that “old men are particularly suspicious, because they have often had experience of others’ shortcomings.” Now the first two causes of suspicion manifestly argue some moral obliquity in the harbourer of the suspicion: while the third cause takes off from the essence of the suspicion, inasmuch as experience is an advance towards certainty, and certainty is essentially opposed to suspicion. Therefore suspicion involves a moral flaw in him who harbours it; and the further the suspicion goes, the greater the vice. Now there are three degrees of suspicion. The first degree consists in a man beginning to doubt of the goodness of another on slight indications. This sin is venial and light, a part of that human temptation without which this life cannot be lived. The second degree is when you make up your mind for certain as to the wickedness of another on slight indications; and if this be on any grave matter, it is a mortal sin, inasmuch as it is not without contempt of your neighbour. Hence the gloss says: “If we cannot avoid suspicions, because we are men; at least we ought to refrain from judgments, that is, from definitive and fixed pronouncements.” The third degree is when a judge proceeds to condemn a man on suspicion; and this is a direct act of injustice, and consequently a mortal sin.
Article IV.—Is a favourable construction to be put on dubious proceedings?
R. By having a bad opinion of another without sufficient cause, you do him an injury and contemn him. Now none ought to contemn another, or do him any hurt, without cogent reason. And therefore, where no clear indications appear of another’s wickedness, we ought to hold him to be good, putting a favourable construction on what is doubtful.
§ 2. It is one thing to judge of things, another of persons. In judging of things, there is no question of any good or evil to accrue to the thing that we judge of: for the thing is not hurt, however we judge of it. The only matter at stake here is the estate of him who forms the judgment—good, if he judges rightly; evil, if he judges falsely: because truth is the good of the intellect, and falsehood the evil thereof; and therefore every one ought to strive to judge of things as they are. But in judging of men, the principal matter at stake is the good or evil thereby accruing to him who is judged,—who is held to be worthy of honour in being judged to be good, and is held up to contempt, if he is judged to be a bad man. And therefore in such a judgment we should rather make a point of judging a man to be good, unless manifest reason appear to the contrary.
§ 3. A favourable or unfavourable construction may be put upon a proceeding, hypothetically. In that way, when we are bound to apply a remedy to evils, whether our own or other people’s, it is expedient for the safer application of the remedy to suppose the worse side of the case; because the remedy that is efficacious against a greater evil is much more efficacious against a smaller evil. Or the construction may be put definitively or peremptorily; and in that way, in judging of things, we ought to strive to interpret each thing according as it is; but in judging of persons, to lean in our interpretation to the better side.
Article VI.—Does usurpation make judgment void?
R. He who pronounces judgment, interprets the utterance of the law, applying it to a particular case. Now it belongs to the same authority to enact a law and to interpret it. A law cannot be enacted, nor a judgment passed, except by public authority. And thus, as it would be unjust to compel a man to observe a law that was not enacted by public authority, so also is it unjust to compel a man to submit to a sentence that is not passed by public authority.1
[1 ]Eccles. x. 3.
[1 ]This is the condemnation of imperium in imperio, that is, of two authorities in the same order in one State. (Trl.)