QUESTION 63: OF THE CAUSE OF VIRTUES
We must now consider the cause of virtues; and under this head there are
four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether virtue is in us by nature?
(2) Whether any virtue is caused in us by habituation?
(3) Whether any moral virtues are in us by infusion?
(4) Whether virtue acquired by habituation, is of the same species as
Article 1: Whether virtue is in us by nature?
Objection 1: It would seem that virtue is in us by nature. For Damascene says
(De Fide Orth. iii, 14): "Virtues are natural to us and are equally in
all of us." And Antony says in his sermon to the monks: "If the will
contradicts nature it is perverse, if it follow nature it is virtuous."
Moreover, a gloss on Mt. 4:23, "Jesus went about," etc., says: "He taught
them natural virtues, i.e. chastity, justice, humility, which man
Objection 2: Further, the virtuous good consists in accord with reason, as was
clearly shown above (Question , Article , ad 2). But that which accords with
reason is natural to man; since reason is part of man's nature. Therefore
virtue is in man by nature.
Objection 3: Further, that which is in us from birth is said to be natural to
us. Now virtues are in some from birth: for it is written (Job 31:18):
"From my infancy mercy grew up with me; and it came out with me from my
mother's womb." Therefore virtue is in man by nature.
On the contrary, Whatever is in man by nature is common to all men, and
is not taken away by sin, since even in the demons natural gifts remain,
as Dionysius states (Div. Nom. iv). But virtue is not in all men; and is
cast out by sin. Therefore it is not in man by nature.
I answer that, With regard to corporeal forms, it has been maintained by
some that they are wholly from within, by those, for instance, who upheld
the theory of "latent forms" [*Anaxagoras; Cf. FP, Question , Article ; Question ,
Article ]. Others held that forms are entirely from without, those, for
instance, who thought that corporeal forms originated from some separate
cause. Others, however, esteemed that they are partly from within, in so
far as they pre-exist potentially in matter; and partly from without, in
so far as they are brought into act by the agent.
In like manner with regard to sciences and virtues, some held that they
are wholly from within, so that all virtues and sciences would pre-exist
in the soul naturally, but that the hindrances to science and virtue,
which are due to the soul being weighed down by the body, are removed by
study and practice, even as iron is made bright by being polished. This
was the opinion of the Platonists. Others said that they are wholly from
without, being due to the inflow of the active intellect, as Avicenna
maintained. Others said that sciences and virtues are within us by
nature, so far as we are adapted to them, but not in their perfection:
this is the teaching of the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 1), and is nearer the
To make this clear, it must be observed that there are two ways in which
something is said to be natural to a man; one is according to his
specific nature, the other according to his individual nature. And, since
each thing derives its species from its form, and its individuation from
matter, and, again, since man's form is his rational soul, while his
matter is his body, whatever belongs to him in respect of his rational
soul, is natural to him in respect of his specific nature; while whatever
belongs to him in respect of the particular temperament of his body, is
natural to him in respect of his individual nature. For whatever is
natural to man in respect of his body, considered as part of his species,
is to be referred, in a way, to the soul, in so far as this particular
body is adapted to this particular soul.
In both these ways virtue is natural to man inchoatively. This is so in
respect of the specific nature, in so far as in man's reason are to be
found instilled by nature certain naturally known principles of both
knowledge and action, which are the nurseries of intellectual and moral
virtues, and in so far as there is in the will a natural appetite for
good in accordance with reason. Again, this is so in respect of the
individual nature, in so far as by reason of a disposition in the body,
some are disposed either well or ill to certain virtues: because, to wit,
certain sensitive powers are acts of certain parts of the body, according
to the disposition of which these powers are helped or hindered in the
exercise of their acts, and, in consequence, the rational powers also,
which the aforesaid sensitive powers assist. In this way one man has a
natural aptitude for science, another for fortitude, another for
temperance: and in these ways, both intellectual and moral virtues are in
us by way of a natural aptitude, inchoatively, but not perfectly, since
nature is determined to one, while the perfection of these virtues does
not depend on one particular mode of action, but on various modes, in
respect of the various matters, which constitute the sphere of virtue's
action, and according to various circumstances.
It is therefore evident that all virtues are in us by nature, according
to aptitude and inchoation, but not according to perfection, except the
theological virtues, which are entirely from without.
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections. For the first two argue
about the nurseries of virtue which are in us by nature, inasmuch as we
are rational beings. The third objection must be taken in the sense that,
owing to the natural disposition which the body has from birth, one has
an aptitude for pity, another for living temperately, another for some
Article 2: Whether any virtue is caused in us by habituation?
