Are virtues habits?
Reasons to think they are not, but are acts instead.
1. In his Retractions, Augustine says that virtue is the good use of free choice. But the use of free choice is an act. Therefore, virtue is an act.
2. People are owed reward only on account of their acts. But [a reward] is owed to every virtuous person, since, after all, whoever dies in a state of charity attains happiness. Therefore, virtue is meritorious. Since anything meritorious is an act, virtue is an act.
3. The more God-like something in us is, the better it is. But we are especially like God insofar as we are acting, because God is pure activity. Therefore, the best things in us are acts. But virtues are the greatest goods in us, as Augustine says in his book On Free Choice. Therefore, virtues are acts.
4. The perfection [we can attain on our earthly] journey is parallel to the perfection of the blessed in the heavenly homeland. But the perfection [we find in that] homeland is an act: happiness. Therefore, the perfection [we attain on our earthly] journey— virtue— is also an act.
5. Those things that are classified in the same genus and mutually exclude one another are contraries. But because an act of sin is opposed to virtue, it excludes it. Therefore virtue is in the genus of act.
6. In On the Heavens I, the Philosopher says that virtue is a power’s utmost. Since a power’s utmost is an act, so is virtue.
7. The rational part [of the soul] is more excellent and more perfect than the sensory part. But the sensory power performs its activity without any mediating habit or quality. Therefore, there is no need to posit in the intellective part any habits by whose mediation the intellective part might perform a perfect activity.
8. The Philosopher says in Physics VII that virtue is a disposition of something perfected to what is best. But since what’s best is an act, and since a disposition belongs to the same genus as what it disposes to, it follows that virtue is an act.
9. In On the Customs of the Catholic Church, Augustine says that virtue is the ordering of love. But, as Augustine says in The City of God XIX, an ordering consists in a disposition of equal and unequal things, assigning to each its [proper] place. Therefore, virtue is a disposition, not a habit.
10. A habit is a quality that is difficult to change. But virtue is easy to change, since a single act of mortal sin causes its loss.
11. If we need certain habits—the sort that are virtues--we need them either for natural activities or for meritorious activities, which are, so to speak, supernatural. However, we don’t need them for natural activities, because if any nature can perform its activity without a habit —if even sensible and insensible natures can do this, then we have all the more reason to think the rational nature will be able to do it. Likewise, we don’t need them for meritorious activities because God performs these in us, “who acts in us to will and to accomplish, because of his good will” (Philippians ). Therefore, [since we need virtues,] virtues are in no way habits.
12. Everything that acts through a form, always acts as that form necessitates. For instance, what is hot always acts by heating. Therefore, if some habitual form, called a virtue, is in the mind, then it will turn out that anyone with a virtue necessarily acts as the virtue demands. But this is false; for if it were true, every virtuous person would be confirmed [in virtue]. Therefore, virtues are not habits.
13. Habits are in powers to make their activity easier. But clearly, we don’t need anything to make our acts of virtue easier [to perform]. For acts of virtue consist principally in choice and volition; and nothing is easier [to perform] than [an act] that consists in a volition. Therefore, virtues are not habits.
14. An effect cannot be more excellent than its cause. But if virtue is a habit, then [a habit] will be the cause of an act, which is more excellent than a habit. Therefore, it appears incorrect to say that virtue is a habit.
15. The mean and the extremes belong to the same genus. But moral virtue is a mean between [extreme] passions, and passions belong to the genus of act. Therefore, [virtue is an act].
1. According to Augustine, virtue is a good quality of the mind. However, virtue cannot be in any of the species of quality except the first: habit. Therefore, virtues are habits.
2. The Philosopher says in Ethics II that virtue is a habit of choosing, seated in the mind.
3. Those who are asleep [still] have virtue, because virtues are lost only through mortal sin. But there are no virtuous acts in sleepers, because they do not have the use of free choice. Therefore, virtues are not acts.
“Virtue,” from the very sense of the word, designates what completes a power. That’s why virtue is also called strength, since a thing can achieve its proper impulse or movement when its power has been made complete. For “virtue,” as the very word implies, refers to a power’s perfection. Accordingly, the Philosopher says in On the Heavens I that virtue is the utmost of a power in a thing. However, power is said to be directed to act. Therefore, we see what completes a power when the power undertakes perfect activity. Furthermore, because whatever is active has activity as its end (since everything, according to the Philosopher in On the Heavens I, is for the sake of its activity as its proximate end), each thing is good to the extent that it is fully directed to its end. That’s why virtue makes its possessors good and their activity good too, as Ethics II states. What’s more, this line [of argument] also makes it clear that virtue is the disposition of something perfected to what is best, as Physics VII states [Metaph.:Phys.].
All these [considerations] apply to whatever virtue you please: a horse’s virtue is what makes it and its activity good—and the same is true for the virtue of a stone, or a human being, or anything else.
However, the way a power combines [with a virtue] varies in keeping with the sort of power it is. For one sort of power is only active (1), another is only acted on and moved (2), and a third sort acts and is acted on (3).
(1) A power that is only active does not need anything introduced into it to give rise to its acts. That’s why the virtue of such a power is just the power itself. Examples of this sort of power include the divine power, the agent intellect, and natural powers. Hence, the virtues of these powers are not habits of any kind, but these very powers [which are already] complete in themselves.
(2) On the other hand, those powers that are only acted upon are powers that do not act unless they are moved by others. Their acting or not acting is not up to them; instead, they act through the impulse of the power moving them. The sensory powers, considered in themselves, are of this kind, which is why the Philosopher says in Ethics III that they are not the source of any acts. These powers are perfected for performing their acts by the introduction of something else— something that is in them not in the persistent way forms are in their subjects, but merely in the way an undergoing is. (The species in the eye’s pupil is an example of this.) For this reason, the virtues of these powers are not habits either. Instead, they are the powers themselves insofar as they are actually undergoing something due to the causes acting on them.
(3) The powers that are both active and acted upon are those that are moved by what acts on them in such a way that their movers do not determine them to a single [course of action]. Instead, their acting [or not acting] is up to them. To this group belong powers that are rational, [at least] in some measure. These powers are rendered complete for acting by the introduction of something that is in them not merely the way an undergoing is in a subject, but the way a form is: stable and persistent. Even so, the result is not that these forms necessarily compel the power to one [course of action], because if they did, the power would not be in control of its acts. The virtues of these powers are neither the powers themselves, nor undergoings (as with the sensory powers), nor qualities that act necessarily, like the qualities of natural things. Instead, they are habits, through which one can act when one wills to, as the Commentator says in [his long commentary on] On the Soul III. Moreover, Augustine says in On the Good of Marriage that habit is that by which one acts, at the right time.
So, it is clear from these remarks that the virtues [we are concerned with] are habits, and it’s also clear how habits, [which constitute the first species of quality], differ from the second and third species. It’s readily apparent how they differ from the fourth species, shape: shape, as such, does not imply a directedness to act.
On the basis of these [considerations], I can also show that we need virtuous habits for three reasons.
First, for uniformity in our activity. After all, what depends on activity alone changes easily if it has not been stabilized by a habitual inclination.
Second, we need them to perform a perfect act readily. That’s because, unless a habit in some way inclines the rational power to one [sort of activity], then whenever we have to perform an activity, we must always make an inquiry about the activity first. We have a clear example of this in the case of someone who hasn’t yet acquired the [relevant] habit of knowledge but wants to reflect, and in the case of someone who lacks the [relevant] habit of virtue, but wants to act as virtue demands. For this reason, the Philosopher says in Ethics V that swift actions are done from habit.
Third, we need virtuous habits to bring our perfect activity to fulfillment pleasurably. Habit is responsible for this. Because it has the mode of a nature, it makes the activity proper to it natural, so to speak, and therefore pleasurable, since appropriateness causes pleasure. Accordingly, the Philosopher, in Ethics II, holds that pleasure in one’s activity is a sign of one’s habit.
Responses to the initial arguments:
1. Like power, virtue can also be understood in two ways. In one way, materially, as when we call what we are capable of, our power. It is in this way that Augustine defines virtue as the good use of free choice. In the other way, essentially, and in this way, neither a power nor a virtue is an act.
2. “Meriting” has two senses. (1) In its strict sense, it just means performing some action on the basis of which one justly acquires a reward for oneself. (2) In its looser sense, any condition that makes a human being worthy in any way is called “merit.” For instance, we might say that Priam’s appearance merited a kingdom because it was worthy of a kingdom.
Therefore, since reward is owed to merit, it is owed in a way even to a habitual quality by which someone is made eligible for reward. And in this way a reward is owed to baptized infants. [A reward] is also owed to actual merit, and then it is owed not to virtue itself, but to its act. Still, it’s in a way because of actual merit that [baptized] infants are rewarded too, since the sacrament [of baptism], through which they are born to a new life, gains its effectiveness through Christ’s merit.
3. Augustine says that virtues are the greatest goods of their kinds, not the greatest goods absolutely speaking (just as we say fire is the most refined of bodies). Therefore we cannot conclude that there is nothing in us better than the virtues. We can conclude [only] that they are among those thing that are the greatest goods of their kind.
4. Just as in [this] life there is a habitual perfection, which is virtue, and an actual perfection, which is virtue’s act, the same is true in our heavenly homeland. There, happiness is actual perfection, arising from a habit brought to perfection. Accordingly, the Philosopher also says in Ethics I that happiness is an activity in accordance with perfected virtue.
5. An act of vice precludes an act of virtue directly, the way one contrary precludes another. In contrast, it destroys a habit of virtue coincidentally, insofar as it separates a person from God, the cause of infused virtue. Accordingly, Isaiah says: “your sins divided you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2). This also explains why the acquired virtues are not destroyed by a single vicious act.
6. We can understand the Philosopher’s definition in two ways: materially or essentially. If we understand it materially, we are taking “virtue” to mean what a virtue is capable of, which is the utmost among those things a power is capable of. Take, for instance, the virtue of someone who can carry a hundred pounds. This virtue is in him insofar as he is capable of carrying a hundred pounds, not insofar as he is capable of carrying sixty. Alternatively, if we understand it essentially, virtue is called the utmost of a power because it designates what completes the power, whether what completes it is something other than the power or not
7. As I’ve pointed out, the account of the sensory and the intellective powers are not parallel.
8. That by which something is changed to achieve x , is called a disposition to x. True, the terminus of a change is sometimes in the same genus as the change. For instance, alteration—a kind of change—is a quality, and so a disposition to this terminus always belongs to the same genus as the terminus. Sometimes, however, change and its terminus belong to different genera, as when the terminus of an alteration is a substantial form. So, a disposition does not always belong to the same genus as that to which it is a disposition. For instance, heat [which is a quality] is a disposition to the substantial form of fire.
9. “Disposition” is used in three ways: (1) to mean the disposition through which matter is disposed to receiving form (in this sense, heat is a disposition to [receiving] the form of fire). (2) to mean the disposition though which an agent is disposed to acting (in this sense swiftness is a disposition for running). (3) to mean the ordering of various things to one another. And it is in that way that Augustine uses “disposition.” But [it’s only when “disposition” is used] in the first sense that disposition is divided in opposition to habit. In the second sense, virtue is itself a disposition.
10. Nothing is so stable that it would not of itself immediately cease to exist if its cause were absent. Therefore, we should not be surprised if one loses infused virtue once mortal sin breaks one’s connection to God. Nor is this incompatible with virtue’s enduring character, which is intelligible only on the condition that virtue’s cause persists.
11. We need a habit for each sort of activity. The three reasons given above explain why we need one for natural activities. However, we need a habit for meritorious activity for yet another reason: to raise our natural power to that which is above nature—[which is done] through an infused habit. Nor is this need removed by the fact that God acts in us, because he acts in us in such a way that we are also acting. And so we need a habit to enable us to act sufficiently well.
12. Every form is received in its subject in keeping with the character of the receiver. But it is a characteristic property of a rational power that it is capable of opposed alternatives and that it has control over its own acts. Therefore, it’s never the case that a habitual form compels a rational power to act in keeping with that form. Rather, a rational power is able to act or not act.
