Summa Theologiae

Thomas Aquinas

I-II 63-67 (Selected questions on virtues)

On the cause, relationships, mean, and duration of virtues

Question 63

The cause of virtues

Article 1

Whether virtue is in us by nature1


[Different opinions on the production of forms and virtues]

It should be said that in regard to bodily forms, some people said that they are wholly from within, e.g., those people who believed in latent forms. Others said they are wholly from without, e.g., those who held that bodily forms come from a cause separate from matter. Others, however, said that they are partly from within, insofar as they preexist in matter in potency, and partly from without, insofar as they are brought into actuality by an agent.

So also, in regard to sciences and virtues, some held that they are wholly from within—that all virtues and science preexist in the soul by nature, but that the impediments to science and virtue, which are due to the soul being weighed down by the body, are removed by eduction and training, just as iron is made bright by being polished. This was the opinion of the Platonists. Others said that they are wholly from without, i.e., from the influence of the agent intellect, as Avicenna held. And others said that the sciences and virtues are in us by nature, not perfectly, but insofar as we are equipped for them.

[Two ways of being natural]

This third opinion is nearer to the truth. To understand this, we must consider that there are two ways in which something is said to be natural to a man: either according to the nature of his species, or according to his nature as an individual. Now each thing gets its species from its form, and its individuation from matter, and man’s form is his rational soul, while his matter is his body. Therefore whatever belongs to a man on account of the rational soul is natural to him according to the nature of his species, while whatever belongs to him on account of his particular bodily temperament is natural to him according to his nature as an individual. For whatever is natural to man according to his body simply insofar as it is a human body, will be in a certain way referred to the soul, inasmuch as the human body is proportioned to the human soul. [paraphrasing]

[How virtue is natural in these two ways]

In both these ways virtue is natural to man in the sense that he has a certain beginning of virtue. According to the nature of the species, he has this beginning (1) insofar as there are naturally present in man’s reason certain naturally known principles both of matters of knowledge and of practical matters, and these principles are the seeds of intellectual and moral virtues; and again, (2) insofar as in the will there is a natural appetite for the good that is in accordance with reason.

According to their nature as individuals, men have a beginning of virtue insofar as some persons are disposed better or worse in relation to certain virtues, on account of the disposition of their bodies; i.e., inasmuch as certain sensitive powers are acts of certain parts of the body, and so are helped or hindered in their acts by the disposition of these parts of the body, and consequently, the rational powers that are assisted by these sensitive powers are also helped or hindered. And in this way, one man has a natural aptitude for science, another for fortitude, another for temperance.

[How perfect virtue is not simply from nature]

In these ways, both intellectual and moral virtues are in us as in a certain beginning by way of aptitude. But the completion of the virtues is not in us by nature, since nature is determined to one, while these virtues in their complete form do not have only one manner of action, but act in various ways, according to the different matters in which the virtues are active, and according to various circumstances. [paraphrasing]


It is therefore evident that the virtues other than the theological virtues are naturally in us by way of aptitude and beginning, but not according to perfection. The theological virtues, however, are wholly from without.

Article 2

Whether any virtue is caused in us by habituation2


It seems that virtues cannot be caused in us by habituation.

2. For since sin is contrary to virtue, it is incompatible with it. But man cannot avoid sin except by God’s grace, according to Wisdom 8, “I learned that I cannot be continent unless God gives it.” Therefore neither can any virtues by caused in us by becoming habituation to works, but only by God’s gift.

3. For actions which are directed towards virtue fall short of 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.


It should be said that we spoke in a general way above about the generation of habits from acts. Now, however, considering specifically the question of virtue, we should consider that man’s virtue perfects him so as to do good. And since the account of good consists in “mode, species, and order,” as Augustine says (On the Nature of Good III) or in “number, weight, and measure,” as is said in Wis. 11:21, man’s good must be looked at according to some rule. This rule is twofold, as was said above, namely human reason and divine law. And since divine law is the higher rule, it extends to more things, so that whatever is regulated by human reason is also regulated by the divine law, whereas the converse is not true.

Therefore human virtue that is directed to the good as measured by the rule of human reason can be caused by human acts, inasmuch as such acts proceed from reason, by whose power and rule this good is established. But virtue that directs man to good as measured by 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 action alone. Hence Augustine, defining the latter virtue, says, “which God works in us without us” (Commentary on Psalm 118, Serm. Xxvi).