Objection 1: It would seem that virtues can not be caused in us by habituation. Because a gloss of Augustine [*Cf. Lib. Sentent. Prosperi cvi.] commenting on Rm. 14:23, "All that is not of faith is sin," says: "The whole life of an unbeliever is a sin: and there is no good without the Sovereign Good. Where knowledge of the truth is lacking, virtue is a mockery even in the best behaved people." Now faith cannot be acquired by means of works, but is caused in us by God, according to Eph. 2:8: "By grace you are saved through faith." Therefore no acquired virtue can be in us by habituation.
Objection 2: Further, sin and virtue are contraries, so that they are
incompatible. Now man cannot avoid sin except by the grace of God,
according to Wis. 8:21: "I knew that I could not otherwise be continent,
except God gave it." Therefore neither can any virtues be caused in us by
habituation, but only by the gift of God.
Objection 3: Further, actions which lead toward virtue, lack the perfection of
virtue. But an effect cannot be more perfect than its cause. Therefore a
virtue cannot be caused by actions that precede it.
On the contrary, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that good is more
efficacious than evil. But vicious habits are caused by evil acts. Much
more, therefore, can virtuous habits be caused by good acts.
I answer that, We have spoken above (Question , Articles ,3) in a general way
about the production of habits from acts; and speaking now in a special
way of this matter in relation to virtue, we must take note that, as
stated above (Question , Articles ,4), man's virtue perfects him in relation to
good. Now since the notion of good consists in "mode, species, and
order," as Augustine states (De Nat. Boni. iii) or in "number, weight,
and measure," as expressed in Wis. 11:21, man's good must needs be
appraised with respect to some rule. Now this rule is twofold, as stated
above (Question , Articles ,4), viz. human reason and Divine Law. And since
Divine Law is the higher rule, it extends to more things, so that
whatever is ruled by human reason, is ruled by the Divine Law too; but
the converse does not hold.
It follows that human virtue directed to the good which is defined
according to the rule of human reason can be caused by human acts:
inasmuch as such acts proceed from reason, by whose power and rule the
aforesaid good is established. On the other hand, virtue which directs
man to good as defined by the Divine Law, and not by human reason, cannot
be caused by human acts, the principle of which is reason, but is
produced in us by the Divine operation alone. Hence Augustine in giving
the definition of the latter virtue inserts the words, "which God works
in us without us" (Super Ps. 118, Serm. xxvi). It is also of these
virtues that the First Objection holds good.
Reply to Objection 2: Mortal sin is incompatible with divinely infused virtue,
especially if this be considered in its perfect state. But actual sin,
even mortal, is compatible with humanly acquired virtue; because the use
of a habit in us is subject to our will, as stated above (Question , Article ):
and one sinful act does not destroy a habit of acquired virtue, since it
is not an act but a habit, that is directly contrary to a habit.
Wherefore, though man cannot avoid mortal sin without grace, so as never
to sin mortally, yet he is not hindered from acquiring a habit of virtue,
whereby he may abstain from evil in the majority of cases, and chiefly in
matters most opposed to reason. There are also certain mortal sins which
man can nowise avoid without grace, those, namely, which are directly
opposed to the theological virtues, which are in us through the gift of
grace. This, however, will be more fully explained later (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), certain seeds or
principles of acquired virtue pre-exist in us by nature. These principles
are more excellent than the virtues acquired through them: thus the
understanding of speculative principles is more excellent than the
science of conclusions, and the natural rectitude of the reason is more
excellent than the rectification of the appetite which results through
the appetite partaking of reason, which rectification belongs to moral
virtue. Accordingly human acts, in so far as they proceed from higher
principles, can cause acquired human virtues.
Article 3: Whether any moral virtues are in us by infusion?
Objection 1: It would seem that no virtues besides the theological virtues are
infused in us by God. Because God does not do by Himself, save perhaps
sometimes miraculously, those things that can be done by second causes;
for, as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iv), "it is God's rule to bring about
extremes through the mean." Now intellectual and moral virtues can be
caused in us by our acts, as stated above (Article ). Therefore it is not
reasonable that they should be caused in us by infusion.
Objection 2: Further, much less superfluity is found in God's works than in
the works of nature. Now the theological virtues suffice to direct us to
supernatural good. Therefore there are no other supernatural virtues
needing to be caused in us by God.
