Aquinas, Thomas (C. 1225–1274)

Thomas Aquinas was born of an aristocratic family in the town of Aquino in northern Italy. He early entered the Dominican order and received his doctorate in theology at the University of Paris in 1257. His contributions to scholastic philosophy were of such significance that his philosophical views were to dominate Catholic thinking and continue to do so even today, some three quarters of a millennium later. He was canonized in 1323. Lord Acton dubbed Aquinas “the first Whig” owing to his emphasis on the rights of conscience. If conscience tells us that human laws are unjust, then such laws “do not bind in conscience” and may be disobeyed.

Equally important for the development of libertarian theory was Aquinas's distinction between a good citizen and a ...

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