Just Another Raving Socialist…

Now, according to the natural order instituted by divine providence, material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs. Therefore the division and appropriation of property, which proceeds from human law, must not hinder the satisfaction of man’s necessity from such goods. Equally, whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. So Ambrosius says, and it is also to be found in the Decretum Graziani “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.”

This is Thomas Aquinas making moral sense (though some considerations of economic pragmatism need to be taken into account atop these basic moral principles).

via Think Tonk.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://seanwmalone.blogspot.com Sean W. Malone


    Thomas Aquinas fails. He says, “material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs.”

    By whom? Why? To what end?

    The crucial first piece of the puzzle Aquinas, and frankly – modern-day socialists/redistributionists – is missing is HOW material goods are produced in the first place. God does not create them and bestow them on humanity.

    Without first recognizing how prosperity is created, Aquinas makes baseless conclusions. In essence, the whole argument is begging the question, because there is an assumption that “superabundance” just spontaneously happens. Moreover, the further assumption is that also poverty just spontaneously happens, rather than being the consequence of over-consumption.

    I also sort of take umbrage at the idea that moral principles supersede reality – which is more or less what you’re saying by suggesting that “economic pragmatism” needs to be taken into account. Reality ALWAYS needs to be taken into account. Morality is pretty much worthless if it doesn’t apply to real people in the real world, no?

    As a Catholic Priest, Aquinas’ view is completely understandable in that context. In his world-view, it’s very likely that in fact God *does* merely bestow material goods on the world… Although there is some contradiction in the idea that an all-knowing, all-benevolent cosmic dictator would arrange those goods incorrectly (giving some people too much and others too little), but whatever. Point is, in reality, God doesn’t really enter into this equation at all… People produce goods either to supply for their own needs, or to have something of value with which to trade to other producers.

    Giving to those who haven’t produced anything may (or may not!) be noble, depending on the specific circumstances and your own personal beliefs, but to hold a moral principle that suggests it is your duty to give up anything beyond your bare subsistence to those who have less than you is purely a recipe for economic (and thus, human) destruction. That means, starvation, shortage/scarcity, and extreme poverty – for ALL – not just for a few.

    Also there are emotional considerations as well, which Ayn Rand, of all people, summed up fairly well… The abridged version goes like this:

    “And then there’s your ‘brother-love’ morality. Why is it moral to serve others, but not yourself? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but not by you? Why is it immoral to produce something of value and keep it for yourself, when it is moral for others who haven’t earned it to accept it? If it’s virtuous to give, isn’t it then selfish to take?

    Your acceptance of the code of selflessness has made you fear the man who has a dollar less than you because it makes you feel that that dollar is rightfully his. You hate the man with a dollar more than you because the dollar he’s keeping is rightfully yours. Your code has made it impossible to know when to give and when to grab.

    You know that you can’t give away everything and starve yourself. You’ve forced yourselves to live with undeserved, irrational guilt. Is it ever proper to help another man? No, if he demands it as his right or as a duty that you owe him.”

    That’s a bit of a problem too, I think… But not nearly as big a problem as a world which glorifies the takers – the consumers – at the expense of the producers instead of valuing the creation of wealth and mutually beneficial *trade*.

    I’ll forgive Thomas Aquinas’ ignorant 13th Century self… People living in the 21st Century really shouldn’t buy this crap though.