Replies to objections:

2. To the second it should be said that divinely infused virtue, especially if it is considered in its perfection, is incompatible with any mortal sin. But virtue humanly acquired is compatible with some act of sin, even mortal sin, since the use of the habits in us is subject to our will, as was said above—and the habit of acquired virtue is not destroyed by one act of sin, since an act is not directly contrary to a habit, but another habit is. And therefore, although man cannot avoid mortal sin without grace in such a way as never to sin mortally, he is not hindered from acquired a habit of virtue through which he for the most part abstains from evil works, and especially from those that are very contrary to reason. There are also some mortal sins that man can in no way avoid without grace, namely the sins that are directly opposed to the theological virtues, which are in us by the gift of grace. But this will be made clearer below.

3. To the third it should be said that as was said above, certain seeds or principles of acquired virtue preexist in us by nature. These principles are greater than the virtues acquired by means of the power of these principles, as the understanding of speculative principles is greater than the knowledge of conclusions, and the natural rightness of the reason is greater than the rightness of the appetite that comes through the appetite’s partaking of reason, which latter kind of rightness belongs to moral virtue. Thus human acts, insofar as they proceed from higher principles, can cause acquired human virtues.

Article 3

Whether any moral virtues are infused in us3

It seems that there are no other virtues infused in us beyond the theological virtues...


It should be said that effects must be proportionate to their causes and principles. Now all virtues, that are acquired by means of our actions, both intellectual and moral virtues, proceed from certain natural principles that preexist in us, as was said above. In the place of these natural principles, God gives us the theological virtues, by which we are ordered to a supernatural end, as was said above. Hence other habits must also be divinely bestowed on us, which correspond proportionally to the theological virtues, standing in relation to them as the moral and intellectual virtues stand in relation to the natural principles of virtue.

Article 4

Whether the virtue we acquire by habituation is the same in species as infused virtue4


It seems that infused virtues are not different in species from acquired virtues.

1. For according to what was said, acquired and infused virtue do not seem to differ except in relation to their last end. But human habits and acts do not get their species from their last end, but from their proximate end. Therefore infused moral or intellectual virtues do not differ in species from the acquired virtues.

2. Further, habits are known by their acts. But the act of infused and acquired temperance is the same, namely to moderate desires of touch. Therefore they do not differ in species.

3. Further, acquired virtue and infused virtue differ insofar as infused virtue comes immediately from God, while acquired virtue comes from the creature. But the man whom God formed is of the same species as a man generated by nature; and the eye which he gave to the man born blind is of the same species as one produced by the formative power of generation. Therefore it seems that acquired and infused virtue are the same in species.


It should be said that habits can be distinguished into different species in two ways. First, as was said above, on the basis of the specific and formal accounts of their objects. Now the object of every virtue is the good considered in that virtue’s proper matter: thus the object of temperance is the good of pleasure in desires involving touch. The formal account of this object is from reason, which establishes the mean in these desires, while the material element is found on the side of the desires.

Now it is evident that the measure that is imposed upon such desires according to the rule of human reason, is defined differently5 than the measure that is imposed according to divine rule. For example, in the consumption of food, the measure established by human reason is that food should not harm the health of the body, nor hinder the use of reason. According to the divine rule, on the other hand, man is required to “chastise his body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27), by abstinence from food, drink, and such things. It is therefore evident that infused and acquired temperance are different in species, and the same thing applies to the other virtues.

The other way in which habits can be distinguished into different species is based on the things to which they are ordered; for a man’s health and a horse’s health are not the same in species, due to the difference between the natures to which their respective healths are ordered. In the same way the Philosopher says (Politics III, 3) that different citizens have different virtues, depending on the different forms of governments to which they are well disposed. In the same way, the infused moral virtues, by which men are well disposed in relation to being “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), differ from the acquired virtues, by which men are well disposed in relation to human affairs.

Replies to objections:

1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that infused and acquired virtue differ not only in relation to the ultimate end, but also in relation to their proper objects, as was said,

2. To the second it should be said that acquired and infused temperance moderate desires for pleasures of touch, but according to differently defined measures, as was said; and therefore they do not have the same act.

3. To the third it should be said that God gave the man born blind an eye for the same act as the act for which other eyes are formed naturally, and therefore it was of the same species. The same thing would apply if God willed to miraculously give a man virtues like those that are acquired by acts. But this does not apply in the case we are discussing, as was said.

