QUESTION 72: OF THE DISTINCTION OF SINS
We must now consider the distinction of sins or vices: under which head
there are nine points of inquiry:
(1) Whether sins are distinguished specifically by their objects?
(2) Of the distinction between spiritual and carnal sins;
(3) Whether sins differ in reference to their causes?
(4) Whether they differ with respect to those who are sinned against?
(5) Whether sins differ in relation to the debt of punishment?
(6) Whether they differ in regard to omission and commission?
(7) Whether they differ according to their various stages?
(8) Whether they differ in respect of excess and deficiency?
(9) Whether they differ according to their various circumstances?
Article 1: Whether sins differ in species according to their objects?
Objection 1: It would seem that sins do not differ in species, according to their objects. For acts are said to be good or evil, in relation, chiefly, to their end, as shown above (Question , Article ; Question , Articles ,6). Since then sin is nothing else than a bad human act, as stated above (Question , Article ), it seems that sins should differ specifically according to their ends rather than according to their objects.
Objection 2: Further, evil, being a privation, differs specifically according
to the different species of opposites. Now sin is an evil in the genus of
human acts. Therefore sins differ specifically according to their
opposites rather than according to their objects.
Objection 3: Further, if sins differed specifically according to their
objects, it would be impossible to find the same specific sin with
diverse objects: and yet such sins are to be found. For pride is about
things spiritual and material as Gregory says (Moral. xxxiv, 18); and
avarice is about different kinds of things. Therefore sins do not differ
in species according to their objects.
On the contrary, "Sin is a word, deed, or desire against God's law." Now words, deeds, and desires differ in species according to their various objects: since acts differ by their objects, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore sins, also differ in species according to their objects.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), two things concur in the
nature of sin, viz. the voluntary act, and its inordinateness, which
consists in departing from God's law. Of these two, one is referred
essentially to the sinner, who intends such and such an act in such and
such matter; while the other, viz. the inordinateness of the act, is
referred accidentally to the intention of the sinner, for "no one acts
intending evil," as Dionysius declares (Div. Nom. iv). Now it is evident
that a thing derives its species from that which is essential and not
from that which is accidental: because what is accidental is outside the
specific nature. Consequently sins differ specifically on the part of the
voluntary acts rather than of the inordinateness inherent to sin. Now
voluntary acts differ in species according to their objects, as was
proved above (Question , Article ). Therefore it follows that sins are properly
distinguished in species by their objects.
Reply to Objection 1: The aspect of good is found chiefly in the end: and
therefore the end stands in the relation of object to the act of the will
which is at the root of every sin. Consequently it amounts to the same
whether sins differ by their objects or by their ends.
Reply to Objection 2: Sin is not a pure privation but an act deprived of its due
order: hence sins differ specifically according to their objects of their
acts rather than according to their opposites, although, even if they
were distinguished in reference to their opposite virtues, it would come
to the same: since virtues differ specifically according to their
objects, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 3: In various things, differing in species or genus, nothing hinders our finding one formal aspect of the object, from which aspect sin receives its species. It is thus that pride seeks excellence in reference to various things; and avarice seeks abundance of things adapted to human use.
Article 2: Whether spiritual sins are fittingly distinguished from carnal sins?
Objection 1: It would seem that spiritual sins are unfittingly distinguished
from carnal sins. For the Apostle says (Gal. 5:19): "The works of the
flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty,
luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts," etc. from which it seems that all kinds
of sins are works of the flesh. Now carnal sins are called works of the
flesh. Therefore carnal sins should not be distinguished from spiritual
Objection 2: Further, whosoever sins, walks according to the flesh, as stated
in Rm. 8:13: "If you live according to the flesh, you shall die. But if
by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live." Now to
live or walk according to the flesh seems to pertain to the nature of
carnal sin. Therefore carnal sins should not be distinguished from
Objection 3: Further, the higher part of the soul, which is the mind or
reason, is called the spirit, according to Eph. 4:23: "Be renewed in the
spirit of your mind," where spirit stands for reason, according to a
gloss. Now every sin, which is committed in accordance with the flesh,
flows from the reason by its consent; since consent in a sinful act
belongs to the higher reason, as we shall state further on (Question , Article ).
Therefore the same sins are both carnal and spiritual, and consequently
they should not be distinguished from one another.
