The linear regulator is the basic building block of nearly every power supply used in electronics. The IC linear regulator is so easy to use that it is virtually foolproof, and so inexpensive that it is usually one of the cheapest components in an electronic assembly.
The thermal limit circuit can sink all of the current from the error amplifier output, and keep the regulator output voltage/current as low as needed to maintain the junction temperature at 160°C. As shown, the thermal limiter can "override" the voltage control loop when needed to prevent damage to the IC.
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