Disputed questions on virtue, q. 1, a. 10

Disputed Questions on Virtue, q. 1, a. 10

Parallel text on infused virtues


It seems that there are no infused virtues in man.

14. For if the virtues are infused, they must all be infused at the same time. Now when grace is infused into a man who has been in the state of sin, the habits of the moral virtues are not at that time infused into him; for even after contrition he suffers the onslaughts of the passions. But this is not the condition of a virtuous man, but perhaps of a continent man; for a continent man differs from a temperate man in this, that the former suffers passions but is not overcome by them, whereas the temperate man does not suffer them, as is said in Ethics VII. Therefore it seems that the virtues are not in us from the infusion of grace.

15. Further, the Philosopher says in Ethics II, the sign that a habit has come into being, is that delight accompanies action. But immediately after contrition, a person does not do the acts of the moral virtues with delight. Therefore he does not yet have the habit of the virtues; therefore the moral virtues are not caused in us by the infusion of grace.

16. Further, suppose that a vicious habit is formed in someone by doing many bad acts. It is manifest that through a single act of contrition his sins are forgiven and grace is infused. But an acquired habit is not destroyed by a single act, just as it is not formed by a single act. Therefore, if the moral virtues are infused together with grace, it follows that the habit of an (infused) moral virtue could exist alongside the habit of the opposed vice, and this is impossible.

Replies to objections:

14. To the fourteenth it should be said that the passions which incline us to evil are not completely taken away either by acquired virtue or by infused virtue, unless this happens miraculously. For the warring of the flesh against the spirit always remains, even after we have moral virtue. The Apostle speaks of this in Gal. 5:17: “The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.” However, these passions are moderated, both by acquired and by infused virtue, so that a man is not violently disturbed by them.

But as regards this effect, acquired virtue has a certain superiority over infused virtue, while infused virtue has a different superiority over acquired virtue. Acquired virtue is superior in that it makes this warring less felt. Acquired virtue has this effect because of the cause from which it comes; for the frequent acts by which a man has become accustomed to virtue make him unaccustomed to obeying his passions, since he has gotten accustomed to resisting them. From this it follows that he feels less trouble from them.

But infused virtue is superior insofar as it brings about the effect that, even though these passions are felt, they in no way gain mastery. For infused virtue brings it about that a man in no way obeys the desires of sin, and so long as this virtue remains, it does this infallibly. Acquired virtue, on the other hand, fails in this matter, although it is only for the lesser part, just as other natural inclinations fail only for the lesser part. Hence the Apostle says, “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:5-6).

15. To the fifteenth it should be said that infused virtue does not always right from the beginning keep us from feeling the passions, as acquired virtue does, and for this reason it does not in the beginning act with as much delight. Nevertheless this is not opposed to the definition of virtue, because sometimes it is enough for virtue that it act without sadness; and it is not required that it work with delight, due to the severe troubles which are experienced. In the same way the Philosopher says that it is enough for the courageous man to act without sadness.

16. To the sixteenth it should be said that although an acquired habit is not destroyed by a single simple act, nevertheless, by the power of grace an act of contrition has the effect of destroying a vicious habit which has been acquired. Therefore, when the habit of intemperance is broken, it no longer remains as a habit in one who had it, alongside the infused virtue of temperance, but it remains only as something on its way to corruption, as a kind of disposition. A disposition, however, does not exclude a contrary habit.

Question 64

Question 64

On the Mean of Virtue

Article 1

Whether moral virtue consists in the mean6


It should be said that is evident from what was said above, it belongs to the nature of virtue to direct man to good. Now moral virtue properly speaking, perfects the appetitive part of the soul in regard to some determinate matter. The measure, or rule, of the appetitive movement in regard to the things desired, is the reason. But the good of something that is measured or ruled, consists in its being conformed to its rule, as the good of things made by art consists in their following the rule of art. Evil in such things, on the other hand, consists in not being in harmony with their rule or measure. Now this may happen either by their exceeding the measure or by their falling short of it, as is evident in all things ruled or measured. Hence it is evident that the good of moral virtue consists in a kind of equality to the rule of reason. But it is clear that equality or conformity is a mean between excess and deficiency. And from this it is evident that moral virtue consists in the mean.

Article 4

Whether the theological virtues consist in the mean


It seems that theological virtue consists in the mean.

