QUESTION 145: OF HONESTY
We must now consider honesty, under which head there are four points of
(1) The relation between the honest and the virtuous;
(2) Its relation with the beautiful [*As honesty here denotes moral
goodness, so beauty stands for moral beauty];
(3) Its relation with the useful and the pleasant;
(4) Whether honesty is a part of temperance?
Article 1: Whether honesty is the same as virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that honesty is not the same as virtue. For Tully
says (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 53) that "the honest is what is desired for
its own sake." Now virtue is desired, not for its own sake, but for the
sake of happiness, for the Philosopher says (Ethic. i, 9) that "happiness
is the reward and the end of virtue." Therefore honesty is not the same
Objection 2: Further, according to Isidore (Etym. x) "honesty means an
honorable state." Now honor is due to many things besides virtue, since
"it is praise that is the proper due of virtue" (Ethic. i, 12). Therefore
honesty is not the same as virtue.
Objection 3: Further, the "principal part of virtue is the interior choice,"
as the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 13). But honesty seems to pertain
rather to exterior conduct, according to 1 Cor. 14:40, "Let all things be
done decently [honeste] and according to order" among you. Therefore
honesty is not the same as virtue.
Objection 4: Further, honesty apparently consists in external wealth.
According to Ecclus. 11:14, "good things and evil, life and death
[poverty and riches] are from God" [*The words in brackets are omitted in
the Leonine edition. For riches the Vulgate has 'honestas']. But virtue
does not consist in external wealth. Therefore honesty is not the same as
On the contrary, Tully (De Offic. i, 5; Rhet. ii, 53) divides honesty
into the four principal virtues, into which virtue is also divided.
Therefore honesty is the same as virtue.
I answer that, As Isidore says (Etym. x) "honesty means an honorable
state," wherefore a thing may be said to be honest through being worthy
of honor. Now honor, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 2), is due to
excellence: and the excellence of a man is gauged chiefly according to
his virtue, as stated in Phys. vii, 17. Therefore, properly speaking,
honesty refers to the same thing as virtue.
Reply to Objection 1: According to the Philosopher (Ethic. i, 7), of those things
that are desired for their own sake, some are desired for their own sake
alone, and never for the sake of something else, such as happiness which
is the last end; while some are desired, not only for their own sake,
inasmuch as they have an aspect of goodness in themselves, even if no
further good accrued to us through them, but also for the sake of
something else, inasmuch as they are conducive to some more perfect good.
It is thus that the virtues are desirable for their own sake: wherefore
Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 52) that "some things allure us by their
own force, and attract us by their own worth, such as virtue, truth,
knowledge." And this suffices to give a thing the character of honest.
Reply to Objection 2: Some of the things which are honored besides virtue are
more excellent than virtue, namely God and happiness, and such like
things are not so well known to us by experience as virtue which we
practice day by day. Hence virtue has a greater claim to the name of
honesty. Other things which are beneath virtue are honored, in so far as
they are a help to the practice of virtue, such as rank, power, and
riches [*Ethic. i, 8]. For as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 3) that
these things "are honored by some people, but in truth it is only the
good man who is worthy of honor." Now a man is good in respect of virtue.
Wherefore praise is due to virtue in so far as the latter is desirable
for the sake of something else, while honor is due to virtue for its own
sake: and it is thus that virtue has the character of honesty.
Reply to Objection 3: As we have stated honest denotes that to which honor is
due. Now honor is an attestation to someone's excellence, as stated above
(Question , Articles ,2). But one attests only to what one knows; and the
internal choice is not made known save by external actions. Wherefore
external conduct has the character of honesty, in so far as it reflects
internal rectitude. For this reason honesty consists radically in the
internal choice, but its expression lies in the external conduct.
Reply to Objection 4: It is because the excellence of wealth is commonly regarded
as making a man deserving of honor, that sometimes the name of honesty is
given to external prosperity.
Article 2: Whether the honest is the same as the beautiful?
Objection 1: It would seem that the honest is not the same as the beautiful.
For the aspect of honest is derived from the appetite, since the honest
is "what is desirable for its own sake" [*Cicero, De Invent. Rhet. ii,
53]. But the beautiful regards rather the faculty of vision to which it
is pleasing. Therefore the beautiful is not the same as the honest.
