QUESTION 92: OF THE EFFECTS OF LAW
We must now consider the effects of law; under which head there are two
points of inquiry:
(1) Whether an effect of law is to make men good?
(2) Whether the effects of law are to command, to forbid, to permit, and
to punish, as the Jurist states?
Article 1: Whether an effect of law is to make men good?
Objection 1: It seems that it is not an effect of law to make men good. For
men are good through virtue, since virtue, as stated in Ethic. ii, 6 is
"that which makes its subject good." But virtue is in man from God alone,
because He it is Who "works it in us without us," as we stated above
(Question , Article ) in giving the definition of virtue. Therefore the law does
not make men good.
Objection 2: Further, Law does not profit a man unless he obeys it. But the
very fact that a man obeys a law is due to his being good. Therefore in
man goodness is presupposed to the law. Therefore the law does not make
Objection 3: Further, Law is ordained to the common good, as stated above
(Question , Article ). But some behave well in things regarding the community,
who behave ill in things regarding themselves. Therefore it is not the
business of the law to make men good.
Objection 4: Further, some laws are tyrannical, as the Philosopher says
(Polit. iii, 6). But a tyrant does not intend the good of his subjects,
but considers only his own profit. Therefore law does not make men good.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 1) that the "intention
of every lawgiver is to make good citizens."
I answer that, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 2; Articles ,4), a law is
nothing else than a dictate of reason in the ruler by whom his subjects
are governed. Now the virtue of any subordinate thing consists in its
being well subordinated to that by which it is regulated: thus we see
that the virtue of the irascible and concupiscible faculties consists in
their being obedient to reason; and accordingly "the virtue of every
subject consists in his being well subjected to his ruler," as the
Philosopher says (Polit. i). But every law aims at being obeyed by those
who are subject to it. Consequently it is evident that the proper effect
of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue
is "that which makes its subject good," it follows that the proper effect
of law is to make those to whom it is given, good, either simply or in
some particular respect. For if the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on
true good, which is the common good regulated according to Divine
justice, it follows that the effect of the law is to make men good
simply. If, however, the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on that which
is not simply good, but useful or pleasurable to himself, or in
opposition to Divine justice; then the law does not make men good simply,
but in respect to that particular government. In this way good is found
even in things that are bad of themselves: thus a man is called a good
robber, because he works in a way that is adapted to his end.
Reply to Objection 1: Virtue is twofold, as explained above (Question , Article ), viz.
acquired and infused. Now the fact of being accustomed to an action
contributes to both, but in different ways; for it causes the acquired
virtue; while it disposes to infused virtue, and preserves and fosters it
when it already exists. And since law is given for the purpose of
directing human acts; as far as human acts conduce to virtue, so far does
law make men good. Wherefore the Philosopher says in the second book of
the Politics (Ethic. ii) that "lawgivers make men good by habituating
them to good works."
Reply to Objection 2: It is not always through perfect goodness of virtue that
one obeys the law, but sometimes it is through fear of punishment, and
sometimes from the mere dictates of reason, which is a beginning of
virtue, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 3: The goodness of any part is considered in comparison with
the whole; hence Augustine says (Confess. iii) that "unseemly is the part
that harmonizes not with the whole." Since then every man is a part of
the state, it is impossible that a man be good, unless he be well
proportionate to the common good: nor can the whole be well consistent
unless its parts be proportionate to it. Consequently the common good of
the state cannot flourish, unless the citizens be virtuous, at least
those whose business it is to govern. But it is enough for the good of
the community, that the other citizens be so far virtuous that they obey
the commands of their rulers. Hence the Philosopher says (Polit. ii, 2)
that "the virtue of a sovereign is the same as that of a good man, but
the virtue of any common citizen is not the same as that of a good man."
Reply to Objection 4: A tyrannical law, through not being according to reason, is
not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law; and yet
in so far as it is something in the nature of a law, it aims at the
citizens' being good. For all it has in the nature of a law consists in
its being an ordinance made by a superior to his subjects, and aims at
being obeyed by them, which is to make them good, not simply, but with
respect to that particular government.
Article 2: Whether the acts of law are suitably assigned?
Objection 1: It would seem that the acts of law are not suitably assigned as
consisting in "command," "prohibition," "permission" and "punishment."
For "every law is a general precept," as the jurist states. But command
and precept are the same. Therefore the other three are superfluous.
Objection 2: Further, the effect of a law is to induce its subjects to be
good, as stated above (Article ). But counsel aims at a higher good than a
command does. Therefore it belongs to law to counsel rather than to
Objection 3: Further, just as punishment stirs a man to good deeds, so does
reward. Therefore if to punish is reckoned an effect of law, so also is
Objection 4: Further, the intention of a lawgiver is to make men good, as
stated above (Article ). But he that obeys the law, merely through fear of
being punished, is not good: because "although a good deed may be done
through servile fear, i.e. fear of punishment, it is not done well," as
Augustine says (Contra duas Epist. Pelag. ii). Therefore punishment is
not a proper effect of law.
On the contrary, Isidore says (Etym. v, 19): "Every law either permits
something, as: 'A brave man may demand his reward'": or forbids
something, as: "No man may ask a consecrated virgin in marriage": or
punishes, as: "Let him that commits a murder be put to death."
I answer that, Just as an assertion is a dictate of reason asserting
something, so is a law a dictate of reason, commanding something. Now it
is proper to reason to lead from one thing to another. Wherefore just as,
in demonstrative sciences, the reason leads us from certain principles to
assent to the conclusion, so it induces us by some means to assent to the
precept of the law.
Now the precepts of law are concerned with human acts, in which the law
directs, as stated above (Question , Articles ,2; Question , Article ). Again there are
three kinds of human acts: for, as stated above (Question , Article ), some acts
are good generically, viz. acts of virtue; and in respect of these the
act of the law is a precept or command, for "the law commands all acts of
virtue" (Ethic. v, 1). Some acts are evil generically, viz. acts of vice,
and in respect of these the law forbids. Some acts are generically
indifferent, and in respect of these the law permits; and all acts that
are either not distinctly good or not distinctly bad may be called
indifferent. And it is the fear of punishment that law makes use of in
order to ensure obedience: in which respect punishment is an effect of
Reply to Objection 1: Just as to cease from evil is a kind of good, so a
prohibition is a kind of precept: and accordingly, taking precept in a
wide sense, every law is a kind of precept.
Reply to Objection 2: To advise is not a proper act of law, but may be within
the competency even of a private person, who cannot make a law. Wherefore
too the Apostle, after giving a certain counsel (1 Cor. 7:12) says: "I
speak, not the Lord." Consequently it is not reckoned as an effect of law.
Reply to Objection 3: To reward may also pertain to anyone: but to punish
pertains to none but the framer of the law, by whose authority the pain
is inflicted. Wherefore to reward is not reckoned an effect of law, but
only to punish.
Reply to Objection 4: From becoming accustomed to avoid evil and fulfill what is
good, through fear of punishment, one is sometimes led on to do so
likewise, with delight and of one's own accord. Accordingly, law, even by
punishing, leads men on to being good.