Private property does not contradict natural law, in which everything is in common. Aquinas answers this first objection to private property.
This is a continuation of my commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s views of private property in Article 2, Question 66 of Summa Theologiæ. ST II-II, 66, 2 [ST 2a2æ 66, 2]. The posts in sequence are: 1) Article 1 Text and Commentary 2) Article 2 Text and Prologue 3) Objection 1 to Private Property 4) On relationship of Natural Law and Human Law 5) Objection 2 to Private Property 6) Objection 3 to Private Property 7) Aquinas’s Views of Private Property 8) The First Human Competence: Care and Commerce 9) The Three Reasons Private Property is Necessary 10) The Second Human Competence 11) Reply to Objection 1: All Things in Common (this post) 12) Reply to Objection 2: Analogy of the Theater 12) Reply to Objection 3: Over consumption is robbery
Reply to Objection 1: Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (Question 57, Articles 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.
Aquinas now responds to Objection 1 and summarizes his view of why private property does not violate the natural law, even though the natural law indicates all things are given in common. He has already explained that he views private property as a legitimate extension of natural law rather than a contraction of it. We discussed his reasons for holding this position earlier and some of the ways we were puzzled by his answer. Human law is thought to be a reasoned extension of natural law and he views private property as the result of reason, as he explains in his discussion of human competences, just previously. And while we can surely question why he thinks some things are natural and reasoned extensions of nature whereas others are perversions of it, Aquinas himself feels that he has given ample justification for why private property is a reasoned human extension to the natural law from the “competencies” that humans have. Surely, here Aquinas can be questioned and criticized.