Objection 2: Further, beauty requires a certain clarity, which is
characteristic of glory: whereas the honest regards honor. Since then
honor and glory differ, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 3), it seems
also that the honest and the beautiful differ.
Objection 3: Further, honesty is the same as virtue, as stated above (Article ).
But a certain beauty is contrary to virtue, wherefore it is written
(Ezech. 16:15): "Trusting in thy beauty thou playest the harlot because
of thy renown." Therefore the honest is not the same as the beautiful.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (1 Cor. 12:23,24): "Those that are our
uncomely [inhonesta] parts, have more abundant comeliness [honestatem],
but our comely [honesta] parts have no need." Now by uncomely parts he
means the baser members, and by comely parts the beautiful members.
Therefore the honest and the beautiful are apparently the same.
I answer that, As may be gathered from the words of Dionysius (Div. Nom.
iv), beauty or comeliness results from the concurrence of clarity and
due proportion. For he states that God is said to be beautiful, as being
"the cause of the harmony and clarity of the universe." Hence the beauty
of the body consists in a man having his bodily limbs well proportioned,
together with a certain clarity of color. In like manner spiritual beauty
consists in a man's conduct or actions being well proportioned in respect
of the spiritual clarity of reason. Now this is what is meant by honesty,
which we have stated (Article ) to be the same as virtue; and it is virtue
that moderates according to reason all that is connected with man.
Wherefore "honesty is the same as spiritual beauty." Hence Augustine says
(Questions , qu. 30): "By honesty I mean intelligible beauty, which we
properly designate as spiritual," and further on he adds that "many
things are beautiful to the eye, which it would be hardly proper to call
Reply to Objection 1: The object that moves the appetite is an apprehended good.
Now if a thing is perceived to be beautiful as soon as it is apprehended,
it is taken to be something becoming and good. Hence Dionysius says (Div.
Nom. iv) that "the beautiful and the good are beloved by all." Wherefore
the honest, inasmuch as it implies spiritual beauty, is an object of
desire, and for this reason Tully says (De Offic. i, 5): "Thou perceivest
the form and the features, so to speak, of honesty; and were it to be
seen with the eye, would, as Plato declares, arouse a wondrous love of
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above (Question , Article , ad 3), glory is the effect
of honor: because through being honored or praised, a person acquires
clarity in the eyes of others. Wherefore, just as the same thing makes a
man honorable and glorious, so is the same thing honest and beautiful.
Reply to Objection 3: This argument applies to the beauty of the body: although
it might be replied that to be proud of one's honesty is to play the
harlot because of one's spiritual beauty, according to Ezech. 28:17, "Thy
heart was lifted up with thy beauty, thou hast lost thy wisdom in thy
Article 3: Whether the honest differs from the useful and the pleasant?
Objection 1: It would seem that the honest does not differ from the useful and
the pleasant. For the honest is "what is desirable for its own sake"
[*Cicero, De Invent. Rhet. ii, 53]. Now pleasure is desired for its own
sake, for "it seems ridiculous to ask a man why he wishes to be pleased,"
as the Philosopher remarks (Ethic. x, 2). Therefore the honest does not
differ from the pleasant.
Objection 2: Further, riches are comprised under the head of useful good: for
Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 52): "There is a thing that attracts the
desire not by any force of its own, nor by its very nature, but on
account of its fruitfulness and utility": and "that is money." Now riches
come under the head of honesty, for it is written (Ecclus. 11:14):
"Poverty and riches [honestas] are from God," and (Ecclus. 13:2): "He
shall take a burden upon him that hath fellowship with one more
honorable," i.e. richer, "than himself." Therefore the honest differs not
from the useful.