Objection 4: Further, if some sins are carnal specifically, this, seemingly,
should apply chiefly to those sins whereby man sins against his own body.
But, according to the Apostle (1 Cor. 6:18), "every sin that a man doth,
is without the body: but he that committeth fornication, sinneth against
his own body." Therefore fornication would be the only carnal sin,
whereas the Apostle (Eph. 5:3) reckons covetousness with the carnal sins.
On the contrary, Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 17) says that "of the seven
capital sins five are spiritual, and two carnal."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), sins take their species from
their objects. Now every sin consists in the desire for some mutable
good, for which man has an inordinate desire, and the possession of which
gives him inordinate pleasure. Now, as explained above (Question , Article ),
pleasure is twofold. One belongs to the soul, and is consummated in the
mere apprehension of a thing possessed in accordance with desire; this
can also be called spiritual pleasure, e.g. when one takes pleasure in
human praise or the like. The other pleasure is bodily or natural, and is
realized in bodily touch, and this can also be called carnal pleasure.
Accordingly, those sins which consist in spiritual pleasure, are called
spiritual sins; while those which consist in carnal pleasure, are called
carnal sins, e.g. gluttony, which consists in the pleasures of the
table; and lust, which consists in sexual pleasures. Hence the Apostle
says (2 Cor. 7:1): "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the
flesh and of the spirit."
Reply to Objection 1: As a gloss says on the same passage, these vices are called
works of the flesh, not as though they consisted in carnal pleasure; but
flesh here denotes man, who is said to live according to the flesh, when
he lives according to himself, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 2,3).
The reason of this is because every failing in the human reason is due in
some way to the carnal sense.
This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection.
Reply to Objection 3: Even in the carnal sins there is a spiritual act, viz. the
act of reason: but the end of these sins, from which they are named, is
Reply to Objection 4: As the gloss says, "in the sin of fornication the soul is
the body's slave in a special sense, because at the moment of sinning it
can think of nothing else": whereas the pleasure of gluttony, although
carnal, does not so utterly absorb the reason. It may also be said that
in this sin, an injury is done to the body also, for it is defiled
inordinately: wherefore by this sin alone is man said specifically to sin
against his body. While covetousness, which is reckoned among the carnal
sins, stands here for adultery, which is the unjust appropriation of
another's wife. Again, it may be said that the thing in which the
covetous man takes pleasure is something bodily, and in this respect
covetousness is numbered with the carnal sins: but the pleasure itself
does not belong to the body, but to the spirit, wherefore Gregory says
(Moral. xxxi, 17) that it is a spiritual sin.
Article 3: Whether sins differ specifically in reference to their causes?
Objection 1: It would seem that sins differ specifically in reference to their
causes. For a thing takes its species from that whence it derives its
being. Now sins derive their being from their causes. Therefore they take
their species from them also. Therefore they differ specifically in
reference to their causes.
Objection 2: Further, of all the causes the material cause seems to have least
reference to the species. Now the object in a sin is like its material
cause. Since, therefore, sins differ specifically according to their
objects, it seems that much more do they differ in reference to their
Objection 3: Further, Augustine, commenting on Ps. 79:17, "Things set on fire
and dug down," says that "every sin is due either to fear inducing false
humility, or to love enkindling us to undue ardor." For it is written (1
Jn. 2:16) that "all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the
flesh, or [Vulg.: 'and'] the concupiscence of the eyes, or [Vulg.: 'and']
the pride of life." Now a thing is said to be in the world on account of
sin, in as much as the world denotes lovers of the world, as Augustine
observes (Tract. ii in Joan.). Gregory, too (Moral. xxxi, 17),
distinguishes all sins according to the seven capital vices. Now all
these divisions refer to the causes of sins. Therefore, seemingly, sins
differ specifically according to the diversity of their causes.
On the contrary, If this were the case all sins would belong to one
species, since they are due to one cause. For it is written (Ecclus.
10:15) that "pride is the beginning of all sin," and (1 Tim. 6:10) that
"the desire of money is the root of all evils." Now it is evident that
there are various species of sins. Therefore sins do not differ
specifically according to their different causes.