13. Those acts that consist in choice alone are easy to perform in some way or other. But it is not easy to perform them as they should be performed, that is, readily, resolutely, and with pleasure. That’s why we need habits of virtue for this.
14. Every animal or human motion that starts afresh comes from some moved mover, and depends on there being some prior act. And so a habit does not elicit an act from itself unless it is being moved by some agent.
15. Virtue is a mean between [contrary] passions, not in the sense that it is itself a mean passion, but because its action brings about the mean between passions.
Did Augustine define virtue accurately?
Augustine’s definition: “Virtue is a good quality of the mind, by which one lives rightly, which no one uses badly, which God actualizes in us without us.”
Reasons to think it is inaccurate:
1. Virtue is a certain goodness. So, if it is itself good, it is so either through its own goodness or through another’s. In the second case, we would have an infinite regress. In the first case, virtue would be the primary goodness, because only the primary goodness is good through itself.
2. What is common to every being should not be included the definition of any one of them. But goodness, which is convertible with being, is common to every being. Therefore, “good” should not be included in the definition of virtue.
3. Goodness plays the same role in the case of natural things that it does in the case of moral [acts and habits]. But, since good and bad do not differentiate species among natural things, we should not include “good” in virtue’s definition as the specific differentia of virtue itself.
4. The account of a genus does not include any of its differentiae. However, the account of quality includes “good,” just as it also includes “being.” Therefore, it should not be added to the definition of virtue so that it reads: “virtue is a good quality of the mind.”
5. Goodness and badness are opposites. But badness does not constitute any species, since it is a privation. Therefore, neither does goodness, and so we should not include “good” in the definition of virtue as its constitutive differentia.
6. Since goodness is in more things than quality is, goodness cannot differentiate one quality from another. Therefore, we should not use “good” in virtue’s definition as the differentia of quality or of virtue.
7. Nothing is made out of two actualities. But “good” implies an actuality, and so does “quality.” Therefore, it’s a mistake to say that virtue is a “good quality.”
8. What is predicated [of a thing] abstractly is not predicated [of it] concretely. For instance, whiteness is a color, but it is not colored. Since goodness is predicated of virtue abstractly, it is not predicated of it concretely. So, it’s not right to say “virtue is a good quality.”
9. No differentia is predicated abstractly of a species. That’s why Avicenna notes that the human being is not rationality, but rational. Since virtue is a goodness, goodness is not the differentia of virtue. It’s not correct to say, then, that “virtue is a good quality.”
10. Since what is morally bad is the same as vice, what is morally good is the same as virtue. Therefore, “good” should not be included in the definition of virtue. If it were, [this would be a case of] a thing defining itself.
11. While mind has to do with the intellect, virtue has to do with emotions and desires. It is wrong, then, to say that virtue is “a good quality of the mind.”
12. According to Augustine, “mind” refers to the soul’s higher part. However, since some virtues are in the soul’s lower powers, it’s inaccurate to include “good quality of the mind” in virtue’s definition.
13. “Subject of virtue” refers to a power, not an essence. But “mind” seems to refer to the soul’s essence, since Augustine says that intelligence, memory and will are all in the mind. Therefore, “mind” should not be included in the definition of virtue.
14. The characteristic property of a species should not be included in its genus’s definition. Since rightness is the characteristic property of justice, [a species of virtue], rightness should not be included in the definition of virtue so as to say [that virtue is] “a good quality of the mind by which one lives rightly.”
15. For living things, existing is living. However, virtue does not perfect us for existing, but for acting. It is incorrect to say, then, that by virtue “one lives rightly.”
16. Whoever is proud of something uses it badly. Since there are people who are proud of their virtues, some people use virtue badly.
17. In On Free choice of the Will, Augustine says that only the greatest goods cannot be used badly. However, virtue is not one of these goods. The greatest goods are the ones we desire for their own sake, but that isn’t true of virtue . We desire virtue for the sake of something other than virtue, since we desire it for the sake of happiness. Accordingly, “which no one uses badly” is wrongly included [in the definition of virtue].
18. A thing is generated, nourished and grows from the same [source]. But virtue is nourished and grows by our own acts, since a decrease in cupidity is an increase in charity. Therefore, virtue is generated by our acts. The clause “which God actualizes in us without us,” then, is wrongly included in the definition.
19. We count what removes an impediment as a mover and a cause. Since free choice in a way removes impediments to virtue, it is in a way virtue’s cause. Therefore, the claim that God actualizes virtue without us is wrongly included in the definition.
20. Augustine says “he that created you without you will not justify you without you.” Therefore, [the clause “that God actualizes in us without us,” is wrongly included in the definition].
21. It’s obvious that this definition applies to grace. Since grace and virtue are not one and the same thing, the definition does not define virtue correctly.
As I have said [in a.1 Reply], virtue perfects a power for producing a perfect act. Moreover, because a perfect act is the end of the power or the agent [producing it], virtue makes both the power and the agent good, as I noted earlier. Accordingly, the definition of virtue includes something about the act’s perfection, and something about the perfection of the power or agent.
Two things are required for an act’s perfection: (1) the act must be right, and (2) the habit [from which it springs] must be incapable of being the source of a contrary act. That’s because a source of [both] good and bad acts cannot, in its own nature, be a perfect source of a good act. Because a habit is a power’s perfection, [if one’s act is to be perfect], the habit must be the source of a good act in such a way that it cannot be the source of a bad one. That’s why the Philosopher says in Ethics VI that opinion, which can be true or false, is not a virtue; whereas knowledge, which we have only of true things, is a virtue. The first [requirement for a perfect act] is captured by the clause “by which one lives rightly,” and the second by the clause “which no one uses badly.”
Virtue also makes its subject good. In connection with this function, we must consider three things: (1) The subject itself. This is specified by the expression “of the mind,” since human virtue can be only in what belongs to a human being as such. (2) The intellect’s perfection is designated by [Augustine’s] inclusion of “good,” since something is called good because of its directedness to its end. (3) Finally, “quality” designates the way it inheres in its subject, because virtues are not in their subject the way passions are, but the way habits are, as I pointed out above.
All these elements apply to moral, intellectual and theological virtues, regardless of whether the virtues are acquired or infused. But the clause Augustine adds [to these]—“which God actualizes in us without us”—applies only to infused virtues.
Responses to the initial arguments:
1. Just as accidents are called beings not because they subsist, but because by them something is [in a certain respect], so virtue is called good not because it is itself good, but because through it something is good. So, it’s not necessary that virtue be good through another goodness, as if it were informed by another goodness.
2. It is not the goodness that is convertible with being that is included here in the definition of virtue, but rather the goodness that is specific to moral acts.
3. Actions are differentiated on the basis of the agent’s form ([as we see,] for instance, [with] heating and cooling). Now, goodness and badness are like the will’s form and object, since what is active always impresses its form on what is passive, and the mover on what it moves. That’s why moral acts, whose source is the will, are differentiated into species on the basis of goodness and badness. On the other hand, the source of natural activities is the form and not the end. That explains why, among natural things, species are not differentiated on the basis of goodness and badness, though among moral [acts and habits] they are.
4. Moral goodness is not included in the concept of quality, so the argument is irrelevant.
5. Badness does not constitute a species in virtue of being a privation, but in virtue of what underlies the privation, since that is incompatible with the character of goodness. This explains how [badness] can constitute a species.
6. This objection assumes [“goodness” has the sense of] “natural goodness rather than the sense of “moral goodness”—the sense found in the definition of virtue.
7. “Goodness” [in Augustine’s definition] does not imply any goodness other than virtue itself. This is clear from what I’ve said [in the response to the first argument], since virtue is essentially a quality. It’s clear, then, that “good” and “quality” do not refer to different actualities, but to one and the same.
8. This [argument] does not work in the case of transcendentals, which encompass every being; after all, essence is a being, goodness is good, and oneness is one, though we cannot say on the same pattern that whiteness is white. Here is the reason: whatever the intellect can grasp, it must grasp as falling under the character of being and, consequently, under the character of good and of one. That’s why the intellect can grasp essence, and goodness, and oneness only under the character of good, of one, and of being. It’s for this reason that we can say that goodness is good, and oneness is one.
[The manuscripts do not contain any responses by Aquinas to initial arguments 9-21.]
Can a power of the soul be a subject of virtue?
Reasons to think that it cannot:
1. According to Augustine, virtue is that by which one lives rightly. But living is due to the soul’s essence, not any of its powers. Therefore, no power of the soul is a subject of virtue.
2. Graced existence is more excellent than [mere] natural existence. But natural existence stems from the soul’s essence, which is more excellent than its powers, since it is their source. Therefore, graced existence, which stems from the virtues, does not stem from [the soul’s] powers, and so no power is a subject of virtue.
3. An accident cannot be a subject [of accidents]. But a power of the soul is a kind of accident, for natural power and natural incapacity are classified in the second species of quality. Therefore, a power of the soul cannot be a subject of virtue.
4. If one power of the soul is a subject of virtue, then any of them can be. That’s because vices, which are directed against virtues, can beset any of the soul’s powers. But not just any of the soul’s powers can be a subject of virtue, as I will make clear below. Therefore, no power of the soul can be a subject of virtue.
5. If we consider the natures of other agents, we find their active principles (e.g., heat and cold) are not subjects of accidents. But the soul’s powers are active principles, since they are sources of the soul’s activities; and so they can’t be subjects of other accidents.
6. The soul is the subject of its power. So, if, the soul’s power is the subject of another accident, then by parity of reasoning, that accident will be the subject of yet another accident, and so on to infinity. Since this is absurd, the power of the soul is not a subject of virtue.
7. In Book I of the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle says that no quality has a quality. But a power of the soul is a quality belonging to the second species of quality, and virtue is a quality belonging to the first species. Therefore, no power of the soul can be a subject of virtue.
1. The source of an action belongs to the same subject the action belongs to. Since actions stemming from virtues belong to the soul’s powers, so do the virtues.
2. The Philosopher says in Ethics I that the intellectual virtues are rational essentially, whereas the moral virtues are rational by participation. But “rational essentially” and “rational by participation” describe certain powers of the soul [namely reason and the appetites]. Therefore, the soul’s powers are subjects of virtues.
There are three ways a subject can be related to its accident:
1. As its sustainer: For an accident does not subsist through itself; rather, its subject sustains it.
2. As a potentiality to an actuality: For a subject underlies an accident as a potentiality for what is active. (That’s why an accident is also called a form.)
3. As a cause to its effect: For principles of a subject are essential principles of its accident. [subiecta:subiecti]
One accident cannot be the subject of another in the first way. The reason is that no accident subsists through itself, and so no accident can serve as another’s sustainer (unless we were to say that one accident is another’s sustainer insofar as it is sustained by its subject).
However, in the second and third ways, one accident can be related to another in the manner of a subject. After all, there are accidents that are in potentiality to others: Transparency is in potentiality to light, and a surface is in potentiality to color. Moreover, one accident can be another’s cause: Moisture causes flavor, for instance. Indeed, we say one accident is another’s subject in this manner—not because one accident can sustain another, but because a subject can receive one accident through another’s mediation.
We say that a power of the soul is a subject of a habit in this manner too. That’s because a habit is related to a power of the soul as an actuality to a potentiality: The power is indeterminate in its own nature, and through a habit it is determined to this or that. Moreover, acquired habits are caused through the principles of the soul’s powers.
In reply, then, [the soul’s] powers are subjects of virtues in this sense: A virtue is in the soul through a power’s mediation.
1. “Live” as it’s used in the definition of virtue refers to action, as I said above [in the Reply of Article 2].
2. Spiritual existence stems from grace, not from the virtues: Grace is the source of our existing spiritually, while virtue is the source of our acting spiritually.
3. A power is a subject [of accidents] not through itself, but only insofar as the soul sustains it.
4. We are now discussing human virtues. Accordingly, powers that can’t be human powers in any way—those that reason’s command does not at all extend to, such as the powers of the vegetative soul—can’t be subjects of virtue. However, any assault that arises from these powers occurs through the mediation of the sensory appetite, and reason’s command does extend to that appetite. As a result, the sensory appetite can be called human and can be a subject of human virtue.
