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Chapter 7 - Obligation, rightness, and natural law: Suárez and some critics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

Daniel Schwartz
Affiliation:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Summary

Commands as the source of obligations

Suárez holds a voluntarist conception of obligation, in so far as he takes obligation to depend essentially on the will of a superior, and, in the case of the natural law, on the will of God. He distinguishes two generally recognized elements of the natural law: (1) One consists in ‘intrinsic’ natural facts and properties – those that belong to nature in its own right, independently of God's legislative will. (2) The other depends on the exercise of God's legislative will in the issuing of commands. Theorists dispute about whether different features of the natural law are intrinsic natural facts or products of divine legislation.

Suárez accepts a voluntarist thesis about law. In his view, the character of a law consists partly in a command, and the natural law is a genuine law, measured by this criterion. According to Suárez, a law is ‘a common precept, just and stable, sufficiently promulgated’. A precept implies a command expressing the will of a superior.

About the eternal law, therefore . . . we say that it has a power of obliging of itself, if it is sufficiently promulgated and applied. The proof is this: because otherwise it would not be a true and proper law, since it belongs to the character of law to oblige . . . Further, because God has the supreme power of commanding, and therefore of obliging, since the precept of a superior brings in obligation. Now through his eternal law he commands . . . Therefore through this same law he obliges.

In the divine law, the obligation is immediately from God himself; for, in so far as it is in a human being it does not oblige except in so far as it indicates the divine reason or will.

Type
Chapter
Information
Interpreting Suárez
Critical Essays
, pp. 142 - 162
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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