I answer that, Since there are four kinds of causes, they are attributed to various things in various ways. Because the "formal" and the "material" cause regard properly the substance of a thing; and consequently substances differ in respect of their matter and form, both in species and in genus. The "agent" and the "end" regard directly movement and operation: wherefore movements and operations differ specifically in respect of these causes; in different ways, however, because the natural active principles are always determined to the same acts; so that the different species of natural acts are taken not only from the objects, which are the ends or terms of those acts, but also from their active principles: thus heating and cooling are specifically distinct with reference to hot and cold. On the other hand, the active principles in voluntary acts, such as the acts of sins, are not determined, of necessity, to one act, and consequently from one active or motive principle, diverse species of sins can proceed: thus from fear engendering false humility man may proceed to theft, or murder, or to neglect the flock committed to his care; and these same things may proceed from love enkindling to undue ardor. Hence it is evident that sins do not differ specifically according to their various active or motive causes, but only in respect of diversity in the final cause, which is the end and object of the will. For it has been shown above (Question , Article ; Question , Articles ,6) that human acts take their species from the end.
Reply to Objection 1: The active principles in voluntary acts, not being
determined to one act, do not suffice for the production of human acts,
unless the will be determined to one by the intention of the end, as the
Philosopher proves (Metaph. ix, text. 15,16), and consequently sin
derives both its being and its species from the end.
Reply to Objection 2: Objects, in relation to external acts, have the character
of matter "about which"; but, in relation to the interior act of the
will, they have the character of end; and it is owing to this that they
give the act its species. Nevertheless, even considered as the matter
"about which," they have the character of term, from which movement takes
its species (Phys. v, text. 4; Ethic. x, 4); yet even terms of movement
specify movements, in so far as term has the character of end.
Reply to Objection 3: These distinctions of sins are given, not as distinct
species of sins, but to show their various causes.
Article 4: Whether sin is fittingly divided into sin against God, against oneself, and against one's neighbor?
Objection 1: It would seem that sin is unfittingly divided into sin against
God, against one's neighbor, and against oneself. For that which is
common to all sins should not be reckoned as a part in the division of
sin. But it is common to all sins to be against God: for it is stated in
the definition of sin that it is "against God's law," as stated above
(Question , Article ). Therefore sin against God should not be reckoned a part of
the division of sin.
Objection 2: Further, every division should consist of things in opposition to
one another. But these three kinds of sin are not opposed to one another:
for whoever sins against his neighbor, sins against himself and against
God. Therefore sin is not fittingly divided into these three.
Objection 3: Further, specification is not taken from things external. But God
and our neighbor are external to us. Therefore sins are not distinguished
specifically with regard to them: and consequently sin is unfittingly
divided according to these three.
On the contrary, Isidore (De Summo Bono), in giving the division of
sins, says that "man is said to sin against himself, against God, and
against his neighbor."
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Articles ,6), sin is an inordinate
act. Now there should be a threefold order in man: one in relation to the
rule of reason, in so far as all our actions and passions should be
commensurate with the rule of reason: another order is in relation to the
rule of the Divine Law, whereby man should be directed in all things: and
if man were by nature a solitary animal, this twofold order would
suffice. But since man is naturally a civic and social animal, as is
proved in Polit. i, 2, hence a third order is necessary, whereby man is
directed in relation to other men among whom he has to dwell. Of these
orders the second contains the first and surpasses it. For whatever
things are comprised under the order of reason, are comprised under the
order of God Himself. Yet some things are comprised under the order of
God, which surpass the human reason, such as matters of faith, and things
due to God alone. Hence he that sins in such matters, for instance, by
heresy, sacrilege, or blasphemy, is said to sin against God. In like
manner, the first order includes the third and surpasses it, because in
all things wherein we are directed in reference to our neighbor, we need
to be directed according to the order of reason. Yet in some things we
are directed according to reason, in relation to ourselves only, and not
in reference to our neighbor; and when man sins in these matters, he is
said to sin against himself, as is seen in the glutton, the lustful, and
the prodigal. But when man sins in matters concerning his neighbor, he is
said to sin against his neighbor, as appears in the thief and murderer.
Now the things whereby man is directed to God, his neighbor, and himself
are diverse. Wherefore this distinction of sins is in respect of their
objects, according to which the species of sins are diversified: and
consequently this distinction of sins is properly one of different
species of sins: because the virtues also, to which sins are opposed,
differ specifically in respect of these three. For it is evident from
what has been said (Question , Articles ,2,3) that by the theological virtues man
is directed to God; by temperance and fortitude, to himself; and by
justice to his neighbor.
