2. A power that has only one way of working, set and fixed, is not susceptible of habit. Such powers are the forces of inanimate nature, as gravitation and electricity. A thing does not gravitate better for gravitating often. The moon does not obey the earth more readily to-day than she did in the days of Ptolemy, or of the Chaldean sages. Some specious claim to habit might be set up on behalf of electricity and magnetism. A glass rod rubbed at frequent intervals for six months, is a different instrument from what it would have been, if left all that time idle in a drawer. Then there are such cases as the gradual magnetising of an iron bar. Still we cannot speak of electrical habits, or magnetic habits, not at least in things without life, because there is no will there to control the exercise of the quality. As well might we speak of a "tumble-down" habit in a row of houses, brought on by locomotives running underneath their foundations. It is but a case of an accumulation of small effects, inducing gradually a new molecular arrangement, so that the old powers act under new material conditions. But habit is a thing of life, an appurtenance of will, not of course independent of material conditions and structural alterations, in so far forth as a living and volitional is also a material agent, but essentially usable at will, and brought into play and controlled in its operation by free choice. Therefore a habit that works almost automatically has less of the character of a true habit, and passes rather out of morality into the region of physics. Again, bad habits, vices to which a man is become a slave against his better judgment, are less properly called habits than virtues are; for such evil habits do not so much attend on volition (albeit volition has created them) as drag the will in their wake. For the like reason, habit is less properly predicable of brute animals than of men: for brutes have no intelligent will to govern their habits. The highest brutes are most susceptible of habit. They are most like men in being most educable. And, of human progeny, some take up habits, in the best and completest sense of the term, more readily than others. They are better subjects for education: education being nothing else than the formation of habits.
3. Knowledge consists of intellectual habits. But the habits of most consequence to the moralist lie in the will, and in the sensitive appetite as amenable to the control of the will. In this category come the virtues, in the ordinary sense Of that name, and secondarily the vices.
4. A habit is acquired by acts. Whereupon this difficulty has been started: -- If the habit, say of mental application, comes from acts of study, and again the acts from the habit, how ever is the habit originally acquired? We answer that there are two ways in which one thing may come from another. It may come in point of its very existence, as child from parent; or in point of some mode of existence, as scholar from master. A habit has its very existence from acts preceding: but those acts have their existence independent of the habit. The acts which are elicited after the habit is formed, owe to the habit, not their existence, but the mode of their existence: that is to say, because of the habit the acts are now formed readily, reliably, and artistically, or virtuously. The primitive acts which gradually engendered the habit, were done with difficulty, fitfully, and with many failures, -- more by good luck than good management, if it was a matter of skill, and by a special effort rather than as a thing of course, where it was question of moral well-doing. (See c. ii., s. ii., n. 9, p. 10.)
5. A habit is a living thing: it grows and must be fed. It grows on acts, and acts are the food that sustain it. Unexercised, a habit pines away: corruption sets in and disintegration. A man, we will say, has a habit of thinking of God during his work. He gives over doing so. That means that he either takes to thinking of everything and nothing, or he takes up some definite line of thought to the exclusion of God. Either way there is a new formation to the gradual ruin of the old habit.
6. Habit and custom may be distinguished in philosophical language. We may say that custom makes the habit. Custom does not imply any skill or special facility. A habit is a channel whereby the energies flow, as otherwise they would not have flowed, freely and readily in some particular direction. A habit, then, is a determination of a faculty for good or for evil. It is something intrinsic in a man, a real modification of his being, abiding in him in the intervals between one occasion for its exercise and another: whereas custom is a mere denomination, expressive of frequent action and no more. Thus it would be more philosophical to speak of a custom of early rising, and of a custom of smoking, rather than of a habit of smoking, except so far as, by the use of the word habit, you may wish to point to a certain acquired skill of the respiratory and facial muscles, and a certain acquired temper of the stomach, enabling one to inhale tobacco fumes with iidpunity.
7. Habits are acquired, but it is obvious that the rate of acquisition varies in different persons. This comes from one person being more predisposed by nature than another to the acquiring of this or that habit. By nature, that is by the native temper and conformation of his body wherewith he was born, this child is more prone to literary learning, that to mechanics, this one to obstinacy and contentiousness, that to sensuality, and so of the rest. For though it is by the soul that a man learns, and by the act of his will and spiritual powers he becomes a glutton or a zealot, nevertheless the bodily organs concur and act jointly towards these ends. The native dispositions of the child's body for the acquisition of habits depend to an unascertained extent upon the habits of his ancestors. This is the fact of heredity.
8. Man is said to be "a creature of habits." The formation of habits in the will saves the necessity of continually making up the mind anew. A man will act as he has become habituated, except under some special motive from without, or some special effort from within. In the case of evil habits, that effort is attended with immense difficulty. The habit is indeed the man's own creation, the outcome of his free acts. But he is become the bondslave of his creature, so much so that when the occasion arrives, three-fourths of the act is already done, by the force of the habit alone, before his will is awakened, or drowsily moves in its sleep. The only way for the will to free itself here is not to wait for the occasion to come, but be astir betimes, keep the occasion at arm's length, and register many a determination and firm protest and fervent prayer against the habit. He who neglects to do this in the interval has himself to blame for being overcome every time that he falls upon the occasion which brings into play the evil habit.
Readings. -- St. Thos., 1a 2ae q. 49, art. 4, ad 1, 2; ib., q. 50, art. 3, in corp., ad. 1, 2; ib., q. 51, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 53, art. 3, in corp. Ar., Eth., II., i.; ib., III., v., 10-14; ib., II., iv., 1, 2, 4.
2. The name of virtue is given to certain habits residing in the intellect, as intuition or insight (into self-evident truths), wisdom (regarding conclusions of main application), science (of conclusions in special departments), and art. These are called intellectual virtues.
It was a peculiarity of Socrates' teaching, largely shared by Plato, to make all virtue intellectual, a doctrine expressed in the formula, Virtue is knowledge; which is tantamount to this other, Vice is ignorance, or an erroneous view. From whence the conclusion is inevitable: No evil deed is wilfully done; and therefore, No man is to blame for being wicked.
