Thomas Aquinas – Human Dignity and Conscience as a Basis for Restricting Legal Obligations

Marek Piechowiak


In contemporary positive law there are legal institutions, such as conscientious objection in the context of military service or “conscience clauses” in medical law, which for the sake of respect for judgments of conscience aim at restricting legal obligations. Such restrictions are postulated to protect human freedom in general. On the basis of Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy, it shall be argued that human dignity, understood as the existential perfection of a human being based on special unity (individuality and particularity), provides a foundation for imposing limitations on the scope of legal obligations in general. Human freedom plays a crucial role in understanding dignity as perfection based on the special individuality of a personal being, which in turn is based on the free choice to pursue a unique way of life. Therefore, Aquinas’ argumentation is, at its core, liberal – the perfection rather than the imperfection of a human being underlies the requirement to limit legal obligations. Dignity understood as the special unity of a person also provides the basis for limiting obligations in the case of conscientious objection; however, in that case, such limitations aim at safeguarding internal integrity rather than the individualisation of a given way of life. This project was financed with funds from the National Science Centre (Poland) allocated on the basis of the decision number DEC-2013/09/B/HS5/04232.
Author Marek Piechowiak (Wydział Zamiejscowy w Poznaniu)
Marek Piechowiak,,
- Wydział Zamiejscowy w Poznaniu
Journal seriesDiametros - An Online Journal of Philosophy, ISSN 1733-5566, (C 15 pkt)
Issue year2016
Publication size in sheets0.95
Keywords in EnglishThomas Aquinas, dignity, conscience, conscientious objection, conscience clause, freedom, legal obligations, liberalism.
ASJC Classification1211 Philosophy
Languageen angielski
Piechowiak M._Thomas Aquinas_2016.pdf 308.41 KB
Additional file
Piechowiak M._Thomas Aquinas_AFIL_2016.pdf 253.83 KB
Score (nominal)15
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2016 = 0.568
Citation count*7 (2021-03-02)
Share Share

Get link to the record

* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.
Are you sure?