BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THE SUMMA OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
FOR THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD, BY
FRS. WALTER FARRELL AND MARTIN HEALY, 1952
CHAPTER 8, STRIVING FOR HAPPINESS: PART 1
PERFECTION which the natural and the infused supernatural virtues confers on human reason, will and sense appetite, enables man to reach happiness through his human acts. If men were born with all I these virtues perfectly formed in them and if these virtues could never be lost, the attainment of happiness would be easy. But men are not born with the full perfection of all the virtues and the different virtues can be lost in different ways. We must now consider how men come into possession of the virtues, how the virtues work for happiness, and how they are to be preserved until they accomplish the attainment of happiness.
NATURE, MAN, AND GOD all cooperate in giving man the virtues he needs for successful human living. Nature gives all men the seeds or the beginning of the natural virtues. For nature gives human reason the knowledge of the first principles of knowledge and action. Every man knows naturally the first truths, which are the foundation of all science and wisdom. Every man knows naturally, for instance, that the whole is greater than any of its parts. Every man knows naturally that good is to be done and evil avoided. This last truth is the source of all the practical knowledge by which reason directs human action to the goal of happiness. Again nature makes the will a natural appetite for good in accordance with reason. Finally, we can see that nature gives individual men a certain slant or tendency toward certain virtues by the disposition or temperament which she gives men's bodies. Some men seem to have by nature an inclination to the virtue of fortitude, for example, or temperance. It is nature then which gives men their first push in the direction of the natural virtues.
To ACQUIRE THE NATURAL VIRTUES man must follow this push from nature. The natural virtues are habits. They can be acquired therefore in the same way as any natural habit. If a man wishes to acquire the natural virtue of temperance, he must do so by acting temperately. The natural moral virtues follow the norm or rule of right reason. To act temperately a man must follow the rules laid down by reason for the proper use, for example, of food and drink for himself and of the use of sex for the preservation of the human race. Repeated acts of temperance in accordance with the dictates of reason or prudence will form the habit or virtue of temperance in a man. The other virtues will be acquired in the same way.
THE SUPERNATURAL VIRTUES, whether theological or moral, cannot be acquired through nature or natural human action. They must be infused into man's soul by God. The infused theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, have God Himself---as He is in Himself---for their immediate object. Since this Object---God as He is in Himself---is beyond the natural powers of man, the virtues which unite man to this Object are also beyond man's powers to acquire. God Himself must give virtues to man. The infused moral virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude do not have God as He is in Himself as their immediate Object. But they are concerned with the right use of man's actions and passions in relation to the Object of the theological virtues, God in Himself. Consequently they cannot be acquired naturally by man, but must be infused by God. How God infuses these virtues will be discussed later. For the present it is sufficient to note that they must be infused by God if man is to act efficiently in the pursuit of the vision of God.
HOW DO THE VIRTUES WORK in the pursuit of happiness? Since all human action is intelligent action, it follows that every human act is directed to some goal. The perfection of any human act and the perfection of the virtue which produces the act will be measured by the goal itself or the suitability of the act to attain the goal. The virtues then will work according to the rule or measure that is proper to them.
THE NATURAL MORAL VIRTUES work according to the mean of human reason. When we speak of the mean of reason we are speaking of the middle path that reason indicated between two other paths that lead to excess. Temperance in eating means to eat just enough to maintain good health. It follows a middle path between gluttony which would destroy health by an excess of food and starvation---or extreme fasting---which would destroy health by an excessive lack of food.
THE MEAN OF REASON or of virtue has nothing to do with the weakness of character which men despise in the timid compromiser. Following the mean of virtue does not paralyze human activity. It sets it free to follow the path of man's real good. The drunkard may taunt the temperate man by saying he can drink him under the table. But the weakness is in the drunkard who cannot control his intemperate appetite. The strength is in the temperate man who can control his appetite, The drunkard debases his human nature by delivering his reason and will to the slavery of alcohol. The temperate man may take a drink. But he will never allow alcohol to enslave his reason and frustrate his free will.
THE NATURAL MORAL VIRTUES, then, follow the rule of reason in the pursuit of natural good. Sometimes this rule of reason is a rule which reason itself places in human actions. Sometimes this rule or mean is dictated by the object of the action.
IN QUESTIONS OF JUSTICE the rule of reason must be conformed to the object of justice, which is to give to everyone his due. If John owes Peter ten dollars, he must pay him ten dollars, no more and no less. To pay him less is to fail in justice. To pay him more is to be more than just. The excess amount is not due to justice but to some other virtue, such as liberality, or perhaps even to a vice such as vanity.
BUT THE MEAN of the other moral virtues is the mean which reason itself decides. It is reason which decides what is temperate for a man or what fortitude requires. This shows that the mean of moral virtue may vary from man to man. A man with a strong body and a tolerance for alcohol may take three drinks and still be temperate. But another man with no tolerance for alcohol may get drunk on two drinks and be intemperate. Similarly it may be fortitude for a trained fireman to enter a burning building to rescue a man. But it will be rashness for an untrained bystander to try the same thing. It is prudence which determines the mean of the other virtues. It is prudence which determines what the individual can and should do, when he should do it and how he should do it.