3. Undoubtedly there is a certain element of ignorance in all vice, and a certain absence of will about every vicious act. There is likewise an intellectual side to all virtue. These positions we willingly concede to the Socratics. Every morally evil act is borne of some voluntary inconsiderateness. The agent is looking the wrong way in the instant at which he does wrong. Either he is regarding only the solicitations of his inferior nature to the neglect of the superior, or he is considering some rational good indeed, but a rational good which, if he would look steadily upon it, he would perceive to be unbefitting for him to choose. No man can do evil in the very instant in which his understanding is considering, above all things else, that which it behoves him specially to consider in the case. Again, in every wrong act, it is not the sheer evil that is willed, but the good through or with the evil. Good, real or supposed, is sought for: evil is accepted as leading to good in the way of means, or annexed thereto as a circumstance. Moreover, no act is virtuous that is elicited quite mechanically, or at the blind instance of passion. To be virtuous, the thing must be done on principle, that is, at the dictate of reason and by the light of intellect.
4. Still, virtue is not knowledge. There are other than intellectual habits needed to complete the character of a virtuous man. "I see the better course and approve it, and follow the worse," said the Roman poet.* " [Video meliora proboque, / Deteriora sequor. (Ovid, Metamorph., vii., 21)] "The evil which I will not, that I do," said the Apostle. It is not enough to have an intellectual discernment of and preference for what is right: but the will must be habituated to embrace it, and the passions too must be habituated to submit and square themselves to right being done. In other words, a virtuous man is made up by the anion of enlightened intellect with the moral virtues. The addition is necessary for several reasons.
(a) Ordinarily, the intellect does not necessitate the will. The will, then, needs to be clamped and set by habit to choose the right thing as the intellect proposes it.
(b.) Intellect, or Reason, is not absolute in the human constitution. As Aristotle (Pol., I., v., 6) says:" The soul rules the body with a despotic command: but reason rules appetite with a commmand constitutional and kingly": that is to say, as Aristotle elsewhere (Eth., I., xiii., 15, 16) explains, passion often "fights and resists reason, opposes and contradicts": it has therefore to be bound by ordinances and institutions to follow reason's lead: these institutions are good habits, moral virtues, resident there where passion itself is resident, in the inferior appetite. It is not enough that the rider is competent, but the horse too must be broken in.
(c.) It is a saying, that "no mortal is always wise." There are times when reason's utterance is faint from weariness and vexation. Then, unless a man has acquired an almost mechanical habit of obeying reason in the conduct of his will and passions, he will in such a conjuncture act inconsiderately and do wrong. That habit is moral virtue. Moral virtue is as the fly-wheel of an engine, a reservoir of force to carry the machine past the "dead points" in its working. Or again, moral virtue is as discipline to troops suddenly attacked, or hard pressed in the fight.
5. Therefore, besides the habits in the intellect that bear the name of intellectual virtues, the virtuous man must possess other habits, as well in the will, that this power may readily embrace what the understanding points out to be good, as in the sensitive appetite in both its parts, concupiscible and irascible, so far forth as appetite is amenable to the control of the will, that it may be so controlled and promptly obey the better guidance. These habits in the will and in the sensitive appetite are called moral virtues, and to them the name of virtue is usually confined.
Readings. -- St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 71, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 58, art. 2; ib., q. 58, art. 3, in corp., ad 3; ib., q. 56, art. 4, in corp., ad 1-3.
[By doing good St. Thomas means the determination of the appetite, rational or sensitive, to good. He says that intellectual virtue does not prompt this determination of the appetite. Of course it does not : it prompts only the act of the power wherein it resides : now it resides in the intellect, not in the appetite; and it prompts the act of the intellect, which however is not always followed by an act of appetite in accordance with it.]
Thus a habit of grammar, he says, enables one readily to speak correctly, but does not ensure that one always shall speak correctly, for a grammarian may make solecisms on purpose: whereas a habit of justice not only makes a man prompt and ready to do just deeds, but makes him actually do them. Not that any habit necessitates volition. Habits do not necessitate, but they facilitate the act of the will. (s. i., nn. 1, 2, 8, pp. 64, 68.)
2. Another distinction may be gathered from St. Thomas (1a 2ae, q. 21, art. 2, ad 2), that the special intellectual habit called art disposes a man to act correctly towards some particular end, but a moral habit towards the common end, scope and purpose of all human life. Thus medical skill ministers to the particular end of healing: while the moral habit of temperance serves the general end, which is final happiness and perfection. So to give a wrong prescription through sheer antecedent ignorance, is to fail as a doctor: but to get drunk wittingly and knowingly is to fail as a man.
3. The grand distinction between intellectual and moral habits seems to be this, that moral habits reside in powers which may act against the dictate of the understanding, -- the error of Socrates, noticed above (c. v., s. ii., n. 2, p. 70), lay in supposing that they could not so act: whereas the power which is the seat of the intellectual habits, the understanding, cannot possibly act against itself. Habits dispose the subject to elicit acts of the power wherein they reside. Moral habits induce acts of will and sensitive appetite intellectual habits, acts of intellect. Will and appetite may act against what the agent knows to be best: but intellect cannot contradict intellect. It cannot judge that to be true and beautiful which it knows to be false and foul. If a musician strikes discords on purpose, or a grammarian makes solecisms wilfully, he is not therein contradicting the intellectual habit within him, for it is the office of such a habit to aid the intellect to judge correctly, and the intellect here does correctly judge the effect produced. On the other hand, if the musician or grammarian blunders, the intellect, within him has not been contradicted, seeing that he knew no better: the habit of grammar or music has not been violated, but has failed to cover the case. Therefore the intellectual habit is not a safeguard to keep a man from going against his intelligent self. No such safeguard is needed: the thing is impossible, in the region of pure intellect. In a region where no temptation could enter, intellectual habits would suffice alone of themselves to make a perfectly virtuous man. To avoid evil and choose good, it would be enough to know the one and the other. But in this world seductive reasonings sway the will, and fits of passion the sensitive appetite, prompting the one and the other to rise up and break away from what the intellect knows all along to be the true good of man. Unless moral virtue be there to hold these powers to their allegiance, they will frequently disobey the understanding. Such disobedience is more irrational than any mere intellectual error. In an error purely intellectual, where the will has no part, the objective truth indeed is missed, but the intelligence that dwells within the man is not flouted and gainsayed. It takes two to make a contradiction as to make a quarrel. But an intellectual error has only one side. The intellect, utters some false pronouncement, and there is nothing within the man that says otherwise. In the moral error there is a contradiction within, an intestine quarrel. The intellect pronounces a thing not good, not to be taken, and the sensitive appetite will throw a veil over the face of intellect, and seize upon the thing. That amounts to a contradiction of a man's own intelligent self.
