GOV 382M / PHL 387 / LAW 397S
THOMAS AQUINAS: THE TREATISE ON LAW
This online summary of the syllabus includes only the general design of the course. It does not include detailed information such as the course calendar, which changes from semester to semester.
Thomas Aquinas is regarded by more than a few scholars as one of the two or three greatest philosophers and theologians in Western history, as well as one of the most illuminating students of Augustine and Aristotle. His Treatise on Law is the locus classicus of the natural law tradition, and indispensable for anyone seriously interested in ethical philosophy, political philosophy, jurisprudence, natural law, or the interaction of faith and reason in each of these areas. Though it is brief, as treatises go, it is not the sort of book one can browse through an evening, and requires close reading.
Written in the form of a scholastic disputation, the Treatise takes up 19 disputed questions, for example whether there is such a thing as natural law and whether one may disobey unjust laws. We will close study each of the first eight (qq. 90-97), as well as a few selections from the other eleven (qq, 98-108), taking them up in sequence and in context. I say “in context” because the Treatise is but a single part of a much larger work, the Summa Theologiae, which takes up a variety of related matters including the ultimate purpose of human life, the nature of human acts, the passions, the virtues, and the vices. I do not expect you to be familiar with the whole Summa; we will explore the connections as necessary.
Vigorous participation in seminar
J. Budziszewski, Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law (Cambridge University Press, 2014). This is really a double book, because it comes with free access by password to the online Companion to the Commentary. The Companion provides additional commentary and extended thematic discussion.
You don’t need to purchase a separate copy of the Treatise on Law, since the text is included in the Commentary itself. However, a version of the Treatise with Latin and English in parallel columns can be found at http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FS.html#TOC09 .
For most of the semester, we will work consecutively through Questions 90-97, then through selections from Questions 98-108, covering about one Question each class session (although this may be a bit optimistic). Remaining sessions in the semester will be occupied with (a) more advanced discussion, and (b) discussion of student research.