5. Among the soul’s powers only the agent intellect and the powers of the vegetative soul are active, and these are not subjects of any habits. The soul’s other powers are passive. Even so, they are sources of the soul’s actions insofar as their active [counterparts] move them.
6. There is no need to go on to infinity, because we will reach some accident that is not in potentiality with respect to another accident
7. When it’s said that no quality has a quality, what’s meant is that a quality is not through itself the subject of another quality. But this is not what’s meant in the claim under discussion [in this article], as I noted above [in the Reply].
Can the irascible and concupiscible appetites be subjects of virtue?
Reasons to think that they cannot:
1. Contraries naturally come to be in the same thing. But virtue’s contrary is mortal sin, and mortal sin cannot be in the sensory appetite, which is divided into the irascible and concupiscible appetites. Therefore, the irascible and concupiscible appetites cannot be subjects of virtue.
2. A habit and its act belong to the same power. However, as the Philosopher says in his Ethics, the principal act of virtue is choice. Since the irascible and concupiscible appetites cannot perform an act of choice, they cannot be subject of virtuous habits either.
3. Nothing corruptible is a subject of something everlasting. (With this principle, Augustine proves that the soul is everlasting, since the soul is a subject of truth, which is everlasting. But the irascible and concupiscible appetites, like the other sensory powers, do not persist once the body is gone (as some thinkers find apparent). On the other hand, the virtues do remain: For as Wisdom (I:15) says, justice is everlasting and immortal, and by parity of reasoning, we can say the same about all the virtues. Therefore, the irascible and concupiscible appetites cannot be subjects of virtues.
4. The irascible and concupiscible appetites are powers of bodily organs. So, if there are virtues in these powers, they will be in bodily organs too, so that the imagination will be able to grasp them. And in that case they will not be perceptible only by the mind, as Augustine says justice is: It is a rectitude perceptible only by the mind.
5. But someone objected: The irascible and concupiscible appetites can be subjects of virtue insofar as they participate in reason in some way.
An opposing argument: We say that the irascible and concupiscible appetites participate in reason insofar as reason directs them. But reason’s direction cannot sustain a virtue, since it is not itself something that subsists. Therefore, the irascible and concupiscible appetites cannot be subjects of virtue, not even insofar as they participate in reason.
6. Just as the irascible and concupiscible powers, which belong to the sensory appetite, obey reason, so do the sensory cognitive powers. But since there can’t be virtue in any sensory cognitive power, there can’t be any in the irascible and concupiscible powers either.
7. If the irascible and concupiscible appetites could participate in reason’s direction, we could curtail the rebellion against reason lodged by the sensory appetite, which contains the irascible and concupiscible appetites. Now, this rebellion is not infinite. After all, the sensory appetite is a finite power, and a finite power’s activity can’t be infinite. We could, then, entirely quash this rebellion. The reason is that every finite thing is completely exhausted when bits of it are removed repeatedly, as the Philosopher makes clear in Physics I. This is how we could fully cure the sensory appetite in this life—but it is impossible to cure it fully!
8. But someone objected: God, who infuses virtue, could eradicate this rebellion completely. It is because of us that it is not completely eradicated.
An opposing argument: Human beings are what they are insofar as they are rational. After all, it’s on this basis that they are classified in their species. So, the more something in us is subject to reason, the more suitable it is to human nature. But if the rebellion under discussion could be completely quashed, the lower powers would be maximally subject to reason—and this would be maximally suitable to human nature. So there is no impediment on our part to the complete quashing of that rebellion.
9. For one’s state to have the nature of a virtue, it is not enough to avoid sin. After all, as Psalms 33:15 says, the perfection of justice consists in this: “Forsake evil and do good.” But hating what is bad characterizes the irascible appetite, as On Spirit and Soul says, and so there cannot be virtue in the irascible appetite at any rate.
10. It says in the same book that the desire for virtues is in reason, while the hatred of vices is in the irascible appetite. But virtue and the desire for virtue are in the same subject, since each thing desires its own perfection. Therefore, every virtue is in reason and not in the irascible or concupiscible appetite.
11. There cannot be in any power a habit that is only acted on and does not act, because a habit is that by which one acts when one wants, as the Commentator says in [his long commentary ] on On the Soul Book III. But the irascible and the concupiscible appetites are acted upon and do not act, because sense does not have control over any of its acts, as Ethics III says. Therefore, there cannot be virtuous habits in the irascible or concupiscible appetites.
12. A passion’s own, characteristic subject is commensurate with that subject’s own, characteristic passion. But virtue is commensurate with reason, not with the irascible and concupiscible appetites, which we share with non-human animals. Therefore, virtue is in human beings alone, just as reason is. So, every virtue is in reason, with none in the concupiscible and irascible appetites.
13. The Gloss says about Romans 7 “The Law is good which, while it prohibits concupiscence, prohibits every evil.” Therefore, all vices belong to the concupiscible appetite, whose act is concupiscence. Since virtues and vices belong to the same subject, virtues belong not to the irascible, but to the concupiscible appetite at any rate.
1. The Philosopher says that temperance and courage belong to the soul’s irrational parts. But these parts—the sensory appetite—are the irascible and concupiscible appetites, as he maintains in On the Soul III. There can, then, be virtues in the irascible and concupiscible appetites.
2. A venial sin is a disposition to a mortal sin. Moreover, a perfection is in the same subject as the disposition toward it. So, since venial sins are in the irascible and concupiscible appetites (for the first [prius:primus] stirrings of sin—[which is merely venial sin]—is an act of the sensory appetite, as the Gloss on Romans 8 makes clear), mortal sin can be found there as well—and therefore so can virtue, which is the contrary of mortal sin.
3. The mean and the extremes belong to the same subject. But some virtues are a mean between contrary passions: For instance courage is a mean between fear and boldness, and temperance between an excess and a deficiency in desires for pleasures. So, since these sorts of passions are in the irascible and concupiscible appetites, it’s clear that virtue can be in them too.
Everyone agrees on one part of the answer to this question, while their views on another part are incompatible with each other. Everyone concedes that some virtues are in the irascible and concupiscible appetites (for instance, temperance in the concupiscible and courage in the irascible). But then differences arise about this claim.
Some thinkers find that there are two distinct sets of irascible and concupiscible appetites: one in the higher part of the soul, and the other in the lower part. For they say that the irascible and concupiscible appetites in the soul’s higher part can be subjects of virtue because these powers belong to the rational nature, while that’s not true of the irascible and concupiscible powers in the soul’s lower part, since they belong to the sensory and animal nature. However, I have already discussed this in a different investigation (namely, whether we can find in the higher part of the soul two distinct powers, one of which is an irascible appetite and the other a concupiscible, strictly speaking).
At any rate, whatever anyone might say about this issue, we must maintain that there are virtues in the irascible and concupiscible appetites that are in the soul’s lower part, as the Philosopher says in Ethics III, and others say as well. The following will make this evident.
Since “virtue” refers to what completes a power, as I have said above, and since a power is disposed to an act, we must locate human virtue in those powers that can be sources of a human act. But not just any act in a human being or exercised by a human being is called a human act, since plants, non-human animals, and human beings are all alike in performing certain sorts of acts. Rather, human acts are those acts specially characteristic of human beings. Now, human beings have control over their acts, and this control, among other things, is a special characteristic of theirs that applies to their acts. Therefore, any acts over which human beings have control are human acts, strictly speaking, while those over which they lack control are not, even if they occur in human beings (for instance, digesting, growing, etc.). So there can be human virtue in something that is the source of this sort of act—an act over which one has control.
However, we need to be aware of this: It is the case that acts of this sort come from a threefold source: (1) The primary mover and commander, through which human beings have control over their acts. This is reason or will. (2) A moved mover—the sensory appetite—which is also moved by the higher appetite insofar as it obeys it, and then in turn moves one’s external members by its command. (3) What is moved only: one’s external members.
Although both the external members and the lower appetite are moved by the higher part of the soul, they are moved in different ways. An external member obeys the higher part’s command, and does so blindly and without any resistance, in keeping with the order of nature, as long as there is no impediment. The hand and the foot provide clear examples. On the other hand, the lower appetite has its own inclination arising from its own nature, and this explains why it does not obey the higher appetite blindly, but sometimes resists. Accordingly, Aristotle says in Politics I that the soul governs the body by a despotic reign, as a master governs a slave who does not have the resources to resist the master’s command in any way. On the other hand, reason governs the lower parts of the soul by a royal and political reign, the way kings and leaders of cities govern free persons, who have the right and the resources to oppose, in some respects, the commands of the king or leader.
Therefore, to perform a perfect human act, we need nothing in our external members beyond their natural disposition, by which they are naturally suited to be moved by reason. However, we do need something in our lower appetite, which can oppose reason, if it is to perform the activity reason commands without opposition. For if the immediate source of the activity is imperfect, the activity must be imperfect, however perfect its higher source may be. So, if the lower appetite were not perfectly disposed to following reason’s command, the activity, whose proximate source is the lower appetite, would not be perfectly good, since some opposition from the sensory appetite would accompany it. Because of this, the lower appetite would feel a certain sadness, since the higher appetite would have moved it violently. This is what happens in people with strong desires they do not follow because reason forbids it. Therefore, when someone’s activity must concern matters that are the objects of the sensory appetite, in order for the activity to be good, there needs to be a disposition, or perfection, in the sensory appetite to enable it to submit to reason easily. We call this sort of disposition a virtue.
Therefore, when a virtue concerns those things that belong to the irascible power, strictly speaking, then this sort of virtue is also said to be in the irascible power as its subject. This is the case with courage, which is concerned with fear and daring, magnanimity, which is concerned with hope for things difficult to attain, and gentleness, which is concerned with anger. Furthermore, when a virtue concerns those things that belong to the concupiscible power, strictly speaking, then it is said to be in the concupiscible power as its subject. This is the case with chastity, which concerns sexual pleasures, and sobriety and abstinence, which concern the pleasures of food and drink.
Responses to the initial arguments:
1. We can conceive of virtues and mortal sins in two ways: as acts or habits. If we take the irascible and concupiscible appetites’ actions by themselves, they are not mortal sins. However, they can cooperate in an act of mortal sin, when they aim at what is contrary to the divine law, and reason causes these appetites’ actions or [just] consents to them. Likewise, the acts of these appetites cannot be acts of virtue when they are considered by themselves, but only when they cooperate [with reason] in order to carry out its command. So, the acts of mortal sin and of virtue do belong, in a way, to the irascible and concupiscible appetites. That’s why the habits of both [mortal sin and virtue] can also be in these appetites.
At any rate, this is in fact the case: Just as an act of virtue consists in the irascible and concupiscible appetites’ following reason, an act of sin consists in reason’s being drawn to follow the irascible and concupiscible appetites’ inclination. That’s why sin tends to be attributed more often to reason as its proximate cause; and the same line of argument explains why the virtues of the irascible and concupiscible appetites tend to be attributed more often to reason as their proximate cause.
2. As I have already noted [in the response to 1], an act of virtue cannot be an act of the irascible or concupiscible appetite alone, without [any contribution from] reason. In fact, an act of virtue consists more fundamentally in something that reason contributes, namely, choice. That’s because as with any activity, the agent’s action is more fundamental than the patient’s passion, and reason commands the irascible and concupiscible appetites [to elicit their passions]. Accordingly, we say that virtue is in the irascible or concupiscible appetites not because they accomplish the whole act of virtue, or even its more fundamental part, but because the ultimate completion of goodness is conferred on an act of virtue through a virtuous habit: The irascible and concupiscible appetites follow reason’s direction without difficulty.
3. Even if we suppose that the irascible and the concupiscible appetites do not remain in the separated soul as actual powers, they do remain there the way things exist in their roots. That’s because the soul’s essence is the root of its powers. Likewise, the virtues attributed to the irascible and concupiscible appetites remain in reason as in their root, since reason is the root of all virtues, as I will show later.
