Are Virtues Natural?

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Thomas Aquinas wrote Disputed Questions on Virtue around the year 1269  when he returned to Paris a second time to teach Theology at the University of Naples. In this 140 pg work translated by Ralph McInerny, 13 Questions, or Articles are addressed.

                                                                      disputed questions 1

Disputed Questions on Virtue

Thomas Aquinas. Translated and Preface by Ralph McInerny. St. Augustine’s Press. South Bend, Indiana. 1999.

Saint_Thomas_Aquinas_Diego_Velázquez

         ‘Temptation of St.Thomas Aquinas’ Diego Velazquez  1631-1632

 
Aquinas’ procedural question and answer formats consists of articles with an objection  followed by his responses.   

         Article 8: “Do we have any natural virtues?”

                                                 -It seems that we do.

3.  Moreover, it is said in Romans 2,:14 that men who have not the law naturally do what is of the law. But law commands the act of virtue.  Therefore, men naturally perform the acts of virtue, and so it seems that virtue is from nature.

9. Moreover, man is more worthy and perfect than irrational creature, but in what pertains to their perfection nature is sufficient for such creatures.  Therefore, since the virtues are perfections of man, it seems that they are in man by nature.

Aquinas:  ON THE CONTRARY

 3.  It should be said that the ability to be good is in us from nature simply speaking in that the powers are natural; but to will and to know are in us by nature in a manner of speaking, namely, according to some general beginning, but this does not suffice for virtue, requires that a man promptly and for the most part infallibly attain the good, which no one can do without the habit of virtue.  Clearly someone may know generally how to make a work of art, for example to argue, to saw, or to make something, but to do readily and without error, he has need of art, and it is the same with virtue.

9.  It should be said that God is of Himself perfected in goodness; hence, there is no way in which He needs to pursue goodness.  The higher substances close to him need little from him in order to achieve the perfection of goodness.  But man, who is more remote, needs many things for the pursuit of perfect goodness, because he is capable of happiness.  Creatures who are not capable of happiness need fewer things than a man does.  Hence, man is more worthy than they, even though he needs more things, just as one who can acquire perfect health by much exercise is better disposed than another who can achieve only a little even though by slight exercise.

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What say you?   Please feel free to leave a comment.   Ponder Anew loves dialog!

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