Thomas Aquinas on the Common Good

Man is by Nature a Social Being

Dear Reader, the following small article was written in a short time at the request of friends. For this reason, the article itself lacks the usual apparatus of footnotes and references. At the end of article you will find more extensive quotes from Thomas Aquinas in Latin and English which have been added laterz\.

Man has a natural aptitude to live in society with others. He cannot attain his well-being outside of society. The family is the first natural society. It is natural for two reasons: because the inclinations that lead us to create the family are very powerful, and because the family is the absolutely necessary context for the survival of an infant. Other levels of society, such as political organization, even if extremely rudimentary, may also be called natural, insofar as we have a natural inclination to form such societies, and because we cannot survive without them.

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics provides much of the foundation for Thomas Aquinas' theory of the common good. At the beginning of this book, Aristotle gives a quasi-definition of the good when he says: The good is what all things desire. In the view of these two philosophers, each and every thing has a nature, which can also be called its form, and from that nature there comes inclinations to an end. The end of each thing is to seek its proper perfection. Critics may say that Aristotle and Thomas are anthropomorphizing nature, that is, they are looking at nature as if it worked and desired the same as a human being. However, Thomas and Aristotle are consciously using analogy when they speak of natural things being motivated by love and desire. Thomas writes about love in connection with the good. Natural inanimate objects and simple living things such as plants have the inclination to reach their proper state of affection, but they do not know the good that they are seeking. Thomas describes this natural love or inclination by the same metaphor in many passages. We say that an arrow is seeking its mark, but not because the arrow knows the goal. However, if an arrow is moving towards its goal, someone has perceived the goal and directed the arrow. The arrow's movement is the result of knowledge and desire.

Thomas also describes what we call the force of gravity as an instance of this natural love. A thing seeks its proper place by virtue of an internal principle that may be called love. Is this a true description, or anthropomorphic nonsense? It seems to me that it is just as valid to speak of love as to speak of forces. Gravity is a property of matter, and a property can be called an internal principle. The properties of natural things are inclinations that lead them from one state to another in a predictable manner. When Aristotle and Thomas describe natural things being moved by love, they are not saying anything that contradicts any measurement of science. In fact, to speak of an internal principle of action in each thing is more concrete and less Platonic than to speak of forces and laws in nature. If there are truly laws in nature, then how do they exist? If they have concrete existence, they must be identical with the natures of actual existing things.

Animals are also moved by knowledge and love, but in the case of animals they actually experience the world. The animal perceives other things by means of sense knowledge, and by virtue of instinct sees these things as beneficial and harmful. In either case a certain kind of appetite or desire leads the animal to seek or to flee other things. Modern behaviorists take the view that the animal is an automaton, that to speak of feelings and perceptions is anthropomorphic. However, as my esteemed brother said, after studying biology, the behaviorists cannot write of animal behavior for more than a page without lapsing into saying things like: "The dog wanted the food". However, we must give behaviorism its due. Animal knowledge is inflexible compared with human knowledge. Each animal reaches its perfection in an established niche in the world, and instinctive knowledge guides it infallibly within the limits of its ordinary natural environment. Within that context, animals have a much better grasp of particular individuals than we do.

We seek the good by knowledge and love. First, we perceive something as good, and our desire to achieve it follows from this knowledge. Our knowledge of the good is intellectual, and our choice of the good is voluntary. Nothing is desired unless it is known. The good we seek, and that which all things seek, is one and the same as existence itself. Saint Augustine said that even a stone loves existence, because it resists when you step upon it. The basic love of existence common to all natural things may be described in terms of the laws of conservation of matter and energy, which we all know from school. Material things resist extinction, and every destruction is also a transformation. The good that plants and animals seek is also the same as existence, but it is a higher and more powerful existence. Living things do not merely resist annihilation, they seek to grow and reproduce. Aristotle remarks that the animal's desire to reproduce manifests a desire for immortality. The individual animal will perish, but by reproducing the species does not perish.

We could remark that human beings seek existence the same way that animals do, but that is only part of the truth. We exist in a higher way. Our powers of intellectual knowledge and will place us above the material world. By intellectual knowledge we are at a certain distance from all the material universe. If we were totally material, and if our knowledge was a totally material process, then it would be an inflexible process of action and reaction, and we would not be aware of the fact that we know. We can say that an animal knows the truth, when the dog sees the rabbit and pursues it, and it is a real rabbit, but we do not say that the dog reflects consciously upon its act of knowledge and says to itself "I know that I know". If our knowing power is immaterial, then we have an existence that is also immaterial. Our desire for existence is also the desire for the perfection of our immaterial existence. This is a desire for immortality, in which we know and love to the best of our ability.