4. We find a gradation among forms. There are some forms and powers completely immersed in matter, and every activity of theirs is material. The elements’ forms are a clear example. On the other hand, the intellect is completely free from matter, and so its activity takes place without the body’s participation. But the irascible and concupiscible appetites lie midway between [these other two]. They do use a bodily organ; the bodily change accompanying their acts shows this. On the other hand, they are in a way elevated above matter. What shows this is that [reason’s] command moves them, and they obey reason. And that’s how virtue can be in these powers, namely, insofar as they are elevated above matter and obey reason.
5. It’s true that reason’s direction, which the irascible and concupiscible appetites participate in, is not something subsistent, and cannot through itself be a subject [of accidents]. Nevertheless, it can be the reason why a thing is a subject [of accidents].
6. The sensory cognitive powers are naturally prior to reason, since reason receives [data] from them. In contrast, the [sensory] appetites naturally follow reason’s direction, since a lower appetite naturally obeys a higher one. The two cases, then, are not parallel.
7. Virtue cannot entirely quash the irascible and concupiscible appetites’ rebellion against reason. After all, inclined by their very natures to what sense determines to be good, these appetites are sometimes at odds with reason. On the other hand, divine power can entirely quash this rebellion—it is powerful enough even to change the natures of things. Still, virtue can curtail this rebellion, insofar as the appetites under discussion grow accustomed to being subject to reason. When this happens, they have the character of virtue from an external source: from reason’s control over them. From themselves, however, they retain something of their own characteristic movements, which are sometimes contrary to reason.
8. Sometimes, the source of activity in human beings is something belonging to reason. Nevertheless, for the completeness of human nature, not just reason, but also the lower powers, and even the body itself, are needed. Therefore, if human nature is left on its own, the result is that something in the lower powers will rebel against reason, as long as the soul’s lower powers have movements of their own. However, things are different in the state of innocence and in the state of glory, when reason receives from its union with God the strength to hold the lower powers completely under its sway.
9. “Hating what is bad,” understood as [characterizing] the irascible appetite, implies not only turning away from what is bad, but also a movement of the irascible appetite to destroying what is bad (as when someone not only avoids what is bad, but is also moved to extirpating bad things through punishment). But [destroying something bad] is doing something good. In any case, although this way of hating what is bad is characteristic of the irascible and concupiscible appetites, hating is not their only act: For to be roused to the pursuit of a good that’s difficult [to attain] is also characteristic of the irascible appetite, whose passions include not only anger and daring, but also hope.
10. We should take this claim in an extended sense, not literally. After all, each power of the soul has a desire for its own good; and so the irascible appetite does too: It desires victory, just as the concupiscible appetite desires pleasure. However, because the concupiscible appetite is attracted to what is good for the whole animal simply, that is, absolutely speaking, every desire for the good is attributed to it.
11. It’s true that, considered as they are in themselves, the irascible and concupiscible appetites do not act but are only acted upon. However, in human beings, these powers participate in reason to some extent; and insofar as they do, they also act in a way, and are not in every respect acted on. That’s why the Philosopher also says, in the Politics, that reason’s reign over these powers is political, since powers such as these are to some extent capable of their own movement, in which case they are not entirely subjugated to reason. On the other hand, the soul’s reign over the body is not royal but despotic, because in their movements, the bodily members are blindly obedient to the soul.
12. It’s true that non-human animals have the irascible and concupiscible appetites, but in them, these powers have no participation in reason; and that’s why they cannot have any moral virtues.
13. All evils can be traced to concupiscence as their first root, but not as their proximate source. That’s because all passions arise from the irascible and concupiscible appetites (as I showed when I was discussing the soul’s passions), and the perverting of reason and will most often occurs because of the passions.
Alternatively, we can say that the Gloss means by “concupiscence” not just that which is uniquely characteristic of the concupiscible appetite, but that which is common to the whole appetitive power, in every unit of which we find concupiscence for something. In regard to this concupiscence there can be sin, and one cannot sin except by seeking or having concupiscence for something.
Is the will a subject of virtue?
Reasons to think that it is
1. Commanders need a greater perfection if they are to command rightly than those who carry out their commands, if they are to execute them rightly. That’s because the one who carries out commands is given direction by the commander. But, in a virtuous act, the will has the role of commander, while the irascible and concupiscible appetites have the role of obeying and carrying out the act. Therefore, since virtue is in the irascible and concupiscible appetites as its subjects, it appears there is a far more compelling reason to think there should be virtue in the will.
2. But someone might object: The will’s natural inclination to the good is enough for its rectitude. After all, we naturally desire the end, and so the will does not need the further addition of a virtuous habit to make it upright.
An opposing argument: The will desires not just the ultimate end, but other ends as well, and it is in regard to its desire for these other ends that the will can be disposed either rightly or not. After all, good people set good ends for themselves, while bad people set bad ones, as Ethics III says: “The way the end appears to one depends on the sort of person one is.” Therefore, for the will to be upright, it must have in it a virtuous habit perfecting it.
3. Even in the cognitive part of the soul there is a sort of natural apprehension: an apprehension of first principles. Nevertheless, we also have an intellectual virtue concerning this apprehension: the virtue of understanding, which is a habit regarding principles. Therefore, there should also be in the will a virtue regarding that which the will naturally inclines to.
4. Just as some moral virtues, like temperance and courage, concern passions, there are others, like justice, that concern actions. [Of the soul’s three appetitive powers,] it’s the will that acts without passion, while the irascible and concupiscible appetites act from passion. Therefore, just as one sort of virtue is in the irascible and concupiscible appetites, another sort is in the will.
5. In Ethics IV, the Philosopher says love or friendship is a result of passion. However, friendship is a result of choice. Moreover [the sort of] love [one has for a friend] (dilectio), a love that is without passion, is an act of the will. Therefore, since friendship either is a virtue, or does not exist without virtue, as Ethics VIII says, it appears the will is a subject of virtue. [Footnote needed on dilectio.]
6. As the Apostle shows in I Corinthians 13, charity is the most important of the virtues. But only the will is capable of being the subject of charity. The lower, concupiscible appetite, whose range of objects includes only sensible goods, can’t be its subject. Therefore, the will is a subject of virtue.
7. According to Augustine, we are united to God very directly by our will. Since it’s virtue that unites us to God, it appears that virtue is in the will as its subject.
8. According to Hugh of St. Victor, happiness is in the will. But virtues are dispositions to happiness. Therefore, since a disposition and the perfection it inclines to belong to the same subject, it appears that virtue is in the will as its subject.
9. According to Augustine the will is that by which one sins or lives rightly. But uprightness of life is due to virtue, which is why Augustine says that virtue is a good quality of the mind by which one lives rightly. Therefore, there can be virtue in the will.
10. Contraries are such that they naturally come to be in the same subject. But sin is the contrary of virtue, and since every sin is in the will, as Augustine says, it appears that virtue is too.
11. Human virtue must be in that part of the soul that is characteristic of humans. But just as reason is characteristic of humans, so is the will, since it is much closer to reason than the irascible and concupiscible appetites are. Therefore, since the irascible and concupiscible appetites are subjects of virtues, there appear to be much stronger [reasons to think] the will is a subject of virtue.
1. Every virtue is either intellectual or moral as the Philosopher makes clear at the end of Ethics I. Moral virtue is in, as its subject, [the part of the soul] that is not essentially rational but rational by participation. On the other hand, the subject of intellectual virtue is [the part of the soul] that is essentially rational. We cannot classify the will in either part. It is, to begin with, not a cognitive power that belongs to the part of the soul that’s essentially rational. But neither does it belong to the soul’s irrational part, which belongs to the rational part by participation. It appears, therefore, that the will can in no way be a subject of virtue.
2. There should not be several virtues directed to the same act. However, that would be the consequence if the will were a subject of virtue. [The preceding article] has shown that there are virtues in the irascible and concupiscible appetites; and since the will is involved in some way with the acts of these virtues, there would have to be some virtues in the will directed to these acts. We should not contend, then, that the will is a subject of virtue.
Through a virtuous habit, the power that is its subject acquires a perfection for performing its act. That’s why a power does not need a virtuous habit [to do] something it extends to by its very nature.
Virtue directs the soul’s powers to the good: Virtue is what makes its possessors good and makes their activity good too. However, what virtue does for the soul’s other powers, the will [already] has by its very nature as the power of will, since its object is the good. Accordingly, the will inclines to the good in the way that the concupiscible appetite inclines to the pleasurable and the sense of hearing is directed to sound. Thus the will does not need a virtuous habit to incline it to the good correlative to it, since it inclines to this good by its very nature as the power [of will]. However, it does need a virtuous habit for those goods that exceeds the good this power, [the power of will], is correlated with.
Now, each thing’s appetite tends to that thing’s own, characteristic good. So, when the will tends to a good that exceeds the good correlated with it, this can happen in two ways: (1) in respect of the human species, and (2) in respect of the individual human being.
In the first case, the will must be raised to a good that surpasses the boundaries of the human good. (By “human” I mean that which a human being is capable of through natural powers.) But the good surpassing the human good is the divine good. Charity, and likewise hope, raise the human will to this.
In the second case, someone seeks [to achieve] what is good for another, but the will does not tend beyond the boundaries of the human good. It’s in this way that justice perfects the will, along with all the virtues tending to another, such as generosity and other virtues like it. After all, justice is another’s good, as the Philosopher says in Ethics V.
Accordingly, two virtues are in the will as their subject: charity and justice. An indication of this is that these two virtues do not concern the passions, as temperance and courage do, even though they belong to the soul’s appetitive part. It’s clear, then, that they are not in the sensory appetite, where the passions are, but in the rational appetite—the will— in which there are no passions, since every passion is in the sensory part of the soul, as Physics VII proves. For the same reason, the virtues that do concern the passions (as courage concerns fear and daring, and temperance concerns desires) must be in the sensory appetite. Moreover, if there is a need for any virtue in the will, it is not on account of these passions. That’s because, in the case of these passions, the good is what is in keeping with reason, and the will is naturally inclined to this by its very nature as the power of will, since this is the will’s own characteristic object.
Responses to the initial arguments:
1. In order to issue a command, the will needs only reason’s judgment. That’s because the will naturally desires what reason finds good, just as the concupiscible appetite naturally desires what the senses find pleasurable.
2. The will has a natural inclination not just to the ultimate end, but also to the good that reason shows it. That’s because the will’s object is what one understands to be good. The will is naturally directed to this object, as any power is directed to its object, since this is its own, characteristic good, as I have said. Even so, one does commit sins with regard to this object insofar as passion interferes with reason’s judgment.
3. Apprehension occurs through a species, and our power of intellect cannot, on its own, apprehend anything unless it receives species from sensible things. Therefore, even for things we apprehend naturally, we need a habit, and this habit also has its origin in a way from the senses, as the final chapter of the Posterior Analytics says. But the will does not need any species in order to will, and so the two cases are not alike.
4. The virtues that concern the passions are in the lower appetite, and the higher appetite needs no further virtue in connection with them, for the reason already given.
5-7. Strictly speaking, friendship is not a virtue, but a consequence of virtue. After all, it follows from the very fact that one is virtuous that one loves those who are like oneself. The same is not true of charity, which it is a kind of friendship with God that raises human beings beyond the limits of their nature. That’s why the will is the subject of charity, as I have said.
This response makes it easy to see how to answer the objections raised in the sixth and seventh initial arguments, since the virtue that unites the will to God is charity.
8. Certain things required for happiness are dispositions to it. For example, the acts of the moral virtues are required to remove impediments to happiness, in particular, the restlessness of mind that comes from passions and external disturbances.
However, there is an activity that, when it is complete, constitutes the very essence of happiness: the activity of reason or of intellect. After all, contemplative happiness just is the perfect contemplation of the highest truth, while active happiness is an act of prudence, by which one governs oneself and others.
Moreover, there is something further that is related to happiness as perfecting it, and that is delight, which perfects happiness as a glow perfects youth (as Aristotle says in Ethics X). This delight is an act of the will. If we are speaking about the heavenly happiness promised to the saints, then it is charity that perfects the will, directing it to this delight. However, if we are speaking about the contemplative happiness that the philosophers discussed, then the will’s natural desire directs it to this sort of delight. It’s clear, then, that not all virtues need to be in the will.
