QUESTION 52: OF THE INCREASE OF HABITS
We have now to consider the increase of habits; under which head there
are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether habits increase?
(2) Whether they increase by addition?
(3) Whether each act increases the habit?
Article 1: Whether habits increase?
Objection 1: It would seem that habits cannot increase. For increase concerns
quantity (Phys. v, text. 18). But habits are not in the genus quantity,
but in that of quality. Therefore there can be no increase of habits.
Objection 2: Further, habit is a perfection (Phys. vii, text. 17,18). But
since perfection conveys a notion of end and term, it seems that it
cannot be more or less. Therefore a habit cannot increase.
Objection 3: Further, those things which can be more or less are subject to
alteration: for that which from being less hot becomes more hot, is said
to be altered. But in habits there is no alteration, as is proved in
Phys. vii, text. 15,17. Therefore habits cannot increase.
On the contrary, Faith is a habit, and yet it increases: wherefore the
disciples said to our Lord (Lk. 17:5): "Lord, increase our faith."
Therefore habits increase.
I answer that, Increase, like other things pertaining to quantity, is
transferred from bodily quantities to intelligible spiritual things, on
account of the natural connection of the intellect with corporeal things,
which come under the imagination. Now in corporeal quantities, a thing is
said to be great, according as it reaches the perfection of quantity due
to it; wherefore a certain quantity is reputed great in man, which is not
reputed great in an elephant. And so also in forms, we say a thing is
great because it is perfect. And since good has the nature of perfection,
therefore "in things which are great, but not in quantity, to be greater
is the same as to be better," as Augustine says (De Trin. vi, 8).
Now the perfection of a form may be considered in two ways: first, in
respect of the form itself: secondly, in respect of the participation of
the form by its subject. In so far as we consider the perfections of a
form in respect of the form itself, thus the form is said to be "little"
or "great": for instance great or little health or science. But in so far
as we consider the perfection of a form in respect of the participation
thereof by the subject, it is said to be "more" or "less": for instance
more or less white or healthy. Now this distinction is not to be
understood as implying that the form has a being outside its matter or
subject, but that it is one thing to consider the form according to its
specific nature, and another to consider it in respect of its
participation by a subject.
In this way, then, there were four opinions among philosophers
concerning intensity and remission of habits and forms, as Simplicius
relates in his Commentary on the Predicaments. For Plotinus and the other
Platonists held that qualities and habits themselves were susceptible of
more or less, for the reason that they were material and so had a certain
want of definiteness, on account of the infinity of matter. Others, on
the contrary, held that qualities and habits of themselves were not
susceptible of more or less; but that the things affected by them
[qualia] are said to be more or less, in respect of the participation of
the subject: that, for instance, justice is not more or less, but the
just thing. Aristotle alludes to this opinion in the Predicaments
(Categor. vi). The third opinion was that of the Stoics, and lies between
the two preceding opinions. For they held that some habits are of
themselves susceptible of more and less, for instance, the arts; and that
some are not, as the virtues. The fourth opinion was held by some who
said that qualities and immaterial forms are not susceptible of more or
less, but that material forms are.
In order that the truth in this matter be made clear, we must observe
that, in respect of which a thing receives its species, must be something
fixed and stationary, and as it were indivisible: for whatever attains to
that thing, is contained under the species, and whatever recedes from it
more or less, belongs to another species, more or less perfect.
Wherefore, the Philosopher says (Metaph. viii, text. 10) that species of
things are like numbers, in which addition or subtraction changes the
species. If, therefore, a form, or anything at all, receives its specific
nature in respect of itself, or in respect of something belonging to it,
it is necessary that, considered in itself, it be something of a definite
nature, which can be neither more nor less. Such are heat, whiteness or
other like qualities which are not denominated from a relation to
something else: and much more so, substance, which is "per se" being. But
those things which receive their species from something to which they are
related, can be diversified, in respect of themselves, according to more
or less: and nonetheless they remain in the same species, on account of
the oneness of that to which they are related, and from which they
receive their species. For example, movement is in itself more intense or
more remiss: and yet it remains in the same species, on account of the
oneness of the term by which it is specified. We may observe the same
thing in health; for a body attains to the nature of health, according as
it has a disposition suitable to an animal's nature, to which various
dispositions may be suitable; which disposition is therefore variable as
regards more or less, and withal the nature of health remains. Whence the
Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 2,3): "Health itself may be more or less: for
the measure is not the same in all, nor is it always the same in one
individual; but down to a certain point it may decrease and still remain
Now these various dispositions and measures of health are by way of
excess and defect: wherefore if the name of health were given to the most
perfect measure, then we should not speak of health as greater or less.
