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On the Virtues
     

On the Virtues

by John Capreolus, Jean Capreolus, Kevin White
 
In light of current interest in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, rediscovery of the work of John Capreolus (1380-1444) is particularly important. Known to the Renaissance theologians who succeeded him as "prince of Thomists," he established a mode of Thomistic theological and philosophical engagement that has set the pattern for Thomistic thinkers after him.

Overview

In light of current interest in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, rediscovery of the work of John Capreolus (1380-1444) is particularly important. Known to the Renaissance theologians who succeeded him as "prince of Thomists," he established a mode of Thomistic theological and philosophical engagement that has set the pattern for Thomistic thinkers after him. Twentieth-century scholarship on Capreolus tended to focus on questions concerning metaphysics, the person, and the beatific vision. The purpose of the present translation of his questions on the virtues is to bring to the fore another aspect of his thought, his theological ethics.

Capreolus's great work, his Arguments in Defense of the Theology of St. Thomas, constitutes a significant juncture in the history of Western theology. In one respect it is an exercise in the traditional genre of question-commentaries on Peter Lombard's Book of Sentences, a twelfth-century work that had been the official textbook of theology at the University of Paris. In Capreolus's hands, however, the format of the traditional Sentences commentary itself becomes a pretext for accomplishing a purpose more original than that of any preceding commentator on Lombard's work, namely to defend the thought of Aquinas against his late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century adversaries, including John Duns Scotus, Durandus of St. Pourçain, and Peter Aureole.

The selection from Capreolus's work represented in this translation shows him defending Aquinas's conclusions on faith, hope, charity, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the virtues against such adversaries. With a spirit of generosity in quotation, Capreolus lets each adversary have his say, but the outcome of the disputes is never in question, as Capreolus on each point leads the reader towards a view of the superiority of the Thomistic position.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813210308
Publisher:
Catholic Univ.of America Press
Publication date:
09/28/2001
Pages:
434
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt

ON THE VIRTUES


By John Capreofus

The Catholic University of America Press

Copyright © 2001 The Catholic University of America Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8132-1030-8


Chapter One

Q.I (on d.23)

Whether Habituai Virtues Are Necessary to Man

In relation to the twenty-third distinction of the third book of The Sentences, the question is raised: Whether habitual virtues are necessary to man.

It is argued that they are not, as follows. No habit is necessary; but virtues are habits; therefore, they are not necessary. The minor premise is evident. The major premise is argued for as follows. "Habit" implies directedness to an act; but "power" sufficiently implies a principle of act, for even natural powers, which are without habits, are principles of acts; therefore, it is not necessary that there be habits.

Argument is made for the opposite conclusion as follows. Habits and virtues are certain perfections; but a perfection, since it has the nature of an end, is most necessary to a thing; therefore, it is necessary that there be habits and virtues.

In this question there will be three articles: in the first the conclusions will be presented, in the second the objections, and in the third the solutions.

Article I: Conclusions

First Conclusion: Habits Are Necessary to Man

SAINT THOMAS presents this conclusion in ST I–II, q.49, a.4, where he speaks as follows:

"Habit" signifies a disposition directed to a thing's nature and to its operation or end, a disposition according to which the thing is well or badly disposed in relation to something else. But in order for a thing to need to be disposed toward something else, three conditions are required.

The first is that what is disposed be other than that toward which it is disposed and be related to it as potentiality to actuality. Hence, if there be something whose nature is not composed of potentiality and actuality, whose substance is its operation, and which exists for its own sake, then habit or disposition has no place in it; and this is evidently true in the case of God.

Second, it is required that what is in potentiality to something else be able to be determined in several ways and to several things. Hence, if something is in potentiality to only one thing, then disposition or habit has no place in it, because such a subject has the required relation to such an actuality by its nature. Hence, assuming that a heavenly body is composed of matter and form, then, since that matter is not in potentiality to any other form, there is no place in it for a disposition or habit directed to a form—nor one directed to an operation, because the nature of a heavenly body is in potentiality to only one determinate motion.

Third, it is required that several things that can be proportioned to one another in various ways concur in disposing the subject to one of the things to which it is in potentiality, so that it may be well or badly disposed in relation to form or operations. Hence the simple qualities of the elements, each of which corresponds to the nature of the elements in one determinate way, are not called "dispositions" or "habits," but rather "simple qualities." But we do call "dispositions" or "habits" health, beauty, and other such things which imply a certain proportioning of several things that can be proportioned to one another in various ways. For this reason THE PHILOSOPHER says in Metaphysics 5 that "habit is a disposition, and disposition is an ordering of what has parts, whether with respect to potentiality, or with respect to place, or with respect to species." Because, therefore, there are many beings whose natures and operations require the coming-together of several things that can be proportioned to one another in various ways, it is necessary that there be habits.

