Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LVIII.: OF THE DISTINCTION OF MORAL VIRTUES FROM INTELLECTUAL. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION LVIII.: OF THE DISTINCTION OF MORAL VIRTUES FROM INTELLECTUAL. - 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 DISTINCTION OF MORAL VIRTUES FROM INTELLECTUAL.1
Article I.—Is all virtue moral?
R. We must consider what the (Latin) word mos means; for so we shall be able to know what moral virtue is. Mos has two meanings: sometimes it means custom; sometimes it means a sort of natural or quasi-natural inclination to do a thing. These two meanings are distinguished in Greek, ἔθος, ἠ̂θος. Moral virtue is so called from mos, inasmuch as the word signifies a certain natural or quasi-natural inclination to do a thing. And to this meaning the other meaning of custom is allied: for custom in a manner turns into nature, and makes an inclination like to that which is natural. But it is manifest that the inclination to act is properly to be attributed to the appetitive faculty, the function whereof is to move the other powers to action. And therefore not every virtue is called moral, but that only which is in the appetitive faculty.
Article II.—Is moral virtue distinct from intellectual?
R. Reason is the first principle of all human acts: all other principles obey reason, though in different degrees. Some obey reason’s every beck without any contradiction, as do the limbs of the body if they are in their normal state. Hence the Philosopher says that “the soul rules the body with a despotic command,” as the master rules the slave, who has no right to contradict. Some authorities have laid it down that all the active principles in man stand in this way subordinate to reason. If that were true, it would suffice for well-doing to have the reason perfect. Hence as virtue is a habit whereby we are perfected towards well-doing, it would follow that virtue was in reason alone; and thus there would be no virtue but that which is intellectual. Such was the opinion of Socrates, who said that all virtues were modes of prudence. Hence he laid it down that man, while knowledge was present in him, could not sin, but that whoever sinned, sinned through ignorance. This argumentation, however, goes on a false supposition: for the appetitive part is obedient to reason, not to every beck, but with some contradiction. Hence the Philosopher says that “reason commands appetite with a constitutional command,” like to that authority which a parent has over his children, who have in some respect the right of contradiction. Hence Augustine says, that “sometimes understanding goes before, and tardy or none the affection that follows after:” inasmuch as, owing to passions or habits in the appetitive faculty, the use of reason on some particular point is impeded. And to this extent it is in some sort true what Socrates said, that “in the presence of knowledge sin is not,” provided that the knowledge here spoken of be taken to include the use of reason on the particular point that is matter of choice. Thus then for well-doing it is required that not only reason be well disposed by the habit of intellectual virtue, but also that the appetitive power be well disposed by the habit of moral virtue. As then appetite is distinct from reason, so is moral virtue distinct from intellectual. Hence as appetite is a principle of human action by being in a manner partaker of reason, so a moral habit has the character of a human virtue by being conformable to reason.
Article III.—Is the division of virtues into moral and intellectual an exhaustive division?
R. Human virtue is a habit perfecting man unto well-doing. Now the principle of human acts in man is only twofold, namely, intellect or reason, and appetite. Hence every human virtue must be perfective of one or other of these two principles. If it is perfective of the speculative or practical intellect towards a good human act, it will be intellectual virtue: if it is perfective of the appetitive part, it will be moral virtue.
§ 1. Prudence in its essence is an intellectual virtue: but in its subject-matter it falls in with the moral virtues, being a right method of conduct; and in this respect it is counted among the moral virtues.
§ 2. Continence and perseverance are not perfections of the sensitive appetite, as is evident from this, that in the continent and in the persevering man there are inordinate passions to excess, which would not be the case if the sensitive appetite were perfected by any habit conforming it to reason. But continence, or perseverance, is a perfection of the rational faculty, holding out against passion so as not to be carried away. Nevertheless it falls short of the character and rank of virtue; because that intellectual virtue which makes the reason stand well in moral matters supposes the appetitive faculty to be rightly bent upon the end, which is not the case with the continent and with the persevering man. For no operation proceeding from two powers can be perfect, unless each of the two powers be perfected by the due habit: as there does not follow a perfect action on the part of one acting through an instrument, if the instrument be not well disposed, however perfect be the principal agent. Hence if the sensitive appetite, which the rational faculty moves, be not perfect, however perfect be the rational faculty itself, still the action ensuing will not be perfect: hence the principle of action will not be a virtue. And therefore continence from pleasures and perseverance in the midst of sorrows are not virtues, but something less than virtue, as the Philosopher says.1
§ 3. Faith, hope, and charity are above human virtues; for they are the virtues of man as he is made partaker of divine grace.
Article IV.—Can there be moral virtue without intellectual?
R. Moral virtue may be without some intellectual virtues, as without wisdom, science, and art, but it cannot be without intuition1 and prudence. Moral virtue cannot be without prudence, because moral virtue is an elective habit, making a good election. Now to the goodness of an election two things are requisite: first, a due intention of the end—and that is secured by moral virtue, which inclines the appetitive powers to good in accordance with reason, which is the due end; secondly, it is required that the person make a right application of means to the end, and this cannot be except by the aid of reason, rightly counselling, judging, and prescribing: all which offices belong to prudence and the virtues annexed thereto. Hence moral virtue cannot be without prudence, and consequently not without intuition either: for by the aid of intuition principles are apprehended, such principles as are naturally knowable, both in speculative and in practical matters. Hence as right reason in matters of speculation, proceeding on principles naturally known, presupposes the intuition of principles, so also does prudence, being right reason applied to conduct, presuppose the same intuition or insight.
§ 2. In a virtuous person it is not necessary for the use of reason to be vigorous on all points, but only in those things that are to be done according to virtue, and to this extent the use of reason is vigorous in all virtuous persons. Hence even they who seem to be simple, and to lack worldly wisdom, may be prudent persons for all that, according to the text: “Be ye wise as serpents and simple as doves.”1
§ 3. A natural inclination to the good that is in virtue is a beginning of virtue, but it is not perfect virtue. For the more perfect such inclination is, the more dangerous may it prove, unless right reason be conjoined with it, to make a right election of proper means to a due end. Thus a blind horse runs amuck; and the higher its speed, the more it hurts itself.
Article V.—Can there be intellectual virtue without moral?
R. Other intellectual virtues can be without moral virtue, but prudence cannot. The reason is because prudence is right reason applied to conduct, and that not only in general, but also in particular, as actions are particular. But right reason demands pre-established principles, and on them it proceeds. Now in particular matters reason must proceed not only on general but also on particular principles. As for general principles of conduct, man is kept right on these points by his natural insight into principles, whereby he knows that no evil is to be done, or again by some piece of practical knowledge. But this is not sufficient for reasoning aright in particular cases. For it happens sometimes that a general principle of this sort, ascertained by intuition or by science, is set aside in a particular case by some passion. Thus when desire gets the better of a man, that seems good which he desires, though it be against the general judgment of reason. And therefore as man is disposed by natural insight, or by a habit of science, to hold himself aright in respect of general principles, so, to keep right in respect of particular principles of conduct, which are ends of action, he must be perfected by certain habits that make it in a manner connatural to him to judge rightly of the end. And this is done by moral virtue: for the virtuous man judges rightly of the end that virtue should aim at, because “as each one is, so does the end appear to him.” And therefore for prudence, or the application of right reason to conduct, it is requisite for man to have moral virtue.
[1 ]Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 73—77. (Trl.)
[1 ]We may gather from the Seventh Book of Aristotle’s Ethics here referred to, a fourfold enumeration.
[1 ]For intuition, see q. 57. art. 2. (Trl.)
[1 ]St. Matt. x. 16.