Thus therefore it is clear how a quality or form may increase or decrease
of itself, and how it cannot.
But if we consider a quality or form in respect of its participation by
the subject, thus again we find that some qualities and forms are
susceptible of more or less, and some not. Now Simplicius assigns the
cause of this diversity to the fact that substance in itself cannot be
susceptible of more or less, because it is "per se" being. And therefore
every form which is participated substantially by its subject, cannot
vary in intensity and remission: wherefore in the genus of substance
nothing is said to be more or less. And because quantity is nigh to
substance, and because shape follows on quantity, therefore is it that
neither in these can there be such a thing as more or less. Whence the
Philosopher says (Phys. vii, text. 15) that when a thing receives form
and shape, it is not said to be altered, but to be made. But other
qualities which are further removed from quantity, and are connected with
passions and actions, are susceptible of more or less, in respect of
their participation by the subject.
Now it is possible to explain yet further the reason of this diversity.
For, as we have said, that from which a thing receives its species must
remain indivisibly fixed and constant in something indivisible. Wherefore
in two ways it may happen that a form cannot be participated more or
less. First because the participator has its species in respect of that
form. And for this reason no substantial form is participated more or
less. Wherefore the Philosopher says (Metaph. viii, text. 10) that, "as a
number cannot be more or less, so neither can that which is in the
species of substance," that is, in respect of its participation of the
specific form: "but in so far as substance may be with matter," i.e. in
respect of material dispositions, "more or less are found in substance."
Secondly this may happen from the fact that the form is essentially
indivisible: wherefore if anything participate that form, it must needs
participate it in respect of its indivisibility. For this reason we do
not speak of the species of number as varying in respect of more or less;
because each species thereof is constituted by an indivisible unity. The
same is to be said of the species of continuous quantity, which are
denominated from numbers, as two-cubits-long, three-cubits-long, and of
relations of quantity, as double and treble, and of figures of quantity,
as triangle and tetragon.
This same explanation is given by Aristotle in the Predicaments (Categor. vi), where in explaining why figures are not susceptible of more or less, he says: "Things which are given the nature of a triangle or a circle, are accordingly triangles and circles": to wit, because indivisibility is essential to the motion of such, wherefore whatever participates their nature must participate it in its indivisibility.
It is clear, therefore, since we speak of habits and dispositions in
respect of a relation to something (Phys. vii, text. 17), that in two
ways intensity and remission may be observed in habits and dispositions.
First, in respect of the habit itself: thus, for instance, we speak of
greater or less health; greater or less science, which extends to more or
fewer things. Secondly, in respect of participation by the subject: in so
far as equal science or health is participated more in one than in
another, according to a diverse aptitude arising either from nature, or
from custom. For habit and disposition do not give species to the
subject: nor again do they essentially imply indivisibility.
Reply to Objection 1: As the word "great" is taken from corporeal quantities and
applied to the intelligible perfections of forms; so also is the word
"growth," the term of which is something great.
Reply to Objection 2: Habit is indeed a perfection, but not a perfection which is
the term of its subject; for instance, a term giving the subject its
specific being. Nor again does the nature of a habit include the notion
of term, as do the species of numbers. Wherefore there is nothing to
hinder it from being susceptible of more or less.
Reply to Objection 3: Alteration is primarily indeed in the qualities of the
third species; but secondarily it may be in the qualities of the first
species: for, supposing an alteration as to hot and cold, there follows
in an animal an alteration as to health and sickness. In like manner, if
an alteration take place in the passions of the sensitive appetite, or
the sensitive powers of apprehension, an alteration follows as to science
and virtue (Phys. viii, text. 20).
Article 2: Whether habits increases by addition?
Objection 1: It would seem that the increase of habits is by way of addition.
For the word "increase," as we have said, is transferred to forms, from
corporeal quantities. But in corporeal quantities there is no increase
without addition: wherefore (De Gener. i, text. 31) it is said that
"increase is an addition to a magnitude already existing." Therefore in
habits also there is no increase without addition.
Objection 2: Further, habit is not increased except by means of some agent.
But every agent does something in the passive subject: for instance, that
which heats, causes heat in that which is heated. Therefore there is no
increase without addition.
Objection 3: Further, as that which is not white, is in potentiality to be
white: so that which is less white, is in potentiality to be more white.
But that which is not white, is not made white except by the addition of
whiteness. Therefore that which is less white, is not made more white,
except by an added whiteness.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Phys. iv, text. 84): "That which
is hot is made hotter, without making, in the matter, something hot, that
was not hot, when the thing was less hot." Therefore, in like manner,
neither is any addition made in other forms when they increase.