Reply to Objection 1: To sin against God is common to all sins, in so far as the
order to God includes every human order; but in so far as order to God
surpasses the other two orders, sin against God is a special kind of sin.
Reply to Objection 2: When several things, of which one includes another, are
distinct from one another, this distinction is understood to refer, not
to the part contained in another, but to that in which one goes beyond
another. This may be seen in the division of numbers and figures: for a
triangle is distinguished from a four-sided figure not in respect of its
being contained thereby, but in respect of that in which it is surpassed
thereby: and the same applies to the numbers three and four.
Reply to Objection 3: Although God and our neighbor are external to the sinner
himself, they are not external to the act of sin, but are related to it
as to its object.
Article 5: Whether the division of sins according to their debt of punishment diversifies their species?
Objection 1: It would seem that the division of sins according to their debt
of punishment diversifies their species; for instance, when sin is
divided into "mortal" and "venial." For things which are infinitely
apart, cannot belong to the same species, nor even to the same genus. But
venial and mortal sin are infinitely apart, since temporal punishment is
due to venial sin, and eternal punishment to mortal sin; and the measure
of the punishment corresponds to the gravity of the fault, according to
Dt. 25:2: "According to the measure of the sin shall the measure be also
of the stripes be." Therefore venial and mortal sins are not of the same
genus, nor can they be said to belong to the same species.
Objection 2: Further, some sins are mortal in virtue of their species [*"Ex genere," genus in this case denoting the species], as murder and adultery; and some are venial in virtue of their species, as in an idle word, and excessive laughter. Therefore venial and mortal sins differ specifically.
Objection 3: Further, just as a virtuous act stands in relation to its reward,
so does sin stand in relation to punishment. But the reward is the end of
the virtuous act. Therefore punishment is the end of sin. Now sins differ
specifically in relation to their ends, as stated above (Article , ad 1).
Therefore they are also specifically distinct according to the debt of
On the contrary, Those things that constitute a species are prior to the
species, e.g. specific differences. But punishment follows sin as the
effect thereof. Therefore sins do not differ specifically according to
the debt of punishment.
I answer that, In things that differ specifically we find a twofold
difference: the first causes the diversity of species, and is not to be
found save in different species, e.g. "rational" and "irrational,"
"animate," and "inanimate": the other difference is consequent to
specific diversity; and though, in some cases, it may be consequent to
specific diversity, yet, in others, it may be found within the same
species; thus "white" and "black" are consequent to the specific
diversity of crow and swan, and yet this difference is found within the
one species of man.
We must therefore say that the difference between venial and mortal sin,
or any other difference is respect of the debt of punishment, cannot be a
difference constituting specific diversity. For what is accidental never
constitutes a species; and what is outside the agent's intention is
accidental (Phys. ii, text. 50). Now it is evident that punishment is
outside the intention of the sinner, wherefore it is accidentally
referred to sin on the part of the sinner. Nevertheless it is referred to
sin by an extrinsic principle, viz. the justice of the judge, who imposes
various punishments according to the various manners of sin. Therefore
the difference derived from the debt of punishment, may be consequent to
the specific diversity of sins, but cannot constitute it.
Now the difference between venial and mortal sin is consequent to the
diversity of that inordinateness which constitutes the notion of sin. For
inordinateness is twofold, one that destroys the principle of order, and
another which, without destroying the principle of order, implies
inordinateness in the things which follow the principle: thus, in an
animal's body, the frame may be so out of order that the vital principle
is destroyed; this is the inordinateness of death; while, on the other
hand, saving the vital principle, there may be disorder in the bodily
humors; and then there is sickness. Now the principle of the entire moral
order is the last end, which stands in the same relation to matters of
action, as the indemonstrable principle does to matters of speculation
(Ethic. vii, 8). Therefore when the soul is so disordered by sin as to
turn away from its last end, viz. God, to Whom it is united by charity,
there is mortal sin; but when it is disordered without turning away from
God, there is venial sin. For even as in the body, the disorder of death
which results from the destruction of the principle of life, is
irreparable according to nature, while the disorder of sickness can be
repaired by reason of the vital principle being preserved, so it is in
matters concerning the soul. Because, in speculative matters, it is
impossible to convince one who errs in the principles, whereas one who
errs, but retains the principles, can be brought back to the truth by
means of the principles. Likewise in practical matters, he who, by
sinning, turns away from his last end, if we consider the nature of his
sin, falls irreparably, and therefore is said to sin mortally and to
deserve eternal punishment: whereas when a man sins without turning away
from God, by the very nature of his sin, his disorder can be repaired,
because the principle of the order is not destroyed; wherefore he is said
to sin venially, because, to wit, he does not sin so as to deserve to be
Reply to Objection 1: Mortal and venial sins are infinitely apart as regards what
they "turn away from," not as regards what they "turn to," viz. the
object which specifies them. Hence nothing hinders the same species from
including mortal and venial sins; for instance, in the species "adultery"
the first movement is a venial sin; while an idle word, which is,
generally speaking, venial, may even be a mortal sin.