Objection 3: Further, nature does not employ two means where one suffices:
much less does God. But God sowed the seeds of virtue in our souls,
according to a gloss on Heb. 1 [*Cf. Jerome on Gal. 1: 15,16]. Therefore
it is unfitting for Him to cause in us other virtues by means of infusion.
On the contrary, It is written (Wis. 8:7): "She teacheth temperance and
prudence and justice and fortitude."
I answer that, Effects must needs be proportionate to their causes and
principles. Now all virtues, intellectual and moral, that are acquired by
our actions, arise from certain natural principles pre-existing in us, as
above stated (Article ; Question , Article ): instead of which natural principles,
God bestows on us the theological virtues, whereby we are directed to a
supernatural end, as stated (Question , Article ). Wherefore we need to receive
from God other habits corresponding, in due proportion, to the
theological virtues, which habits are to the theological virtues, what
the moral and intellectual virtues are to the natural principles of
Reply to Objection 1: Some moral and intellectual virtues can indeed be caused
in us by our actions: but such are not proportionate to the theological
virtues. Therefore it was necessary for us to receive, from God
immediately, others that are proportionate to these virtues.
Reply to Objection 2: The theological virtues direct us sufficiently to our
supernatural end, inchoatively: i.e. to God Himself immediately. But the
soul needs further to be perfected by infused virtues in regard to other
things, yet in relation to God.
Reply to Objection 3: The power of those naturally instilled principles does not
extend beyond the capacity of nature. Consequently man needs in addition
to be perfected by other principles in relation to his supernatural end.
Article 4: Whether virtue by habituation belongs to the same species as infused virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that infused virtue does not differ in species from
acquired virtue. Because acquired and infused virtues, according to what
has been said (Article ), do not differ seemingly, save in relation to the
last end. Now human habits and acts are specified, not by their last, but
by their proximate end. Therefore the infused moral or intellectual
virtue does not differ from the acquired virtue.
Objection 2: Further, habits are known by their acts. But the act of infused
and acquired temperance is the same, viz. to moderate desires of touch.
Therefore they do not differ in species.
Objection 3: Further, acquired and infused virtue differ as that which is
wrought by God immediately, from that which is wrought by a creature. But
the man whom God made, is of the same species as a man begotten
naturally; and the eye which He gave to the man born blind, as one
produced by the power of generation. Therefore it seems that acquired and
infused virtue belong to the same species.
On the contrary, Any change introduced into the difference expressed in
a definition involves a difference of species. But the definition of
infused virtue contains the words, "which God works in us without us," as
stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore acquired virtue, to which these
words cannot apply, is not of the same species as infused virtue.
I answer that, There is a twofold specific difference among habits. The
first, as stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ; Question , Article ), is taken
from the specific and formal aspects of their objects. Now the object of
every virtue is a good considered as in that virtue's proper matter: thus
the object of temperance is a good in respect of the pleasures connected
with the concupiscence of touch. The formal aspect of this object is from
reason which fixes the mean in these concupiscences: while the material
element is something on the part of the concupiscences. Now it is evident
that the mean that is appointed in such like concupiscences according to
the rule of human reason, is seen under a different aspect from the mean
which is fixed according to Divine rule. For instance, in the consumption
of food, the mean fixed by human reason, is that food should not harm the
health of the body, nor hinder the use of reason: whereas, according to
the Divine rule, it behooves man to "chastise his body, and bring it into
subjection" (1 Cor. 9:27), by abstinence in food, drink and the like. It
is therefore evident that infused and acquired temperance differ in
species; and the same applies to the other virtues.
The other specific differences among habits is taken from the things to
which they are directed: for a man's health and a horse's are not of the
same species, on account of the difference between the natures to which
their respective healths are directed. In the same sense, the Philosopher
says (Polit. iii, 3) that citizens have diverse virtues according as they
are well directed to diverse forms of government. In the same way, too,
those infused moral virtues, whereby men behave well in respect of their
being "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household [Douay:
'domestics'] of God" (Eph. 2:19), differ from the acquired virtues,
whereby man behaves well in respect of human affairs.
Reply to Objection 1: Infused and acquired virtue differ not only in relation to
the ultimate end, but also in relation to their proper objects, as stated.
Reply to Objection 2: Both acquired and infused temperance moderate desires for
pleasures of touch, but for different reasons, as stated: wherefore their
respective acts are not identical.
Reply to Objection 3: God gave the man born blind an eye for the same act as the
act for which other eyes are formed naturally: consequently it was of the
same species. It would be the same if God wished to give a man
miraculously virtues, such as those that are acquired by acts. But the
case is not so in the question before us, as stated.