I answer that, The solution of this question depends on what we have
said above (Article ). For we said that increase and decrease in forms which
are capable of intensity and remissness, happen in one way not on the
part of the very form considered in itself, through the diverse
participation thereof by the subject. Wherefore such increase of habits
and other forms, is not caused by an addition of form to form; but by the
subject participating more or less perfectly, one and the same form. And
just as, by an agent which is in act, something is made actually hot,
beginning, as it were, to participate a form, not as though the form
itself were made, as is proved in Metaph. vii, text. 32, so, by an
intense action of the agent, something is made more hot, as it were
participating the form more perfectly, not as though something were added
to the form.
For if this increase in forms were understood to be by way of addition,
this could only be either in the form itself or in the subject. If it be
understood of the form itself, it has already been stated (Article ) that
such an addition or subtraction would change the species; even as the
species of color is changed when a thing from being pale becomes white.
If, on the other hand, this addition be understood as applying to the
subject, this could only be either because one part of the subject
receives a form which it had not previously (thus we may say cold
increases in a man who, after being cold in one part of his body, is cold
in several parts), or because some other subject is added sharing in the
same form (as when a hot thing is added to another, or one white thing to
another). But in either of these two ways we have not a more white or a
more hot thing, but a greater white or hot thing.
Since, however, as stated above (Article ), certain accidents are of
themselves susceptible of more or less, in some of these we may find
increase by addition. For movement increases by an addition either to the
time it lasts, or to the course it follows: and yet the species remains
the same on account of the oneness of the term. Yet movement increases
the intensity as to participation in its subject: i.e. in so far as the
same movement can be executed more or less speedily or readily. In like
manner, science can increase in itself by addition; thus when anyone
learns several conclusions of geometry, the same specific habit of
science increases in that man. Yet a man's science increases, as to the
subject's participation thereof, in intensity, in so far as one man is
quicker and readier than another in considering the same conclusions.
As to bodily habits, it does not seem very probable that they receive
increase by way of addition. For an animal is not said to be simply
healthy or beautiful, unless it be such in all its parts. And if it be
brought to a more perfect measure, this is the result of a change in the
simple qualities, which are not susceptible of increase save in intensity
on the part of the subject partaking of them.
Reply to Objection 1: Even in bodily bulk increase is twofold. First, by addition
of one subject to another; such is the increase of living things.
Secondly, by mere intensity, without any addition at all; such is the
case with things subject to rarefaction, as is stated in Phys. iv, text.
Reply to Objection 2: The cause that increases a habit, always effects something
in the subject, but not a new form. But it causes the subject to partake
more perfectly of a pre-existing form, or it makes the form to extend
Reply to Objection 3: What is not already white, is potentially white, as not yet
possessing the form of whiteness: hence the agent causes a new form in
the subject. But that which is less hot or white, is not in potentiality
to those forms, since it has them already actually: but it is in
potentiality to a perfect mode of participation; and this it receives
through the agent's action.
Article 3: Whether every act increases its habit?
Objection 1: It would seem that every act increases its habit. For when the
cause is increased the effect is increased. Now acts are causes of
habits, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore a habit increases when
its acts are multiplied.
Objection 2: Further, of like things a like judgment should be formed. But all
the acts proceeding from one and the same habit are alike (Ethic. ii,
1,2). Therefore if some acts increase a habit, every act should increase
Objection 3: Further, like is increased by like. But any act is like the habit
whence it proceeds. Therefore every act increases the habit.
On the contrary, Opposite effects do not result from the same cause. But
according to Ethic. ii, 2, some acts lessen the habit whence they
proceed, for instance if they be done carelessly. Therefore it is not
every act that increases a habit.
I answer that, "Like acts cause like habits" (Ethic. ii, 1,2). Now
things are like or unlike not only in respect of their qualities being
the same or various, but also in respect of the same or a different mode
of participation. For it is not only black that is unlike white, but
also less white is unlike more white, since there is movement from less
white to more white, even as from one opposite to another, as stated in
Phys. v, text. 52.
But since use of habits depends on the will, as was shown above (Question , Article ); just as one who has a habit may fail to use it or may act contrary
to it; so may he happen to use the habit by performing an act that is not
in proportion to the intensity of the habit. Accordingly, if the
intensity of the act correspond in proportion to the intensity of the
habit, or even surpass it, every such act either increases the habit or
disposes to an increase thereof, if we may speak of the increase of
habits as we do of the increase of an animal. For not every morsel of
food actually increases the animal's size as neither does every drop of
water hollow out the stone: but the multiplication of food results at
last in an increase of the body. So, too, repeated acts cause a habit to
grow. If, however, the act falls short of the intensity of the habit,
such an act does not dispose to an increase of that habit, but rather to
a lessening thereof.
From this it is clear how to solve the objections.