Objection 3: Further, Tully proves (De Offic. ii, 3) that nothing can be
useful unless it be honest: and Ambrose makes the same statement (De
Offic. ii, 6). Therefore the useful differs not from the honest.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Question , qu. 30): "The honest is that
which is desirable for its own sake: the useful implies reference to
I answer that, The honest concurs in the same subject with the useful
and the pleasant, but it differs from them in aspect. For, as stated
above (Article ), a thing is said to be honest, in so far as it has a certain
beauty through being regulated by reason. Now whatever is regulated in
accordance with reason is naturally becoming to man. Again, it is natural
for a thing to take pleasure in that which is becoming to it. Wherefore
an honest thing is naturally pleasing to man: and the Philosopher proves
this with regard to acts of virtue (Ethic. i, 8). Yet not all that is
pleasing is honest, since a thing may be becoming according to the
senses, but not according to reason. A pleasing thing of this kind is
beside man's reason which perfects his nature. Even virtue itself, which
is essentially honest, is referred to something else as its end namely
happiness. Accordingly the honest the useful, and the pleasant concur in
the one subject.
Nevertheless they differ in aspect. For a thing is said to be honest as
having a certain excellence deserving of honor on account of its
spiritual beauty: while it is said to be pleasing, as bringing rest to
desire, and useful, as referred to something else. The pleasant, however,
extends to more things than the useful and the honest: since whatever is
useful and honest is pleasing in some respect, whereas the converse does
not hold (Ethic. ii, 3).
Reply to Objection 1: A thing is said to be honest, if it is desired for its own
sake by the rational appetite. which tends to that which is in accordance
with reason: while a thing is said to be pleasant if it is desired for
its own sake by the sensitive appetite.
Reply to Objection 2: Riches are denominated honesty according of the opinion of
the many who honor wealth: or because they are intended to be the
instruments of virtuous deeds, as stated above (Article , ad 2).
Reply to Objection 3: Tully and Ambrose mean to say that nothing incompatible
with honesty can be simply and truly useful, since it follows that it is
contrary to man's last end, which is a good in accordance with reason;
although it may perhaps be useful in some respect, with regard to a
particular end. But they do not mean to say that every useful thing as
such may be classed among those that are honest.
Article 4: Whether honesty should be reckoned a part of temperance?
Objection 1: It would seem that honesty should not be reckoned a part of
temperance. For it is not possible for a thing to be part and whole in
respect of one same thing. Now "temperance is a part of honesty,"
according to Tully (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 53). Therefore honesty is not a
part of temperance.
Objection 2: Further, it is stated (3 Esdra 3:21) that "wine . . . makes all
thoughts honest." But the use of wine, especially in excess, in which
sense the passage quoted should seemingly be taken, pertains to
intemperance rather than to temperance. Therefore honesty is not a part
Objection 3: Further, the honest is that which is deserving of honor. Now "it
is the just and the brave who receive most honor," according to the
Philosopher (Rhet. i, 9). Therefore honesty pertains, not to temperance,
but rather to justice and fortitude: wherefore Eleazar said as related in
2 Macc. 6:28: "I suffer an honorable [honesta] death, for the most
venerable and most holy laws."
On the contrary, Macrobius [*In Somn. Scip. i] reckons honesty a part of
temperance, and Ambrose (De Offic. i, 43) ascribes honesty as pertaining
especially to temperance.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), honesty is a kind of spiritual
beauty. Now the disgraceful is opposed to the beautiful: and opposites
are most manifest of one another. Wherefore seemingly honesty belongs
especially to temperance, since the latter repels that which is most
disgraceful and unbecoming to man, namely animal lusts. Hence by its very
name temperance is most significative of the good of reason to which it
belongs to moderate and temper evil desires. Accordingly honesty, as
being ascribed for a special reason to temperance, is reckoned as a part
thereof, not as a subjective part, nor as an annexed virtue, but as an
integral part or condition attaching thereto.
Reply to Objection 1: Temperance is accounted a subjective part of honesty taken
in a wide sense: it is not thus that the latter is reckoned a part of
Reply to Objection 2: When a man is intoxicated, "the wine makes his thoughts
honest" according to his own reckoning because he deems himself great and
deserving of honor [*Cf. Question , Article ].
Reply to Objection 3: Greater honor is due to justice and fortitude than to
temperance, because they excel in the point of a greater good: yet
greater honor is due to temperance, because the vices which it holds in
check are the most deserving of reproach, as stated above. Thus honesty
is more to be ascribed to temperance according to the rule given by the
Apostle (1 Cor. 12:23) when he says that "our uncomely parts have more
abundant comeliness," which, namely, destroys whatever is uncomely.