One principle of Aristotle's and Thomas' philosophy is the happiness principle, called in greek eudaimonia. We can express this as follows: Happiness is what all seek. The ultimate reason for everything we do is to be happy. If this statement were all that we said, we would be in danger of reducing all ethics to psychology. However, happiness is an internal state, but it must correspond to an objective state. Why? Happiness, for us as humans, involves knowledge and love. Knowledge is a relation to the world described as truth. If what we call knowledge were simply an internal psychological state, like a vivid dream, with no truth relation, we might experience something that seems heavenly, but we would not be happy. An example might make this clear. The death of a friend is always painful. We know that we cannot be completely happy without the presence of the friend. We might even look forward to the afterlife, in the hope that we will actually be in the presence of those we love. If we had a powerful computer program, that could actually make the friend seem present to us, saying the words our friend would say, we might find some comfort in this, but we would not be happy, because we know that this is not truly our friend.

Our existence is not simply a material existence, that of filling a certain amount of space in the material universe with human flesh and organs. The fullness of our existence requires that we use our highest powers in the most effective way and that these powers be directed toward the highest object. As we know the universe, including other persons, our existence is expanded by this knowledge. This knowledge also leads to love. God created the entire universe by a single act that is both knowledge and love. The same act by which He knows what things are is also the act by which He says they are good and shall exist and continue to exist. Our relation to the universe reflects God's act of creation. We see that things exist, and this relation of knowledge is truth, and we say that it is good that things exist. We experience the existence of ourselves in every act of knowing, and our will approves of this existence, seeks to sustain it, and seeks to perfect it.

Another saying of Aristotle taken by Thomas Aquinas comes from the beginning of Aristotle's Metaphysics: All men by nature desire to know. Our desire for knowledge is not simply the desire to collect facts, and in fact when we see someone who is obsessed with collecting facts we regard that person as a tragic figure, perhaps neurotic. Our natural desire to know becomes the desire for wisdom, which is not about individual facts, but about knowing the principles behind the facts. The highest point of wisdom is to know God, the first principle and cause of all things.

The highest good, and the only thing that can satisfy the desires that we possess because of our human nature, is to know God intimately and personally. This is our highest faculties, intellect and will, working in their best way, towards the highest object, which is God. This relation of knowledge and love cannot be complete in this life, but only after death. This is the ultimate good of human life, and it is also a common and shared good. It is a good involving more than one person, the human person and God.

If the ultimate end and purpose of human life is union with God, and we all share this same end and purpose, then this is also our common and shared good as human beings. In his Summa contra Gentiles, book III, chapter 117, Thomas explains the connection between love of God and love of neighbour. Since we are ordered to this one end, we should also be united to one another by mutual love. Whoever loves someone, also loves those whom that other person loves. God loves all men, and all men have the same end, to enjoy the friendship of God. So, if someone loves God, he should also love his fellow man. Furthermore, man is naturally a social animal, and he needs the help of others of his kind to achieve his proper end. Men can reach their proper end most easily if they live in mutual love.

Also, if a man is to have the time and opportunity to consider the things of God, he needs tranquillity and peace. When people live together in love for one another, this removes most of the obstacles that prevent them from attending to the things of God. If our purpose and end is to love God, then we should love each other.

Furthermore, the law of God is given to man to provide help where the natural law is not enough. It is natural for all men to love one another. One sign of this is that we are guided by a certain natural instinct. When we see another human being in need, even if it is a stranger, our human instinct leads us to help that person. For example, if we see someone lost, we naturally give them directions. We help people lift people who have fallen and so forth, as if every man were a friend and acquaintance of every other man. Since this is written in our nature, the law of God clearly directs us to love one another.

Some distinctions

The common good is primarily the good of the person as a person. This means that the common good is primarily a spiritual good. The primary instance of the common good is the common destiny of all men to know, love and serve God. In this earthly life, there are also many secondary common goods also have a spiritual character. These goods are immaterial and so they are not diminished by being shared, but even may be increased. The goods of knowledge, culture, moral development, the shared appreciation of beauty in art and music, contribute to our common happiness. A very important good is that of friendship. It is true that any one person will only have a few friends in the full sense, but it is also good that everyone in the same society should have at least a benevolent attitude toward others. We may even evaluate a society according to a simple criteria. Do strangers feel free to greet one another when they cross paths? Where courtesy is common, this is a sign of civic friendship. The courtesies may be small gestures, but what they represent is very important. These things are common goods in the fullest sense, but many writers emphasize the more material goods that make these goods possible.

