St. Thomas Aquinas
The Summa Theologica
Fathers of the English Dominican Province
OF QUARRELING (TWO ARTICLES)
We must now consider quarreling; concerning which there are two points
(1) Whether it is opposed to the virtue of friendship?
(2) Of its comparison with flattery?
Whether quarreling is opposed to the virtue of friendship or affability?
Objection 1: It seems that quarreling is not opposed to the virtue of
friendship or affability. For quarreling seems to pertain to discord,
just as contention does. But discord is opposed to charity, as stated
above (Question , Article ). Therefore quarreling is also.
Objection 2: Further, it is written (Prov. 26:21): "An angry man stirreth up
strife." Now anger is opposed to meekness. Therefore strife or quarreling
Objection 3: Further, it is written (James 4:1): "From whence are wars and
quarrels [Douay: 'contentions'] among you? Are they not hence, from your
concupiscences which war in your members?" Now it would seem contrary to
temperance to follow one's concupiscences. Therefore it seems that
quarreling is opposed not to friendship but to temperance.
On the contrary, The Philosopher opposes quarreling to friendship
(Ethic. iv, 6).
I answer that, Quarreling consists properly in words, when, namely, one
person contradicts another's words. Now two things may be observed in
this contradiction. For sometimes contradiction arises on account of the
person who speaks, the contradictor refusing to consent with him from
lack of that love which unites minds together, and this seems to pertain
to discord, which is contrary to charity. Whereas at times contradiction
arises by reason of the speaker being a person to whom someone does not
fear to be disagreeable: whence arises quarreling, which is opposed to
the aforesaid friendship or affability, to which it belongs to behave
agreeably towards those among whom we dwell. Hence the Philosopher says
(Ethic. iv, 6) that "those who are opposed to everything with the intent
of being disagreeable, and care for nobody, are said to be peevish and
Reply to Objection 1: Contention pertains rather to the contradiction of discord,
while quarreling belongs to the contradiction which has the intention of
Reply to Objection 2: The direct opposition of virtues to vices depends, not on
their causes, since one vice may arise from many causes, but on the
species of their acts. And although quarreling arises at times from
anger, it may arise from many other causes, hence it does not follow that
it is directly opposed to meekness.
Reply to Objection 3: James speaks there of concupiscence considered as a general
evil whence all vices arise. Thus, a gloss on Rm. 7:7 says: "The law is
good, since by forbidding concupiscence, it forbids all evil."
Whether quarreling is a more grievous sin than flattery?
Objection 1: It seems that quarreling is a less grievous sin than the contrary
vice, viz. adulation or flattery. For the more harm a sin does the more
grievous it seems to be. Now flattery does more harm than quarreling, for
it is written (Is. 3:12): "O My people, they that call thee blessed, the
same deceive thee, and destroy the way of thy steps." Therefore flattery
is a more grievous sin than quarreling.
Objection 2: Further, there appears to be a certain amount of deceit in
flattery, since the flatterer says one thing, and thinks another: whereas
the quarrelsome man is without deceit, for he contradicts openly. Now he
that sins deceitfully is a viler man, according to the Philosopher
(Ethic. vii, 6). Therefore flattery is a more grievous sin than
Objection 3: Further, shame is fear of what is vile, according to the
Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 9). But a man is more ashamed to be a flatterer
than a quarreler. Therefore quarreling is a less grievous sin than
On the contrary, The more a sin is inconsistent with the spiritual
state, the more it appears to be grievous. Now quarreling seems to be
more inconsistent with the spiritual state: for it is written (1 Tim. 3:2,3) that it "behooveth a bishop to be . . . not quarrelsome"; and (2
Tim. 3:24): "The servant of the Lord must not wrangle." Therefore
quarreling seems to be a more grievous sin than flattery.
I answer that, We can speak of each of these sins in two ways. In one
way we may consider the species of either sin, and thus the more a vice
is at variance with the opposite virtue the more grievous it is. Now the
virtue of friendship has a greater tendency to please than to displease:
and so the quarrelsome man, who exceeds in giving displeasure sins more
grievously than the adulator or flatterer, who exceeds in giving
pleasure. In another way we may consider them as regards certain external
motives, and thus flattery sometimes more grievous, for instance when one
intends by deception to acquire undue honor or gain: while sometimes
quarreling is more grievous; for instance, when one intends either to
deny the truth, or to hold up the speaker to contempt.
Reply to Objection 1: Just as the flatterer may do harm by deceiving secretly, so
the quarreler may do harm sometimes by assailing openly. Now, other
things being equal, it is more grievous to harm a person openly, by
violence as it were, than secretly. Wherefore robbery is a more grievous
sin than theft, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 2: In human acts, the more grievous is not always the more
vile. For the comeliness of a man has its source in his reason: wherefore
the sins of the flesh, whereby the flesh enslaves the reason, are viler,
although spiritual sins are more grievous, since they proceed from
greater contempt. In like manner, sins that are committed through deceit
are viler, in so far as they seem to arise from a certain weakness, and
from a certain falseness of the reason, although sins that are committed
openly proceed sometimes from a greater contempt. Hence flattery, through
being accompanied by deceit, seems to be a viler sin; while quarreling,
through proceeding from greater contempt, is apparently more grievous.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated in the objection, shame regards the vileness of a
sin; wherefore a man is not always more ashamed of a more grievous sin,
but of a viler sin. Hence it is that a man is more ashamed of flattery
than of quarreling, although quarreling is more grievous.