3. For hope, which is a theological virtue, is a mean between despair and presumption. Similarly faith holds a mean between contrary heresies, as Boethius says in On the Two Natures, that we confess one person and two natures in Christ, which is a mean between the heresy of Nestorius, who says that there are two persons and two natures, and the heresy of Eutychus, who says that there is one person and one nature. Therefore theological virtue consists in the mean.


It should be said that as was said above, the mean of virtue depends on conformity with virtue’s rule or measure, insofar as one may exceed or fall short of that rule. Now the measure of theological virtue may be twofold. One is taken from the very account of virtue, and thus the measure and rule of theological virtue is God Himself: because our faith is ruled according to divine truth; charity, according to his goodness; hope, according to the immensity of his omnipotence and loving kindness. This measure surpasses all human power: so that never can we love God as much as he ought to be loved, nor believe and hope in him as much as we should. Much less therefore can there be excess in such things. Accordingly the good of such virtues does not consist in a mean, but increases the more we approach to the summit.

The other rule or measure of theological virtue is in relation to us; for although we cannot be borne towards God as much as we ought, yet we should approach to him by believing, hoping and loving according to the measure of our condition. Consequently it is possible to find a mean and extremes in theological virtue, accidentally and in reference to us.

Replies to objections:

3. To the third it should be said that hope observes the mean between presumption and despair in relation to us, insofar as a man is said to be presumptuous, through hoping to receive from God a good in excess of his condition, or to despair, through failing to hope for that which according to his condition he should hope for. But there can be no excess of hope in comparison with God, whose goodness is infinite. In like manner faith holds a middle course between contrary heresies, not by comparison with its object, which is God, in whom we cannot believe too much, but insofar as human opinion itself takes a middle position between contrary opinions, as was explained above.

Question 65

Question 65

On the connection of the virtues

Article 1

Whether the moral virtues are connected with one another7


It seems that the moral virtues are not necessarily connected with one another.

1. For moral virtues are sometimes caused by the exercise of doing actions, as is proven in Ethics II. But man can exercise himself in acts of some virtue without doing acts of another virtue. Therefore one can possess one moral virtue without another.

3. Further, as the moral virtues perfect the appetitive part of the soul, so do the intellectual virtues perfect the intellective part. But the intellectual virtues are not mutually connected: since we may have one science without having another. Neither, therefore, are the moral virtues connected with one another.

4. Further, if the moral virtues are mutually connected, this can only be because they are connected in prudence. But this does not suffice to connect the moral virtues together. For it seems that someone may be prudent about things to be done in relation to one virtue, without being prudent in those that concern another virtue, even as one may have the art of making certain things, without the art of making certain others. Now prudence is right reason about things to be done. Therefore the moral virtues are not necessarily connected with one another.


It should be said that moral virtues can be understood either as perfect or as imperfect. An imperfect moral virtue, e.g., temperance or fortitude, is nothing other than an inclination in us to do a good kind of deed, whether this inclination is in us from nature, or from becoming accustomed to it. And taking the moral virtues in this way, they are not connected; since we find men who, by natural temperament or by being accustomed, are prompt to do deeds of liberality, but are not prompt to act chastely.

But perfect moral virtue is a habit that inclines us to do a good deed well; and if we take moral virtues in this way, we must say that they are connected, as nearly all are agreed in saying....

Aristotle gives the reason for this connection in Ethics VI: as was said above, no moral virtue can exist without prudence, since the proper act of moral virtue, being an elective habit, is to make a right choice. Now moral virtue directly effects an inclination to a suitable end. But right choice requires not only this inclination, but also correct choice of the things that are ordered to the end, and this is effected by prudence, which counsels, judges, and commands in regard to those things that are ordered to the end.

Similarly one cannot have prudence unless one has the moral virtues, since prudence is “right thinking about doing things,” and reason takes as its principles, the ends of the things to be done, and to these ends man is rightly disposed by moral virtue. Hence, just as we cannot have speculative science unless we have the understanding of the principles, so neither can we have prudence without the moral virtues. From this it follows evidently that the moral virtues are connected with one another.

Replies to objections:

1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that some moral virtues perfect man as regards the common state of man, i.e., with regard to those things which must be done in all human life. Hence a man must at the same time exercise acts pertaining to the matters of all moral virtues. And if he exercise himself, by good deeds, in all such matters, he will acquire the habits of all the moral virtues. But if he exercises himself by good deeds in regard to one matter, but not in regard to another, e.g., by doing well in matters of anger, but not in matters of desire, then he will indeed acquire a certain habit of restraining his anger; however, this habit will lack the nature of virtue, due to the absence of prudence, which is corrupted in matters of desire. Thus also natural inclinations fail to have the complete character of virtue if prudence is lacking.