Many writers use the term "common good" in a more material sense. The common good is the end for which society exists. In the sense the term "common good" is usually used, it does not refer man's relation to God, but to the human things that exist for man. Whereas man as a person is eternal, human societies exist here on this earth. They are not eternal. As Austin Fagothey, S.J., in Right and Reason (1958 edition) writes:

Society is a temporal thing, and it exist for a good realizable in this world. The common good is the temporal welfare of the community, taken both collectively and distributively.
As a collective good, the common good is something over and above the good of individuals. As a distributed good, every common good must also come back in the form of benefits and goods for individuals. Extremists emphasize one of these aspects to the detriment of the other. Collectivists emphasize the collective aspect, and individualists emphasize the distributed aspect. Again to quote Fagothey:
The common good is realized only in the individuals who make up society, but it is a good that they could achieve only by the interaction of many cooperators.

A common good is not simply something that concerns more than one person. When two people make a business contract, there is not one common good, but two private goods. An employer who is interested solely in profits, and employees who are interested solely in their own wages and advancement, do not share a common good, but two separate goods that may work together for their mutual benefit. When the employer is genuinely concerned for the welfare of his employees, and the employees are genuinely concerned for the success of the business, then they may be said to share a common good.

There is a negative and a positive aspect of the common good. In a negative sense, the common good is the establishment and maintenance of order. When each knows his rights and duties, then individuals have the scope to act without hindrance and to develop as persons. Order provides the peace and harmony needed by society and individuals. In the positive sense, the common good "consists in giving to others and receiving from them powers and resources that as individuals none would possess". The most obvious example of something that can only exist with the cooperation of two or more people is the family. Without the union of male and female, there can be no new human life. Without their further partnership in the bond of marriage, the new human life cannot develop properly as a person. There are also many other examples of goods that cannot be achieved individually. Science and technology, art and music, a common language, are all works that require generations of people who play different roles.

The institutions of a society are instruments of the common good. The common good of order is shared equally, in that everyone should be equally free of interference in carrying out their duty. All should have equal opportunity, in the sense that the law should not put barriers for some people and not for others. In the sense of the collective achievements of the members of society, the common good is not shared equally in an arithmetic sense but in proportion to people's needs and abilities. For example, medical knowledge benefits different people in different ways. A doctor benefits in one way by earning a living. Different patients receive different treatments according to their condition. There should also be a proportion between what a person contributes to the common good and what they receive from society, but this cannot be reduced to a matter of simple arithmetic. It includes such economically intangible things as the special signs of respect that we show to those who have served their community well, to the elderly, and the signs of respect that we show to those in authority, not because of special respect for persons, but as a recognition of the good of order that they represent. When people address police officers or students address professors, not by their titles, but by their names, it is very easy for this to lead to favoritism, which destroys the common good.

