Vol. 2 No. 1 (2019): In Memoriam: Czesław Martyniak

The Essence of Law according to St. Thomas Aquinas

Piotr Roszak
Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland)
Jan Wółkowski
Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland)
Published 9.11.2020
  • law,
  • natural law,
  • eternal law,
  • human nature,
  • teleology
How to Cite
Roszak, P., & Wółkowski, J. (2020). The Essence of Law according to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Legal Culture, 2(1), 37-51. https://doi.org/10.37873/legal.2019.2.1.54


The article presents the Thomistic conception of law, its essence and meaning as a regula et mensura of human behavior that is to lead freely to the goal established by the nature of beings. From this perspective, it is possible to understand the division into various types of laws (eternal, natural, human) and the common features that connect them, appropriate for its determination. For Aquinas, law is based on rationality, promulgated by the person responsible for the community, and due to the fact that it concerns the common good, it has a moral character. A legal norm is not good simply because it is legal: on the contrary, it is legal because it concerns "good" properly understood. Thus, for a rational creature, it becomes an opportunity for the growth of freedom: the law, by its orientation towards the fulfillment of nature, serves the development of freedom, which does not consist in choosing but in choosing the good.


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