ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

305. Special Ethics. Social Right (56). -- Following the example of Aristotle and the ancients, and in accordance with the traditions of the early Middle Ages, the scholastics applied themselves to the detailed study of the moral virtues, of the different forms which our moral activity assumes amid the ever-varying circumstances of life. After investigating the general notion of morality, they take up in turn the concrete relations which specify our acts: family, religious, social and political relations. Private ownership and monogamous and indissoluble marriage are of the natural law. As for social life, it has its reason proximately in the nature of man and ultimately in the will of God; but man is free to fix and arrange, according to circumstances, the manner of delegating and exercising social authority. St. Thomas does not appear to have studied the origin of civil authority in process of formation, but he deals with the various conceivable forms of government and declares them all alike legitimate, provided the authority governs with a view to the common good.{1} After the manner of the ancients, notably of Plutarch, the social classes are compared to the different members of a living body, without, however, attributing to this image the real significance which certain organicists of our day would claim for it. We find also in the social theories of the Middle Ages some few traces of the organization of communal and feudal life. Finally, the thirteenth century justifies the subordination of the temporal to the spiritual power. But from the beginning of the fourteenth century theorists begin to show themselves influenced by the spirit of opposition which animated kings and princes against the papacy.<

{1} The individual is not for the State, but the State for the good of the individuals. Willmann compares this theory with the moderate realism of scholasticism (op. cit., vol. ii., p. 438).

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