Some Quotable Passages on the Common Good

Sicut bonum multitudinis est maius quam bonum unius qui est de multitudine, ita est minus quam bonum extrinsecum ad quod multitudo ordinatur: sicut bonum ordinis exercitus est minus quam bonum ducis.
Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 39, a. 2, ad 2
Just as the good of the multitude is greater than the good of one who belongs to the multitude, so it is less than the extrinsic good to which the multitude is ordered: just as the good of order of an army is less than the good of the leader.
Ad hoc autem ordinatur unaquaeque lex, ut obediatur ei a subditis. Unde manifestum est quod hoc sit proprium legis, inducere subiectos ad propriam ipsorum virtutem. Cum igitur virtus sit quae bonum facit habentem, sequitur quod proprius effectus legis sit bonos facere eos quibus datur, vel simpliciter vel secundum quid. Si enim intentio ferentis legem tendat in verum bonum, quod est bonum commune secundum iustitiam divinam regulatum, sequitur quod per legem homines fiant boni simpliciter. Si vero intentio legislatoris feratur ad id quod non est bonum simpliciter, sed utile, vel delectabile sibi, vel repugnans iustitiae divinae; tunc lex non facit homines bonos simpliciter, sed secundum quid, scilicet in ordine ad tale regimen.
Summa Theologica I-II, q. 92, a. 1, c.
Every law is ordered to this end, that it shall be obeyed by those who are subject to it. Hence it is clear that it is a property of law that it should lead its subjects to the virtue proper to them. Since virtue is that which makes the person who possesses it good, it follows that the proper effect of the law is to make good those to whom it is given, whether in an absolute sense, or in a qualified sense. If the intention of the law-giver tends toward the true good, which is the common good regulated according to divine justice, it follows that by the law men become good in an unqualified sense. If the intention of the law-giver tends to something which is not good in an unqualified sense, but is a useful good, or something that is pleasurable to him, or something that goes against divine justice; then the law does not make men good in an unqualified sense, but in a qualified sense, that is, in the order to such a rule.
Ad tertium dicendum quod bonitas cuiuslibet partis consideratur in proportione ad suum totum: unde et Augustinus dicit, in III Confess., quod turpis omnis pars est quae suo toti non congruit. Cum igitur quilibet homo sit pars civitatis, impossibile est quod aliquis homo sit bonus, nisi sit bene proportionatus bono communi; nec totum potest bene consistere nisi ex partibus sibi proportionatis. Une impossibile est quod bonum commune civitatis bene se habeat, nisi cives sunt virtuosi, ad minus illi quibus convenit principari. Sufficit autem, quantum ad bonum communitatis, quod alii intantum sint virtuosi quod principum mandatis obediant. Et ideo Philosophus dicit, in III Polit., quod eadem est virtus principis et boni viri; non autem eadem est virtus cuiuscumque civis et boni viri.
Summa Theologica I-II, q. 92, a. 1 ad 3.
To the third objection, it should be said that the goodness of any part is considered in proportion to its whole: hence Augustine also says, in the third book of his Confessions, that, Any part which does not match its whole is deformed. Since each and every man is a part of the city, it is impossible that a man be good unless he is well proportioned to the common good; nor can the whole stand well unless it consists of parts that are proportioned to it. Hence it is impossible that the common good of the city can be in good condition unless the citizens are virtuous, at least those citizens who are in a position to rule others. But it is enough with respect to the good of the community, that others are virtuous to the extent that they obey the commands of the rulers. And so the Philosopher (Aristotle) says, in the third book of his Politics, that the virtue of a ruler and a good man is the same; but the virtue of any citizen whomsoever and of a good man is not the same.
It must be noted that this unity which is the political community or unity of the family is only a unity of order and not an unqualified unity. Consequently the parts which form it can have a sphere of action which is distinct from that of the whole; just as in an army a soldier can perform actions which are not proper to the whole army. At the same time, the whole has a sphere of action which is not proper to any of its parts; as for example the general action in battle of the entire army; or again like the movement of a ship which results from the combined action of the rowers.
