Thomas Aquinas on Tyranny - Dictionary of Arguments
Höffe I 154
Tyranny/Thomas Aquinas/Höffe: Although Thomas Aquinas considers the rule of a single person, the monarchy, to be the best, he knows thanks to his openness to experience that the sole ruler is only able to pursue its own advantage, whereby the monarchy turns into the
worst of all constitutions: a tyranny(1).
To avoid the danger of tyranny (...) Thomas Aquinas (...) suggests precautions:
One should raise a "man of such dispositions to the rank of king of whom it is hardly likely that he will turn to tyranny" (I, 6).
HöffeVsThomas Aquinas: But Thomas Aquinas doesn't think about how to test the character before the royal election and how to make sure that the character is the deciding factor.
Resistance: In the case that tyranny still occurs, Thomas does envisage resistance, but not tyrannicide. In his detailed discussion, however, he grants the people the right to depose the tyrant, or at least to limit his powers, because the people have the right "to appoint a king for themselves".
Höffe I 155
(...) the people should not "involve themselves in dangers far more serious than the tyrannies themselves by undertaking operations against the tyrant".
Höffe: So Thomas Aquinas tacitly weighs up the goods and fears - is he rather a realist or a pessimist here? - that the successor is even worse or that a failed tyrant's downfall makes the tyrant even more cruel.
Theological argument: even "if the excesses of tyranny reach an intolerable level", the Old Testament allows the murder of a tyrant, but the "teaching of the apostles" contradicts this, since according to the First Epistle of Peter(2) "one must be subject not only to good and moderate, but also to hard masters".
Höffe: With this reference Thomas takes back a right of resistance.
1. Thomas De regno ad regem Cypri I,6
2. Petrusbrief 2, 19_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
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