4. It appears that, absolutely speaking, intellectual virtue is the greater perfection of a man indeed in the act of that virtue, as we have seen, his crowning perfection and happiness lies. But moral virtue is the greater safeguard. The breach of moral virtue is the direr evil. Sin is worse than ignorance, and more against reason, because it is against the doer's own reason. Moral virtue then is more necessary than intellectual in a world where evil is rife, as it is a more vital thing to escape grievous disease than to attain the highest development of strength and beauty. And as disease spoils strength and beauty, not indeed always taking them away, but rendering them valueless, so evil moral habits subvert intellectual virtue, and turn it aside in a wrong direction. The vicious will keeps the intellect from contemplating the objects which are the best good of man: so the contemplation is thrown away on inferior things, often on base things, and an overgrowth of folly ensues on those points whereupon it most imports a man to be wise.
To sum up all in a sentence, not exclusive but dealing with characteristics: the moral virtues are the virtues for this world, intellectual virtue is the virtue of the life to come.
Readings. -- St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 58, art. 2, in corp.; Ar., Eth., I., xiii., 15-19 ; St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 66, art. 3.
But a thing may be unsuitable in two ways, by excess, and by defect: the rational choice is in the mean between these two. The moral order here is illustrated from the physical. Too much exercise and too little alike impair the strength; so of meat and drink in regard to health; but diet and exercise in moderation, and in proportion to the subject create, increase, and preserve both health and strength. So it is with temperance, and fortitude, and all varieties of moral virtue. He who fights shy of everything, and never stands his ground, becomes a coward; while he who never fears at all, but walks boldly up to all danger, turns out rash. The enjoyer of every pleasure, who knows not what it is to deny himself aught, is a libertine and loose liver; while to throw over all the graces and delicious things of life, not as St. Paul did, who counted all things dross, that he might gain Christ, but absolutely, as though such things were of themselves devoid of attraction, is boorishness and insensibility. Thus the virtues of temperance and fortitude perish in excess and defect, and live in the mean. It is to be noticed in this illustration that the mean of health is not necessarily the mean of virtue. What is too little food, and too much exercise, for the animal well-being of a man, may be the right amount of both for him in some higher relation, inasmuch as he is more than a mere animal; as for a soldier in a hard campaign, where a sufficiency of food and rest is incompatible with his serving his country's need.
2. The taking of means to an end implies the taking them in moderation, not in excess, or we shall overshoot the mark, nor again so feebly and inadequately as to fall short, of it. No mere instrument admits of an unlimited use; but the end to be gained fixes limits to the use of the instrument, thus far, no more, and no less. Wherever then reason requires an end to be gained, it requires a use of means proportionate to the end, not coming short of it, nor going so far beyond as to defeat the purpose in view. The variety of good that is called the Useful lies within definite limits, between two wildernesses, so to speak, stretching out undefined into the distance, wilderness of Excess on the one side, and wilderness of Defect on the other.
3. A true work of art cannot be added to or taken from without spoiling it. A perfect church would be spoiled by a lengthening of the chancel or raising the tower, albeit there are buildings, secular and ecclesiastical, that might be drawn out two miles long and not look any worse. The colouring of a picture must not be too violent and positive; but artistic colouring must be chaste, and artistic utterance gentle, and artistic action calm and indicative of self-command. Not that voice and action should not be impassioned for a great emergency, but the very passion should bear the mark of control: in the great master's phrase, you must not "tear a passion to tatters." It is by moderation sitting upon power that works of art truly masculine and mighty are produced; and by this sign they are marked off from the lower host of things, gorgeous and redundant, and still more from the order of the loose, the lawless, the exaggerated, the insolent, and the profane."
4. On these considerations Aristotle framed his celebrated definition of moral virtue: the habit of fixing the choice in the golden mean in relation to ourselves, defined by reason, as a prudent man would define it. All virtue is a habit, as we have seen -- a habit of doing that which is the proper act of the power wherein the habit resides. One class of moral virtues is resident in the will, the act of which power is properly called choice. The rest of the moral virtues reside in the sensitive appetite, which also may be said to choose that object on which it fastens. Thus moral virtur is a habit of fixing the choice. The golden mean between two extremes of excess and defect respectively has been already explained, and may be further shown by a review of the virtues. Besides fortitude and temperance, already described, liberality is a mean between prodigality and stinginess; magnificence between vulgar display and pettiness: magnanimity between vainglory and pusillanimity; truthfulness between exaggeration and dissimulation; friendship between complaisance, or flattery, and frowardness, -- and so of the rest. The golden mean must be taken in relation to ourselves, because in many matters of behaviour and the management of the passions the right amount for one person would be excessive for another, according to varieties of age, sex, station, and disposition. Thus anger that might become a layman might be unbefitting in a churchman; and a man might be thought loquacious if he talked as much as a discreet matron. [Ar., Pol., III., iv., 17, says just the converse, which marks the altered position of woman in modern society.] The golden mean, then, must be defined by reason according to the particular circumstances of each case. But as Reason herself is to seek where she is not guided by Prudence, the mean of virtue must be defined, not by the reason of the buffoon Pantolabus, or of Nomentanus the spendthrift, but as a prudent man would define it, given an insight into the case.
