Theology 101: A Little Aquinas, Part 5

This is the last of the series on Aquinas.  I hope this was helpful; I found it fascinating and I learned a lot about everything from logic to God to how my faith can be applied to many areas of life.  Any requests for the next theologian?

Let’s get started.  Today we’ll cover politics and Renick’s summary.

 

Chapter 9: Politics

Martin Luther King Jr., in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, wrote,  “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

The question is, “Can it ever be right to disobey the laws of the state? Is breaking the law permissible if the laws themselves are unjust?”   Based on Paul’s thoughts in Romans 13 as well as Augustine’s in The City of God, until Aquinas, most Christians said no.  Indeed, Augustine wrote, “Thus it happens, but not without God’s providence, that some are endowed with kingdoms and others made subject to kings.”  Since God made them king, your are disobeying God if you disobey the king.  If this wwere the case, revolution and civil disobedience would be morally wrong.

However, Aquinas, in his book On Princely Government, says that just as all people do, kings and rulers have the end of pursuing the good – God.  If they don’t, by definition they are no longer the king or state since the definition of these is to pursue justice and the good.

Referencing Aristotle, Aquinas discusses six different forms of government.  They are ranked by how closely they achieve the end of pursuing the good and justice.

At the top and best, to Aquinas, is Monarchy.  Monarchy is “rule by a single leader, a king, who in his actions pursues the just end of the common good, or God…It is both good in intent and efficient in practice,” when the ruler is dedicated to God.  He is similar, says Renick, to the captain of a ship.

Second is aristocracy, which is “rule by a few individuals who all are seeking the common good – God.”  This is second because it is not as efficient as a monarchy – each of the individuals may have different goals in mind for the common good and so debate and compromise lower efficiency.

Next is polity – “rule by the many.”  Here again, all have the best for society in mind, but since there are many of them, it is even more inefficient than aristocracy.

Fourth is democracy, which is “the least unjust of the unjust forms of government.”  Why unjust?  Because unlike a polity, instead of having the common good as a goal, the many seek self-gain instead.  They are voting in their own self-interest rather than society’s.  Democracy is the least bad, though, because the endless debate and compromise mean very little bad gets done.  Aquinas was not far from the truth – the American government was set up with checks and balances to help prevent moving too quickly toward unjust ends.

Next on the list is Oligarchy, or rule by a few individuals with selfish motives.  It is worse than democracy because it is more efficient at pursuing unjust ends.

Finally, the worst form of government is tyranny.  This is basically a king that pursues selfish ends.  It is very efficient at pursuing the bad, which is why it is the worst of all.

This seems contradictory – rule by a single individual is both the best and worst form of government!  Aquinas believes in taking the chance because he feels that humans are basically “good enough to rule justly,” and most people are good, so most of the time the ruler will be good.  also, Good is stronger than evil – there “is only one ultimate good (God) yet as many evils as there are individual goals and ends.  God and its supporters are unified; evil tends to divide.”  So, good usually beats evil.  This, he reasons, is why it is best to support government by one person and take the chance they could be a tyrant.  He would later qualify this view in Summa Theologica,” saying that a mixed form of government, with an elected monarch, an elected aristocracy, and a polity that would check them and elect them, is best.  The Founding Fathers, of course, used Aquinas as one of their inspirations when drafting the Constitution, using checks and balances on each branch of government.  Regarding a tri-partite government, Aquinas writes, “Such is the best government, formed by a good mixture of kingship, in the sense that one person is the chief, and aristocracy, in the sense that many men rule according to virtue, and polity (that is, the power of the people), in the sense that leaders can be elected from among the populace, and further, the choice of the rule belongs to the people.”

This idea of Aquinas’s is not that of divine right of kings.  The king in Aquinas’s system gets the right to govern from the people and must be obeyed only if he pursues God.  If not, he’s not really a king anyway; instead, he’s a tyrant.  A tyrant need not be obeyed, nor an oligarchy, nor a democracy – when they are unjust.  You must do what is right, even if the government says to do something wrong.  However, there are times an unjust government should receive obedience, because “rebellion is often more costly than bearing up under tyranny.”

You will naturally obey a just government if you are a just person – it comes, wait for it, naturally.  And only unjust laws will be hard for you to obey because you are naturally just.  An unjust law is not a law because the essence of a law, Aquinas writes,  is to be “an ordinance of reason directed to the common good.”  It is morally required to disobey an unjust law.

