08 May 2009

Paper on Virtues

Good Habits and Their Connections
Summa Theologiae I-II, qq. 55-70

Having begun the prima secundæ partis of the Summa theologiæ with a treatise on happiness as the final end of human life (1-5), followed by treatises on human actions (6-21) and passions (22-48) by which man either approaches or falls away from his beatitude, St. Thomas moves to consider next the principles of human acts, first intrinsic principles and then extrinsic. The intrinsic principles are powers and habits, but since the human powers (intellectual and appetitive) were already dealt with in the prima pars St. Thomas restricts himself here to a treatise on habits (49-89), which is followed by treatises on the extrinsic principles, namely law (90-108) and grace (109-114). The treatise on habits begins with a general consideration (49-54), and then moves to treat of particulars, which are divided between good habits (55-70) and bad habits (71-89). It is with good habits that we are concerned here, "which are virtues and other things adjoined to them, namely gifts, beatitudes, and fruits," and especially with the connections between them.

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big daddy said...

Hear, as an example, Peter Kreeft's discussion of "happiness" at http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/06_happiness.htm; I wonder if you wouldn't rather translate beatus as "blessed"?

In your sixth paragraph, where you say "prudence is required in order to perfect reason in its counsel, judgment, and command regarding good means to that end", wouldn't it be preferable to say "effective means to that end"? Use of "good" suggests that prudence would always propose the most morally good means to any end, whereas in a given situation, a less morally good means (considered abstractly) may be preferred as tending more effectively to the desired good end. Which would be the point of the virtue of prudence in the first place.

It has seemed to me that one could write an interesting and helpful essay on the relationship between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. More specifically, one does not simply bear the fruit by deciding to do so; by receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, primarily through the life of the Church and Christian study, one will be found more and more to be such a person as manifests the fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life.

We are so looking forward to our grandchildren's visit! Lisa's welcome too!

John said...

I would indeed translate "beatus" as "blessed", does this come up in Kreeft's talk?

Re" prudence, I did mean to suggest precisely that it would propose morally good, and not merely effective means to that end. The notion of a virtue demands this, otherwise you would be saying that the "virtue" of prudence could lead one to do evil for the sake of a good end. It would only be reason unaided by virtue that would deliberate about effectiveness without worrying about whether the means were morally good or bad.

Regarding the gifts, that would be quite interesting. Our class, unfortunately, stopped after reading about the gifts without moving on to the beatitudes and fruits. Thomas regards the gifts as supernaturally infused habits which are given with sanctifying grace. The beatitudes he regards as acts flowing from the gifts, and the fruits as acts flowing either from the gifts or the supernatural virtues.

Also of interest, although he has only one question each on the gifts and fruits here (I-II, qq. 68, 70), he has a whole treatise on "Acts which pertain especially to certain men" (i.e. the charismata) in II-II qq. 171-189.

Your grandchildren are very excited to see you as well this summer. Maria talks about "going to Michigan" frequently. Congratulations on the new arrival, too, I suppose he must be coming any day now.

big daddy said...

It does indeed; that is practically the point of the talk. While not wholly irrevelant, the English word and concept of "happiness" owes too much to the idea of "happenstance" (shared roots, in fact), whereas blesssedness is a condition that owes little if anything to the particulars of one's circumstances.

But doesn't the virtue of prudence owe something to a consideration of the most likely means that will bring about the desired end? Among several variously good means to an end, wouldn't prudence move to the most effective means among them?

Does Thomas discuss the "mechanism" of the supernatural infusion of the gifts? The Old Testament concept of "wisdom", for instance, implies extended study of the Scriptures and practice ordering behavior to the "goods" thereby revealed. Which is not to say that growth in wisdom isn't a work of the Holy Spirit, but its bestowal seems to owe a lot more to the ongoing life of the Church than to an immediate direct spiritual "infusion".