9. [It’s true that] one lives rightly and sins by the will because the will commands all acts of virtue and vice, but not because the will elicits all these acts. That’s why the will doesn’t need to be the immediate subject of every virtue.
10. Every sin is in the will in the way a thing is in its cause, since every sin occurs through the will’s consent. However, not every sin has to be in the will in the sense that the will is its subject. Instead, just as gluttony and lust are in the concupiscible appetite, pride is in the irascible.
11. Because of its close relationship with reason, it is the case that the will, by its very nature, is in accord with reason, and so to achieve this accord, it does not need the further addition of a virtuous habit, the way the lower irascible and concupiscible powers do.
Responses to the Opposing Considerations:
1. Charity and hope, which are in the will, are not included in the division the Philosopher makes. For they belong to a further genus of virtue: They are called “theological virtues.” On the other hand, justice, [which is also in the will], is included among the moral virtues. That’s because the will, like the other appetites, does participate in reason insofar as reason directs it. After all, even though the will has the intellective part’s nature—the same nature reason has—it still does not reach the point that it is the power of reason itself.
2. For reasons already given, there is no need for virtue in the will concerned with the things for which one has virtue in the irascible and concupiscible appetites.
Is there virtue in the practical intellect as its subject?
Reasons to think there is not:
1. According to the Philosopher in Ethics II, knowledge is of little or no value for virtue. He is referring there to practical knowledge. This is clear from what he adds—namely, that the many don’t do what they know [they should]—since knowledge directed to activity belongs to the practical intellect. Therefore, the practical intellect won’t be able to serve as a subject of virtue.
2. People cannot act rightly without virtue, but they can act rightly without the perfection of their practical intellects since someone else can inform them about what they should do. Therefore, the perfection of the practical intellect is not a virtue.
3. The more one diverges from virtue, the more one sins. However, diverging from the perfection of the practical intellect makes a sin less serious, since ignorance excuses [an agent], partly or even wholly. Therefore, the perfection of the practical intellect can’t be a virtue.
4. According to
5. The good and the true are formally differentiated from each other in keeping with the [different] character each has. But habits are diversified when their objects are formally different. Therefore, since virtue’s object is the good, while the practical intellect’s perfection is the true (albeit directed to activity), it appears that the practical intellect’s perfection is not a virtue.
6. According to the Philosopher in Ethics II, virtue is a voluntary habit. However, the practical intellect’s habits are different from those in the will or appetitive part, and so they are not virtues. The practical intellect, then, cannot be a subject of virtue.
1. Prudence is classified as one of the four principal virtues, even though its subject is the practical intellect. Therefore, the practical intellect can be a subject of virtue.
2. A virtue is human if its subject is a human power. But the practical intellect is a power more properly human than the irascible and concupiscible appetites, since what is essentially F is more properly F than what is F by participation. [footnote needed] Therefore, the practical intellect can be a subject of human virtue.
3. Whenever one thing is for the sake of another, what applies to it also applies—and more so—to what it is for the sake of. Virtue in the affective part of the soul is for the sake of reason. After all, we invest the affective part with virtue so that it will obey reason. Therefore, we have even stronger reasons to think there should be virtue in the practical reason.
We draw this distinction between natural and rational powers: A natural power is determined to one object, while a rational power is indifferently disposed to many. Moreover, when an animal or rational appetite inclines to its corresponding object, this must be in virtue of some prior grasp [of the object], for inclining to an end without any prior apprehension is characteristic of natural appetite (for instance, heavy objects incline to the earth’s center). However, because the animal and rational appetite’s object must be an apprehended good, the appetite can have a natural inclination [toward it] and the cognitive power can have a natural judgment [concerning it] when the good [for members of a species] is uniform.
This is what happens in non-human animals. Since they have a weak active principle that extends to just a few things, they are capable of few activities; and that is why there is a uniform good for all members of the same species. Accordingly, they have an inclination to it through natural appetite, and through their cognitive power they have a natural judgment about this, their own good, which is uniform [among members of their species]. It is thanks to such natural judgments and appetites that all swallows build their nests in a uniform way, and all spiders weave their webs in a uniform way (and we can make this sort of observation about any other kind of non-human animal).
Human beings, in contrast, are capable of multiple and diverse activities, because of the excellence of their active principle, the soul. The human soul’s power in a way extends to an infinite number of things. Therefore, a natural appetite for the good, or a natural judgment [about it] would not be enough to ensure our acting rightly unless it were more fully determined and perfected.
True, a human being does incline by a natural appetite to his or her own good. Still, since the good for human beings takes a wide variety of forms and consists in many things, one couldn’t have a natural appetite for one’s own good when that good is determinate in the light of all the conditions required to make it one’s own good, since this [good] varies widely depending on the different circumstances of persons, times, places etc.
And, for the same reason, one could not have a natural judgment about one’s own good. This type of judgment is uniform and insufficient for pursuing a good of this sort. That’s why each human being has had to use reason, whose function it is to draw connections among diverse things, to judge what his or her own good is, to discover that good, which, insofar as it is to be pursued here and now, is made determinate in the light of all circumstances. Without a habit to perfect it, reason can do this about as well as it can form judgments about a conclusion of some contemplative science when it does not have the relevant habit of knowledge—and it can do this only imperfectly and with difficulty. Therefore, just as a habit of science must perfect contemplative reason if it is to judge rightly about what is knowable in that science, a habit must also perfect practical reason if it is to judge rightly about the human good in each case when one is to act. We call this virtue “prudence,” and its subject is practical reason.
Prudence also perfects all the moral virtues in the appetitive part. Every one of these virtues produces an inclination in the appetite to some kind of human good. For instance, justice produces an inclination to the good of equality in things relevant to common life, temperance to the good of restraint in one’s sensual desires, and so on for each virtue. However, each of these goods can be brought about in various ways—and not in the same way in all cases. Therefore, to establish the right mode, human beings need prudence of judgment. Thus rightness and the fullness of goodness in all the other virtues come from prudence, which is why the Philosopher says that the mean in moral virtue is determined in accordance with right reason. Because all appetitive habits obtain the character of virtue from this rightness and fullness of goodness, prudence is a cause of all the virtues of the appetitive part, which are called moral insofar as they are virtues. It’s for this reason that Gregory says in Morals on the Book of Job XXII that the other virtues can be virtues only if they do prudently what they strive after.
Responses to the initial arguments:
1. In this passage, the Philosopher is referring to practical knowledge. Still, there is more to prudence than practical knowledge. For practical knowledge includes universal judgments about what one should do (for instance, fornication is bad, one should not steal, etc...). Still, even though someone has this knowledge, it is possible for reason’s judgment to face interference in connection with a particular act, with the result that reason does not judge rightly. That’s why practical knowledge is said to be of little value for virtue: Because even when people have it, they can sin against virtue.
In contrast, prudence’s role is to judge rightly about particular acts insofar as one should perform them now. Any sin corrupts this judgment. Therefore, as long as one has prudence, one does not sin. That’s why prudence contributes not a little, but a great deal to virtue. In fact, it is a cause of virtue itself, as I have noted [in the Reply].
2. One person can take general advice from another about what to do. However, only the rectitude that prudence affords enables one to sustain one’s judgment rightly throughout the act itself, against [the influence of ] all passions. Without this, there can be no virtue.
3. The kind of ignorance that is opposed to prudence is “ignorance of choice.” It’s in this sense that every evil person is ignorant. Ignorance of choice is caused when the appetite’s inclination interferes with reason’s judgment. This does not excuse sin—it is a sin. On the other hand, the kind of ignorance that is opposed to practical knowledge does excuse one from sin or lessen the sin’s seriousness.
4. We should take
5. What’s good and what’s true are the objects of two parts of the soul: the intellective and the appetitive. These two parts are such that each acts with regard to the other’s act. For instance, the will wills the intellect to understand, and the intellect understands that the will wills.
Therefore, these two, the good and the true, mutually include each another. That’s because what’s good is a certain truth, insofar as the intellect grasps it—that is, insofar as the intellect understands that the will wills a good, or even insofar as it understands that something is good. Likewise, what’s true is itself also a certain good: a good of the intellect that also falls under the will [as an object], insofar as someone wants to understand what’s true. In any case, the truth of the practical intellect is a good that is also a goal of action, for a good moves the appetite only on the condition that one apprehends it. Therefore, there’s no reason why there can’t be virtue in the practical intellect.
6. In Book II of the Ethics, the Philosopher is defining [only] moral virtue (since he offers his account of intellectual virtue in Book VI of the Ethics); and the virtue in the practical intellect is intellectual, not moral, for the Philosopher classifies even prudence as an intellectual virtue, as Ethics II makes clear.
Is there virtue in the contemplative intellect?
Reasons to think there is not
1. Every virtue is directed to acting, since virtue is what renders one's activities good. However, the contemplative intellect is not directed to acting, for it doesn't say anything about what to emulate and what to shun, as On the Soul III makes clear. Therefore, there cannot be virtue in the contemplative intellect.
2. As Ethics II states, virtue is what makes its possessor good. But the habits of the contemplative intellect do not do this. After all, people are not called good just because they have knowledge. The habits of the contemplative intellect, then, are not virtues.
3. The habit of knowledge that perfects the contemplative intellect in a pre-eminent way. However, knowledge is not a virtue, which is clear from the fact that we divide knowledge in opposition to the virtues [in our classificatory scheme]. For we note that the first species of quality is divided into disposition and habit, and habit is [in turn] predicated of [footnote here: "= divided into"] knowledge and virtue. Therefore there is no virtue in the contemplative intellect.
4. Every virtue is directed to happiness, which is virtue's end; so every virtue is directed to something. But the contemplative intellect isn't directed to anything. After all, we pursue the contemplative sciences for their own sake and not for their usefulness, as Metaphysics I states. So, there cannot be virtue in the contemplative intellect.
5. An act of virtue is meritorious, but an act of understanding is not sufficient for merit. Rather, "They sin who know what is good yet do not do it" (James ). Therefore, there is no virtue in the contemplative intellect.
1. Faith is in the contemplative intellect, since its object is the primary truth. But faith is a virtue, and so the contemplative intellect can be the subject of a virtue.
2. The true and the good are equally noble. The reason is that they encompass each other, since what's true is a certain good, and what's good is a certain truth; and each of these--truth and goodness--is common to every being. Consequently, if there can be virtue in the will, whose object is what's good, there can also be virtue in the contemplative intellect, whose object is what's true.
Virtue is ascribed to any thing on account of a relation of the thing to the good because, as the Philosopher says, a thing's virtue is what makes its possessor good, and makes its characteristic activity good too. For instance, a horse's virtue is what makes it good and makes it walk and bear a rider well--which is a horse's characteristic activity. We see from this that some habit will have the character of virtue because it is directed to a good.
But this can be the case in two ways:
1. Formally, when a habit is directed to a good under its character as good.
2. Materially, when it is directed to something that is good, but not under its character as good.
Only the appetitive part [of the soul] has as its object a good under its character as good; for good is what all things seek. Therefore, those habits in the appetitive part or dependent on it are directed formally to something good. That's why they have the character of virtue most fully. In contrast, the habits neither in nor dependent upon the appetitive part can be directed materially to something good, but they cannot be directed formally to a good--to a good under its character as good. That's why they can be called virtues in a way, but not as strictly speaking as habits of the first sort.
Next, we must note that the intellect, whether contemplative or practical can be perfected by a habit in two ways:
1. Absolutely and it itself, insofar as it precedes--that is, moves--the will.
2. Insofar as it follows the will--that is, elicits its own act at [the will's] command.
[It can be perfected in these two ways] because, as has been said, these two powers, namely, intellect and will--encompass each other.
