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MINIMALISM

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lions of this kind are certainly immoral if it is not certain that the management is guilty of injustice. And it will not be easy to have such certitude about management being unjust. But even if it is certain that the owner is guilty of unfair hiring practices, it is not clear that on this account others gain the right to cause him financial loss by physically obstructing his business. THE DIVINE OFFICE

Following the lead of Suarez many of the early twentieth century moralists understood epikeia as the benign interpreta¡ tion of the mind of the legislator who is presumed in a particular case not to wish to urge the observance of his law because of special circumstances. From this they distinguished excusing causes due to moral impossibility or serious inconvenience. And so they applied epikeia to the cases in which the legislator did not wish to urge the obligation and excusing causes to the cases in which the legislator was not able to oblige. St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, did not regard epikeia merely as a reasonable restrictive interpretation of the law but rather as the moral virtue controlling the correct application of the law in a way that is contrary to its literal sense. For the positive law simply affirms what is normative in general and so binds "ut in pluribus." But it does not and can not assert the true moral good for every instance and in every situation. The virtue of epikeia, which is part (pars potior, Thomas says) of legal justice, finds the true moral good in the concrete situation in a way that is opposed to the words of the law. Epikeia, therefore, is not just a loophole, a way out of moral obligation; it is a true Christian virtue, and not to practice it when it obliges is a sinful act. For we are obliged to seek and practice the true moral good in our existential situations and not simply to observe the letter of positive laws. According to this explanation there is no need to distinguish epikeia from excusing causes or moral impossibility. If there is a disproportion between fulfilling the law as it is expressed on the one hand and the inconvenience or damage connected with the fulfilling of the law on the other, the virtue of epikeia

Profile for Chicago Studies

Spring 1968  

Volume 7:1

Spring 1968  

Volume 7:1

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