Commentary on Ethics 1, c. 1
Sciendum est autem, quod hoc totum, quod est civilis multitudo, vel domestica familia habet solam ordinis unitatem, secundum quam non est aliquid simpliciter unum; et ideo pars huius totius potest habere operationem, quae non est operatio totius, sicut miles in exercitu habet operationem quae non est totius exercitus. habet nihilominus et ipsum totum aliquam operationem, quae non est propria alicuius partium, sed totius, puta conflictus totius exercitus. Et tractus navis est operatio multitudinis trahentium navem.
To the second objection, it should be said that the common good of the city and the particular good of one person differ not only according to quantity (to much and little), but according to a formal difference. The meaning of the common good and that of the singular good are different, just as the meaning of the whole and the part are different. And so the Philosopher, in the first book of his Politics, says that they are not right who say that the city and the home and other such things differ only in size (by multitude or fewness), and not in species.
Summa Theologica II-II, q. 58, 7 ad 2
Ad secundum dicendum quod bonum commune civitatis et bonum singulare unius personae non differunt solum secundum multum et paucum, sed secundum formalem differentiam. Alia enim est ratio boni communis et boni singularis, sicut et alia est ratio totius et partis. Et ideo Philosophus, in I Polit., dicit quod non bene dicunt qui dicunt civitatem et domum et alia huiusmodi differre solum multitudine et paucitate, et non specie.
Every part is ordered to the whole, as something imperfect ordered to something perfect. And so it is naturally for the sake of the whole. For this reason we see that if it is good for the health of the human body as a whole to amputate some member, for example, if it is gangrenous and will spread disease to other members, it is praiseworthy and healthy for it to be removed. Any particular person is compared to the entire community as a part to the whole. And so if a man poses a danger to the community and is corrupting it because of some wrong-doing, it is praiseworthy and healthy that he should be slain to preserve the common good: a little leaven spoils the whole mass, as we read in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, 5, 6.
Summa Theologica II-II, 64, 2.
Omnis autem pars ordinatur ad totum ut imperfectum ad perfectum. Et ideo naturaliter est propter totum. Et propter hoc videmus quod si saluti totius corporis humani expediat praecisio alicuius membri, puta cum est putridum et corruptivum aliorum, laudabiliter et salubriter abscinditur. Quaelibet autem persona singularis comparatur ad totam communitatem sicut pars ad totum. Et ideo si aliquis homo sit periculosus communitati et corruptivus ipsius propter aliquid peccatum, laudabiliter et salubriter occiditur, ut bonum commune conservetur: modicum enim fermentum totam massam corrumpit, ut dicitur I ad Cor. 5, 6.
And wrong-doers of this kind, from whom one more expects harm to others than that they would mend their ways, according to the command of divine and human law should be slain. Yet the judge does not do this out of hate for the wrong-doers, but from a love of charity, by which he holds the public good higher than the life of a particular person.
Summa Theologica II-II, q. 25, 6 ad 2
Et ideo huiusmodi peccantes, de quibus magis praesumitur nocumentum aliorum quam eorum emendatio, secundum legem divinam et humanam praecipiuntur occidi. Et tamen hoc facit iudex non ex odio eorum, sed ex caritatis amore, quo bonum publicum praefertur vitae singularis personae.
I answer, we should say that laws made by man are either just or unjust. If indeed they are just, they have the power to oblige us in the forum of conscience by the eternal law from which they are derived; according to Proverbs VIII, By me kings reign, and lawmakers discern what is just. Laws are said to be just from their end, when they are ordered to the common good; and from their author, when a law does not exceed the power of the one who declared it; and from their form, when they impose burdens upon their subjects in order to the common good according to an equality of proportion. Since one man is a part of the many, each man, what he is and what he has, belongs to the many, just as any part being what it is belongs to the whole. Hence nature also may cause damage to a part to save the whole. And according to this, such laws