Therefore, those habits which are in [adding in] the contemplative or practical intellect in the first way can be called virtues in a way, but not in the full sense. It's in this first way that understanding, knowledge, and wisdom are in the contemplative intellect, while craft is in the practical intellect. The reason [habits such as these are not virtues in the full sense] is that people are said to have understanding or knowledge insofar as their intellects have been perfected for knowing the truth, which is the intellect's good. And while the truth can be willed (since a person can will to understand the truth), it is not because of any such willing that the habits under discussion reach their perfection. That's because having knowledge does not make one willing to consider the truth; it just makes one able to do so. Therefore, even the consideration of truth counts as knowledge not because it is willed, but because it extends directly to its object. It is likewise with craft in the practical intellect. So, craft does not perfect artisans by making them appropriately willing to exercise their skill, but only by making them knowing and able to do so.
On the other hand, a habit that is in the contemplative or practical intellect due to the intellect's following the will more truly has the character of virtue because it gives a person not just the knowledge and the ability to act rightly, but also the volition. Faith and prudence exemplify this, but in different ways.
Faith perfects the contemplative intellect because the will issues it commands. This is obvious from the act of faith: People assent through intellect to what surpasses human reason only because they will to. As Augustine says, only someone who wills to believe can do so. Faith is in the contemplative intellect because it is subject to the will's command, just as temperance is in the concupiscible appetite because it is subject to reason's command. What can we gather from this? In the case of believing, the will issues the intellect commands not just about the execution of its act, but also about the determination of the object [of belief]. That's because the intellect, as a result of the will's command, assents to a determinate object of belief, just as through temperance the concupiscible appetite aims at the determinate mean it gets from reason.
In contrast, prudence is in the practical intellect or reason, as I have said, but not in such a way that the will determines its object, but only its end. Prudence figures out its own object: Presupposing as its end the good intended by the will, prudence figures out the ways to realize and preserve this good.
From what I have said, it is clear that the habits in the intellect are related to the will in different ways. Some do not depend on the will at all, except as concerns their use, and even this accidentally, since the use of this sort of habit (like knowledge, wisdom, and craft) does not depend on the will in the same way as the aformentioned habits [of faith and prudence]. These habits bring us to the perfection not of wanting appropriately to use them, but only of being able to use them. However, there is an intellectual habit that depends on the will as the source of its first principle, since in practical matters the end is a first principle. It's prudence that is related to the will in this way. There is yet another habit that takes even the determination of its object from the will. This is the case with faith.
Although all these habits can be called virtues in a way, the last two have the character of virtue more fully and more strictly speaking. However, they are not on that account finer or more perfect habits.
Responses to the initial arguments
1. A habit of the contemplative intellect is directed to its characteristic act--the consideration of truth--which it renders perfect. It is not directed to any external act as its end but has its end in its own characteristic act. In contrast, the practical intellect is directed to another, external act as its end. For the consideration of things to be done or made is relevant to the practical intellect only on account of doing or making.
So, a habit of the contemplative intellect renders its act good in a finer way than a habit of the practical intellect. That's because habits of the contemplative intellect make their acts good as ends, while habits of the practical intellect make their acts good as means. However, when a habit of the practical intellect is directed to good under its character as good (insofar as it is subject to the will), it has the character of virtue more strictly speaking.
2. A person is called good, absolutely speaking, not when one of his or her parts is good, but when he or she is good as a whole; and this is due to the will's goodness, since the will commands the acts of all the human powers (because any of a power's acts is that power's good). So, only a person with a good will is called good absolutely. In contrast, a person with goodness in some power, but without a good will underlying, is called good insofar as he or she has good sight or hearing, or hears or sees well.
Clearly, then, we don't call people good absolutely just because they are knowledgeable. In this case, we say that they are good intellectually or that they think well. It is the same with crafts and other habits like these.
3. Knowledge is divided in opposition to moral virtue, and nevertheless it is itself an intellectual virtue. We can also reply that it is divided in opposition to virtue most strictly speaking, since knowledge is not a virtue in this way, as I said above [in the Reply].
4. The contemplative intellect is not directed to anything outside itself, but it is directed to its characteristic act as its end. Now, ultimate happiness--the contemplative happiness [of the next life]--consists in an act of the contemplative intellect. Therefore, its acts are closer to ultimate happiness than the acts [habitus> actus] of the practical intellect in the sense that they resemble it more. Even so, the acts [habitus> actus] of the practical intellect are presumably closer in the sense that they prepare us or enable us to merit [ultimate happiness].
5. A person can merit by an act of knowledge or a similar habit as long as the will commands the act. Without the will, there is no merit. Nevertheless, knowledge does not perfect the intellect for this [end], as I have said [in the Reply]. That's because having knowledge does not make us appropriately willing to reflect; it only makes us quite able to reflect. That's why a bad will is not opposed to knowledge or craft, as it is to prudence, or faith, or temperance. Accordingly, the Philosopher says that those who sin voluntarily in performing acts are less prudent, but it is the reverse in the case of knowledge and craft. After all, it's the grammarian who makes a grammatical error involuntarily who is clearly the less knowledgeable grammarian.
Are virtues in us naturally?
Reasons to think that they are
1. Damascene says in The Orthodox Faith III: "The virtues are natural, and they are naturally and equally in us [all]."
2. The Gloss on Matthew says: "He teaches the natural virtues]--chastity, justice, humility--the sort that human beings have naturally."
3. Romans says that people without the Law do naturally what the Law prescribes. But the Law enjoins acts of virtue. Therefore, people naturally perform acts of virtue, and so it appears that virtue is from nature.
4. Anthony says in a sermon to the monks: "If the will has changed its nature, there is depravity. If its condition is preserved, and there is virtue." Furthermore, in the same sermon he says that people need only their natural endowments. But this wouldn't be true if the virtues weren't natural. Therefore they are natural.
6. To perform a work of virtue, all that is required is the capacity to do good, the will to do good, and knowledge of good. But the idea of good is in us by nature, as Augustine says in On Free Choice of the Will II. Furthermore, the will to do good is naturally in us, as Augustine says in his Literal Commentary on Genesis. Finally, the capacity to do good is naturally in people because the will has control over its own activity. Therefore, nature is sufficient for [performing] a work of virtue. So, virtue is natural to human beings, [at least] in its starting points.
7. But someone might object: Virtue is natural to human beings in its starting points, but its perfection does not come from nature.
But Damascene offers this consideration to the contrary in [The Orthodox Faith] Book III: "If we remain in what is according to nature, we are in a state of virtue; but if we turn from what is according to nature, from virtue, we come to what is outside nature, and we are in a state of wickedness." It is clear from this [passage] that our turning away from wickedness is in us by nature. Since this [turning away] is a feature of perfect virtue, even the perfection of virtue is naturally in us.
8. [A second consideration to the contrary:] Since virtue is a form, it is simple and lacks parts. Accordingly, if it is from nature in one of its respects, it is obviously from nature in every respect.
9. Human beings are nobler and more perfect than other, irrational, creatures. But nature provides sufficiently what these other creatures need for their perfection. Since the virtues are among a human being's perfections, it appears, then, that nature instills [……??]
10. But someone might object: This cannot be right, because a human being's perfection consists in many and diverse things, while nature is directed to one thing.
An argument to the contrary:
The inclination of a virtue is also to one thing, just as the inclination of a
nature is. For, as
11. Virtue consists in a mean. Now, a mean is a single determinate thing. Therefore, nothing bars our having a natural inclination to what is virtuous.
12. Sin is the privation of mode, species, and order. But sin is the privation of virtue. Therefore, virtue consists in mode, species, and order. Yet these are things natural to a human being. Therefore virtue is natural to a human being.
13. In the soul, the appetitive part parallels the cognitive part. But in the cognitive part there is a natural habit: the understanding of first principles. Therefore the appetitive and affective part, which is the subject of virtue, also has a natural habit; and so it appears that some virtue is natural.
14. That is natural whose source is internal. For instance, it is natural to fire to rise, because the source of this movement is in the thing that moves. But the source of virtue is in human beings. Therefore virtue is natural to human beings.
15. If the seed something comes from is natural, then it too is natural. But the seed virtue comes from is natural. After all, as a certain gloss on Hebrews 1 says, God willed to seed every soul with the beginnings of wisdom and understanding. Therefore it appears that the virtues are natural.
16. Contraries belong to the same genus. But wickedness is the contrary of virtue, and it is natural. For Wisdom says: "For his wickedness was natural"; and Ephesians 2:3 says: "We were naturally children of wrath." Therefore it appears that virtue is natural.
17. It is natural that lower powers should be subject to reason. After all, as the Philosopher says in On the Soul III, the higher appetite, which is reason's appetite, moves the lower, which belongs to the sensitive part, as the higher [heavenly] sphere moves the lower. Therefore virtues of this sort are natural.
18. For a change to be natural, all that is required is that the internal passive source [of the change] have a natural aptitude [for that change]. After all, the generation of simple bodies is called natural for this reason (since the active source of their generation is external). So is the motion of the heavenly bodies (since the active source of their motion is not nature, but intellect). But there is a natural aptitude for virtue in human beings. After all, as the Philosopher says in Ethics II, "We are naturally constituted to acquire the virtues, but we are perfected through habituation." Therefore it appears that virtue is natural.
19. What is in a person from birth is natural. But according to the Philosopher in Ethics VI, some people seem to be brave and temperate and disposed as the other virtues require right from birth. Moreover, Job 31:18 says: "From my infancy, compassion grew up with me and came out with me from my mother's womb." Therefore virtues are natural to human beings.
20. Nature does not fail in necessary matters. But human beings must have virtues to reach the end they are naturally directed to: happiness, which is an activity of complete virtue. Therefore human beings have virtues naturally.
Considerations to the contrary
1. Natural endowments are not lost through sin. That's why Dionysius says that the demons have retained their natural gifts. But the virtues are lost through sin, and so they are not natural.
2. We neither gain nor lose what is in us naturally and what we get from nature by growing accustomed or unaccustomed [to them]. However, in the area of virtue, we can gain and lose by growing accustomed or unaccustomed. Therefore, virtues are not natural.
3. What is in us naturally is in all people universally. However, virtues are not in all universally, since some people have vices contrary to virtues.
4. We neither merit nor demerit through natural things because they are not up to us [adding non]. But we merit through virtues, just as we demerit through vices. Therefore virtues and vices are not natural.
People's disagreement about the way we attain virtues and knowledge mirrors their disagreement about the production of natural forms.
There have been some who maintained that [natural] forms preexisted in matter actually, although in a hidden way, and that a natural agent brought them from latency into the open. This was the view of Anaxagoras, who maintained that all things were in all things. As a result, anything could be generated from anything.
In contrast, others have claimed that forms are totally from an external source (either from participation in Ideas, as Plato held, or from the Agent Intellect, as Avicenna held) and that natural agents merely dispose matter to the form. [footnote needed]
Third is Aristotle's middle way, which holds that forms preexist in the potentiality of matter, but an external natural agent brings them into actuality.
Some thinkers have spoken likewise about virtues and knowledge too, saying that they are in us by nature, and that study merely takes away the obstacles to them. Plato seems to have held this. He maintained that knowledge and the virtues are caused in us through participation in separated Forms, but that union with the body hinders the soul from using them. We must remove this obstacle through study in the fields of knowledge and exercise of the virtues.
However, others have said that knowledge and the virtues are in us from the outpouring of the Agent Intellect. [The function of] study and exercise of the virtues [is to] dispose us to receive its influence.
The third view lies between these: Knowledge and virtue are in us naturally insofar as we have the aptitude for them; their completion is not in us naturally. This [middle] view is better, because just as [the corresponding middle view] regarding natural forms does not take away any power that natural forms have, so [this middle view] regarding the acquisition of knowledge and virtue through study and practice preserves the [causal] efficacy of these efforts. [Note: To make sense of this sentence, we must read derogat as derogatur or virtus as virtutem.]
We must keep in mind, however, that there are two ways an aptitude for a perfection and form can be in a subject: (1) because of a passive potentiality only (for instance, in the matter of air there is an aptitude for the form of fire); or (2) because of a passive and an active potentiality together (for instance, in a curable body there is an aptitude for health because it is receptive of health). It's in this second way that a natural aptitude for virtue is in human beings. That's due in part to the nature of our species, since the aptitude for virtue is common to all human beings, and in part to the individual's nature, insofar as some people are apter for virtue than others.
