Society And it's Necessity


Man is not alone in the world but lives in various different types of groups. Given this fact we must ask why does he so live in such a manner and what is there about human society that makes it different from other ways of living together?


Definition: An enduring union of a number of persons morally bound under authority to cooperate for a common good.




 The term society’, societas, indicate the union of several, which means:

·      Union: not a substantial union but a moral union[1].

·      Common good:

·      A common good, common end of the activity (unitas objectiva).

·      A conjunction of the actions, so that each acts as a part of the whole action directed to the common end (unitas subjectiva).  This common good is rational and thus free.


Authority- The formal cause of a society – It’s a unifying and binding force.[2]


Why Men live in Society.


We can reduce the answer to this question to three main answers:


  1. Man is naturally social and is prompted to form society by the demands and impulses of his rational natural working through his free will.


  1. Man is not naturally social but by free compact formed society for certain advantages and continues to live in it through habit and training.


  1. Man has evolved from lower animals and his social nature is but a higher development of the gregarious instincts of his brute ancestors.


Exposition of these positions:


  1. The 1st is the Traditional view. As Aristotle pointed out “Man is by nature a political animal”[3]. This view is so evidently correct that for centuries it was taken for granted.[4]


2. This second view was set forth by Hobbes and Rousseau, who laid the foundations of moral positivism. Both envision a primitive condition called the sate of nature.  However, now, that man has entered into this contract, he has become the slave of the monster he created.

Rousseau's life, 1715-1778, was a continual protest against the formalism, affectation, pedantry and despotism of the age of the Bourbons. His ideal of man was the unconventional, unconstrained, solitary, but harmless and easy-going savage. Hobbes was the growth of a sterner and more serious age. The only reality to him in heaven and on earth was force: his one idea in philosophy was coercion. Human nature to him was an embodiment of brute violence ever in need of violent restraint. Rousseau, an optimist, saw nothing but good in man's original nature: to the pessimist mind of Hobbes all was evil there. Neither of them saw any natural adaptation to social life in the human constitution. To live in society was, in both their views, an artificial arrangement, an arbitrary convention. But Hobbes found in the intolerable evils of a state of nature an excellent reason why men should quit it for the unnatural condition of citizens. The problem for Hobbes stood thus: how men entering society, might be "cribbed, cabined, and confined" to the utmost in order to keep down their native badness. Rousseau's concern was, how one might so become a citizen as yet to retain to the full the delightful liberty of a tropical savage.

And first of the Social Contract. Rousseau proposes "to find a form of association which shall defend and protect with all the strength of the community the person and the goods of each associate, and whereby each one, uniting himself to all, may nevertheless obey none but himself and remain as free as before." (Contrat Social, i. 6.) This proposal is hopeless, it is a contradiction in terms. No man can contract and remain as free as before, but he binds himself either under a wider obligation to do or abstain, where he was not bound before, or under a stronger obligation where he was bound already. Nevertheless Rousseau finds a means of accomplishing the impossible and the self-contradictory.

The hideous piece of cynicism whereby Rousseau (Contrat Social, iv. 2), after promising you that, if you join his commonwealth, you shall obey none but yourself, then goes on to tell you that you obey yourself in obeying the will of the majority, even when it puts you in irons or leads you to death -- because as a citizen you have once for all renounced your own will, and can only wish what the majority wishes, -- has its root in the position of Hobbes, that "every subject is author of every act the sovereign does." (Leviathan, c. xxi.)


3. This view developed from the notion of evolution which had entered the seen during the nineteenth Century. This is very much the view held by the communists to a greater extent. It however fails to look at man as a complete entity, but focuses on material aspect of man.


 Man is naturally ordained to society


1.    Proof 


m. Man is naturally ordained to whatever he needs in order to live[5]

M. But in order to live, man needs the society

·      the infant receives the generation and food and education from his parents, and the parts of the family help each other for the things necessary for life[6],

·      whereas other animals receive from nature the food and shelter and defense, man is born naked and wo all these means of subsistence, and alone with his reason and his hands he cannot prepare all the things he need.

·      whereas other animals have a natural instinct of things good or harmful, man has only the general knowledge of those things necessary for life,  but does not know all the particulars (e.g. medecine).

·      without the help of other men, one cannot alone know and love God and live virtuously : he needs a spiritual education, instruction and correction. Ergo, man is naturally ordained to society.


2.    Proofs 2:


·      man is a social animal, since he alone is gifted with speech (other animals at best can only express mutual passions).  He is more social or communicative than any other gregarious animal (ant, bee).

·      De facto : everywhere men live in society.  The constancy and universality of this fact comes from a natural incline in man to live in society.[7]


And so, it is clear that Society is necessary for each individual as well as for mankind in general. Man is ordained to society like the part to the whole to which it is ordained, like imperfect to perfect. Yet it may happen per accidens that someone lives ‘solitarius’ as says ST for 2 reasons: A man may lead a solitary life for two motives. one is because he is unable, as it were, to bear with human fellowship on account of his uncouthness of mind; and this is beast-like. The other is with a view to adhering wholly to divine things; and this is superhuman. Hence the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 1) that "he who associates not with others is either a beast or a god," i.e. a godly man.[8].


