Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CXXIII.: OF FORTITUDE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CXXIII.: OF FORTITUDE. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
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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Article I.—Is fortitude a virtue?
R. It belongs to human virtue to make a man good, and his work according to reason. And this is done in three ways; in one way by the rectification of reason itself, which is done by the intellectual virtues; in another way by the right order of reason being established in human affairs, which is the work of justice; in a third way by the removal of the obstacles to the setting up of this order in human affairs. Now the human will finds two sorts of hinderances in following the right order of reason: one is the attraction of some pleasurable object, drawing it to follow some other course than what the right order of reason requires; and this hinderance is removed by the virtue of temperance: the other sort of hinderance is the difficulty of doing what is according to reason, and for the removal of this hinderance fortitude is required. Hence fortitude is a virtue, as making man to be according to reason.
§ 1. Virtue of soul is not perfected in infirmity of soul, but in infirmity of the flesh, of which the Apostle spoke.1 It belongs to fortitude of mind, bravely to bear the infirmity of the flesh.
§ 2. The outward act of a virtue is sometimes performed by persons who have not the virtue, on some other motive than the motive of the virtue. And therefore the Philosopher assigns five classes of persons who have the semblance of fortitude, as exercising the act of the virtue apart from the virtue. And this is done in three ways. First, by people rushing at a difficulty as though it were no difficulty at all; and this way has three varieties. Sometimes it comes of ignorance, the man not perceiving the greatness of the danger. Sometimes it comes of good hope of overcoming the danger, as when the man has found by experience that he has often come safe out of such perils. Sometimes it comes of knowledge and professional skill, as in soldiers, who by practice of arms and exercise do not think much of the dangers of war, reckoning their skill sufficient for their security. A second way of doing the act of fortitude without the virtue is under the impulse of some passion, as of grief, which one wishes to throw off, or again of anger. A third way is by deliberate choice of action, in view, not of the due end of the virtue, but of some temporal advantage, as honour, pleasure, or gain; or in view of avoiding something disagreeable, as reproach, distress of body, or loss of goods.
Article II.—Is fortitude a special virtue?
R. The name of fortitude may be taken either as absolutely signifying firmness of mind; and in this understanding it is a general virtue, or rather a condition of every virtue, because, as the Philosopher says, for virtue it is necessary to act firmly and unflinchingly; or in another way it may be taken as signifying firmness in the enduring and resisting of those difficulties only, in which it is hardest to have firmness; and thus fortitude is set down as a special virtue, having a definite matter.
Article III.—Is fortitude about fears and ventures?
R. It belongs to the virtue of fortitude to remove the obstacle by which the will is diverted from the following of reason. Now it is fear especially that diverts the will from a difficult line of action; for fear means retirement before an evil fraught with difficulty. And therefore fortitude deals principally with fears of things difficult, which may divert the will from the following of reason. But it is necessary, not only to restrain fear, and firmly endure the onset of these difficulties, but also with due moderation to attack them, when there is a call to exterminate them in view of security for the future; and this seems to belong to the idea of venturing a bold stroke. And therefore fortitude deals with fears and with ventures, repressing fears and moderating ventures.
Article IV.—Is fortitude about dangers of death only?
R. It belongs to the virtue of fortitude to preserve the will of man from being withdrawn from rational good by the fear of bodily evil. Now rational good must be maintained against any evil whatsoever, because no bodily good can weigh in the scales against rational good. And therefore that must be called fortitude, that holds the will of man firm in the good of reason against the greatest evils: because he who stands firm against the greater, consequently stands firm against the less; but not conversely. Now the most terrible of all bodily evils is death, that takes away all the goods of the body. And therefore the virtue of fortitude is about fears of dangers of death.
§ 1. Fortitude behaves well in bearing all adversity; still it is not from the bearing of any sort of adversity that a man is accounted absolutely a brave man, but only from bearing well the very greatest evils; from the others he gets the name of being relatively brave.
Article V.—Is fortitude properly conversant with the dangers of death that occur in war?