Reply to Objection 2: From the fact that one sin is mortal by reason of its
species, and another venial by reason of its species, it follows that
this difference is consequent to the specific difference of sins, not
that it is the cause thereof. And this difference may be found even in
things of the same species, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 3: The reward is intended by him that merits or acts
virtually; whereas the punishment is not intended by the sinner, but, on
the contrary, is against his will. Hence the comparison fails.
Article 6: Whether sins of commission and omission differ specifically?
Objection 1: It would seem that sins of commission and omission differ
specifically. For "offense" and "sin" are condivided with one another
(Eph. 2:1), where it is written: "When you were dead in your offenses and
sins," which words a gloss explains, saying: "'Offenses,' by omitting to
do what was commanded, and 'sins,' by doing what was forbidden." Whence
it is evident that "offenses" here denotes sins of omission; while "sin"
denotes sins of commission. Therefore they differ specifically, since
they are contrasted with one another as different species.
Objection 2: Further, it is essential to sin to be against God's law, for this
is part of its definition, as is clear from what has been said (Question , Article ). Now in God's law, the affirmative precepts, against which is the
sin of omission, are different from the negative precepts, against which
is the sin of omission. Therefore sins of omission and commission differ
Objection 3: Further, omission and commission differ as affirmation and
negation. Now affirmation and negation cannot be in the same species,
since negation has no species; for "there is neither species nor
difference of non-being," as the Philosopher states (Phys. iv, text. 67).
Therefore omission and commission cannot belong to the same species.
On the contrary, Omission and commission are found in the same species
of sin. For the covetous man both takes what belongs to others, which is
a sin of commission; and gives not of his own to whom he should give,
which is a sin of omission. Therefore omission and commission do not
I answer that, There is a twofold difference in sins; a material
difference and a formal difference: the material difference is to be
observed in the natural species of the sinful act; while the formal
difference is gathered from their relation to one proper end, which is
also their proper object. Hence we find certain acts differing from one
another in the material specific difference, which are nevertheless
formally in the same species of sin, because they are directed to the one
same end: thus strangling, stoning, and stabbing come under the one
species of murder, although the actions themselves differ specifically
according to the natural species. Accordingly, if we refer to the
material species in sins of omission and commission, they differ
specifically, using species in a broad sense, in so far as negation and
privation may have a species. But if we refer to the formal species of
sins of omission and commission, they do not differ specifically, because
they are directed to the same end, and proceed from the same motive. For
the covetous man, in order to hoard money, both robs, and omits to give
what he ought, and in like manner, the glutton, to satiate his appetite,
both eats too much and omits the prescribed fasts. The same applies to
other sins: for in things, negation is always founded on affirmation,
which, in a manner, is its cause. Hence in the physical order it comes
under the same head, that fire gives forth heat, and that it does not
give forth cold.
Reply to Objection 1: This division in respect of commission and omission, is not
according to different formal species, but only according to material
species, as stated.
Reply to Objection 2: In God's law, the necessity for various affirmative and negative precepts, was that men might be gradually led to virtue, first by abstaining from evil, being induced to this by the negative precepts, and afterwards by doing good, to which we are induced by the affirmative precepts. Wherefore the affirmative and negative precepts do not belong to different virtues, but to different degrees of virtue; and consequently they are not of necessity, opposed to sins of different species. Moreover sin is not specified by that from which it turns away, because in this respect it is a negation or privation, but by that to which it turns, in so far as sin is an act. Consequently sins do not differ specifically according to the various precepts of the Law.
Reply to Objection 3: This objection considers the material diversity of sins. It
must be observed, however, that although, properly speaking, negation is
not in a species, yet it is allotted to a species by reduction to the
affirmation on which it is based.
