Civil Disobedience in the Social Theory of Thomas Aquinas

The Thomist 60 (3):449-462 (1996)
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In this article I define civil disobedience and classify it into four forms based on motive and extent of dissent. I then present Thomas Aquinas's account for justified civil disobedience. After first determining how a law or system of laws is unjust, the duty (virtue) of obedience to just and unjust laws is discussed. Finally, I argue that of the four possible forms of civil disobedience, Aquinas's natural Law Theory only clearly allows the fourth, i.e., altruistic disobedience of an unjust system of rule, while at times also apparently allowing the third, i.e., altruistic disobedience of an unjust law



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Sally J. Scholz
Villanova University

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