This, Renick says, was an extraordinary thing for Aquinas to write, because at that time, with belief in the divine right of kings, he stated that the people needed to use their reason and intellect to decide if the ruler was right or wrong.  Indeed, he wrote, “Nor should the community be accused of disloyalty for deposing a tyrant, even after a previous promise of constant fealty, for the tyrant lays himself open to such treatment by his failure to discharge the duties of his office as governor of the community, and in consequence his subjects are no longer bound by their oath to him.”

Thus it was that Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of [its] ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government,” and King wrote, “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything…the freedom fighters did…was ‘illegal.”  For these two and Aquinas, “the ‘law ‘ is by definition that which is just.  An unjust law is no law at all.  The concept,” Renick concludes, “is a simple one; the implications are, quite literally, revolutionary.”

Chapter 10:  Reading Aquinas

Aquinas’s ideas have become mainstream, but their attribution has been lost.  Renick points out that exalting reason, questioning authority, human rights, natural law, war codes, intentionality in crimes, and double effect are all Thomist ideas.  Reading Aquinas, though is difficult because his works are usually quite long, and there are over 60 of them.  In the Summa itself, there are 38 treatises, divided into 3.120 articles – nearly 10,000 objections posed and answered (the Summa is written in a question and answer format).

Aquinas starts each case “with a series of objections to the answer he will eventually adopt to the question.”  The objections are  not Aquinas’s beliefs.  Next comes a series of “on the contraries”, where Aquinas “cites authors who have taken up the opposite position on the same question.”  Finally, Aquinas’s answer begins with “I answer that…” where he states his own beliefs.  He then concludes with “replies to objections,” where he deals with each of the objections brought up one by one.

He quoted a wide range of people; he dealt with a wide range of issues, including “the nature of the incarnation and the significance of baptism…the centrality of the virtues and the problem with lying…what constitutes a habit and when does fear cause human decisions to become less than voluntary,” and many more.

 

Aquinas writes, “The human mind can understand truth only by thinking.”  God made us thinkers, it is a sin to not use this ability.  Renick concludes, “The concept is simple; the implications are extraordinary.”

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My Books Read in the Last Year

Another year, another book list.  I read less book this year than last, but over two thousand more pages!  Here’s the list:

January
2.) Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
4.) Debt: The First 5000 Years – Peter Graeber
5.) Warmth Disperses and Time Passes: The History of Heat – Hans Christian von Baeyer
7.) Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography – Hew Strachan
8.) Tanks in the Cities: Breaking the Mold – Kendall D. Gott
February
March
13.) Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – Eliezer Yudkowsky
15.) A Magic Broken – Vox Day (Novella)
17.) Shadow of the Hegemon (Ender Wiggin Saga) – Orson Scott Card
18.) Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology – Rosemary Radford Ruether
19.) Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale – Ian Morgan Cron
April
24.) The Last Stand of Fox Company – Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
27.) Liberation Theologies: The Global Pursuit of Justice – Alfred T. Hennelly, S.J.
28.) Human Security in a Borderless World – Derek S. Reveron and Kathleen A. Mahoney-Norris
31.) The Mathematics of Life – Ian Stewart
May
40.) Worm: The First Digital World War – Mark Bowden
June
44.) Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
45.) Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War – Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss
46.) How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth – Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
July
51.) Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty – Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
August
54.) Beginning Programming – Adrian and Kathie Kingsley-Hughes
55.) Sure Fire (Rich & Jade #1) – Jack Higgins with Justin Richards
56.) Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – Simon Garfield
60.) Head First HTML and CSS – Elisabeth Robson and Eric Freeman
September
63.) Star Wars: Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn
66.) Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think – Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
October
67.) The Tao of Programming – Geoffrey James
November
68.) The Myriad: Tour of the Merrimack #1 – R. M. Meluch
69.) Caliphate – Tom Kratman
70.) Kris Longknife: Mutineer (Kris Longknife #1) – Mike Shepherd
71.) Shadow Puppets (Ender’s Shadow series) – Orson Scott Card
72.) Starting Out With Visual Basic 2012 – Tony Gaddis and Kip Irvine
December
73.) Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things – Ken Wytsma with D. R. Jacobsen
74.) The City: A Global History – Joel Kotkin
79.) Theology: A Very Short Introduction – David F. Ford

Books I Read in 2012

It’s that time of year again.  My reading was down a little this year due to the fact that I was working full time and reading some longer books.