5. The "golden mean," as Horace named it (Od., ii., 10), obtains principally, if not solely, in living things, and in what appertains to living things, and in objects of art. A lake, as such, has no natural dimensions: it may be ten miles long, it may be a hundred; but an elephant or an oak-tree cannot go beyond a certain growth. There is a vast range between the temperature of a blast-furnace and the temperature of the ice-pack on the Polar Sea, but very limited is the range possible in the blood of a living man. Viewed artistically, a hill may be too low, or a lake want width, for man's eye to rest upon it with perfect satisfaction. The golden mean, then, is an artistic conception, and what I may call an anthropological conception: it suits man, and is required by man, though Nature may spurn and over-ride it. The earthquake, the hurricane, and the angry ocean are not in the golden mean, not at least from a human point of view. If man chooses to personify and body forth the powers of nature, he creates some monstrous uncouth figure, like the Assyrian and Egyptian idols; but if man makes a study of man, and brings genius and patient elaboration to bear on his work, there emerges the symmetry and perfect proportion of the Greek statue. No, people ever made so much of the beauty of the human form as the ancient Greeks: they made it the object of a passion that marked their religion, their institutions, their literature, and their art. Their virtues and their vices turned upon it. Hence the golden mean is eminently a Greek conception, a leading idea of the Hellenic race. The Greek hated a thing overdone, a gaudy ornament, a proud title, a fulsome compliment, a high-flown speech, a wordy peroration. Nothing too much was the inscription over the lintel of the national sanctuary at Delphi. It is the surpassing grace of Greek art of the best period, that in it there shines out the highest power, with nothing too much of straining after effect. The study of Greek literary models operates as a corrective to redundancy, and to what ill-conditioned minds take to be fine writing. The Greek artist knew just how far to go, and when to stop. That point he called, in his own unsurpassed tongue, the kairos. " The right measure (kairos) is at the head of all," says Pindar. "Booby, not to have understood by how much the half is more than the whole," is the quaint cry of Hesiod. AEschylus puts these verses in the mouth of his Furies:
Characteristic of Socrates was his irony, or way of understating himself, in protest against the extravagant professions of the sophists. In the reckoning of the Pythagoreans, the Infinite, the Unlimited, or Unchecked, was marked as evil, in opposition to good, which was the Limited. From thence, Plato, taking up his parable, writes: "The goddess of the Limit, my fair Philebus, seeing insolence and all manner of wickedness breaking loose from all limit in point of gratification and gluttonous greed, established a law and order of limited being; and you say this restraint was the death of pleasure; I say it was the saving of it." Going upon the tradition of his countrymen, upon their art and philosophy, their poetry, eloquence, politics, and inmost sentiment, Aristotle formulated the law of moral virtue -- to hold by the golden mean, as discerned by the prudent in view of the present circumstances, between the two extremes of excess and defect.
6. There is only one object on which man may throw himself without reserve, his last end, the adequate object of his happiness, God. God is approached by faith, hope, and charity; but it belongs not to philosophy to speak of these supernatural virtues. There remains to the philosopher the natural virtue of religion, which is a part of justice. Religion has to do with the inward act of veneration and with its outward expression. To the latter the rule of the mean at once applies. Moderation in religion is necessary, so far as externals are concerned. Not that any outward assiduity, pomp, splendour, or costliness, can be too much in itself, or anything like enough, to worship God with, but it may be too much for our limited means, which in this world are drawn on by other calls. But our inward veneration for God and desire to do Him honour, can never be too intense: " Blessing the Lord, exalt Him as much as you can: for He is above all praise." [Ecclus. xliii. 33.]
7. The rule of the mean, then, is a human rule, for dealing with men, and with human goods considered as means. It is a Greek rule: for the Greeks were of all nations the fondest admirers of man and the things of man. But when we ascend to God, we are out among the immensities and eternities. The vastness of creation, the infinity of the Creator, -- there is no mode or measure there. In those heights the Hebrew Psalmist loved to soar. Christianity, with its central dogma of the Incarnation, is the meeting of Hebrew and Greek. That mystery clothes the Lord God of hosts with the measured beauty, grace, and truth, that man can enter into. But enough of this. Enough to show that the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean is a highly suggestive and wide-reaching doctrine beyond the sphere of Morals. It throws out one great branch into Art, another into Theology.
8. The vicious extremes, on this side and on that of a virtue, are not always conterminous with the virtue itself, but sometimes another and more excellent virtue intervenes; as in giving we may pass from justice to liberality, and only through, passing the bounds of liberality, do we arrive at the vicious extreme of prodigality. So penitential fasting intervenes between temperance in food and undue neglect of sustenance. But it is to be noted that the central virtue, so to speak, as justice, sobriety, chastity, is for all persons on all occasions: the more excellent side-virtue, as liberality, or total abstinence, is for special occasions and special classes of persons.
Readings. -- Ar., Eth., II., ii., 6, 7; ib., II., cc. 6-9; Hor., Odes, II., 10; Ruskin, Modern Painters, p. 3, s.i., c.x.
2. The cardinal virtues are thus made out. -- Virtue is a habit that gives a man readiness in behaving according to the reason that is in him. Such a habit may be fourfold. (a) It may reside in the reason, or intellect itself, enabling it readily to discern the reasonable thing to do, according to particular circumstances as they occur. That habit is the virtue of prudence. (b) It may reside in the rational appetite, otherwise called the will, disposing a man to act fairly and reasonably in his dealings with other men. That is justice. (c) It may reside in the irrational, or sensitive, appetite, and that to a twofold purpose; (a) to restrain the said appetite in its concupiscible part from a wanton and immoderate eagerness after pleasure; that is temperance: (b) to incite the said appetite in its irascible part not to shrink from danger, where there is reason for going on in spite of danger; that is fortitude.
3. Plato compares the rational soul in man to a charioteer, driving two horses: one horse representing the concupiscible, the other the irascible part of the Sensitive appetite. He draws a vivid picture of the resistance of the concupiscible part against reason, how madly it rushes after lawless pleasure, and how it is only kept in restraint by main force again and again applied, till gradually it grows submissive. This submissiveness, gradually acquired, is the virtue of temperance. Clearly the habit dwells in the appetite, not in reason: in the horse, not in the charioteer. It is that habitual state, which in a horse we call being broken in. The concupiscible appetite is broken in to reason by temperance residing within it. Plato lavishes all evil names on the steed that represents the concupiscible part. But the irascible part, the other steed, has its own fault, and that fault twofold, sometimes of over-venturesomeness, sometimes of shying and turning tail. The habit engendered, in the irascible part, of being neither over-venturesome nor over-timorous, but going by reason, is termed fortitude. [It will help an Englishman to understand Plato's comparison, If instead of concupiscible part and irascible part, we call the one steed Passion and the other Pluck. Pluck fails, and Passion runs to excess, till Pluck is formed to fortitude, and Passion to temperance.]
