King Jr Vs Aquinas Analysis

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Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Aquinas on Higher Law Although Martin Luther King Jr. lived seven hundred years after Thomas Aquinas, King was greatly influenced by the work of Aquinas. In his “The Power of Non-Violence” and “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. uses many ideas from Thomas Aquinas regarding a ‘higher law’ and its relation to human law. King directly refers to Aquinas when he says, “To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law” (“Letter”). Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Aquinas agree natural and divine law is higher than human law, yet they disagree whether violence should be used to achieve justice. Along with Aquinas, King refers…show more content…
and Aquinas both identify a 'higher law.' In "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," King refers to this higher law as "moral law" or the "law of God." Similarly, Aquinas uses the terms "natural law" and "eternal law." This 'higher law' takes precedence over human law. 'Higher law,' according to both King and Aquinas, comes from God and gives the universe its rational and moral order. Martin Luther King Jr. writes, "the universe in some form is on the side of justice" ("Power"). This quote shows that King thinks there is a justice higher than the justice of human law. King’s position is in agreement with that of Aquinas. Aquinas believes a human law that is in conflict with natural law is not actually a law: "a human law diverging in any way from the natural law will be a perversion of law and no longer a law" (Aquinas 54). Because natural and eternal law appeals to a higher form of justice than human law, both King and Aquinas assert that people can break human law if that law goes against the 'higher law.' Martin Luther King Jr. writes, "I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong." When King writes "they are morally wrong," he is contending that the segregation ordinances are in opposition to eternal and natural law. In fact, natural and eternal law being a 'higher law' is the basis of King's philosophy of 'non-violent civil disobedience.' King views the segregation laws, a human law, to be in disagreement with natural and eternal law; therefore, he believes that these laws should not be followed. King writes, "Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality" ("Letter"). The first sentence is an appeal to 'higher law'; King claims if a law devalues someone, it is contrary to natural and eternal law, so the law cannot be just. Then, Martin Luther King Jr. argues that because
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