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Political Theory: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary and Classic Terms
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as primary factors that account for being, and are ultimately objective with regard to human understanding. Stoic political thought affirmed natural law as an absolute repository of universal principle. Stoicism, particularly in its middle and late developments, grounded political and juristic thought on the premise that there is a justice and a law that is in itself and exists by nature. For the Stoic, this was often associated with divine wisdom, or ‘‘right reason’’ accessible to every sentient mind. ‘‘Law,’’ the philosopher Cicero (usually associated with the Stoic move- ment) affirmed in De Legibus, ‘‘is the primal and ultimate Mind of God,’’ and is thus ultimately only the transcendent and noncontextual prin- ciples of reason that are the ground of both law and justice. The ideas of both Aristotle and the Stoic philosophers were easily folded into the comprehensive philosophical and theological structure of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), who, along with his predecessor, St. Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus, 354–430), worked toward a synthesis of theological revelation with the universal affirmations of rational philosophy. For both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine before him, all moral values are established upon the eternal truths as promulgated by God. According to Aquinas, human beings are guided by the natu- ral attribute of synderesis, which is a disposition toward the natural habit of following the moral principles of natural law in spite of the ongoing problem of Original Sin. As St. Augustine argued, even sin cannot obliterate our original nature, which is good as a result of our status as God’s creatures. For Aquinas, all human beings retain the disposition toward goodness as grounded in the objective moral principles of both divine and natural law. In this way, it is possible for human beings to share common moral principles and engage in the same type of moral action regardless of their own situa- tion. Additionally, thinkers such as the Islamic philosopher Alfarabi (c. 870–c. 950) recognized that political and moral values must be attuned to the First Principles of Being in order to establish the groundwork for the virtuous regime. Throughout the Middle Ages, thinkers of all faiths and philosophical persuasion assumed the fact of such principles, and affirmed their applicability to the actions of human beings in general, particularly empha- sizing the need for political regimes to build upon principles and values that transcend any particular political order. For classical and Medieval theory, natural law (along with divine law) provided the groundwork for a moral realism that informed the ethical choices faced by all human beings. The attempt to discover such principles contin- ued into the development of early modern theory as well, often with a reduced emphasis on the religious dimensions of objective values. Natural law as a foundation for objective moral, political, and juristic action continued to draw the interest of political thinkers after the Renaissance. The Spanish neo-Thomists of the Salamanca School (such as Francesco de Vitoria and Francisco Suarez) ´ carried forward the natu- ral law traditions previously developed by the Stoics, following, above all, the principles dis- covered by St. Thomas Aquinas. As Christen- dom in the West fragmented, non-Catholic theories of natural law as the basis of an objective moral order were promoted by thinkers such as Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), John Locke (1632–1704) and Emerich Vattel (1714–1767), among others. As modern political thought grew increasingly distant from the theological aspects it had inherited from Medieval philosophers—to a large extent as a result of Enlightenment rationalism—natural law as objective moral ground diminished in importance. Yet moral realism remained a compelling conceptual framework well into the nineteenth century. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), through his con- cepts of the thing in itself (ding an sich) and the categorical and practical imperatives, and his reflections on the moral will and the common human membership in a ‘‘Kingdom of Ends’’ (or realm of ends), provided a potent argument for the continued assertion of moral and 2 ABSOLUTES