Aquinas on justice, judgment, and the unity of peace.
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Mathie, Mary Elise.
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St. Thomas Aquinas's chief contribution to politics is generally taken to be centered around his understanding of the law, and primarily focused on finding a transcendent basis for the authority of particular laws. In this dissertation, I argue that Aquinas is concerned rather to show that law is only properly understood as part of a regime. Nature, in Aquinas's political teaching is complex and not easily embodied in one natural ruler; on the contrary, the nature involved in natural law is best understood by means of a republican regime. My dissertation develops this focus in Aquinas's writing by exploring Aquinas's teaching on law, just war, punishment, and republican government, and their place in Aquinas's political thought. Aquinas argues that the human being is naturally and truly political—that is, the individual is ordered towards the goals of the city. The central argument of this dissertation is that Aquinas grounds the purposes of the city in the nature of the human being. In doing so, Aquinas does not appeal to human nature abstractly, but rather to the activity of human beings in community. Although Aquinas points to a transcendent basis for law, his political teaching suggests that we should discern policy from a human basis.