On Law, Morality, and Politics

On Law, Morality, and Politics

On Law, Morality, and Politics

On Law, Morality, and Politics


The second edition retains the selection of texts presented in the first edition but offers them in new translations by Richard J Regan -- including that of his Aquinas, Treatise on Law (Hackett, 2000). A revised Introduction and glossary, an updated select bibliography, and the inclusion of summarising headnotes for each of the units -- Conscience, Law, Justice, Property, War and Killing, Obedience and Rebellion, and Practical Wisdom and Statecraft -- further enhance its usefulness.


The writings of Thomas Aquinas on morals and politics deserve wide circulation for a host of reasons. No student of political thought can be considered well-grounded in the Western tradition if the contribution of the Middle Ages to that tradition is ignored. All too often, courses in political philosophy skip rapidly from the ancients to the moderns with very little comment on the medieval period. Aquinas, of course, is not the only or even, perhaps, the most characteristic theorist of that era in the Christian West. But his ideas ought to be more familiar than those of others because we inherit from him a notion of natural law. A full, inexpensive anthology of the parts of the Summa Theologica dealing with the natural law will enable the student to judge firsthand the vitality of that inheritance. In our selections, we reproduce the bulk of Aquinas' analysis of law, omitting only those sections that deal with particulars of the Old and New Laws. In addition, the relationship of religion and morals to public policy is one of perennial significance. We have, therefore, included in this volume selections giving Aquinas' views on the subject as well as his treatment of conscience, justice, property, war, rebellion, and statecraft.

We present the complete argument of Aquinas on the items selected from the Summa, generally following the order of the Summa itself. We have supplemented selections from the Summa with a few selections from other works by him.

Translators should be faithful to the text and express the meaning of the text in felicitous English. The two objectives are often difficult to reconcile. Fidelity to the text has been our priority, but we are confident that the reader will also find the translation clear and idiomatic. The translation of some key words varies with the context and/or involves interpretation. For example, we have variously translated ratio, the generic Latin word for “reason,” as “argument,” “aspect,” “consideration,” “nature,” “plan,” “reason,” and “reasoning,” as appropriate in different contexts. Notes in several places indicate why we chose a particular English word as appropriate.

We wish to thank the anonymous reader who painstakingly reviewed the manuscript and made many necessary corrections and useful suggestions. We thank the University of Scranton Press for permission to adopt and adapt material in chapter one from The Human Constitution and Virtue: Way to Happiness.

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