There are some moral virtues, on the other hand, which perfect man with regard to some eminent state, e.g., magnificence and magnanimity; and since not all men are in a position to exercise in the matter of such virtues, it is possible to have the other moral virtues without actually having the habits of these virtues—so long we speak of acquired virtue. Nevertheless, when a man has acquired those other virtues, he then is prepared to possess these. For when, by exercise, a man has acquired liberality in small gifts and expenditure, if he were to acquire a large sum of money, he would acquire the habit of magnificence with but little practice. In this way, too a geometrician, with a little study, acquires knowledge about a conclusion that had never been previously presented to his mind. But we are said to have a thing when we are prepared to have it, according to what the Philosopher says, “That which is scarcely lacking is not lacking at all.”

3. To the third it should be said that the intellectual virtues are about diverse matters that are not ordered to one another, as is evident in the various sciences and arts. Hence we do not observe in them the connection that is to be found among the moral virtues, which regard passions and actions, which are manifestly related to one another. For all the passions have their rise in certain initial passions, viz. love and hatred, and terminate in certain others, viz. pleasure and sorrow. In like manner all the actions that are the matter of moral virtue have an order to one another, and also to the passions. Hence the whole matter of moral virtues falls under one account of prudence.

4. To the fourth it should be said that those things to which the moral virtues incline stand to prudence as its principles, whereas the products of art are not the principles, but the matter of art. Now it is evident that, though reason may be right in one part of the matter, and not in another, yet in no way can it be called right reason, if it be deficient in any principle whatever. Thus, if a man be wrong about the principle, “A whole is greater than its part,” he cannot acquire the science of geometry, because he will necessarily wander from the truth in what follows. Moreover, things “done” are related to one another, but not things “made,” as was said above. Consequently the lack of prudence in one area of things to be done, would result in a deficiency affecting other things to be done, whereas this does not occur in things to be made.

Article 2

Whether the moral virtues can exist without charity


It should be said that as was said above, by human activity we can acquire moral virtues insofar as they produce good actions proportioned to an end not surpassing the natural power of man. And acquired in this way they can exist without charity, as they did exist in many of the Gentiles. But insofar as they produce good works proportioned to the supernatural last end, then they possess the account of virtue truly and perfectly, and cannot be acquired by human acts, but are infused by God. This kind of moral virtue cannot exist without charity. For it was said above that the other moral virtues cannot exist without prudence, and that prudence cannot exist without the moral virtues, insofar as the moral virtues make man relate well to certain ends, on the basis of which prudence then proceeds. But for prudence to proceed rightly, it is much more necessary that man relate well to his ultimate end, which is the effect of charity, than that he relate well to other ends, which is the effect of moral virtue—just as in speculative matters right reason most of all needs the first indemonstrable principle, that “contradictories cannot both be true at the same time.” It is therefore evident that prudence cannot exist without charity, nor, consequently, the other moral virtues, since they cannot exist without prudence.

It is therefore evident from what has been said that only the infused virtues are perfect virtues, and are called virtues simply speaking, since they order man well to the ultimate end. But the other virtues, namely the acquired virtues, are virtues in a certain respect, but not simply speaking; for they order man well with respect to the last end in a particular kind of action, but not with respect to the last end simply speaking. Hence a gloss of Augustine on the words, “All that is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23), says: “He who fails to acknowledge the truth, has no true virtue, even if his conduct be good.”

Article 3

Whether charity can exist without the other moral virtues


It seems that charity can exist without the other moral virtues.

1. For when one thing suffices for a given purpose, it is superfluous to employ others. Now charity alone suffices to do all the works of virtue, as is clear from 1 Cor. 13: “Charity is patient, it is kind,” etc. Therefore it seems that if one has charity, other virtues are superfluous.

2. Further, he who has a habit of virtue easily performs the acts of that virtue, and those acts are in themselves pleasing to him; hence “pleasure taken in a work is a sign of habit” (Ethics II, 3). Now many have charity, being free from mortal sin, and yet experience difficulty in doing acts of virtue; nor are these acts in themselves pleasing to these persons, but only insofar as they are related to charity. Therefore many persons have charity without the other virtues.