The Common Good



The common good is the end for which society exists. It is not the absolutely last end of society, for all things human exist for man and man exists for God. The common good is therefore an intermediate end, an end that is also a means toward mans happiness and God’s glory. When we say that the common good is the end of society, we mean that it is the end that is distinctive of society as such.


The Common good exists:




M: Man gets together in all sorts of societies and cannot fulfil his human faculties w/o them.

m: Societies only exist to attain a good. Men join themselves together to attain some good.



Nature of the common good


1.      It is not merely reduced to private goods.

2.      It is not the particular good of the community.

3.      It is in perfect harmony with the private good.

4.      It is superior to the individual good.

5.      Social not personal; public not private

6.      Not the sum total of private goods, but superior to all the individuals

7.      A universal good – Common good is in each member according to their social capacities and functions.


Authority and its necessity for Society



Authority :


1.    Authority is the power of coercing its subjects for the end of that society.


2.    Authority in concreto: -  The Right which the social power must have to impose obligations.


Existence of Authority:




M: God wills that natural societies have the means necessary to attain their end.


m: But God wills the existence of natural societies, for they are prescribed by the natural law of which God is the Author; and authority is a means necessary for any society to attain its end.



necessity of Authority



1.    by reason of the common good, different and superior to the private good of individuals :

·      “Being natural that man lives with others, it is necessary that there be between them someone who directs this multitude.  Because, where there are many men, if any one procures his private good, the multitude would lose the unity and would disperse to different parts if there was no one to deal with what belongs to the common good, since it is not always the same that which is proper and that which is common.”[9] 

·      That is why even in the state of innocence, men would unite in society : “the social life does not exist if there is no one at the front of it to direct things to the common good, since the multitude tends of itself to many things and not to one alone”.[10]


2.    by the natural superiority of certain MEN: in the state of innocence “it would not be convenient to not place to the service of others the superiority of science and of justice of some.”[11]





1.    The authority is thus the essence of society in concrete.

2.    Only God possesses essentially this right and hence all authority comes from God:

3.Authority is not directly instituted by God in what regards its concrete form & its existence in one person or in a category of persons.


·      By defect in the person (an unworthy person, whose indignity is not from God, can still have legitimately acquired his authority  and oblige the subjects to obedience),

·      By defect in the mode of acquiring it (violence or other; one may reject the usurper).


·      The use of the authority may not be as God wants when the authority :

·      Commands things against the end (impious tyrants w. martyrs),

·      Commands things beyond its domain[12].

·      The authority as such must come from God[13] because :


·      Authority is something ordered and thus good, and all good comes ultimately from God (4th way).

·      Authority is said of God and creatures, thus is participated by creation from God.

·      Authority imposes laws in conscience (i.e. To disobey it = sinful vs God), which must be from God.


3.    Authority is not opposed to liberty considered as the faculty to perfect oneself, but opposed to the concept of liberty to do evil.  Liberty is rightly defined as the elective faculty of the means to the end.


4.    the concrete origin of the authority is[14]:


·      Not an express will of God (as a rule): designating this man or group as the authority.

·      Not the popular sovereignty : It is the people which creates society, holds the power, and only delegates it to a representative, and takes it back whenever it wants (Rousseau theory[15]),

·      Not the people as first subject of the power, and then 2rly the governor[16] (Suarez).

·      Made by the free decision of men ‘the domain and the authority were introduced by the jus gentium’[17] which means that the concrete determination of the authority can be realized by the election of the multitude, but there are other ways legitimate (heredity, aristocracy, power ‘de facto’).


5.    The (simple) forms of government are any of the 3 mentioned by Aristotle (Monarchy, aristocracy and democracy), which are legitimate in so far as they are capable of reaching their end, the common good.[18]


[1] Society is a moral person (vs. a physical person), since it is subject of right.

[2] According its formal element, society is the reunion of men to act and live together.  Society is thus a real relation between the individual and the other members of the community, with the common good as its foundation.  Society is a unity of order because it is ordered to the common good. The principle of unity of this ordering comes from the authority.


[3] Politics, bk. I, ch. 2.

[4] In this case the foundation of human society is immediately in human nature and mediately in God.

[5]As the natural law ordains man to live  and to live well, thus, the same natural law ordains him those things without which he cannot live nor live well (vivere et bene vivere).

[6]In Ethic I 1,4.

[7] Hence its clear that sociability is an essential characteristic of human nature.

[8]II II 188, 8 ad 5

[9]De Regimine Principum I c.1,

[10]I 96,4

[11]I 96,4

[12]tunc subditus non tenetur obedire, sicut etiam non tenetur non obedire In II Sent dist. 44, 2,2.

[13]De Reg. Principum III c.1-3.

[14] NB. God confers the authority on a natural society at the first moment of its existence.

[15] Rousseau's social contract (already described).Un-natural but free contract in view of individual good.

[16]The sovereignty cannot be for one instant in the entire people bec. it has the faculty to impose laws effectively for the common good : never can the whole people govern. Cf Pius X ‘lettre sur le Sillon’ finds abnormal that the delegation would go up when by nature it  descends.

[17]II II 10,10

[18] Which is the best government? In theory, a mixture of all three says ST I II 105,1, while Aristotle maintains that it is a Monarchy (the rule of one).