4. As the will is the rational appetite, the proper object of which is rational good, it does not need to be prompted by any habit to embrace rational good in what concerns only the inward administration of the agent's own self. There is no difficulty in that department, provided the sensitive appetite be kept in hand by fortitude and temperance. But where there is question of external relations with other men, it is not enough that the sensitive appetite be regulated, but a third virtue is necessary, the habit of justice, to be planted in the will, which would otherwise be too weak to attend steadily to points, not of the agent's own good merely, but of the good of other men.
5. Thus we have the four cardinal virtues: prudence, a habit of the intellect; temperance, a habit of the concupiscible appetite; fortitude, a habit of the irascible appetite; and justice, a habit of the will. Temperance and Fortitude in the Home Department; justice for Foreign Affairs; with Prudence for Premier. Or, to use another comparison, borrowed from Plato, prudence is the health of the soul, temperance its beauty, fortitude its strength, and justice its wealth.
Readings. -- St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 61, art. 2, in corp.; ib., q. 56, art. 4, in corp., ad 1-3; ib., q. 56, art. 6, in corp., ad 1, 3; ib., q. 59, art. 4, in corp., ad 2; Plato, Laws, 631 B. C.
2. From the definition of moral virtue above given (c. v., s. iv., n. 4, p. 79), it is clear that no moral virtue can come into act without prudence: for it is the judgment of the prudent man that must define in each case the golden mean in relation to ourselves, which every moral virtue aims at. Thus, without prudence, fortitude passes into rashness, vindictive justice into harshness, clemency into weakness, religion into superstition.
3. But may not one with no prudence to guide him hit upon the golden mean by some happy impulse, and thus do an act of virtue? We answer, he may do a good act, and if you will, a virtuous act, but not an act of virtue, not an act proceeding from a pre-existent habit in the doer. The act is like a good stroke made by chance, not by skill; and like such a stroke, it cannot be readily repeated at the agent's pleasure. (See c. v., s. i., n. 4, p. 66; and Ar., Eth., II., iv., 2.)
4. Prudence in its essence is an intellectual virtue, being a habit resident in the understanding: but it deals with the subject-matter of the moral virtues, pointing out the measure of temperance, the bounds of fortitude, or the path of justice. It is the habit of intellectual discernment that must enlighten every moral virtue in its action. There is no virtue that goes blundering and stumbling in the dark.
5. He is a prudent man, that can give counsel to others and to himself in order to the attainment of ends that are worthy of human endeavour. If unworthy ends are intended, however sagaciously they are pursued, that is not prudence. We may call it sagacity, or shrewdness, being a habit of ready discernment and application of means to ends. Napoleon I. was conspicuous for this sagacity. It is the key to success in this world. But prudence discovers worthy ends only, and to them only does it provide means. The intellect is often blinded by passion, by desire and by fear, so as not to discern the proper end and term to make for in a particular instance and a practical case. The general rules of conduct remain in the mind, as that, "In anger be mindful of mercy:" but the propriety of mercy under the present provocation drops out of sight. The intellect does not discern the golden mean of justice and mercy in relation to the circumstances in which the agent now finds himself. In other words, the habit of prudence has failed; and it has failed because of the excess of passion. Thus prudence is dependent on the presence of the virtues that restrain passion, namely, fortitude and temperance. A like argument would hold for the virtue of justice, that rectifies inordinate action in dealing with another. The conclusion is, that as the moral virtues cannot exist without prudence, so neither can prudence exist without them: for vice corrupts the judgment of prudence.
6. Hence we arrive at a settlement of the question, whether the virtues can be separated, or whether to possess one is to possess all. We must distinguish between the rudimentary forms of virtue and the perfect habit. The rudimentary forms certainly can exist separate: they are a matter of temperament and inherited constitution: and the man whom nature has kindly predisposed to benevolence, she has perhaps very imperfectly prepared for prudence, fortitude, or sobriety. But one perfect habit of any one of the four cardinal virtues, acquired by repeated acts, and available at the call of reason, involves the presence, in a matured state, of the other three habits also. A man who acts irrationally upon one ground, will behave irrationally on other grounds also: or if his conduct be rational there, it will not be from regard for reason, but from impulse, temperament, or from some other motive than the proper motive of the virtue which he seems to be exercising.
Readings. -- St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 54, art. 4; ib. q. 58, art. 5, in corp.; ib., 1a 2ae, q. 47, art. 7, 12, 13; Ar., Eth., VI., v.; ib., VI., xii., 9, 10; ib., VI., xiii., 6; St. Francis of Sales, Of the Love of God, bk. xi., C. vii.
3. Besides the primary virtue of Temperance, and its subordinate species (enumerated above, n. i), certain other virtues are brought under Temperance in a secondary sense, as observing in easier matters that moderation and self-restraint which the primary virtue keeps in the matter that is most difficult of all. St. Thomas calls these potential parts of Temperance. There is question here of what is most difficult to man as an animal, not of what is most difficult to him as a rational being. To rational man, as such, ambition is harder to restrain than sensuality: which is proved by the fact that fewer men, who have any ambition in them, do restrain that passion than those who restrain the animal propensities that are common to all. But to man as an animal (and vast numbers of the human race rise little above the animal state), it is hardest of all things to restrain those appetites that go with the maintenance and propagation of flesh and blood. These then are the proper matter of Temperance: other, virtues, potential parts of Temperance, restrain other cravings which are less animal. Of these virtues the most noticeable are humility, meekness, and modesty. [This is St.Thomas's arrangement, placing Humility under Temperance. The connection of Humility with Magnanimity, and thereby with Fortitude, is indicated pp. 100, 101.