3. Further, charity is to be found in every saint, and yet there are some saints who are without certain virtues. For Bede says (on Lk. 17:10) that the saints are more humbled on account of their not having certain virtues, than they glory at the virtues they have. Therefore, if a man has charity, it does not necessarily follow that he has all the moral virtues.

On the contrary:

The whole law is fulfilled through charity, for it is said: “He who loves his neighbor, has fulfilled the law.” (Rm. 13:8) Now it is not possible to fulfill the whole law without having all the moral virtues, since the law commands all acts of virtue, as is said in Ethics V, 1,2. Therefore he who has charity, has all the moral virtues. Moreover, Augustine says in a letter that charity contains all the cardinal virtues. (Epis. clxvii)


It should be said that all the moral virtues are infused together with charity. The reason for this is that God works no less perfectly in works of grace than in works of nature. Now in the works of nature, we find that whenever a thing contains a principle of certain works, it also has whatever is necessary to complete these works: thus in animals we find organs with which they can do the actions that their souls has the power to do. Now it is evident that charity, inasmuch as it orders man to his last end, is the principle of all good works that can be ordered to his last end. Hence together with charity, all the moral virtues must be infused, through which man completes each different kind of good work.

It is therefore evident that the infused moral virtues are connected, not only on account of prudence, but also on account of charity; and again, that whoever loses charity through mortal sin, loses all the infused moral virtues.

Replies to objections:

1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that in order for the act of a lower power to be perfect, there must not only be perfection in the higher, but also in the lower power. For supposing that the principal agent is well disposed, perfect action will still not follow, if the instrument is not also well disposed. Hence, in order for a man to act well in things ordered to the end, he needs not only a virtue by which he is well disposed to the end, but also those virtues by which he is well disposed to whatever is ordered to the end; for the virtue which regards the end is the chief and moving principle in relationship to those things that are ordered to the end. And therefore it is necessary to have the moral virtues together with charity.

2. To the second it should be said that it sometimes happens that a man who has a habit experiences difficulty in acting, due to an impediment that is external in relation to that habit; and consequently he feels no pleasure and complacency in the act; thus a man who has a habit of knowledge may find it difficult to understand, due to being sleepy or sick. Similarly sometimes the habits of moral virtue experience difficulty in their acts, due to certain contrary dispositions remaining from previous acts. This difficulty does not arise in the same way with acquired moral virtue, since the repeated acts by which they are acquired also take away the contrary dispositions.

3. To the third it should be said that certain saints are said not to have certain virtues, insofar as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, for the reason just stated, although they have the habits of all the virtues.

Article 4

Whether faith and hope can exist without charity

[Summary of article]

Faith and hope can exist without charity, but they do not have the full account of virtue, since they do their proper acts, but do not do them well.

Article 5

Whether charity can exist without faith and hope


It seems that charity can exist without faith and hope.

1. For charity is love of God. But we can love God naturally, without already possessing faith, or hope of future beatitude. Therefore charity can exist without faith and hope.

On the contrary:

Is what the Apostle says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6); and pleasing God evidently pertains to charity, according to Prov. 8:17: “I love those who love me.” Again, it is hope that brings us to charity, as was said above. Therefore it is not possible to have charity without faith and hope.


It should be said that charity signifies not only the love of God, but also a certain friendship with him, which implies in addition to love, a mutual return of love and a mutual sharing of life, as is said in Ethics VIII, 2. That this belongs to charity is evident from 1 John. 4:16: “He who remains in love, remains in God, and God in him,” and from 1 Cor. 1:9, where it is said: “God is faithful, by whom you are called unto the fellowship of his Son.” Now this fellowship of man with God, which is a certain familiar living-together [conversatio] with him, is begun here in the present life by grace, but will be perfected in the future life, by glory. Now each of these things we hold by faith and hope. Therefore just as friendship with a person would be impossible, if one disbelieved, or despaired of, the possibility of their fellowship or familiar living-together, so too, someone cannot have friendship with God, which is charity, unless he has faith, through which he believes in this fellowship and living with God, and hopes to belong to this fellowship. Therefore charity can in no way exist without faith and hope.

Replies to objections:

1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that charity is not any kind of love of God, but that love of God by which he is loved as the object of beatitude, to which object we are directed by faith and hope.