Article 7: Whether sins are fittingly divided into sins of thought, word, and deed?
Objection 1: It would seem that sins are unfittingly divided into sins of
thought, word, and deed. For Augustine (De Trin. xii, 12) describes three
stages of sin, of which the first is "when the carnal sense offers a
bait," which is the sin of thought; the second stage is reached "when one
is satisfied with the mere pleasure of thought"; and the third stage,
"when consent is given to the deed." Now these three belong to the sin of
thought. Therefore it is unfitting to reckon sin of thought as one kind
Objection 2: Further, Gregory (Moral. iv, 25) reckons four degrees of sin; the
first of which is "a fault hidden in the heart"; the second, "when it is
done openly"; the third, "when it is formed into a habit"; and the
fourth, "when man goes so far as to presume on God's mercy or to give
himself up to despair": where no distinction is made between sins of deed
and sins of word, and two other degrees of sin are added. Therefore the
first division was unfitting.
Objection 3: Further, there can be no sin of word or deed unless there precede
sin of thought. Therefore these sins do not differ specifically.
Therefore they should not be condivided with one another.
On the contrary, Jerome in commenting on Ezech. 43:23: "The human race
is subject to three kinds of sin, for when we sin, it is either by
thought, or word, or deed."
I answer that, Things differ specifically in two ways: first, when each
has the complete species; thus a horse and an ox differ specifically:
secondly, when the diversity of species is derived from diversity of
degree in generation or movement: thus the building is the complete
generation of a house, while the laying of the foundations, and the
setting up of the walls are incomplete species, as the Philosopher
declares (Ethic. x, 4); and the same can apply to the generation of
animals. Accordingly sins are divided into these three, viz. sins of
thought, word, and deed, not as into various complete species: for the
consummation of sin is in the deed, wherefore sins of deed have the
complete species; but the first beginning of sin is its foundation, as it
were, in the sin of thought; the second degree is the sin of word, in so
far as man is ready to break out into a declaration of his thought; while
the third degree consists in the consummation of the deed. Consequently
these three differ in respect of the various degrees of sin.
Nevertheless it is evident that these three belong to the one complete
species of sin, since they proceed from the same motive. For the angry
man, through desire of vengeance, is at first disturbed in thought, then
he breaks out into words of abuse, and lastly he goes on to wrongful
deeds; and the same applies to lust and to any other sin.
Reply to Objection 1: All sins of thought have the common note of secrecy, in
respect of which they form one degree, which is, however, divided into
three stages, viz. of cogitation, pleasure, and consent.
Reply to Objection 2: Sins of words and deed are both done openly, and for this
reason Gregory (Moral. iv, 25) reckons them under one head: whereas
Jerome (in commenting on Ezech. 43:23) distinguishes between them,
because in sins of word there is nothing but manifestation which is
intended principally; while in sins of deed, it is the consummation of
the inward thought which is principally intended, and the outward
manifestation is by way of sequel. Habit and despair are stages following
the complete species of sin, even as boyhood and youth follow the
complete generation of a man.
Reply to Objection 3: Sin of thought and sin of word are not distinct from the
sin of deed when they are united together with it, but when each is found
by itself: even as one part of a movement is not distinct from the whole
movement, when the movement is continuous, but only when there is a break
in the movement.
Article 8: Whether excess and deficiency diversify the species of sins?
Objection 1: It would seem that excess and deficiency do not diversify the
species of sins. For excess and deficiency differ in respect of more and
less. Now "more" and "less" do not diversify a species. Therefore excess
and deficiency do not diversify the species of sins.
Objection 2: Further, just as sin, in matters of action, is due to straying
from the rectitude of reason, so falsehood, in speculative matters, is
due to straying from the truth of the reality. Now the species of
falsehood is not diversified by saying more or less than the reality.
Therefore neither is the species of sin diversified by straying more or
less from the rectitude of reason.
Objection 3: Further, "one species cannot be made out of two," as Porphyry
declares [*Isagog.; cf. Arist. Metaph. i]. Now excess and deficiency are
united in one sin; for some are at once illiberal and
wasteful---illiberality being a sin of deficiency, and prodigality, by
excess. Therefore excess and deficiency do not diversify the species of
On the contrary, Contraries differ specifically, for "contrariety is a
difference of form," as stated in Metaph. x, text. 13,14. Now vices that
differ according to excess and deficiency are contrary to one another,
as illiberality to wastefulness. Therefore they differ specifically.