4. There is a thirst after honour and pre-eminence, arising from self-esteem, and prevalent especially where there is little thought of God, and scant reverence for the present majesty of heaven. A man who thinks little of his Maker is great in his own eyes, as our green English hills are mountains to one who has not seen the Alpine heights and snows. Apart from the consideration of God there is no humility; and this is why Aristotle, who treats of virtues as they minister to the dealings of man with man, makes no mention of this virtue. There are certain outward manifestations in words, acts, and gestures, the demeanour of a humble man, which is largely identified with modesty and with submission to others as representing God.
5. Modesty is that outward comportment, style of dress, conversation, and carriage, which indicates the presence of Temperance, "set up on holy pedestal (Plato, Phadr., 254 B) in the heart within.
6. Meekness is moderation in anger, and is or should be the virtue of all men. Clemency is moderation in punishment, and is the virtue of men in office, who bear the sword or the rod.
7. As regards the vices opposite to Temperance, an important distinction is to be drawn between him who sins by outburst of passion and him whose very principles are corrupt. [See the note in Aquinas Ethicus, Vol. I., pp. 170, 171.] The former in doing evil acknowledges it to be evil, and is prone to repent of it afterwards: the latter has lost his belief in virtue, and his admiration for it: he drinks in iniquity like water, with no after-qualms; he glories in his shame. The former is reclaimable, the latter is reprobate: his intellect as well as his heart is vitiated and gone bad. If there were no miracles, he would be a lost man: but God can work miracles in the moral as in the physical order: in that there is hope for him.
8. A nation need not be virtuous in the great bulk of her citizens, to be great in war and in dominion, in laws, in arts, and in literature: but the bulk of the people must possess at least the sense and appreciation of virtue in order to such national greatness. When that sense is lost, the nation is undone and become impotent, for art no less than for empire. Thus the Greece of Pericles and of Phidias fell, to be "living Greece no more."
9. As in other moral matters, no hard and fast line of division exists between sinning from passion and sinning on principle, but cases of the one shade into cases of the others, and by frequent indulgence of passion principle is brought gradually to decay. Readings. -- Ar., Eth., III., x. ; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 141, art. 2; ib., q. 141, art. 3, in corp.; ib., q. 142, art. 1; ib., q. 143, art. 1, in corp., ad 2, 3; ib., q. 161, art. 1, ad 5; ib., q. 161, art. 2, in corp.; ib., q. 161, art. 6, in corp., ad 1; ib., q. 157, art. 1, in corp., ad 3 ib., q. 156, art. 3; Ar., Eth., VII., viii.
2. Fortitude is a mean between Cowardice and Rashness, to which opposite extremes we are carried by the contrary passions of Fear and Daring respectively. Fortitude thus is a two-sided virtue moderating two opposite tendencies: while Temperance is one-sided, moderating Desire alone. Life, rationally considered, bears undoubtedly a high value, and is not to be lightly thrown away, or risked upon trivial or ignoble objects. The brave man is circumspect in his ventures, and moderate in his fears, which implies that he does fear somewhat. He will fear superhuman visitations, as the judgments of God. He will dread disgrace, and still more, sin. He will fear death in an unworthy cause. And even in a good cause, it has well been said: "The truly brave man is not he who fears no danger, but the man whose mind subdues the fear, and braves the danger that nature shrinks from." The Duke of Marlborough is said to have quaked in the saddle as he rode into action, saying: "This poor body trembles at what the mind within is about to do." Fortitude then is the virtue that restrains fear and regulates venturesomeness by the judgment of reason, in danger especially of a grand and glorious death.
3. To the ancients, there was no grander object of devotion than the State, their native city: no direr misfortune than its dissolution, or the loss of its self-government: no nobler death than to die in arms in its defence. As old Tyrtacus sang
[tethnamenai gar kalon, eni promachoisi pesonta,
andr' agathon peri hê patridi marnamenon.]
Such a death was taken to be the seal and stamp of the highest fortitude. Nor has Christianity dimmed the glory that invests a soldier's death. Only it points to a brighter glory, and a death in a still nobler cause, the death of the martyr who dies for the faith, and becomes valiant in battle for what is more to him than any earthly city, the Church, the City of God. Nor must the martyr of charity. who dies in succouring his neighbour, go without the praise of fortitude: nor, in short, any one who braves death, or other heavy affliction, in the discharge of duty, or when forwarding a good cause.
4. A man may brave death in a good cause, and not be doing an act of fortitude. So he may subscribe a large sum to a charitable purpose without any exercise of the virtue of charity. A virtue is then only exercised, when its outward act is performed from the proper motive of the virtue, and not from any lower motive. Thus the proper motive of Fortitude is the conviction that death is an evil, the risk of which is to be left out of count as a circumstance relatively inconsiderable, when there is question of the defence of certain interests dearer to a good man than life. An improper motive would be anger, which, however useful as an accessory, by itself is not an intellectual motive at all, and therefore no motive of virtue. The recklessness of an angry man is not Fortitude. It is not Fortitude to be brave from ignorance or stupidity, not appreciating the danger: nor again from experience, knowing that the apparent danger is not real, at least to yourself. The brave man looks a real danger in the face, and knows it, and goes on in spite of it, because so it is meet and just, with the cause that he has, to go on.
5. We may notice as potential parts of Fortitude (s. vii., n. 3., p. 92), the three virtues of Magnificence, Magnanimity, and Patience. It is the part of Patience, philosophically to endure all sufferings short of death. It is the part of the former two, to dare wisely, not in a matter of life and death, but in the matter of expense, for Magnificence, and of honour, for Magnanimity. Magnificence, technically understood, observes the right measure in the expenditure of large sums of money. As being conversant with large sums, it differs from Liberality. A poor man may be liberal out of his little store, but never magnificent. It is a virtue in the rich, not to be afraid of spending largely and lavishly on a great occasion, or a grand purpose. The expense may be carried beyond what the occasion warrants : that is one vicious extreme. The other extreme would be to mar a costly work by sordid parsimony on a point of detail. It is not easy to be magnificent: in the first place, because not many are rich; and then because riches are seldom united with greatness of Soul and good judgment. Something analogous to the virtue of Magnificence is shown in the generous use of great abilities, or, in the supernatural order, of great graces. The destinies of the world lie with those men who have it in their power to be magnificent.