To make this clear, we must recognize that there can be three subjects of virtue in a person, as is clear from what I've already said: intellect, will, and the lower appetite, which is divided into the concupiscible and irascible. For each of these, we must find some way of taking into consideration both the ability to receive virtue and the active source of virtue.
It is clear that the soul's intellective part contains the possible intellect, which is in potentiality to all intelligible things. Intellectual virtue consists in the apprehension of these intelligibles. It's also clear that the intellective part contains the agent intellect, by whose light these potentially intelligible things become actually intelligible. Among these intelligible things, there are certain ones that people come to know right from the outset without intellectual endeavor and inquiry. Into this class fall first principles, and not just principles in speculative fields (for instance, "Every whole is greater than its parts," and other [principles] like this), but also those in practical matters (for instance, "Bad is to be avoided," and other principles like this). Now, these naturally known principles are the source [or: origin] of all subsequent apprehension, whether practical or speculative, which we acquire through intellectual endeavor.
Likewise it is clear that there is a natural active principle for the will, too. That's because the will is naturally inclined to the ultimate end, and the end in practical matters has the character of a natural principle. Therefore, the will's inclination is an active principle in respect of every disposition acquired through the exercise [of our powers] in the soul's affective part. Moreover, it is clear that the will itself, insofar as it is a power indifferently disposed to alternative ways of achieving the end, is able to receive a habitual inclination to these or those alternative ways.
Finally, the irascible and concupiscible appetites are naturally obedient to reason and so are naturally receptive of virtue. Their virtue comes to perfection in them insofar as they are disposed to pursuing the good of reason.
All the aforementioned starting points of the virtues result from the nature of the human species and so are common to all people. However, there is one kind of starting point of virtue that results from the nature of the individual, insofar as a person is inclined to the act of some virtue on the basis of natural make-up or influence from the heavenly bodies. While this inclination is a sort of starting point of virtue, it is not a perfect virtue, because that requires reason's government. That's why the definition of virtue includes the clause that virtue disposes one to choose the mean according to right reason. After all, anyone who followed an inclination like this without reason's discrimination would frequently sin.
Just as this last starting point of virtue does not have the character of perfect virtue without reason's contribution, neither do any of the starting points discussed earlier. That's because it is through reason's investigation that we come to specifics on the basis of general principles. It is also through the functioning of reason that a person is led from the desire for the ultimate end to the means suited to that end. Finally, by commanding them, reason makes the concupiscible and irascible appetites subject to itself. Accordingly, it's clear that reason's contribution is needed to bring a virtue to completion, whether the virtue is in the intellect or in the will, or in the irascible or concupiscible appetites.
This is the completion of virtue: that the starting point of virtue in the soul's higher part is directed to the virtue of the lower part, just as we are rendered apt for virtue in the will through both the starting point of virtue that is in the will and the starting point of virtue that is in the intellect. However, we are rendered apt for virtue in the irascible and concupiscible appetites through both the starting point of virtue in those appetites and the starting point in the higher powers, but not the reverse. Accordingly, it is also clear that reason, which is higher [than the other powers], works for the completion of every virtue.
Now, the operative principle reason is divided in opposition to the operative principle nature, as Physics II makes clear, because a rational power is disposed to alternatives, while a nature is directed to one thing. For this reason, it is clear that a virtue's perfection is not from nature, but from reason.
Responses to the Initial Arguments
1. Virtues are called natural not with regard to their perfection, but with regard to their natural starting points, which are in human beings.
And this serves as a reply to the second, third, fourth, and fifth objections as well.
6. The capacity to do good is in us naturally and unconditionally because [our soul's] powers are natural, but the will [to do good] and knowledge [of good] are in us naturally in a certain respect: as a certain general starting point. Still, this is not enough for virtue. For good activity, which is virtue's effect, a person must readily and unfailingly attain the good in most cases. One cannot do this without the habit of virtue. Analogously, it is clear that people know in general how to make an artifact (for instance, to construct an argument or to make a cut, etc.) but they must have the craft to do it readily and without mistake. It is the same in the case of virtue.
7. That a person turn from evil is, in a way, from nature; but to do so readily and unfailingly requires a virtuous habit.
8. We don't say that virtue is partly from nature because one part of it is from nature and another part is not, but because it is from nature in an imperfect mode of being: [We have] the potentiality, and the aptitude [for it].
9. God is perfect in goodness through himself and so needs nothing to attain goodness. Those substances that are close to God and more elevated [than the others] need few things from him to attain the perfection of goodness. But human beings, who are farther away from God, need many things to attain perfect goodness. This is because they are capable of happiness, while those creatures incapable of happiness need fewer things than human beings. Hence, human beings are nobler than [these lower animals] even though humans need more things, just as a person who can achieve robust health through lots of exercise is better disposed than another [….??]
10. A person can have a natural inclination to the [activities] associated with a single virtue. However, a person cannot have a natural inclination to the [activities] associated with all the virtues, because a natural disposition that inclines to one virtue, inclines to the contrary of another virtue (for instance, someone who is naturally disposed to courage, which consists in pursuing difficult things, is less well disposed to gentleness, which consists in checking the passions of the irascible appetite). That's why, as we see, animals that are naturally inclined to the act of some virtue are inclined to a vice contrary to another virtue. For instance, the lion, which is naturally bold, is also naturally cruel.
This sort of natural inclination to one virtue or another is enough for the other animals, which cannot attain the complete good through virtue, but attain a limited good of some kind or other. In contrast, human beings are naturally suited to achieve the complete good through virtue, and so they need to have an inclination to all acts of the virtues. Because they cannot get this from nature, it must be the case that they got it through reason, in which the seeds of all the virtues exist.
11. The mean of virtue is not fixed by nature, the way the earth's center is, to which heavy things tend. Instead, it must be the case that the mean of virtue is determined according to right reason, as Ethics II says. After all, what is well balanced for one person is too little or too much for another.
12. Mode, species, and order constitute every good, as Augustine says in On the Nature of Good. That's why the mode, species, and order in which the good of a nature consists are naturally present in human beings, and sin does not deprive us of them. However, sin is called the privation of mode, species, and order insofar as the good of virtue consists in these.
13. Unlike the possible intellect, the will does not proceed to its act through any species informing it, so the will has no need of a natural habit directed to a natural object of desire--especially because the intellect's natural habit moves the will, since the will's object is the understood good.
14. Although the source of virtue--reason--is inside a person, this source does not act in the mode of a nature, and so what comes from reason is not called natural.
This serves as a reply to objection 15.
16. Their wickedness was natural insofar as it had become habitual, since custom is a second nature. And we were naturally children of wrath on account of original sin, which is a sin belonging to our nature.
17. It is natural that the lower powers should be subjectable to reason, but not that they should be subject to reason through a habit.
18. We call a change natural because of the changeable thing's natural aptitude on this condition: when what effects the change directs the changeable thing to one [end] in a fixed way, in the mode of a nature.
19. The natural inclination to virtue, through which [some people] are brave and temperate right after birth, is not enough for perfect virtue, as I have said.
20. Nature does not fail human beings when it comes to necessities. For while it does not give them everything they need, it still [does not fail them because it] gives them the resources for attaining everything they need through reason and the things subject to reason.
Do we acquire virtues though acts?
Reasons to Think We Do Not
1. Augustine says that virtue is "a good quality of the mind, by which we live rightly, which no one uses badly, which God actualizes in us without us." However, what our own acts bring about, God does not actualize in us, and so our acts do not cause virtue.
2. [Commenting on the Apostle's remark that "Everything that is not grounded in faith is sin,"] Augustine says: "The life of all unbelievers is sin, and without the highest good, nothing is good. Where apprehension of the truth is lacking, there is mock virtue, even in the best character." We gather from this that there cannot be virtue without faith. Furthermore, the source of faith is not our works, but grace, as Ephesians 2:8 makes clear: "You have been saved by grace through faith and not by yourselves. Let no one boast, for it is a gift of God." Therefore, virtue cannot be caused by our acts.
3. Bernard says that people strive for virtue in vain, unless they believe they must hope for it from the Lord. What we hope to attain from God is not caused by our acts, and so virtue is not caused by our acts.
4. Continence is less than virtue, as the Philosopher makes clear in Ethics VII. But we have continence only by divine gift. As Wisdom says, "I know that I cannot be continent unless God gives it." Therefore, we cannot acquire virtues by our acts either, but only through God's gift.
5. Augustine says that we cannot avoid sin without grace. But we avoid sin through virtue, since we cannot be both virtuous and vicious at the same time. Therefore, there cannot be virtue without grace, and so we cannot acquire it through acts.
6. We attain happiness through virtue, for happiness is virtue's reward, as the Philosopher says in Ethics I. Therefore, if we acquire virtue by our acts, we can arrive at eternal life, which is our ultimate happiness, by our acts, without grace. This is opposed to what the Apostle says in Romans 6:23: "The grace of God is eternal life."
7. Virtue is counted among the greatest goods, according to Augustine in On Free Choice of the Will, because no one uses it badly. But the greatest goods are from God, according to James 1:17: "Each of the best gifts, and each perfect gift, is from above, descending from the Father of lights." It appears, then, that virtue is in us only by God's gift.
8. As Augustine says in On Free Choice of the Will, nothing can form itself. Since virtue is a form belonging to the soul, one cannot cause virtue in oneself by one's own acts.
9. Just as the intellect is at the outset in essential potentiality to knowledge, the affective power is in essential potentiality to virtue. But since the intellect is in essential potentiality, it needs an external mover--a teacher--to be brought to the actuality of knowledge, so that it actually acquires knowledge. Likewise, then, one needs an external agent to acquire virtue, and one's own acts are not enough for this.
10. Acquisition occurs through reception. However, action does not occur through reception, but rather through the action's issuing or proceeding from the agent. Therefore, we do not acquire virtue in ourselves by performing an action.
11. Suppose we acquire virtue through our acts. We would then acquire it either through one act or through many. But we do not acquire it through one, because a person does not become resolute through a single act. Likewise, we do not acquire virtue through many acts either. That's because many acts cannot together produce an effect when they do not take place simultaneously. Therefore, it appears that our acts in no way cause virtue in us.
12. Avicenna says that virtue is a power, essentially attributed to things, for performing their activities. But a thing's act does not cause something essentially attributed to it. Therefore, virtue is not caused by an act of its possessor.
13. Suppose our acts cause virtue. In that case, either virtuous acts or vicious acts are its cause. But vicious acts don't cause it, because they destroy virtue. Virtuous acts don't cause it either, because they presuppose virtue. In no way, then, do our acts cause us to have virtue.
14. But we must consider this objection: Virtue is caused by acts that are imperfectly virtuous.
An opposing consideration: Nothing acts in a way that surpasses its own species. Therefore, if the acts preceding virtue are imperfect, they evidently cannot cause perfect virtue.
15. Virtue is the utmost extent of a power, as On the Heavens I says. Since a power is natural, so is virtue. Therefore it is not acquired through acts.
16. As Ethics II says, virtue is what makes its possessor good. But human beings are good in virtue of their nature. Therefore, their virtue is natural to them and not acquired through acts.
17. What's more, we do not acquire a new habit from the frequent repetition of a natural act.
18. All things have their being from their form. But the form of the virtues is grace, for without grace the virtues are said to be unformed. Therefore, virtues come from grace and not from our acts.
19. According to the Apostle, "virtue is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). But weakness is a passion, not an action; and so passion and not our acts causes virtue.
20. Since virtue is a quality, a change in virtue is clearly an alteration, for alteration is change [that takes place] in [the category of] quality. But alteration, an undergoing, is found only in the sensory part of the soul, as the Philosopher makes clear in Physics VII. Therefore, if our acts cause virtue through some passion and alteration, then virtue is in the soul's sensory part. This is opposed to the view of Augustine, who says that virtue is a good quality of the mind.
21. Through virtue, one has right choice of the end, as Ethics X says. But having right choice of the end does not appear to be in our power. That's because the way the end appears to a person depends on what that person is like, as Ethics III says. Moreover, we come to be [what we are like] through our natural make-up or through the heavenly body's influence. Therefore, it is not in our power to acquire virtues, and so our acts do not cause them.
