Thomas combines ethics with esthetics, He is the first in the Middle Ages to develop a theological esthetics. The beautiful is that kind of the good in which the soul rests without possession.” You don’t need to possess a picture, you can enjoy it. You don’t need to possess the woods or ocean or houses or men depicted in the picture. But you enjoy them by their mere form. It is, according to him, disinterested enjoyment of the soul which is in every art – also in music. Beautiful is that which is pleasant in itself. Here again we have something which leads in the direction of humanism. But it is not humanism in autonomy, in independence; it is humanism which is always the first step to something which transcends the human possibilities.
Similarly, he deals with the problems of states. We have two degrees: the values represented by the state, and the higher, supernatural values embodied in the Church. The Church therefore is higher in what it represents. Therefore the Church has authority over the states, over the different national governments. The Church can, if necessary, ask the people to be disobedient.
Now with these remarks, which are given by Thomas Aquinas in what is usually quoted as the “secunda secunde,” the second part of the second section of his Summa, where he develops his ethics – and whenever you hear this quotation, remember that this means the Thomistic ethics. These Thomistic ethics are at least as inf luential in the history of the Western world as his dogmatic statements, and they all have the same character which we discovered in him everywhere, namely the character of grades and mediations; the secular realm and the religious realm are related to each other in a different way than in Augustine. In Augustine the secular realm was completely. swallowed by the religious realm. In Thomas they were put into a system of grades, in the secular realm the sub-structure, and in the religious realm the super-structure. The next step was that they were put beside each other; and in our period of secularism, finally the secular realm swallowed the religious realm.