6. We are come to Magnanimity and the Magnanimous Man, the great creation of Aristotle. As Magnanimity ranks under Fortitude, there must be some fear to which the Magnanimous Man rises superior, as the brave man rises superior to the fear of death. What Magnanimity overcomes is the fear of undeserved dishonour. The Magnanimous Man is he who rates himself as worthy of great honours, and is so worthy indeed. When honour is paid to such a one, he makes no great account of it, feeling that it is but his due, or even less than his due. If he is dishonoured and insulted, he despises the insult as an absurdity, offered to a man of his deserts. He is too conscious of his real worth to be much affected by the expression of his neighbour's view of him. For a man is most elated, when complimented on an excellence which he was not very sure of possessing: and most sensibly grieved at an insult, where he half suspects himself of really making a poor figure, whereas he would like to make a good one. It is doubtless the serene and settled conviction that Englishmen generally entertain of the greatness of their country, that enables them to listen with equanimity to abuse of England, such as no other people in Europe would endure levelled at themselves.
7. Proud is an epithet pretty freely applied to Englishmen abroad, and it seems to fit the character of the Magnanimous Man. He seems a Pharisee, and worse than a Pharisee. The Pharisee's pride was to some extent mitigated by breaking out into that disease of children and silly persons, vanity: he "did all his works to be seen of men." But here the disease is all driven inwards, and therefore more malignant. The Magnanimous Man is so much in conceit with himself as to have become a scorner of his fellows. He is self-sufficient, a deity to himself, the very type of Satanic pride. These are the charges brought against him.
8. To purify and rectify the character of the Magnanimous Man, we need to take a leaf out of the book of Christianity. Not that there is anything essentially Christian and supernatural in what we are about to allege: otherwise it would not belong to philosophy: it is a truth of reason, but a truth generally overlooked, till it found its exponent in the Christian preacher, and its development in the articles of the Christian faith. The truth is this. There is in every human being what theologians have called man and man: man as he is of himself, man again as he is by the gift and gracious mercy of God. The reasonably Magnanimous Man is saved from pride by this distinction. Of himself, he knows that he is nothing but nothingness, meanness, sinfulness, and a walking sore of multitudinous actual sins. "I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is, in my flesh, any good." (Rom. vii. 18.) If he is insulted, he takes it as his due, not any questionable due, for then he would resent the insult, but as being undoubtedly what he deserves. If he is honoured, he smiles at the absurdity of the compliments paid to him. It is as if an old gentleman, a prey to gout and rheumatism, were lauded for his fleetness of foot. He is then truly magnanimous on this side of his character by a kind of obverse magnanimity, that bears insults handsomely, as deserved, and honours modestly, as undeserved.
9. But let us go round to the other side of the reasonably Magnanimous Man. He was defined to be, "one that deems himself worthy of great honours, and is so worthy indeed." Now, nothing is, truly worthy of honour but virtue. He must then be a good man, full of all virtues; and all this goodness that he has, he recognises as being in him of God. He has "received God's Spirit" -- or something analogous in the natural order to the gift of the Holy Ghost -- "that he may know the things that are given him of God." (2 Cor. ii. 12.) It is told of St. Francis of Assisi, the humblest of men, that on one occasion when he and his companions received from some persons extraordinary marks of veneration, he, contrary to his usual wont, took it not at all amiss: and said to his companions, who wondered at his behaviour, "Let them alone: they cannot too much honour the work of God in us." This magnanimity bears honours gracefully, and insult unflinchingly, from a consciousness of internal worth, which internal worth and goodness however it takes not for its own native excellence, but holds as received from God, and unto God it refers all the glory.
10. Thus the genuine Magnanimous Man is a paradox and a prodigy. He despises an insult as undeserved, and he takes it as his due. He is conscious of the vast good that is in him ; and he knows that there is no good in him. Highly honoured, he thinks that he gets but his due, while he believes that vials of scorn and ignominy may justly be poured upon him. He will bear the scorn, because he deserves it, and again, because it is wholly undeserved. The Magnanimous Man is the humble man. The secret of his marvellous virtue is his habit of practical discernment between the abyss of misery that he has within himself, as of himself, and the high gifts, also within him, which come of the mercy of God. Aristotle well says, " Magnanimity is a sort of robe of honour to the rest of the virtues: it both makes them greater and stands not without them: therefore it is hard to be truly magnanimous, for that cannot be without perfect virtue." We may add, that in the present order of Providence none can be magnanimous without supernatural aid, and supernatural considerations of the life of Christ, which however are not in place here.
Readings. -- Ar., Eth., III., vii.; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 123, art 3, in corp.; Ar., Eth., III., viii. ; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 123, art. 1, ad 2 ; Ar., Eth., III., vi.; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 123, art. 4, 5. For the Magnificent and Magnanimous Man, Ar., Eth., IV., ii., iii.; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 129, art. 3, ad 4, 5.
2. Going upon the principle that all justice is of the nature of equality, and is therefore relative to another, we arrive at the definition of general justice, which is all virtue whatsoever, inasmuch as it bears upon another person than him who practises it. This justice is perfect social virtue, the crown and perfection of all virtue from a statesman's point of view; and in that aspect, as Aristotle says, "neither morning star nor evening star is so beautiful." Whoever has this virtue behaves well, not by himself merely, but towards others -- a great addition. Many a one who has done well enough as an individual, has done badly in a public capacity: whence the proverb, that office shows the man. This justice may well be called another man's good: though not in the sense of the sophists of old, and the altruists of our time, that virtue is a very good thing for everyone else than its possessor. Virtue, like health, may be beneficial to neighbours, but the first benefit of it flows in upon the soul to whom it belongs: for virtue is the health of the soul.