that place burdens with due proportion are just and oblige in the forum of conscience, and they are legal laws. Laws are unjust in two ways. In one way, by being opposed to the human good, or from their purpose, as when someone in authority makes laws that are burdensom to his subjects but which do not pertain to the common welfare, but more to his own greed or glory; or from the author, as when someone makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him; or from the form of the law, for example, when burdens are placed upon the people unequally, even if they are ordered to the common good. And all laws of this sort are more acts of violence than they are laws, because, as Augustine said, in the Book on Free Will, That which is not just does not appear to be a law. Hence such laws do not bind in the forum of conscience, unless perhaps because one sees the need to avoid scandal or disturbance to society, for which sake a man should even yield his own right, according to the Gospel of Matthew 5, If someone forces you to go a thousand paces, go another two thousand with him; and if someone takes your tunic, give him also your cloak. In another way, laws can be unjust by being contrary to the divine good, such as the laws of tyrants that force people to commit idolatry, or to do something else contrary to the divine law. And in no way is it every allowed to observe such laws, because, as we read in Acts 5, We should rather obey God than men.
Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 96, a. 4, c
Respondeo dicendum quod leges positae humanitus vel sunt iustae, vel iniustae. Si quidem iustae sint, habent vim obligandi in foro conscientiae a lege aeterna, a qua derivantur; secundum illud Prov. VIII, Per me reges regnant, et legum conditores iusta decernunt. Dicuntur autem leges iustae et ex fine, quando scilicet ordinantur ad bonum commune; et ex auctore, quando scilicet lex lata non excedit potestatem ferentis; et ex forma, quando scilicet secundum aequalitatem proportionis imponuntur subditis onera in ordine ad bonum commune. Cum enim unus homo sit pars multitudinis, quilibet homo hoc ipsum quod est et quod habet, est multitudinis, sicut et quaelibet pars id quod est, est totius. Unde et natura aliquod detrimentum infert parti, ut salvet totum. Et secundum hoc, leges huiusmodi, onera proportionabiliter inferentes, iustae sunt, et obligant in foro conscientiae, et sunt leges legales. Iniustae autem sunt leges dupliciter. Uno modo, per contrarietatem ad bonum humanum, e contrario praedictis, vel ex fine, sicut cum aliquis praesidens leges imponit onerosas subditis non pertinentes ad utilitatem communem, sed magis ad propriam cupiditatem vel gloriam; vel etiam ex auctore, sicut cum aliquis legem fert ultra sibi commissam potestatem; vel etiam ex forma, puta cum inaequaliter onera multitudini dispensantur, etiam si ordinentur ad bonum commune. Et huiusmodi magis sunt violentiae quam leges, quia, sicut Augustinus dicit, in Libro de Lib. Arb., lex esse non videtur, quae iusta non fuerit. Unde tales leges non obligant in foro conscientiae, nisi forte propter vitandum scandalum vel turbationem, propter quod etiam homo iuri suo debet cedere, secundum illud Matth. V, qui angariaverit te mille passus, vade cum eo alia duo; et qui abstulerit tibi tunicam, da ei et pallium. Alio modo leges possunt esse iniustae per contrarietatem ad bonum divinum, sicut leges tyrannorum inducentes ad idololatriam, vel ad quodcumque aliud quod sit contra legem divinam. Et tales leges nullo modo licet observare, quia sicut dicitur Act. V, Obedire oportet Deo magis quam hominibus.
To the third object, we should say that a man is not ordered to the political community according to his entire being and all he has, and therefore it is not necessary that his each and every act will have merit or demerit by order to the political community. But all that man is, and that which he is able to do and that which he has, is to be ordered to God, and so every good or evil act of a man has the nature of merit or demerit before God from the very nature of the act.
Summa Theologica I-II, q. 21, a. 4, ad 3
Ad tertium dicendum quod homo non ordinatur ad communitatem politicam secundum se totum, et secundum omnia sua, et ideo non oportet quod quilibet actus eius sit meritorius vel demeritorius per ordinem ad communitatem politicam. Sed totum quod homo est, et quod potest et habet, ordinandum est ad Deum, et ideo omnis actus hominis bonus vel malus habet rationem meriti vel demeriti apud Deum, quantum est ex ipsa ratione actus.