THE NATURAL INTELLECTUAL VIRTUES also work according to rule. The object of the intellect is truth. The object of the speculative intellect is truth taken absolutely. The object of the practical intellect is truth in conformity with a right inclination to the good.
FROM THE STANDPOINT of speculative truth, the intellect is measured by things. The intellect must know or express things as they are in themselves. The intellect is perfected by the virtue of science when it knows just what the moon is made of. But it is imperfect when it persists in believing that the moon is made of green cheese.
THE VIRTUES of the practical intellect are art and prudence. Art is concerned with the making of things. Its rule is the rule of reason in so far as reason is conformed to things. When an artisan designs a violin he must make the design according to the nature of a violin. He cannot so design it that when it is made it is not a violin but a saxophone. Prudence is concerned with human actions. It is concerned therefore with the appetite of man, with his will and sense appetite. Prudence then follows the mean of reason. It must measure the actions of justice, temperance, and fortitude according to the circumstances of the individual man.
THE RULE OR MEASURE of the supernatural infused virtues is different from that of the natural virtues. In the case of the infused moral virtues the mean of virtue is not the rule of human reason but the rule of the Divine law or the Divine Mind. Like the natural virtue of temperance the infused virtue of temperance rules the actions of the simple passions of man. But the mean of the two virtues may be different. Natural temperance may lead a man to eat enough to keep his body in good health. Natural temperance is concerned only with the natural good of human nature. But supernatural temperance is concerned with the passions in so far as they are related to the supernatural destiny of man---the vision of God. Supernatural temperance therefore may lead a man to fast from food in order to bring his body into subjection to his soul so that his soul may go more freely and easily to God. The infused moral virtues follow the mean not of human reason but of the Divine Mind.
FROM THE POINT OF VIEW of their object the theological virtues---faith, hope, and charity---have no mean at all except God Himself. But since God is infinite Truth and the Supreme and Almighty Good, a man can never believe too strongly in God, nor hope too confidently in God's goodness, nor love God too much.
BUT BECAUSE MAN IS IMPERFECT it is possible to find a mean for the theological virtues in man himself. Because God is good and all-powerful, man can never hope too much in God. But because man himself is imperfect, he can hope for too much or too little from God. The man steeped in sin may hope to attain the vision of God while remaining a sinner. This is presumption---hoping for more than he deserves from God. Or the man who can still turn from sin to God may not do so because he fears that God, Who is all merciful, will not forgive him. This is despair---hoping for too little from God.
ALL THE VIRTUES work according to some measure, whether that measure be in things, in man or in God. Moreover all the virtues are related in some way to one another. This is not surprising when we consider that the ultimate object of all the virtues is to lead man to the vision of God. The virtues, as virtues, make man a perfect agent. But man acts for happiness. We should expect therefore that the virtues which enable man to attain happiness should have some intrinsic connection with one another.
PRUDENCE IS THE BOND of union of the moral virtues, whether natural or infused. For the virtues of justice, temperance, and fortitude moderate the actions of the will or the passions of the sense appetite in accordance with the rule of human reason---in the natural virtues---or of the Divine Mind---in the infused moral virtues. If a man who cannot swim were to dive into the ocean to save a drowning woman, we would not say he had fortitude. His brave action was not prudent. It had no chance of success.
IT IS ALSO TRUE that prudence cannot exist without the moral virtues. This is because prudence is concerned with the choice of the right means to attain the goal of human action. But prudence presupposes a right inclination in the appetite to a good goal. If this inclination is not made perfect by the moral virtues, then prudence will not exist in the intellect. The man who has no real inclination to act justly through the virtue of justice will not judge prudently when he should pay his debts. This is the situation of those people who are continually in debt and who never pay any of their debts until their debtors force them to do so. Or again, the intemperate man can never judge prudently when he has drunk enough alcohol. This is the situation of those poor unfortunates who always think they can take one more drink without getting drunk.
SINCE THE NATURAL MORAL VIRTUES seek only I man's natural good they can exist without the infused virtue of charity. But since the infused moral virtues moderate man's appetite in relation to his supernatural destiny, they cannot exist without charity. Supernatural justice, temperance, and fortitude are impossible without supernatural prudence. But supernatural prudence is concerned with the supernatural means to man's supernatural destiny, the vision of God. Hence it cannot function properly unless man's will is properly ordered to God in the supernatural order. This proper supernatural disposition of the will is the work of the infused virtue of charity. Charity is necessary therefore for the proper functioning of the supernatural moral virtues.
SIMILARLY THE INFUSED MORAL VIRTUES are required if charity is to achieve its end. Charity, love of God, is the source of all human actions that lead to the vision of God. But it cannot have its proper effect unless all man's actions are made proportionate to this goal. It is the infused moral virtues which direct man's actions to the goal of charity.
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