22. We neither gain nor lose what is natural by growing accustomed or unaccustomed to it. But there are people who have natural inclinations to certain vices, just as they have natural inclinations to virtues, too. Therefore, inclinations of these sorts cannot be removed by growing accustomed through acts. However, while [these vicious inclinations] remain, we cannot have virtues. Therefore, we cannot acquire virtues through acts.
Considerations to the Contrary
1. Dionysius says that good is stronger than bad. But bad acts cause vicious habits in us. Therefore, good acts cause virtuous habits in us.
2. According to the Philosopher in Ethics II, activities cause us to be resolute. But we are resolute through virtue. Therefore, our acts cause virtue in us.
3. Generations and destructions are caused by contraries. Since bad acts destroy virtue, good acts generate it.
Virtue is a power's utmost limit, which it extends to in order to perform its activity, which is to make [its possessor's] activity good. Clearly, then, each thing's virtue is that through which it produces good activity. Now, each thing is for the sake of its activity; what's more, each thing is good insofar as it is well disposed to its end. We must conclude, then, that each thing is good, and acts well, through its own virtue.
Next, the good characteristic of one sort of thing is different from the good characteristic of a different sort. That's because the perfections for different sorts of perfectible things are different. Therefore, a human being's good, too, is different from a horse's or a stone's good [aliud> aliquid]. Moreover, there are various ways of understanding the good of human beings themselves, depending on the perspective from which they are viewed. After all, the good of a human being as a human being is different from the good of a human being as a citizen.
The reason [these two goods differ] is as follows. The good of a human being as a human being is that one's reason be perfected in the apprehension of truth and that one's lower appetites be regulated as reason's rule requires; for it is being rational that makes humans human. However, the good of a human being as a citizen is that one be directed as the city requires as regards all [its] people. Accordingly, the Philosopher says in Politics III that the virtue that makes one a good human being is not the same as the virtue that makes one a good citizen.
However, human beings are not just citizens of the earthly city. They have a share in the heavenly city of Jerusalem, whose ruler is the Lord and whose citizens are the angels and all the saints, whether they reign in glory and rest in the heavenly homeland or are still travelers on earth, according to the Apostle's claim in Ephesians 2:19: "You are fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God's household," etc. But human nature is not enough to enable us to have a share in this city. Rather, God's grace elevates us to this. That's because we plainly cannot acquire through our natural endowments the virtues of human beings as sharers in this city. So, our acts do not cause these virtues. They are infused in us through divine favor.
However, the virtues of human beings as such, or as sharers in the earthly city, do not surpass the capacity of human nature. So, human beings can acquire them through their natural endowments by their own acts. This is clear from what follows.
If one has a natural aptitude for some perfection, and if this aptitude is due to a passive principle only, one can acquire it--but not by one's own act. One can acquire it by the action of an external natural agent, the way air receives light from the sun. In contrast, if one has a natural aptitude for some perfection due to both an active and a passive principle, in that case one can attain it by one's own act. It's in this way that a sick person's body has a natural aptitude for health. And because the subject is naturally receptive of health because of the active natural power to heal that's in it, a sick person is sometimes cured without the action of an external agent.
I showed in the previous question, [a.1 Reply], that human beings' natural aptitude for virtue is due to active and passive principles. This is apparent from the ordered relationship the soul's powers bear to each other. For in the intellective part there is a principle that stands as passive: the possible intellect, which the agent intellect brings to its perfection. Next, the actualized intellect moves the will, for the understood [intellectus> intellectum] good is the end that moves the appetite. Moreover, once reason moves it, the will is naturally apt to move the sensitive appetite--the irascible and concupiscible powers, which are naturally subject to reason. Therefore, it is also clear that any virtue that makes a human being's activity good has its own actuality in that person who can bring that virtue to actuality by his or her own action. [This is the case] whether [the virtue is] in the intellect, or in the will, or in the irascible and concupiscible powers.
However, the virtues in the intellective part are brought to actuality in a different way from the virtues in the appetitive part. For the action of the intellect (and of any cognitive power) occurs through its being made in a way like what is apprehensible. Therefore, the intellective part acquires an intellectual virtue through the agent intellect's making species understood in it, either actually or habitually [footnote here on species]. In contrast, the action of an appetitive virtue consists in one thing, as its form demands. As long as this form remains, an inclination such as this cannot be eliminated and a contrary inclination cannot be introduced. This is why natural things do not become an inclination to what is desirable. So, to acquire virtue, the appetitive part must be given an inclination to something determinate.
Next, we must keep in mind that a natural thing's inclination results from its form. Therefore, it is an inclination to accustomed or unaccustomed to anything. After all, however many times someone tosses a rock upwards, it never grows accustomed to going up, but is continuously inclined to a downward movement. However, things indifferently disposed to alternatives do not have a form by which they incline in a determinate way to a single object. Instead, the mover corresponding to each determines it to a single thing. It is precisely because it is determined to an object that it becomes disposed to that same object to a degree; and when the mover corresponding to it inclines it to an object over and over, this mover determines it to that same object and ingrains a determinate inclination in it. As a result, this disposition, once implanted, is a form tending to a single thing in the mode of a nature, so to speak. That is why we call a habit a second nature.
Accordingly, because the appetitive power is indifferently disposed to alternatives, it tends to one of them only insofar as reason determines it to that one. Therefore, when reason repeatedly inclines an appetitive power to one certain thing, a disposition is ingrained in that power. Through this disposition, the appetite is inclined to one thing: the thing it has grown accustomed to. A disposition ingrained in this way is a habit of virtue.
So, considered accurately, a virtue of the appetitive part is just a disposition or form that reason has stamped and impressed on the appetitive power. For this reason, no matter how strong the appetitive power's disposition for some object is, it can have the character of virtue only if it bears reason's mark. That's why the definition of virtue makes reference to reason: The Philosopher says in Ethics II that virtue is a habit of choosing, seated in the mind, its character determined as the prudent person would determine it.
Responses to the initial arguments
1. Augustine is speaking about virtues insofar as they are directed to eternal happiness.
This serves as a response to the second, third, and fourth initial arguments as well.
5. Acquired virtue causes one to avoid sin for the most part, but not in every case. After all, even things that happen naturally come to pass [only] for the most part. And it does not follow from this that someone can be virtuous and vicious simultaneously. That's because a single act of a power does not take away either a habit of vice or a habit of acquired virtue. Moreover, one cannot avoid every sin through the acquired virtues because one cannot avoid through them the sin of unbelief and other sins opposed to the infused virtues.
6. Through the acquired virtues we do not attain the happiness of heaven, but a kind of happiness that we are naturally apt to acquire through our natural endowments in this life. [We gain this sort of happiness] through the activity of complete virtue, which Aristotle discusses in Ethics X. [Metaphy. > Ethicorum]
7. Acquired virtue is not one of the greatest goods absolutely speaking, but one of the greatest in the class [genus] of human goods. On the other hand, infused virtue is one of the greatest goods absolutely speaking because through it we are directed to the highest good, which is God.
8. A thing cannot form itself insofar as it is one and the same thing. But when there is in a single thing an active principle and a different, passive principle, it can form itself through its parts. More precisely, one part of it forms, and the other is formed, just as when something moves itself, one of its parts moves and the other is moved, as Physics 8 says. It is the same with the generation of virtue, as I have shown.
9. We acquire knowledge in the intellect not only by discovering it but also through teaching, which comes from others. Likewise, correction and training, which come from others, help us to acquire virtue. The more we are disposed to virtue of our own accord, the less we need correction and training, just as the sharper our natural intellectual talent, the less we need others to teach us.
10. Active and passive powers work together to bring about a person's action. Insofar as one's powers are active, [an action] issues from them and nothing is received in them. Nevertheless, it's characteristic of the passive powers, as such, to acquire something through reception. That's why we do not acquire any habits through action in a power that is purely active, such as the agent intellect.
11. The more efficacious an agent's action, the more quickly it introduces a form. For this reason, in the realm of intellectual activities, we see that a single demonstration, which is efficacious, causes knowledge in us. However, a single dialectical syllogism does not cause belief in us, even though belief falls short of knowledge. Instead, many are needed, due to their weakness.
Accordingly, in the realm of practical activities too, a single act is not enough to cause virtue. Instead, many are needed. The reason is that the soul's activities [in this realm] are not efficacious, as they are in the case of demonstrations, because practical activities are contingent and [merely] probable.
Even if the many [acts necessary to cause virtue] do not occur simultaneously, they can still cause a virtuous habit because the first act produces a disposition, the second, finding the matter disposed to this extent, disposes it further, and the third still further. In this way, the final act, acting in virtue of all the previous acts, completes the generation of the virtue, the way many drops hollow out a rock.
12. Avicenna means to define natural virtue, which results from the form that is an essential principle. Hence that definition is not relevant.
13. Virtue is generated by acts that are virtuous in one way and not virtuous in another way. For acts preceding [the generation of] virtue are virtuous with respect to what is done (insofar as a person does, for instance, brave and just things) but not with respect to the way they are done. This is because before acquiring the habit of virtue, a person does not perform works of virtue in the same way the virtuous person does: readily and without hesitation, with pleasure and without distress.
14. Reason is more excellent than the virtue generated in the soul's appetitive part. That's because this sort of virtue is just a certain participation in reason. Therefore, an act that precedes virtue can cause virtue insofar as it comes from reason, the source of whatever perfection is in it. For the imperfection it has lies in the appetitive power: No habit has yet been caused in it through which one might readily and pleasurably pursue what issues from the command of reason.
15. Virtue is called the utmost extent of a power because it inclines a power to what it can do at its utmost, not because it is in every case something that belongs to a power's essence.
16. In virtue of their natures, human beings are good in a certain respect, but not good absolutely. A thing must be perfect in all respects in order to be good absolutely. For example, for a thing to be beautiful, there cannot be ugliness or unsightliness in any of its parts. Now, a person is called good absolutely and in all respects from the fact that he or she has a good will, because it is through willing that one uses all one's other powers. Consequently, a good will makes a person good absolutely. And that's why the virtue of the appetitive part, through which the will is made good, is what makes its possessor good absolutely.
17. Insofar as they result from natural reason, acts preceding virtue can be called natural in the sense in which what is natural is divided in opposition to what is acquired. However, they cannot be called natural in the sense in which what is natural is divided in opposition to what is from reason. But it is in this sense that we say we do not grow accustomed or unaccustomed to natural things.
18. Grace is called the form of infused virtue. However, the implication is not that grace gives it the being characteristic of its species. Rather, grace is called infused virtue's form because, in a way, virtue's act is informed through grace. Therefore, the infusion of grace is not required for political virtue.
19. Virtue is perfected in weakness not because weakness causes virtue, but because it provides the occasion for a certain virtue: humility. Moreover, it is the matter of a certain virtue--patience--and even of charity, insofar as people remedy their neighbors' weakness. Also, it is naturally a sign of virtue: When the body is relatively weak, the more the soul moves it to an act of virtue, the more virtuous the soul is shown to be.
20. Strictly speaking, a thing is not said to undergo alteration when it reaches its characteristic perfection. So, since virtue is the perfection characteristic of human beings, we are not said to undergo alteration when we acquire virtue (except, perhaps, coincidentally, insofar as a change of the soul's sensitive part, where our passions are located, is connected with virtue).
21. We can say what people are like on the basis of (a) a quality in the soul's intellective part. In that case, we do not say what they are like on the basis of their body's natural make-up or on the basis of the heavenly body's influence, since the intellective part is independent of each and every body. We can also say what people are like on the basis of (b) a disposition in the soul's sensitive part. This can come from the body's natural make-up or from the heavenly body's influence. Even so, this part of the soul naturally obeys reason, and so [the disposition] can be lessened or even entirely removed through habituation.
22. The response to the 22nd initial argument is clear from the response to the 21st. It's because of the second sort of disposition, the sort in the soul's sensitive part, that some people are said to have a natural inclination to vice or virtue, etc. [And so these dispositions can be lessened or removed through habituation.]