3. Another elementary notion of justice connects it with Law, taking justice to be conformity to Law. This notion exhibits legal justice, which is the same thing, under another aspect, as the general justice mentioned above, inasmuch as general justice includes the exercise of all virtues in so far as they bear upon the good of others and the law, to which legal justice conforms a man, enjoins acts of all virtues for the common good. It must be observed, however, that though there is no natural virtue of which the law of man may not prescribe some exercise, still no human law enjoins all acts of all virtues, not even all obligatory acts. A man may fail in his duty though he has kept all the laws of man. In order then that legal justice may include the whole duty of man, it must be referred to that natural and eternal law of God, revealed or unrevealed, of which we shall speak hereafter. By being conformed to this divine law a man is a just man, a righteous man. It is this sense of justice that appears in the theological term, justification. In this sense, Zachary and Elizabeth "were both just before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord without blame." (St. Luke 1. 6.)
4. General, or legal, justice is not the cardinal virtue so called, but is in one point of view identical with all virtue. Distinguished from the other three cardinal virtues is particular justice, which is divided into distributive and commutative justice. Distributive justice is exercised by the community through its head towards its individual members, so that there be a fair distribution of the common goods, in varying amount and manner, according to the various merits and deserts of the several recipients. The matters distributed are public emoluments and honours, public burdens, rewards, and also punishments. Distributive justice is the virtue of the king and of the statesman, of the commander-in-chief, of the judge, and of the public functionary generally. It is violated by favouritism, partiality, and jobbery. Distributive justice is the justice that we adore in the great Governor of the Universe, saying that He is "just in all His works," even though we understand them not. When it takes the form of punishing, it is called vindictive justice. This is what the multitudes clamoured for, that filled the precincts of the Palace of Whitehall in the days of Charles I. with cries of justice, justice, for the head of Strafford.
5. Neither legal nor distributive justice fully answers to the definition of that virtue. justice disposes us to give to another his own. The party towards whom justice is practised must be wholly other and different from him who practises it. But it is clear that the member of a civil community is not wholly other and different from the State: he is partially identified with the civil community to which he belongs. Therefore neither the tribute of legal justice paid by the individual to the State, nor the grant of distributive justice from the State to the individual, is an exercise of justice in the strictest sense. Again, what the individual pays to the State because he is legally bound to pay it, does not become the State's own until after payment. If he withhold it, though he do wrong, yet he is not said to be keeping any portion of the public property in his private hands: he only fails to make some of his private property public, which the law bids him abdicate and make over. If this be true of money and goods, it is still more evidently true of honour and services. In like manner, in the matter of distributive justice, the emoluments which a Subject has a claim to, the rewards which he has merited of the State, does not become his till he actually gets them into his hands. It may be unfair and immoral that they are withheld from him, and in that case, so long as the circumstances remain the same, the obligation rests with and presses upon the State, and those who represent it, to satisfy his claim: still the State is not keeping the individual from that which is as yet his own. In the language of the Roman lawyers, he has at best a jus ad rem, a right that the thing be made his, but not a jus in re; that is, the thing is not properly his before he actually gets it.
6. Commutative justice alone is justice strictly so called -- for therein alone the parties to the act are perfectly other and other, and the matter that passes between them, if withheld by one of the parties, would make a case of keeping the other out of that which he could still properly call by right his own. Commutative justice runs between two individuals, or two independent States, or between the State and an individual inasmuch as the latter is an independent person, having rights of his own against the former. This justice is called commutative, from being concerned with exchanges, or contracts, Voluntary and involuntary. The idea of voluntary contract, like that between buyer and seller, is familiar enough. But the notion of an involuntary contract is technical, and requires explanation. Whoever, then, wrongfully takes that which belongs to another, enters into an involuntary contract, or makes an involuntary exchange, with the party. This he may do by taking away his property, honour, reputation, liberty, or bodily ease and comfort. This is an involuntary transaction, against the will of the party that suffers. It is a contract, because the party that does the damage takes upon himself, whether he will or no, by the very act of doing it, the obligation of making the damage good, and of restoring what he has taken away. This is the obligation of restitution, which attaches to breaches of commutative justice, and, strictly speaking, to them alone. Thus, if a minister has not promoted a deserving officer in face of a clear obligation of distributive justice, the obligation indeed remains as that of a duty unfulfilled, so long as he remains minister with the patronage in his hands: but the promotion, if he finally makes it, is not an act of restitution: it is giving to the officer that which was not his before. And if the opportunity has passed, he owes the officer nothing in compensation. But if he has insulted the officer, he owes him an apology for all time to come: he must give back that honour which belonged to the officer, and of which he has robbed him. This is restitution. In a thousand practical cases it is important, and often a very nice question to decide, whether a particular offence, such as failure to pay taxes, be a sin against commutative justice or only against some more general form of the virtue. If the former, restitution is due: if the latter, repentance only and purpose of better things in future, but not reparation of the past.
7. The old notion, that justice is minding your own business, and leaving your neighbour to mind his, furnishes a good rough statement of the obligations of commutative justice. They are mainly negative, to leave your neighbour alone in his right of life and limb, of liberty and property, of honour and reputation. But in two ways your neighbour's business may become yours in justice. The first way is, if you have any contract with him, whether a formal contract, as that between a railway company and its passengers, or a virtual contract, by reason of some office that you bear, as the office of a bishop and pastor in relation to the souls of his flock. The second way in which commutative justice binds you to positive action, is when undue damage is likely to occur to another from some activity of yours, If, passing by, I see my neighbour's house on fire, not having contracted to watch it for him, and not having caused the fire myself, I am not bound in strict justice to warn him of his danger. I am bound indeed by charity, but that is not the point here. But if the fire has broken out from my careless use of fire, commutative justice binds me to raise the alarm.
8. The most notable potential parts of justice -- Religion, Obedience, Truthfulness -- enter into the treatise of Natural Law.
Readings. -- Ar., Eth., V., i.; Plato, Rep., 433 A; ib., 443 C, D, E; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 58, art. 2, in corp; ib., q. 58, art. 5; ib., q. 58, art. 6, in corp; ib., q. 58, art. 7; ib., q. 58, art 9, in corp.; ib., q. 61, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 61, art. 3, in corp.; Ar., Eth., V., ii., 12, 13; St. Thos., 2a 2ae, q. 62, art. 1, in corp., ad 2.
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