Thus SAINT THOMAS. Again, in In 3 Sent., d.23, q.i, a.i, he speaks as follows:

In the case of all things that have a rule and measure, their goodness and rightness consists in conformity to the rule or measure, and their badness in disagreement with it. But the first measure and rule of all things is the divine wisdom. Hence, the goodness and rightness, or the truth, of anything whatsoever consists in its reaching that to which it is directed by the divine wisdom, as ANSELM says. Similarly, in the case of other, secondary rules, the goodness and rightness of what is ruled also consists in conformity with the rules.

Now some powers are limited to predetermined actions or affections (passiones), and conform to their rule inasmuch as they accomplish these actions or affections, because they are directed to them by the divine wisdom. And because the inclination of nature is always to one thing, such powers are sufficiently able to have rightness and goodness from their very nature as powers, and badness is present in them due to their failure as powers. But higher and more universal powers, such as the rational powers, are not limited to some one object or way of operating, because they can have rightness in relation to different things and in different ways; hence, they cannot be determined to what is right and good for them by their very nature as powers, but rather must {288} be made right by receiving rightness from their rule. Now this can occur in two ways. In one way, such that rightness is received as an affection, that is, by the very fact that the power being ruled is moved by what rules it. But because, as is clear from Ethics 3, the definition of "violence" consists in a thing's being affected and contributing nothing to an act, and because violence, as is said in Metaphysics 5, involves difficulty and adversity, the above-mentioned reception of rightness does not suffice to make the power that is ruled perfectly right. It must, therefore, be the case that the rightness is received in another manner, namely as an inherent quality, that is, in such a way that the rightness of the rule becomes a form of the ruled power, for thus what is right will be done easily and pleasantly, as something befitting the form. Now this quality or form, while it is still imperfect, is called a "disposition." But when it has been perfected, and converted, as it were, into a nature, it is called "habit," which, as may be gathered from Ethics 2 and Metaphysics 5, is that according to which we stand well or badly in relation to something. Hence it is that, in the Categories, disposition is said to be "easily removed" and habit "not easily removed," because what is natural is not easily changed. Hence it is, too, that habit, like nature, inclines to one thing, as is said in Ethics 5. For this reason, also, a sign of a developed habit is pleasure taken in a deed, as is said in Ethics 2, for what is appropriate to a nature is pleasurable and easy. Again for this reason habit is defined by THE COMMENTATOR in De anima 3 as that by which someone acts when he would, having the deed to be done ready to hand, as it were. And hence habit is compared to possession in Ethics 1, since things possessed are had on command, while operation is compared to application.

It is clear, then, that natural powers, because they are of themselves determined to one thing, do not require habits. Similarly, neither do powers of sensitive apprehension, because they have a determined way of operating from which they do not fail except through a defect of the power. Similarly, neither does the human will, inasmuch as it is naturally determined to the ultimate end and to the good insofar as it is its object. Similarly, neither does the agent intellect, which has a determined action, namely to bring objects capable of being understood into actuality, just as light brings objects capable of being seen into actuality. And similarly neither is there any habit in God Himself, for He is the first rule, unruled by any other; hence He is good essentially, and not through participation in rightness from another; and evil cannot occur in Him.

But the possible intellect, which of itself is, like prime matter, undetermined, does require habit, by which it may participate in the rightness of its rule: a natural habit with respect to those things, namely first principles, that are immediately determined by the very light of the agent intellect that is its rule; an acquired habit with respect to the things that can be brought forth from those principles; and an infused light or habit by which it participates in the rightness of the first rule in those things that go beyond the agent intellect. Similarly, we require habits in the will, with respect to that to which it is not determined by nature, as well as in the irascible and concupiscible powers, according as all these powers participate in the rightness of reason that is their rule, or—in what is beyond human nature and in the case of infused habits—in the rightness of the first measure. And similarly in the animated body there is the habit of health, inasmuch as the body participates from the soul in the disposition by which it is able to accomplish its operation rightly; for the eye is called healthy that is able to accomplish the operation of an eye rightly, as is said in De animalibus 10. Hence it is clear that such qualities, which we call "habits," are found in animate things, and especially in those that have choice, as is said in Metaphysics 5.

Thus SAINT THOMAS. From these texts argument can be made for the conclusion as follows. That is necessary to man in his deeds without which he cannot make the acts of his powers perfectly right; but habits are this kind of thing; therefore, etc.