I answer that, While there are two things in sin, viz. the act itself
and its inordinateness, in so far as sin is a departure from the order of
reason and the Divine law, the species of sin is gathered, not from its
inordinateness, which is outside the sinner's intention, as stated above
(Article ), but one the contrary, from the act itself as terminating in the
object to which the sinner's intention is directed. Consequently wherever
we find a different motive inclining the intention to sin, there will be
a different species of sin. Now it is evident that the motive for
sinning, in sins by excess, is not the same as the motive for sinning, in
sins of deficiency; in fact, they are contrary to one another, just as
the motive in the sin of intemperance is love for bodily pleasures, while
the motive in the sin of insensibility is hatred of the same. Therefore
these sins not only differ specifically, but are contrary to one another.
Reply to Objection 1: Although "more" and "less" do not cause diversity of
species, yet they are sometimes consequent to specific difference, in so
far as they are the result of diversity of form; thus we may say that
fire is lighter than air. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 1)
that "those who held that there are no different species of friendship,
by reason of its admitting of degree, were led by insufficient proof." In
this way to exceed reason or to fall short thereof belongs to sins
specifically different, in so far as they result from different motives.
Reply to Objection 2: It is not the sinner's intention to depart from reason; and
so sins of excess and deficiency do not become of one kind through
departing from the one rectitude of reason. On the other hand, sometimes
he who utters a falsehood, intends to hide the truth, wherefore in this
respect, it matters not whether he tells more or less. If, however,
departure from the truth be not outside the intention, it is evident that
then one is moved by different causes to tell more or less; and in this
respect there are different kinds of falsehood, as is evident of the
"boaster," who exceeds in telling untruths for the sake of fame, and the
"cheat," who tells less than the truth, in order to escape from paying
his debts. This also explains how some false opinions are contrary to one
Reply to Objection 3: One may be prodigal and illiberal with regard to different
objects: for instance one may be illiberal [*Cf. SS, Question , Article , ad 1]
in taking what one ought not: and nothing hinders contraries from being
in the same subject, in different respects.
Article 9: Whether sins differ specifically in respect of different circumstances?
Objection 1: It would seem that vices and sins differ in respect of different
circumstances. For, as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv), "evil results from
each single defect." Now individual defects are corruptions of individual
circumstances. Therefore from the corruption of each circumstance there
results a corresponding species of sin.
Objection 2: Further, sins are human acts. But human acts sometimes take their
species from circumstances, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore
sins differ specifically according as different circumstances are
Objection 3: Further, diverse species are assigned to gluttony, according to
the words contained in the following verse:
'Hastily, sumptuously, too much, greedily, daintily.' Now these pertain
to various circumstances, for "hastily" means sooner than is right; "too
much," more than is right, and so on with the others. Therefore the
species of sin is diversified according to the various circumstances.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 7; iv, 1) that "every
vice sins by doing more than one ought, and when one ought not"; and in
like manner as to the other circumstances. Therefore the species of sins
are not diversified in this respect.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), wherever there is a special
motive for sinning, there is a different species of sin, because the
motive for sinning is the end and object of sin. Now it happens sometimes
that although different circumstances are corrupted, there is but one
motive: thus the illiberal man, for the same motive, takes when he ought
not, where he ought not, and more than he ought, and so on with the
circumstances, since he does this through an inordinate desire of
hoarding money: and in such cases the corruption of different
circumstances does not diversify the species of sins, but belongs to one
and the same species.
Sometimes, however, the corruption of different circumstances arises
from different motives: for instance that a man eat hastily, may be due
to the fact that he cannot brook the delay in taking food, on account of
a rapid exhaustion of the digestive humors; and that he desire too much
food, may be due to a naturally strong digestion; that he desire choice
meats, is due to his desire for pleasure in taking food. Hence in such
matters, the corruption of different circumstances entails different
species of sins.
Reply to Objection 1: Evil, as such, is a privation, and so it has different
species in respect of the thing which the subject is deprived, even as
other privations. But sin does not take its species from the privation or
aversion, as stated above (Article ), but from turning to the object of the
Reply to Objection 2: A circumstance never transfers an act from one species to
another, save when there is another motive.
Reply to Objection 3: In the various species of gluttony there are various
motives, as stated.