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Arthur Mitchell on "Civil Disobedience in Thomas Aquinas' Natural Law"

The San Diego Philosophy Forum is pleased to announce that Independent Scholar Arthur Mitchell will speak on "Civil Disobedience in Thomas Aquinas' Natural Law Theory"

This event, open to the public, will take place 6:30-8:00 PM, Tuesday, July 22 at the North University Public Library: 8820 Judicial Dr. (near the 805 highway's Nobel Exit).

The paper for this event is available, at


Art Mitchell is a long-time resident of San Diego County with a wide range of interests. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy from San Diego State, where he  minored in Economics. He also holds degrees in Management, Marketing, and Internet & Multimedia Technology.

Art's interest in philosophy is focused on the American Pragmatism of William James and John Dewey and the modern Marxist socioeconomics and historical dialectic. Another focus of his philosophical interests is legal philosophy in particular collective or group responsibility and punishment.

Art has worked in the wealth management and financial services industry for over thirty years excelling, first as a producer, and then as a manager, building a successful life insurance practice, focused in tax and investment planning. Over his career, Art has authored many articles and has presented numerous seminars. He has also trained over a hundred insurance agents, and presently teaches continuing education classes in insurance ethics, asset management, among other topics.

Mr. Mitchell's other interest involve sports, music and entertainment.   Art is a soccer aficionado with roots going back over forty years, having, at various times, played, coached, watched, and officiated. He is currently active as a referee, assessor, instructor, and referee assignor, having officiated matches up to the highest regional semi-pro level.

Film and music also hold a special place in Art's life.  He inherited a lifelong love of film (silent to film noir), from his father (a film historian and writer),  and loves music so much that he originally studied to be a professional symphony trombonist -- having played in "every amateur symphony and stage band in San Diego County." This hasn't biased him, though, he loves all types of music, from classical or baroque, all the way to jazz, swing, rock and hip hop.

Art enjoys cooking, entertaining, and dining-out, driving (probably too fast), with the top down on curvy country roads. And, when not on the road or soccer field, he is out on the ocean racing sailboats.

Art's lesser interests include: history, military theory, and military conflict simulation.

He hopes to retire (again) in five years to return to school to earn his PhD in Philosophy.

(His daughter Jane is a graduate the University of Washington, currently pursuing a Master’s, and his step daughter Lorena, is a graduate of William and Mary, living and working in North Carolina. Art's brother James Mitchell, Esq. is a well-respected San Diego attorney. )



The political philosophy of Thomas Aquinas [masked]), along with the broader philosophical teaching of which it is part, stands at the crossroads between the Christian gospel and the Aristotelian political doctrine that was, in Aquinas’ time, newly discovered in the Western world. In fact, Aquinas’ whole developed system is often understood to be simply a modification of Aristotelian philosophy in light of the Christian gospel and with special emphasis upon those questions most relevant to Christianity, such as the nature of the divine, the human soul, and morality. This generalization would explain why Aquinas seems to eschew, even neglect, the subject of politics. Unlike his medieval Jewish and Islamic counterparts, Aquinas does not have to reconcile Aristotelianism with a concrete political and legal code specified in the sacred writings of his religion. As far as he is concerned, God no longer requires people to live according to the judicial precepts of the Old Law (Summa Theologiae [hereafter ST], I-II, 104.3), and so the question of formulating a comprehensive Christian political teaching that is faithful to biblical principles loses it urgency if not its very possibility. Unlike Judaism and Islam, Christianity does not involve specific requirements for conducting civil society. In fact, most Christians before Aquinas’ time (such as St. Augustine) had interpreted Jesus’ assertion that we should “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew22:21) to mean that Christianity can flourish in any political regime so long as its authorities permit believers to “render unto God the things that are God’s.” Although Jesus claimed to be a king, he was quick to add that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), and whereas St. Paul had exhorted Christians to obey the civil authorities and even to suffer injustice willingly, he never considered it necessary to discuss the nature of political justice itself. (Peter Koritansky: [masked]; The University of Prince Edward Island (

[....]Aquinas argues that unjust laws “are acts of violence rather than laws” and that “such laws do not bind in conscience.” Yet he continues[...]: “…except perhaps in order to avoid scandal or disturbance, for which a man should even yield his right.” Only law contrary to divine law, like laws that would induce idolatry, must not be observed, according to Aquinas [in] (Summa Theologica), who clearly was far more fearful of anarchy than of tyranny. Disobedience to the church was rendered virtually unthinkable, while disobedience to the state was deemed proper only in extreme situations. The most memorable example of such a situation occurred almost three centuries later, when Thomas More died as a martyr to his Roman faith [...], having refused to countenance either the divorce and remarriage of King Henry VIII or his claim to supreme authority over England’s clergy in defiance of the pope; More reportedly died with these words on his lips: “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.” ( Civil_Disobedience)


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  • Andrew

    Tough material, extremely well presented.

    October 27, 2014

  • James C.

    Not having access to the Norman Kretzmann document, I have read this one, and I notice that the issue of 'the paradox' is not answered adequately, and is summed up only superficially.

    If a law is in some way accepted (not yet dismissed) by its inclusion into the realm of human law, how are we to distinguish the dismissal of it from either the promulgation of it, let alone the sanctioning of it from both God's intellect, and the 'common good'. Obviously, "the rational mind", is elected to do the job here, but what paltry tools are given to the poor wretch to work with! "The good", according to 'some authority' (most likely the same identical authority that made the laws we are to question), and, "the god", who was kind and thoughtful enough to make his 'law' known well enough so that our analysis can even pass for secular if it needs to.

    1 · July 21, 2014

    • Arthur M.

      The paper did not deal explicitly with metaphysical issues

      July 27, 2014

    • James C.

      I wasn't implying it (not dealing with 'free will'), was a deficiency, I was merely speculating on whether judgments about natural law might take the direction I indicated in my first sentence, or would it not be open to breaking apart the whole (diaeresis) in such Aristotelian terms?

      July 27, 2014

  • Debbie

    Oh my gosh. Have to bow out. A college friend is coming to town for the Doobie Brothers concert. He has an extra ticket!!!

    2 · July 21, 2014

    • Arthur M.

      Enjoy the Doobie Bros. Wish I could have joined you!

      July 24, 2014

    • Debbie

      It was the best concert I've ever been to. Sorry I missed your talk. Darn!

      1 · July 24, 2014

  • Brent

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend. I'll be out of state on that date.

    July 12, 2014

    • Andrew

      You missed a good one, sorry to say. I've already asked him to read again sometime.

      July 23, 2014

    • Brent

      It sounds like a good one. I'm sorry I missed it. I would've like to hear Art's presentation.

      July 23, 2014

  • Andrew

    Given their interaction during the Q&A, I would love to see Messrs. Mitchell and Dorais on a panel one day. (Michael was interested in a Kantian approach to the same question...)

    1 · July 23, 2014

  • Andrew

    If you like the rigorous side of philosophy, I think you will enjoy this talk. Paper available on the sdphil[dot]org website...

    June 26, 2014

    • Andrew

      You're right about the description, but thanks to Art, he did alot of work distilling it for the talk.

      July 23, 2014

    • Andrew

      ... and to his credit it was originally written for a class, so we are a bit out of the context, perhaps.

      1 · July 23, 2014

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