Monday, May 5, 2014

David Gordon on Tucker's Thomas Aquinas Comment

Jeff Tucker wrote:
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in passing on the subject of law that it should be limited to punishing stealing, killing, and such like. I always thought that was a pretty good summary of the nearly universal conviction concerning public morality. Of course he didn’t apply this rule consistently (in another place, he thought killing heretics was a great idea).
David Gordon has responded:
This is a surprising account of Aquinas. It's true and important that he thought the state could enforce only parts of natural law, but he didn't limit the state to "'punishing killing, stealing, and the like." For an excellent discussion of the subject, see John Finnis, Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory (Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought)


  1. Great recc by Gordon. I have this book and took a class with Finnis at Notre Dame Law School (this being the actual textbook for the class). I concur that Aquinas envisioned a broader State than Tucker allows for (although the nature of kingship was drastically more limited in his time, and he allowed for the moral assassination of Tyrants).

    However, Aquinas nevertheless remains in the camp of Western intellectuals who provided a foundation for the ideas of liberty and human goods necessary for civilization.

  2. So here's a bit of audio from It's a discussion of an article by Gary North that appeared in The Journal of Libertarian Studies. Shawn Ritenour is leading the discussion. Tucker is there and just have a listen as he really gets his hat handed to him when he tries to go after some deep, deep Protestant ideas; Tucker is a converted Catholic for your information. I just thought it was beyond amusing that all of the other participants respond, virtually unanimously, "well, no, you're not right there, no, that's wrong, no that's not what that means, etc." It's really telling and insightful.