Aquinas on Poverty, Virtue, and Politics

by Caleb Roberts

Aquinas regarded poverty as a political matter, arguing that human law should accord with natural law in trumping any right to private property with the rightness of life.

[…]

For both Albertus and Aquinas, poverty is no bar to the attainment of a virtuous character.  As Dominicans, they denied the necessity of external goods for contemplation, even though, as Aristotelians, they recognized the instrumental value of such goods for temporal, prudential action.

[…]

Human beings’ individual completion is deferred to another life, and their highest temporal good must therefore be reconceptualized.  Consequently, practical philosophy could be informed by an idea of the goodness of productive service.  Such service is good not only for its external beneficiaries but also in a way internal to the productive actor insofar as it is motivated by a good will and, also, insofar as it educates and habituates the actor into the virtues, especially that of charity.  So understood, the good of political order will be common to all of its mutually dependent members. (57-58)

Kelvin Knight | Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre

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