R. Fortitude strengthens the mind of man against the greatest dangers, which are the dangers of death. But because fortitude is a virtue, and it is of the essence of virtue always to tend to good, it follows that the pursuit of some good should be man’s motive for not shrinking from dangers of death. But dangers of death from sickness, or from a storm at sea, or from an attack of brigands, or other such cause, do not seem to threaten a man in direct consequence of his pursuit of good, as do dangers of death in war, which are imminent directly in consequence of his just defence of the public good. But there are two sorts of just war, one general, as when people fight on a battlefield; the other particular, as when a judge, or even a private person, goes not back upon a just decision for any fear of the sword threatening him, or of any danger even unto death. It belongs therefore to fortitude to show a firm heart against dangers of death, not only in a general war, but also in a particular conflict, which may be called by the common name of war. And in this sense we must grant that fortitude is properly shown in meeting dangers of death in war. The brave man however behaves well in dangers of any other sort of death; because the danger of any death may be encountered for virtue’s sake, as when one shrinks not from attending a sick friend for fear of a mortal infection; or shrinks not from journeying on a pious errand for fear of shipwreck or of brigands.1
§ 1. Martyrs endure personal combats for the sake of the sovereign good, which is God: therefore their fortitude is above all commended. Nor is it foreign to that kind of fortitude which is shown in things of war; hence it is said that they “became valiant in battle.”2
§ 3. The peace of the commonwealth is in itself good, and is not rendered evil by the evil use that some make of it, for there are many others who use it well; and by it much greater evils are prevented, as homicides and sacrilege, than the evils that are occasioned by it, which evils principally belong to the class of sins of the flesh.
Article VI.—Is endurance the principal act of fortitude?
R. As the Philosopher says: “Fortitude has more to do with repressing fears than with keeping fiery daring within bounds.” For it is harder to repress fear than to keep fiery daring within bounds, because the mere danger, which is the object of venturesomeness and of fear, of itself contributes to the checking of fiery daring, but to the augmentation of fear. And therefore the principal act of fortitude is endurance, or the remaining steady and unflinching in dangers, rather than attacking.
§ 1. Endurance is more difficult than taking the offensive, for three reasons. First, because one seems to endure or withstand the assault of an adversary more powerful than oneself, but he who takes the offensive comes on as having the upper hand. Now it is harder to fight with the stronger than with the weaker. Secondly, because he who endures feels the danger now on him; but he who attacks has it before him in the future. Now it is harder not to be moved by the present than by the future. Thirdly, because endurance takes a long time; but one may attack by a sudden movement. Now it is harder to remain long immovable than with a sudden motion to move forward to an arduous task.
Article VIII.—Does the man of fortitude find pleasure in the exercise of it?
R. There are two sorts of delight: one physical, following upon bodily contact; and another psychical, following the soul’s apprehension. This latter it is that properly follows acts of virtue; because in them the good of reason is considered. Now the principal act of fortitude is to endure things that are at once distressing according to the soul’s apprehension,—as in the case where a man sacrifices his bodily life, which the virtuous man loves, not only as a natural good, but also as a necessary instrument for works of virtue,—and at the same time are painful according to the bodily sense of touch, as wounds or stripes. And therefore the brave man on the one side has matter of pleasure, that is to say, of psychical delight, in the act of virtue and in the end thereof; and on the other side he has matter of pain, as well of psychical pain, considering the loss of his life, as also of that which is physical. But the sensible pain of the body prevents the psychical delight of virtue from making itself felt; except in the case of an abundant grace from God raising the soul to the delight of divine things too potently for it to be affected by the pains of the body, as blessed Tiburtius, when walking barefoot on hot coals, said that he seemed to himself to be treading on roses. Still the virtue of fortitude prevents the reason from being swallowed up in the pains of the body; and the psychical distress is overcome by the delight of virtue, whereby a man prefers the good of virtue to the life of the body and to all that goes therewith.
§ 2. To the words of Seneca, “Reason suffices for the doing of her own business: what more foolish than for her to beg aid of anger,—steadiness begging of unsteadiness, faith of faithlessness, health of disease?”—it is to be said that reason does not employ anger for her act as begging aid of anger; but reason uses the sensitive appetite for an instrument, as she uses also the members of the body. Nor is there any unsuitableness in the instrument being less perfect than the prime agent, as the hammer than the workman. As for Seneca, he was a follower of the Stoics; and his words, quoted above, are aimed directly against Aristotle.1
§ 3. Fortitude having two acts, to endure and to attack, does not employ anger for the act of endurance,—that act is done by the mere sole force of reason; but for the act of attack. For this act anger is employed rather than other passions, because it is the part of anger to assault the vexatious object; and thus anger lends direct cooperation to fortitude in making the attack.
[1 ]2 Cor. xii. 9.
[1 ]See Ethics and Natural Law, p. 96. (Trl.)
[2 ]Hebrews xi. 34.
[1 ]See I-II. q 24. art. 2. (Trl.)