NATURAL MAN IN A STATE OF INNOCENCE
Elizabeth ruled England through conciliation and compromise. Her
remarkable ability was the primary reason why during her reign
England grew to be a major power in the world both militarily and
economically. Since she was the last of the Tudor's her death
posed a problem for England concerning a successor to the throne.
They chose to bring her cousin James Stuart, who at the time was
King of Scotland, down to become King of England. Although a
brilliant man, James, lacked any semblance of Elizabeth's tact in
government. Thus he was soon dubbed "the wisest fool in
Christendom." The structure of seventeenth century English
government was such that the country was ruled simultaneously by
two institutions, parliament and the crown. Even though the
rights and duties of each were set down by a long tradition, the
boundaries of their authority were obscure, and each used
whatever power it could muster to encroach into the territory of
the other as far as possible. James was also an ardent believer
in royal absolutism, a position which held that through a divine
right from God Kings held absolute power over their subjects.
James openly exercised this attitude toward his subjects.
However, through English law, Parliament held the purse strings.
This was the only real power they held over the King's rule.
Since, this gave James limited economic resources of his own, and
because he tended to give lavishly to his friends, he was
constantly in financial trouble. The parliamentary position was
derived from the developments dating back as far as the signing
of the Magna Carte in 1215. These agreements developed over time
bound the King to Parliament primarily through economic strings.
Parliament had little enough use for James' brand of Scottish
Presbyterianism, but when he was succeeded by his son Charles I,
who married the Catholic sister of Louis XIII of France, whatever
tact the younger Stuart had fell on deaf ears. The problem of an
absolutist King and an obstinate parliament was only part of 17th
century England's political problems. At least as great a problem
was the variety of religious factions, all vying for some kind of
supremacy. Charles' answer to the dilemma with Parliament was
simple, he absolved the Parliament when it would not accede to
his demands. This was of little value, however, because English
law still forbade him to collect Taxes without the consent of
Parliament. His greater problem was his inability to control
this huge variety of religious powers. Finally, in 1649, Oliver
Cromwell formed a strong army committed to him personally, gained
control of the country, had Charles hanged, and usurped power for
himself. However, without popular support, his attempt to form a
legal parliamentary government failed. He then replaced
parliament with men chosen by himself and had himself elected
Lord Protector. He held this power primarily through his control
of the armed forces. But his Puritan background and his attempt
to destroy the power of the Anglican church had him in constant
combat with the people, including many in his own parliament. As
a result, he was barely able to maintain control. When his son,
who lacked his fathers control over the army, succeeded him the
protectorate fell apart. After only nine months of rule,
"Tumbledown Dick" as he was called, resigned. The Parliament
then restored Charles II, son of Charles I to the throne in 1660.
Although Charles II was considerably more conciliatory toward the
Parliament, he carried the burden of two obstacles. First,
despite his condescension's to parliament, he remained a staunch
believer in royal absolutism. And second, he married a catholic
from Portugal, and thus was lax on Catholics. Parliament then
attempted to prevent his brother James, who was more openly
catholic, from succeeding him. Charles simply dissolved the
parliament and James II did indeed succeed him. When James'
catholic wife gave birth to a male child, parliament could take
no more. They drove James II from the country and gave the
throne jointly to James I daughter Mary, and her husband William
of Orange. This event, called the "Glorious Revolution" because
not a single shot was fired, brings us to crux of the problem of
politics and philosophy.
It should be obvious from the brief sketch of seventeenth century
England that the events that brought about these political change
were both divers and complex. However, two points should be
evident as underlying motives for change. The first was the
opposition among the English people to royal absolutism, and the
second was the lack of a concept of political theory that would
be in line with the modern scientific view of knowledge.
Particularly thorny were two basic scientific assumptions; first,
that events begin with efficient causes through inviolate
physical laws, and second, that knowledge could only be
determined directly from experience. Only a theory of government
with this kind of justification would be likely to have any
impact on future unfolding events.
It would be to our advantage at this point to review the role of
government as developed by Aristotle and explained by Aquinas
because this is the background out of which past theories of
government had been developed. This is taken from the
Government should be considered in two ways. In one way it
is opposed to slavery; so a ruler is he to whom a slave is
subject. In a second way it should be considered in
opposition to any kind of subjection. According to this way,
any one whose office entitles him to rule and direct free
men may also be called a ruler. ... Therefore someone is
governed as a slave when he is controlled simply for the
utility of the one governing him. But because everyone
desires his own welfare, he cannot without regret yield this
to another. Because such government cannot exist without
suffering those subject to it, such domination of man over
man could never have been in the state of innocence.
Aquinas, as you see here, has developed his view of the validity
of government as dependent on conditions that would exist in a
state of innocence. The laws that hold in a state of innocence
are natural laws, the laws that form a government are man-made.
