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Aquinas's variations on a divine theme

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Chapter Summary

This chapter assesses the structure of Aquinas's philosophy of natural law by examining the relationship between practical reason and nature. Natural law is defined by Aquinas as the participation of rational creatures in the eternal law. 'Natural law' is indeed nothing other than a name for the rational participation in the eternal law. It expresses the possibility for rational beings to apply the divine style to their own dealings. According to Germain Grisez and John Finnis, nature plays no important part at all. The mere distinction between theoretical and practical reason, each with its own fundamental and self-evident principle, testifies to Aquinas's awareness of the fact that moral judgements are the outcome of practical reasoning, not of any theoretical investigation of nature. The reading of eternal law as style makes clear that God Himself is not obliged to 'obey' that eternal law.

Keywords: Aquinas's philosophy; divine style; eternal law; Germain Grisez; John Finnis



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