Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 90, 2016

Justice: Then and Now

William Matthew Diem
Pages 271-286

Obligation, Justice, and Law
A Thomistic Reply to Anscombe

Anscombe argues in “Modern Moral Philosophy” that obligation and moral terms only have meaning in the context of a divine Lawgiver, whereas terms like ‘unjust’ have clear meaning without any such context and, in at least some cases, are incontrovertibly accurate descriptions. Because the context needed for moral-terms to have meaning does not generally obtain in modern moral philosophy, she argues that we should abandon the language of obligation, adopting instead the yet clear and meaningful language of injustice. She argues further that we should develop an account of human flourishing to answer the question why we need to be just. The essay contends that Aquinas has an account of obligation that requires neither a god nor an account of human flourishing, and that proceeds immediately from the common apprehension of justice Anscombe noted.