Though this may sound similar to what Locke developed in the
seventeenth century, Aquinas began
with the Aristotelian assumption that man is naturally a
political animal, and he argued from final rather than efficient
causes. From the aim of the common good to the necessity and
therefore inevitability of an authority to bring this common good
A free man may be ruled by another when the latter directs
him to his own good or to the common good. And such
government over man by man would have existed, for two
reasons, in the state of innocence. First. because man is a
naturally social animal; men even in the state of innocence
would have lived in society. Social life among many could
not exist, however, unless someone took the position of
authority to direct them to the common good. For many people
are by their very multiplicity interested in a multiplicity
of ends, while one person is concerned with one end. ...So
Augustine in City of God XIX 14, says: "The just govern not
by desire to dominate, but through the duty of giving
counsel"; and in Chapter 15 he states: "This is prescribed
by the natural order: for thus did God create man." And from
this explanation we have the answer to all the objections
concerning the best kind of government.
The point is, that with Aristotelian rather than Lockean
assumptions the emergence of a leader is not only a natural
outcome of people living in society, it is necessary outcome.
This is because people, being naturally social animals not only
cannot, but would not live otherwise. In this excerpt taken from
Aquinas' "Commentaries on Ethics,"
we can see the importance of the concept of final ends in his
theory of government.
Then... he (Aristotle) shows that political science is the
most important science from the very nature of its special
end. It is evident that insofar as a cause is prior and more
powerful, it extends to more effects. Hence, insofar as the
good, which has the nature of a final cause, is more
powerful, it extends to more effects. So, even though the
good be the same objective for one man and for the whole
state, it seems much better and more perfect to attain, that
is, to procure and preserve the good of the whole state than
the good of any one man.
Although Aquinas' Aristotelian background assumed man as a
political animal. Athens had been ruled by law and not by men.
Therefore law, as the action of legislators is the final arbiter
of what is allowed and disallowed in a law abiding community.
But that law must be developed for the good of the community and
not that of the lawgivers. This is Aquinas' definition of law
from the Summa Theologia.
A private person has no authority to compel right action.
He can only advise, but if his advice is not accepted, he
has no coercive power. But law must have coercive power if
it is to have authority to compel right action, as the
philosopher says (Ethics X, 9). But the coercive power
belongs to the community as a whole as well as to its public
authority, who must inflict the punishments, as we shall see
later. He alone therefore has the right to make laws.
From the preceding we may gather the definition of law. It
is nothing other than a reasonable direction of beings
toward the common good, promulgated by the one who is
charged with the community.
In addition to positive law, that is laws passed by the
legislators, there exists another set of laws that are derived
not from society but from God. These are laws that are derived
from nature itself. This is what Aquinas called
"natural law" in his summa.
The order of the precepts of the natural law is the order of
our natural inclinations. For there is in man a primary and
natural inclination to good, which he has in common with all
things, inasmuch as every thing desires the preservation of
its own being (esse) according to its nature. Through this
inclination the natural law pertains to everything that
makes for the preservation of human life and all that
impedes its death. There is in man a second inclination to
more specific ends according to the nature he has in common
with other animals. According to this inclination, those
things are said to be of natural law "that nature has taught
all animals," instincts such as the union of husband and
wife, the education of children. and so forth. Third, there
is in man a certain inclination to good according to his
rational nature, and this is proper to man alone: thus man
has a natural inclination to know the truth about God and to
live in society. And in respect to this. there come under
the natural law all action pertaining to such inclinations:
notably that a man should avoid ignorance, that he must not
offend those with whom he deals, and all other actions of
Finally, because man is naturally a social animal there must be
something outside natural and divine law. This is a law that
leads man to live in harmony with his fellow man.
There is a threefold order necessary for man. The first
comes from comparison with the rule of reason. inasmuch as
all our actions and our passions should be measured by the
rule of reason. Another order comes from comparison with the
rule of the divine law, through which man ought to be
directed in all things. If man were naturally a solitary
animal this double order would suffice; but because man is
naturally a social and political animal, as is proved in
Politics I. 2. it is necessary to have a third order.
regulating man's conduct with the other men with whom he
However, as you can see even from the thumbnail sketch given
above of the history of English government, the theory would have
problems any time there was dispute between two kinds of
authority. Remember that Aristotle talked about an Aristocracy
as the rule by the best, and this is borne out in the description
by Aquinas above. The concept of divine right itself is not
Aristotelian. The English writer Robert Filmer attempted to
prove that the right came from the direct decent of the Kings
from Adam. The Aristotelian theory simply has no answer for that
kind of problem, particularly when we remove from it the concept
of a final cause and replace it with efficient cause.