January
 
2.) Regeneration (Species Imperative #3) – Julie Czerneda
3.) Chaos: A Graphic Guide (Introducing Series) – Zaiuddin Sardar and Iwona Abrams
4.) Catching Fire (The Hunger Games#2) – Suzanne Collins
5.) Astrobiology: A Brief Introduction – Kevin W. Plaxco and Michael Gross
6.) Thinking in Systems: A Primer – Donella H. Meadows
7.) Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) – Suzanne Collins
9.) War – Sebastian Junger
 
February
 
10.) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C. S. Lewis
 
March
 
15.) One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way – by Robert Maurer, Ph. D.
 
April
 
19.) Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis – Lauren F. Winner
 
 
May
 
20.) The Silver Chair (Narnia) – C. S. Lewis
22) Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think – Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
23) The Detachment (A John Rain novel) – Barry Eisler
24) Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James
25) Fifty Shades Darker – E. L. James
26) Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next – Greg Lindsay and John D. Kasarda
 
June
 
27) Private Dancer – Stephen Leather
28) Fifty Shades Freed – E. L. James
31) Dubai: Gilded Cage – Syed Ali
32) Amped – Daniel H. Wilson
 
July
 
33) China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa – Serge Michel, Michel Beuret, Paolo Woods
34) All Fall Down – Vern McGeorge
39) Night Without End – Alistair Maclean
 
August
 
41) Birds of Prey: The Battle Within – Gail Simone et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
43) The Twelfth Imam – Joel C. Rosenberg
44) Batman: Battle for the Cowl – Tony S. Daniel et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
45) Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul –  Grant Morrison et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
46) Birds of Prey: Metropolis or Dust – Sean McKeever et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
 
 September
 
53) Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success – By John R. Wooden et al.
55) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food – by Barbara Kingsolver
 
October
 
59) Fractions and Decimals Made Easy (Making Math Easy) (with Jacob) – Rebecca Wingard-Nelson
61) Fraction Fun – (with Jacob) David A. Adler
63) Working With Fractions – (with Jacob) David A. Adler
65) Estimation (A Young Math Book) (with Jacob) – Charles F. Linn
 
November
 
68) Pump Six and Other Stories – Paolo Bacigalupi
69) The Great Divorce – C.S. LewiS
71) Contemporary Security Studies, 2nd Edition – Allan Collins, editor
75) Engineering Systems: Meeting Human Needs in a Complex Technological World – Olivier L. de Weck, Daniel Roos, and Christopher L. Magee
77) Red Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson
 
December
 
82) Omnipotence and other Theological Mistakes – Charles Hartshorne
83) The Teeth of the Tiger – Tom Clancy
84) Exit Plan – Larry Bond
85) e: The Story of a Number – Eli Maor

My Books Read in the Last Year

I read quite a bit last year, with an emphasis on linguistics, Counterinsurgency, complexity, and mathematics.  Fiction, as always was scattered throughout the year.  Lots of good links below; I encourage you to check them out, along with the reviews I did of several of them…

January
1) Your Child’s Growing Mind: A Guide to Learning and Brain Development from Birth to Adolescence – Jane M. Healey, Ph.D
2) Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) – Jeffrey Kluger
3) The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
4) A New Kind of Science – Stephen Wolfram
5) Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power – Robert D. Kaplan
6) The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity – Richard Florida (My review here)
7) Language: The Big Picture – Peter Sharpe (my review here)
8) Understanding Physics: Volume 1: Motion, Sound, and Heat (Understanding Physics) – Isaac Asimov
9) Seven Firefights in Vietnam – John A. Cash, et al.  (My review here)

February
10) Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages – Guy Deutscher (My review here)
11) Chaos Theory Tamed – Garnett P. Williams
12) Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity – John Gribbin (My review here)
13) The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa: With E. D. Swinton’s “The Defence of Duffer’s Drift” – Michael Burgoyne and Albert Marckwardt (My review here)
14) The Age of the Unthinkable , Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It – Joshua Cooper Ramo
15) The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) – Graham Greene
16) Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq – Patrick Cockburn
17) Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life – Len Fisher
18) Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language – Seth Lerer (My review here)
19) Migration: Species Imperative #2 – Julie Czerneda
20) Euler’s Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology – David S. Richeson
21) Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means – Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (My review here)
22) Chicago Blues – Edited by Libby Fischer Hellmann

