Volume 94, Issue 2, Spring 2020
Scott J. Roniger
Is there a Punishment for Violating the Natural Law?
Is there a punishment for violating the natural law? This important question has been neglected in the scholarship on Thomistic natural law theory. I show that there is a three-fold punishment proper to the natural law; the remorse of conscience, the inability to be a friend to oneself, and the inability to be a friend to another work in concert to provide a natural penalty for moral wrongdoing. In order to establish these points, I first analyze sources of St. Thomas Aquinas’s natural law theory by discussing St. Augustine’s notion of law and fundamental ideas in Aristotle’s political philosophy. Next, I show how Aquinas unites aspects of Augustinian and Aristotelian thought in his treatment of natural law and thereby provides a framework for answering our question. Finally, I turn to Plato’s Gorgias and to Aristotle’s discussion of self-love in order to integrate these ideas with Aquinas’s natural law theory.