Second Conclusion: Human Virtues Are Habits

SAINT THOMAS presents this conclusion in In 3 Sent., d.23, q.i, a.3, qla.i, where he speaks as follows:

The noun "virtue," according to its primary application, seems to suggest a certain violence; hence, in De caelo 3 it is said that accidental, that is, "violent" motion is that which comes from "virtue," that is, "violence," rather than by the help of nature. But because one thing is able to inflict violence on something else only by means of a perfected power according to which it acts and is not acted upon, the noun "virtue" has been used to signify every perfected power, whether that by which a thing is able to subsist in itself or that by which it is able to operate. Thus it is said in De caelo 1 that virtue is the "extremity" (ultimum) of a power, because the perfection of a power is measured by the limit and the maximum of which anyone is capable. And because evil in an act arises from a deficiency in the power of the agent, the perfection of a power requires that it operate well within its genus. For this reason it is said in Ethics 2 that virtue is that which makes the one who has it good {289} and renders his operation good; and in Physics 7 it is said that virtue is the disposition of what has been perfected for the best, that is, for the best of those things to which a power extends. And because we are speaking of human virtue, human virtue will accordingly be that which will perfect a human power for the good and the best act. But since man is man by the fact that he possesses reason and intellect, those powers are human that are in some way rational, whether essentially, as are those in the intellective part, or by participation, as are those in the sensitive part that are obedient to reason. Now these powers cannot be determined to good acts by their nature as powers, nor can they be determined to perfection except by habits. Hence the human virtues of which we are speaking are not powers, but habits.

Thus SAINT THOMAS. Again, in ST I–II, q.55, a.i, he speaks as follows:

"Virtue" names a certain perfection of a power. But the perfection of anything is considered especially in relation to the thing's being directed to its end. But the end of a power is an act. Therefore a power is said to be perfected according as it is determined to its own act. Now there are some powers, such as natural active powers, which are of themselves determined to their acts, and such natural active powers are accordingly themselves called "virtues." But rational powers, which are the powers proper to man, are not determined to one thing, but related indeterminately to many, and determined to acts through habits; therefore human virtues are habits.

Thus SAINT THOMAS. From these texts argument can be made for the conclusion as follows. That which perfectly determines the rational power to its perfection and to its good act is a habit; but human virtue is such; therefore, it is a habit.

Here the first article terminates.

Article II: Objections

§1. Against the First Conclusion

I. Arguments of Durandus In the second article argument is to be made against the conclusions.

Against the first conclusion, DURANDUS (In 3 Sent., d.23, q.3) argues that the function, effect or activity of a habit is not to determine an act or to determine a power to an act. He argues that a habit is not necessary for determining an act, as follows:

"Determination of an act" occurs merely according to reason, which is both universal, and particular or singular. For in the nature of things, no act is found that is not determined to a natural existence (esse naturae) with respect to its singularity, or, if it is a deliberate act, to a moral existence (esse moris) with respect to good and evil. But according to our concept, we are able to understand an act as a universal that, as such, is indifferently related to this or that act and to good or evil. And just as a universal does not really differ from the singular in which it is present, so an indeterminate and a determinate act differ not really, but only according to concept: because what is conceived indeterminately exists determinately, such that its real existence in the nature of things is its real determination, which, formally, comes from itself and not through something joined to it. All this is with respect to natural existence. But the determination of an act to the good with respect to moral existence comes not from the mere singularity of its real existence, for an evil act exists as a singular just as does a good one; rather, an act is formally good from its conformity to right reason and evil from its nonconformity to right reason.

This having been said, it is clear, first that a power is itself formally determined by a habit; and second that we must consider whether it is determined by the habit to a determinate act.

The first point is clear of itself: for every subject that is in potency to receiving many things incompatible with one another, in receiving one of them, is determined by it in such a way that, while it is present, the subject cannot receive another; but the rational powers are in potency to receiving good and bad habits, which are incompatible with one another; therefore, a power that receives one of them is determined by it in such a way that, while it is present, the power is not indifferent to the receiving of the other.

But because a habit includes directedness to an act, we must see whether it determines a power to producing or receiving a determinate act.

Now it must be said that a good or evil habit contributes nothing to the determination of an act in its natural existence. The reason for this is as follows: a common effect requires a common cause; but the determination of an act in natural existence, since it is its own real singularity, is an effect common to every act existing in the nature of things, whether it be before or after the acquisition of a habit, and whether it be good or evil; therefore the cause of such a determination is common to all acts without any exception. But a habit, even if taken in a general way, is not common in this sense, since prior to every habit there will be acts determined in the above-mentioned way; and much less will a habit taken with reference to the particular case be common. Therefore, etc.

This argument proves not only that habit is not of itself the cause of such a determination, but also that it in no way determines or inclines the power to the act thus determined: for nothing is determined or can be determined {290} to what is common to all, since determination occurs in relation to something special; but singularity is common to all acts existing in the nature of things; therefore, no power is "determined" to producing a singular act.

Again, there is no need of anything determining to that to which a power of its own nature is determined in such a way that it cannot be determined to the opposite; but any power is of its nature determined to producing or receiving a singular act in such a way that it can in no way be determined to the opposite; therefore, no power can be determined to producing or receiving an act determined with a determination of singularity according to natural existence.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from ON THE VIRTUES by John Capreofus Copyright © 2001 by The Catholic University of America Press. Excerpted by permission of The Catholic University of America Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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