To the second objection, we should say that the good of the universe is greater than the particular good of one, is both are accepted as belonging to the same genus. But the good of grace for one is greater than the good of nature of the whole universe. Summa Theologica, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2
Ad secundum dicendum quod bonum universi est maius quam bonum particulare unius, si accipiatur utrumque in eodem genere. Sed bonum gratiae unius maius est quam bonum naturae totius universi.
Among men, as when he orders many men into one particular community. There are different levels and orders among communities, and the final one is the community of the city (state) ordered to provide the things which are sufficient by themselves for human life. Hence among all human communities this is the most perfect. And because those things that come into the use of man are ordered to man as to their end, and the end is more important than the things that serve the end, it is necessary that the whole which is the city-state is more important than all the parts that can be known and constituted by human reason.
Commentary on Politics, prologus
In ipsis autem hominibus, sicut cum multos homines ordinat in unam quamdam communitatem. Quarum quidem communitatum cum diversi sint gradus et ordines, ultima est communitas civitatis ordinata ad per se sufficientia vitae humanae. Unde inter omnes communitates humanas ipsa est perfectissima. Et quia ea quae in usum hominis veniunt ordinantur ad hominem sicut ad finem, qui est principalior his quae sunt ad finem, ideo necesse est quod hoc totum quod est civitas sit principalius omnibus totis, quae ratione humana cognosci et constitui possunt.
Third, he shows to what the city is ordered: the city was originally made for the purpose of living, so that men might find enough so they could live: but it follows from the existence of the city that men do merely live, but live well, insofar as man's life is ordered to the virtues by the laws of the city. Commentary on Politics, book 1, c. 1, n. 23 Tertio ostendit ad quid est civitas ordinata: est enim primitus facta gratia vivendi, ut scilicet homines sufficienter invenirent unde vivere possent: sed ex eius esse provenit, quod homines non solum vivant, sed quod bene vivant, inquantum per leges civitatis ordinatur vita hominum ad virtutes.
The end of natural things is their nature. But the city is the end of the aforesaid communities, which were shown to be natural: therefore the city is natural. Commentary on Politics, book 1, c. 1, n. 24 Finis rerum naturalium est natura ipsarum. sed civitas est finis praedictarum communitatum, de quibus ostensum est quod sunt naturales: ergo et civitas est naturalis.
Thus it is clear that the whole is naturally prior to the parts of matter, although the parts are prior in order of generation. But individual men are compared to the entire city, as the parts of a man to the man. As a hand or foot cannot exist without the man, nor is one man sufficient by himself to live separated from the city.
Commentary on Politics, book 1, c. 1, n. 31
Sic igitur patet, quod totum est prius naturaliter quam partes materiae, quamvis partes sint priores ordine generationis. Sed singuli homines comparantur ad totam civitatem, sicut partes hominis ad hominem. Quia sicut manus aut pes non potest esse sine homine, ita nec unus homo est per se sufficiens ad vivendum separatus a civitate.
Man is the best of animals if virtue is perfected in him, to which he has a natural inclination. But if man is without law and justice, he is the worst of all animals. Aristotle proves this. Injustice is all the more savage when it has more weapons or tools, that is, things that help in doing evil. Prudence and virtue, which of their nature are ordered to good, are fitting to man according to his nature: but when a man is evil, he uses these as weapons to do evil: just as by cleverness he devises various frauds, and by abstinence he becomes powerful to bear hunger and thirst, so he can perserver more in malice, and there are other similar examples; hence it is that a man without virtue is most wicked and savage with regard to the corruption of his irascible appetite, as he he is cruel and without feeling. With regard to the corruption of concupiscible appetite, he is the worst of animals with respect to sexual pleasures and voracious eating. But a man is led to justice by civil order: which is clear form this - the greeks had the same name for the civil order of the community and for the judgment of justice, namely dike. So it is clear that he who founded the city kept men from becomning the worst, and led them to be the best according to justice and the virtues. Commentary on Politics, book 1, c. 1, n. 33 Homo enim est optimum animalium si perficiatur in eo virtus, ad quam habet inclinationem naturalem. Sed si sit sine lege et iustitia, homo est pessimum omnium animalium. Quod sic probat. Quia iniustitia tanto est saevior, quanto plura habet arma, idest adiumenta ad male faciendum. Homini autem secundum suam naturam convenit prudentia et virtus quae de se sunt ordinata ad bonum: sed quando homo est malus, utitur eis quasi quibusdam armis ad male faciendum: sicut cum per astutiam excogitat diversas fraudes, et per abstinentiam potens fit ad tolerandum famem et sitim, ut magis in malitia perseveret, et similiter de aliis; et inde est, quod homo sine virtute quantum ad corruptionem irascibilis est maxime scelestus et silvestris, utpote crudelis et sine affectione. Et quantum ad corruptionem concupiscibilis est pessimus quantum ad venerea, et quantum ad voracitatem ciborum. Sed homo reducitur ad iustitiam per ordinem civilem: quod patet ex hoc, quod eodem nomine apud graecos nominatur ordo civilis communitatis, et iudicium iustitiae, scilicet diki. Unde manifestum est, quod ille qui civitatem instituit, abstulit hominibus quod essent pessimi, et reduxit eos ad hoc quod essent optimi secundum iustitiam et virtutes.
He that seeks the good of the many, seeks in consequence his own good, for two reasons. First, because the individual good is impossible without the common good of the family, state or kingdom. Hence Valerius Maximus says of the ancient Romans: They preferred to be poor in a rich empire than rich in a poor empire. Secondly, because man is a part of the home and the state, he needs to consider what is good for him by being prudent about the good of the many. For the good disposition of parts dpeends upon their relation to the whole; thus Augustine says in his Confessions (III, 8) that any part which does not harmonize with the whole is offensive.
Summa Theologica II-II, q. 47, a. 10 ad 2.
Ad secundum dicendum quod ille qui quaerit bonum communie multitudinis ex consequenti etiam quaerit bonum suum, propter duo. Primo quidem, quia bonum proprium non potest esse sine bono communi vel familiae vel civitatis aut regni. Unde et Maximus Valerius dicit de antiqui Romani quod malebant esse pauperes in divite imperio quam divites in paupere imperio. Secundo quia, cum homo sit pars domus et civitatis, oportet quod homo consideret quid sit sibi bonum ex hoc quod est prudens circa bonum multitudinis: bona enim dispositio partis accipitur secundum habitudinem ad totum; quia ut Augustinus dicit, in libro Conf., turpis est omnis pars suo toti non congruans.