Question 66

Question 66

On the equality of the virtues

Article 1

Whether virtue can be greater or less


It should be said that when we ask whether one virtue can be greater than other, we can understand this question in two ways. First, as regards different kinds of virtues. And in this way it is evident that one virtue is greater than another. For a cause is always greater than its effect, and among effects, something is greater to the extent that it is closer to the cause. Now it is evident from what has been said, that the cause and root of human good is the reason. And therefore prudence, which perfects the reason, is superior in goodness to the other moral virtues, which perfect a desiring power insofar as it partakes in reason. And among these other moral virtues, one is better than another, to the extent that it is closer to reason. Hence justice, which is in the will, is superior to the other moral virtues, and fortitude, which is in the irascible power, is superior to temperance, which is in the desiring power, which partakes less in reason, as is evident from Ethics VII.

The question can be understood in another way, as regards a single kind of virtue. And in this away, according to what was said above, when treating of the intensity of habits, virtue can be greater and less in two ways: in one way, in itself; in another way, on the part of the subject that partakes in it. If then it is considered in itself, its greatness or smallness is found according to the things to which it extends. But whoever has a virtue, e.g., temperance, has it with regard to all the things to which temperance extends. This does not happen with knowledge and art; for not every grammarian knows all the things that pertain to grammar. And according to this, the Stoics, as Simplicius says in Commentary on the Categories, said well that virtue is not capable of being greater or less, as science or art is, because virtue consists in the greatest.

If, however, virtue is considered on the part of the subject who partakes in it, then virtue can be greater or less: either in the same man at different times; or in different men. For one man may be better disposed than another man for attaining the mean of virtue, which is according to right reason. This may be either on account of being more accustomed, or on account of a better disposition of nature, or on account of a more perspicacious judgment of reason, or also on account of a greater gift of grace, since to each is given “according to the measure of the giving of Christ,” as is said in Eph 4:7. And in this the Stoics fell short of the truth, judging that no way should be called virtuous, unless he was supremely disposed to virtue. For the account of virtue does not require that one attain the mean of right reason with utmost precision,8 but it is enough to be close to the mean, as is said in Ethics II. Moreover, one person may attain more closely and readily to the same indivisible mark, as is evident in archers shooting for a certain mark.

Article 2

Whether all the virtues present in a given man are equal


It seems that all the virtues present in a given man are not equally intense.

1. For the Apostle says in 1 Cor 7:7, “Each has his own gift from God, one in one manner, and another in another manner.” But one gift would not be more proper to one man than to another, if everyone had equally all the virtues infused by the gift of God. Therefore it seems that not all virtues present in one and the same man are equal.

2. Further, if all the virtues were equally intense in one and the same man, it would follow that whoever surpassed another man in one virtue, would surpass him in all the others. But this is evidently false, since different saints are especially praised for different virtues, as Abraham is praised for faith (Rom 4:1), Moses for mildness, Job for patience. Hence the Church sings about every Confessor: “There was not found his like in keeping the law of the most High,” since each one was remarkable for some virtue or other. Therefore not all virtues in one and the same man are equal.

3. Further, the more intense a habit is, the greater one’s pleasure and readiness in making use of it. But it is evident from experience that a man does the act of one virtue more readily and with greater pleasure than he does the act of another virtue. Therefore the virtues are not all equal in one and the same man.

On the contrary:

Augustine says (On the Trinity VI, 4) that “those who are equal in fortitude are equal in prudence and temperance,” and so on. Now it would not be so, unless all the virtues in one man were equal. Therefore all virtues are equal in one man.


It should be said that as is evident from what was said, the quantity of virtues can be considered in two ways. In one way, according to the nature of a certain kind of virtue. And in this way, there is no doubt that one virtue of one man is greater than another, as charity is greater than faith and hope. The quantity can be considered in another way, according to how the subject partakes in it, insofar as it is more or less intensely present in the subject. And in this way, all the virtues of one man are equal with a certain equality of proportion, inasmuch as they grow equally in the man, as the fingers of the hand are unequal in quantity, but equal in proportion, since they grow proportionally.

Now this kind of equality must be understood in the same way as the connection of the virtues is understood: for equality is a certain connection of virtues according to quantity...

...The explanation of the connection of the virtues is made on the basis of prudence, and of charity as regards the infused virtues, but not on the basis of the inclination, which is found on the side of the subject, as was said above. Therefore also the explanation of the equality of the virtues can be understood on the basis of prudence, as regards what is formal in all moral virtues; for reason being perfect in one and the same man, the mean must be proportionally established according to right reason in any particular matter of virtue.

