Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CXLII.: OF VICES OPPOSED TO TEMPERANCE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CXLII.: OF VICES OPPOSED TO TEMPERANCE. - 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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OF VICES OPPOSED TO TEMPERANCE.
Article I.—Is insensibility a vice?
R. Everything that is contrary to the natural order is vicious. But nature has attached delight to the activities that are necessary for the life of man. And therefore the natural order requires that man should use such delights so far as is necessary to human well-being, in point either of the maintenance of the individual or of the species. If any man therefore were so far to shun delight as to omit what was necessary for the maintenance of nature, he would sin as going against the natural order; and such a sin belongs to the vice of insensibility. It is to be observed however that sometimes it is praiseworthy, or even necessary, for a particular purpose, to abstain from the delights that are attendant upon such activities. Thus for the health of their bodies some abstain; and again for the execution of some charge, as athletes and soldiers have to abstain from many delights to fulfil their task. And in like manner penitents, to recover their soul’s health, follow a sort of dietary scheme of abstinence from things delightful; and men who wish to give themselves to contemplation and divine things must withdraw themselves more than other men from fleshly desires. Nor do any of these courses belong to the vice of insensibility, because they are according to right reason.
§ 2. Because man cannot use reason without using the sensitive powers that require a bodily organ, man is obliged to give sustenance to his body in order to have the use of his reason. And bodily sustenance is taken by actions that give pleasure. Hence the good of reason cannot be in man, if he abstain from all pleasures. According however as man in performing the act that his reason approves requires more or less of bodily strength, in that proportion he has more or less need to make use of things pleasant to the body. And therefore men who have taken up the office of contemplation, and of transmitting to others by a sort of spiritual generation spiritual good, do well in abstaining from many sources of pleasure, from which others do well in not abstaining, whose office it is to give themselves to corporal works and to raising up posterity in the flesh.
Article II.—Is intemperance a childish sin?
R. A thing is said to be childish, either because it befits children, and in that way the Philosopher does not mean to say that the sin of intemperance is childish; or else it is called childish in point of a certain likeness to a child. For the sin of intemperance is the sin of appetite running to excess; and that is likened to a child in three respects. First, in respect of that which both the one and the other seek after: for appetite, like a child, seeks after what is unseemly. And the reason is, because beauty in human things consists in being ordered according to reason: now a child pays no attention to the order of reason, and appetite in like manner has no regard for reason. Secondly, they agree in the event and outcome. For a child, left to its own will, waxes strong in its own will: hence it is said, “A horse not broken becometh stubborn, and a child left to himself will become headstrong.”1 So also appetite, if gratified, takes new strength. Hence Augustine says: “Lust yielded to becomes a habit, and a habit not resisted becomes a necessity.” Thirdly, in point of the remedy that is applied to each. For a child is amended by constraint: hence it is said, “Withhold not correction from a child: thou shalt beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from hell.”2 And in like manner appetite, by being resisted, is reduced to due measure of propriety.
§ 2. Desire may be said to be natural in two ways: in one way, in its kind; and in that way temperance and intemperance are about natural desires; for they are about desires of food and sex, which are ordained to the maintenance of nature. In another way, desire may be said to be natural in respect of the species of that which nature requires for its maintenance; and in this way there is not much opening for sin in the matter of natural desires: for nature requires no more than the relief of its own necessity; and in the desire of that there is no opening for sin except in the way of excess in quantity. And this is the only way that sin is committed in the matter of natural desire, as the Philosopher says. But other matter of much sin is found in certain incentives to desire which human artificiality has invented, as dishes, the work of artistes, and elaborate toilets.1
§ 3. What belongs to nature in boys is to be developed and fostered: but what belongs to the deficiency of reason in them is not to be fostered, but corrected.
Article III.—Is cowardice a greater vice than intemperance?
R. One vice may be compared with another either in respect of its matter or object, or in respect of the man himself who sins; and in both respects intemperance is a more grievous vice than cowardice. First, in respect of the matter: for cowardice flies from perils of death, for the avoidance of which the necessity of preserving life offers the greatest inducement. But intemperance is in the matter of pleasures, the seeking after which is not so necessary to the preservation of life: because intemperance turns rather upon certain adventitious delights and desires than upon desires and delights that are natural. But the greater the necessity which the motive to sin seems to carry with it, the lighter is the sin. And therefore intemperance is a more grievous vice than cowardice on the part of the object or matter which is its motive. Also on the part of the man himself who sins: in the first place, because the more the sinner is in possession of his faculties, the more grievous is his sin: hence sins are not imputed to people out of their senses. But fears and severe griefs, especially where there is danger of death, bewilder a man’s wits: whereas the pleasure that prompts to intemperance has no such effect. Secondly, because a sin is more grievous as it is more voluntary; but intemperance has more of a voluntary character about it than cowardice, in two ways. In one way, because what is done through fear has its principle in an impulse from without: hence it is not absolutely voluntary, but partly voluntary and partly involuntary; whereas what is done for pleasure is absolutely voluntary. In another way, because the proceedings of the intemperate man are more voluntary in detail, though less voluntary in general. For no one would wish to be intemperate; but a man is allured by the particular attractions of pleasure that make him intemperate. Wherefore for the avoidance of intemperance the great remedy is not to dwell on the consideration of particular attractions in detail. But as concerns cowardice it is the other way about: for the particular acts that force themselves upon one, as throwing away one’s arms and the rest, are less voluntary, but the general purpose is more voluntary, which is to save one’s life by flight. But that is absolutely the more voluntary proceeding, which is more voluntary in the particular details that attach to the action in the doing. And therefore intemperance, being absolutely more voluntary than cowardice, is the greater vice.1
§ 1. As it is the greater virtue not to be overcome by the stronger temptation, so it is the less vice to be overcome by the stronger, and the greater vice to be vanquished by the weaker.
Article IV.—Is the vice of intemperance especially shameful?
R. Shame is reckoned to be the opposite of honour and glory. Now honour is due to excellence, and glory denotes brilliancy and lustre. Intemperance then is especially shameful for two reasons. First, because it is most opposed to the excellence of man, being in the matter of the pleasures that are common to us with brute beasts. Secondly, because it is most opposed to the lustre and beauty of man, inasmuch as in the pleasures that intemperance pursues there appears less of the light of reason, whence comes all the lustre and beauty of virtue: hence also such pleasures are said to be especially things for slaves.
§ 1. As Gregory says: “To vices of the flesh there attaches less shame, but greater infamy.”
§ 2. The general prevalence of sin diminishes the turpitude and infamy of certain vices in the opinion of men, but not in the nature of the vices themselves.
[1 ]Ecclus. xxx. 8.
[2 ]Prov. xxiii. 13, 14.
[1 ]Cf. Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 49, 50; I-II. q. 30. art. 3. q. 77. art. 5. (Trl.)
[1 ]Intemperance, it must be remembered, here means not drunkenness only, but impurity,—in fact, all sensual vice. (Trl.)