March
23) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Dan Pink
24) The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why – Richard E. Nisbett
25) Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer – Mireya Mayor (My review here)
26) A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines – Anthony Bourdain
27) Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World – Liaquat Ahamed (My review here)
28) Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions – Lisa Randall
29) The Mother Tongue – English And How It Got That Way – Bill Bryson
30) Raising Musical Kids: A Guide for Parents – Robert A. Cutietta

April
31) Thought Contagion – Aaron Lynch (My review here)
32) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia 2) – C.S. Lewis
33) Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
34) Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Open Market Edition) – Duncan J. Watts
35) The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention – Guy Deutscher
36) Hardwired – Walter Jon Williams
37) The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been . . . and Where We’re Going – George Friedman

May
38) Almost Human: Making Robots Think – Lee Gutkind
39) Understanding Physics: Volume 2: Light, Magnetism and Electricity – Isaac Asimov
40) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) – Robert B. Cialdini
41) Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do – Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
42) The Secret Servant (Gabriel Allon) – Daniel Silva
43) Pittsburgh Noir (Akashic Noir) – Edited by Kathleen George
44) Freedom (TM) – Daniel Suarez
45) Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots – Gareth Branwyn
46) The Traveler (Fourth Realm Trilogy, Book 1) – John Twelve Hawks
47) Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back – Douglas Rushkoff
48) Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Precious Resource – Peter Rogers and Susan Leal
49) Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants – Dennis Okholm

June
50) Counterinsurgency – David Kilcullen
51) Hunter’s Run – George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham
52) The Killing Ground (Sean Dillon) – Jack Higgins
53) One Shot (Jack Reacher, No. 9) – Lee Child
54) The Hard Way (Jack Reacher, No. 10) – Lee Child
55) Why Things Break: Understanding the World By the Way It Comes Apart – Mark E. Eberhart

July
56) Earth Strike: Star Carrier: Book One – Ian Douglas
57) Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia, and the Peloponnese – Robert D. Kaplan
58) The Post-American World: Release 2.0 – Fareed Zakaria
59) Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer – Novella Carpenter
60) The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization – Bryan Ward-Perkins
61) The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century – Thomas X. Hammes
62) Four Colors Suffice: How the Map Problem Was Solved – Robin Wilson
63) How to Build Your Own Spaceship: The Science of Personal Space Travel – Piers Bizony
64) The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives – David Bainbridge
65) The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World – Peter Schwartz

August
66) The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine – Francis S. Collins
67) The Scar – China Mieville
68) The Profession: A Thriller – Steven Pressfield (My review here)
69) Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature – Marcus du Sautoy
70) The Five Chinese Brothers (Paperstar) – Claire Hutchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
71) Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America – Matt Taibbi
72) How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It’s Best to Start Early, but It’s Never Too Late — A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents – Linda and Richard Eyre
73) The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris – David McCullough
74) Havoc – Jack DuBrul
75) Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, Book 1) – David Brin
76) Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy – Steven Metz

September
77) The Rest of the Robots – Isaac Asimov
78) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things – William McDonough and Michael Braungart
79) 7th Sigma – Steven Gould
80) 50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need to Know – Tony Crilly
81) The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life – Thomas W. Malone
82) Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier – Edward Glaeser
83) Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself – Dan Pink

October
84) The Future of Management – Gary Hamel with Bill Breen
85) 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith – Sonia Arrison
86) The Riemann Hypothesis: The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics – Karl Sabbagh
87) Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (Great Discoveries) – David Foster Wallace
88) The Final Warning (Maximum Ride, Book 4) – James Patterson
89) Re-read Where Eagles Dare – Alistair MacLean
90) The Caryatids – Bruce Sterling

November
91) Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality – Jonathan Weiner
92) Mathematical Mysteries: The Beauty and Magic of Numbers (Helix Books) – Calvin C. Clawson
93) The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity – Amir D. Aczel
94) Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes – Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson
95) Reamde: A Novel – Neal Stephenson
96) The Poincare Conjecture: In Search of the Shape of the Universe – Donal O’Shea

December
97) Euclid’s Window : The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace – Leonard Mlodinow
98) Millennium Problems – Keith Devlin
99) The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
100) Godel’s Proof (Revised Edition) – Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman
101) Moscow Rules (Gabriel Allon #8) – Daniel Silva
102) The Bourne Legacy – Eric van Lustbader
103) Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus – John Eldredge
104) Count Down: The Race for Beautiful Solutions at the International Mathematical Olympiad – Steve Olson
105) The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets – Alan Boss