But as regards that which is material in the moral virtues, namely the inclination to the act of virtue, one man can be more prompt to the act of one virtue than to the act of another, either due to nature, or being accustomed, or also from the gift of grace.

Replies to objections:

1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that this saying of the Apostle may be understand in reference to the gifts of charismatic grace, which are not common to all, nor are all of them equal in the one same subject. We might also say that it refers to the measure of sanctifying grace, by reason of which one man has all the virtues in greater abundance than another man, on account of his greater abundance of prudence, or also of charity, in which all the infused virtues are connected.

2. To the second it should be said that one saint is praised chiefly for one virtue, another saint for another virtue, on account of his greater readiness for the act of one virtue than for the act of another virtue.

3. And from this the response to the third objection is evident.

Article 4

Whether justice is chief among the moral virtues


It seems that justice is not chief among the moral virtues.

1. For it is better to give of one’s own than to pay what is due. But the former belongs to liberality, the latter to justice. Therefore liberality seems to be a greater virtue than justice.


It should be said that a virtue considered in its species may be greater or less, either simply or in a certain respect. A virtue is said to be greater simply, insofar as a greater rational good shines forth, as was said above (a. 1). In this way justice is the most excellent of all the moral virtues, as being closest to reason. This is evident both from its subject and from its object: from its subject, because this is the will, and the will is the rational appetite, as was said above (q. 8, a. 1; q. 26, a. 1); from its object or matter, because it is about actions, by which man is set in order not only in himself, but also in regard to another. Hence “justice is the most excellent of virtues” (Ethics V, 1).

Now among the other moral virtues, which regard the passions, the more excellent the matter in which the appetitive movement is subjected to reason, so much the more does the rational good shine forth in each. Now in things touching man, the chief of all is life, on which all other things depend. Consequently fortitude which subjects the appetitive movement to reason in matters of life and death, holds the first place among those moral virtues that regard the passions, but is subordinate to justice. Hence the Philosopher says (Rhetoric 1) that “those virtues must be greatest which receive the most praise: since virtue is a power of doing good. Hence the brave man and the just man are honored more than others; because the former,” i.e. fortitude, “is useful in war, and the latter,” i.e. justice, “both in war and in peace.” After fortitude comes temperance, which subjects the appetite to reason in matters directly relating to life, in the one individual, or in the one species, viz. in matters of food and of sex. And so these three virtues, together with prudence, are called principal virtues, in excellence also.

A virtue is said to be greater in a certain respect, by reason of its helping or adorning a principal virtue: even as substance is more excellent simply than accident: and yet in a certain respect some particular accident is more excellent than substance in so far as it perfects substance in some accidental mode of being.

Replies to objections:

1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that the act of liberality must be founded on an act of justice, for “a man is not liberal in giving, unless he gives of his own” (Politics II, 3). Hence there could be no liberality apart from justice, which distinguishes what is one’s own from what is not one’s own. But justice can be without liberality. Hence justice is simply greater than liberality, as being more universal, and as being its foundation, while liberality is greater relatively, since it is an ornament and a complement of justice.

Question 67

Question 67

On the duration of the virtues after this life

Article 1

Whether the moral virtues remain after this life

[Summary of article]

The moral virtues will remain with regard to what its formal in them, namely the participation in reason, but they will not remain with regard to their present matter. That is, all appetite will be perfectly in accord with reason, but there will be no desire for food or sex, no fear or daring in regard to danger, and no exchanges between man of the sort that there are now—but there will be complete satisfaction and joy in life with God (fulfillment of temperance), complete confidence in him (fulfillment of fortitude), and complete subjection to him (fulfillment of justice).

Summary of articles 3-6

Since faith is essentially of what is not seen, faith will not remain after this life, but will be succeeded by the vision of God face to face. Similarly, since hope is essentially of what is not possessed, hope will not remain, but will be succeeded by the perfect possession of God. But distance from God is accidental to charity, and therefore charity will remain, and simply be perfected.

1See the parallel text In III Sent., d. 33, q. 1, a. 2, qa. 1.

2See the parallel text In III Sent., d. 33, q. 2, a. 2, qa. 2.

3See the parallel text In III Sent., d. 33, q. 2, a. 2, qa. 3.

4See the parallel text In III Sent., d. 33, q. 2, a. 2, qa. 4.

5literally: has a different account.

6See the parallel text In III Sent., d. 33, q. 1, a. 3.

7See the parallel text In III Sent., d. 36, a. 1.

8Literally: as in an indivisible point.

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