Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LVI.: OF THE SUBJECT OF VIRTUE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION LVI.: OF THE SUBJECT OF VIRTUE. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE SUBJECT OF VIRTUE.
Article III.—Can the intellect be the subject of virtue?
R. There are two ways in which a habit is directed to a good act: in one way inasmuch as by such a habit a man acquires a readiness for a good act, as by a habit of grammar a man acquires a readiness in speaking correctly: still grammar does not always make a man speak correctly, for a grammarian may use a barbarism, or make a solecism, and the same is the case with other sciences and arts. In another way a habit not only produces a readiness for well-doing, but also makes one use the readiness duly, as justice not only makes a man prompt of will for just deeds, but also makes him act justly.1 And because goodness is not predicated of a thing absolutely for what it potentially is, but for what it actually is, therefore it is from habits of this latter sort that a man is said absolutely to do good and to be good—for instance, because he is just and temperate. And because virtue is what makes its possessor good and renders his work good, habits of this sort are called virtues absolutely and without qualification, because they render a work actually good, and make their possessor good absolutely. But the former habits are not called virtues absolutely and without qualification, because they do not render a work good except in point of a certain readiness, neither do they make their possessor good absolutely; for a man is not called absolutely good from the mere fact of his being a man of science or art; but he is called good only in a restricted sense, for instance, a good grammarian or a good smith; and therefore generally science and art are marked off as distinct from virtue, though they are called virtues sometimes. Therefore the intellect—not only the practical, but even the speculative intellect away from all reference to the will—may be the subject of a habit that is called a virtue in a restricted sense. Thus the Philosopher lays down knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and also art, to be intellectual virtues. But the subject of a habit, called virtue absolutely, cannot be aught else than the will, or some power inasmuch as it is moved by the will. The reason of this is, that the will moves to their proper acts all the other powers that are in any way rational. And therefore that a man does well in act comes of his having a good will. Hence the virtue that causes a man to do well in act, and not merely be in preparedness for well-doing, must either be in the will itself, or in some power so far forth as that power is moved by the will.
Article IV.—Are the irascible and concupiscible faculties the subject of virtue?
R. The irascible and concupiscible faculties may be considered in two ways: in one way in themselves, as they are parts of the sensitive appetite, and in this way they are not competent to be the subject of virtue. In another way they may be considered as partaking in reason by the fact of their being naturally apt to obey reason; and thus the irascible or concupiscible faculty may be the subject of human virtue; for in so far as it partakes of reason, it is the mainspring of a human act.
Again, it is evident that some virtues are in the irascible and concupiscible faculties: for an act which proceeds from one power, inasmuch as that is moved by another power, cannot be perfect, unless both powers are well disposed to act, as the act of an artificer cannot be what it should be, unless at once the artificer be well disposed to act and also the tool. In the operations therefore of the irascible and concupiscible faculties, so far as they are under the initiative of reason, some perfecting habit in order to well-doing must be not only in the reason, but also in the irascible and concupiscible faculties. And because the good disposition of a power which has to pass on a stimulus that it has itself received lies in its adaptability to the original stimulating power, therefore the virtue which is in the irascible and concupiscible faculties is nothing else than an habitual conformity of these powers to reason.
§ 1. The irascible and concupiscible faculties, considered in themselves as parts of the sensitive appetite, are common to us and brutes; but inasmuch as they are rational by participation, as obeying reason, they are proper to man, and in this way they may be the subject of human virtue.
§ 3. To the objection that virtue is not in the body, but in the soul, because the body is ruled by the soul: but as the soul rules the body, so also does reason rule the sensitive appetite: therefore it is entirely due to the rational part that the irascible and concupiscible portions are well directed: it is to be said that the body is ruled by the soul in another way from that in which the irascible and concupiscible faculties are ruled by reason. For the body obeys the least command of the soul without contradiction, in the things wherein it is naturally apt to be moved by the soul. Hence the Philosopher says that “the soul rules the body with a despotic command,” that is to say, as a master rules a slave, and therefore the whole movement of the body is referable to the soul; and on that account there is no virtue in the body, but only in the soul. But the irascible and concupiscible faculties do not obey reason’s least command, but have proper motions of their own, which sometimes go against reason. Hence the Philosopher says that “reason rules the irascible and concupiscible faculties with a constitutional command,” such as that with which children are ruled, who have in them a will of their own in some respects. And therefore there must also be in the irascible and concupiscible faculties certain virtues whereby they may be well disposed to act.
Article VI.—Can the will be the subject of virtue?
R. Since it is by habit that power is perfected unto action, a habit perfecting to well-doing—which habit is virtue—is there necessary where the proper nature of the power suffices not to that end. Now the proper nature of every power is seen in reference to its object. Hence as the object of the will is rational good proportionate to the will, to compass such good the will needs no perfecting of virtue. But if any good is held out to human volition which is beyond the capacity of the will, either for the whole human species—such as Divine good, which transcends the limits of human nature—or for the individual, as the good of a neighbour: there the will needs a virtue. And therefore such virtues as direct man’s affections to God or to his neighbour, as charity, justice, and the like, are in the will as in their subject.1
§ 3. To the objection that if there is a virtue in the will in respect of some human acts, by parity of reasoning there must be a virtue in the will in respect of all human acts: either therefore in no other power can there be any virtue, or two virtues will be directed to the same act, which seems absurd: it is to be said that some virtues are directed to the good of moderate passion, which is the personal good of this or that man; and in such cases it is not necessary for there to be any virtue in the will, since the nature of the power is sufficient for the purpose; but it is necessary only with those virtues which are directed to some good extrinsic to the agent.
[1 ]See Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 73—76. (Trl.)
[1 ]Ethics and Natural Law, p. 86, n. 4. (Trl.)