Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CLXVII.: OF CURIOSITY. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CLXVII.: OF CURIOSITY. - 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.—Can there be curiosity in the matter of intellectual knowledge?
R. The knowledge of truth on the one hand, and the craving and eagerness to know the truth on the other, are not to be esteemed alike. Knowledge of truth is in itself good, though it may be evil incidentally by reason of something that follows upon it, either because one is proud of his knowledge, as the text has it, “Knowledge puffeth up,”1 or inasmuch as a man uses his knowledge of truth to sin. But the craving or eagerness to know truth may be either right or wrong. It is wrong if the efforts made after knowledge are directed to it on that side on which it is incidentally fraught with evil; for example, in the case of those whose study of science is directed to gain a vantage-ground for pride. Hence Augustine says: “There are those who abandoning virtues, and knowing not what God is, and how great is the majesty of the Nature that never changes, think that they are doing something great by curiously and intently investigating this whole mass of material things that we call the universe. So great is the pride hence generated, that they fancy themselves actually to dwell in the heavens about which they dispute so much.”
In another form vice may show itself as an inordinateness in the craving and eagerness to learn the truth. That may be in four ways. One way is when this eagerness withdraws a person from another pursuit, which is his bounden duty. Hence Jerome says: “We see priests leaving the gospels and prophets, to read comedies and sing the love-verses of pastoral poetry.” In another way, when one is eager to learn from an unlawful source, as in those who inquire of evil spirits about things to come: and this is superstitious curiosity. The third way is when one seeks to learn the truth about creatures without reference to the due end, which is the knowledge of God. Hence Augustine says: “We must not gratify a curiosity, idle and sure to be thrown away over the study of creatures; but we must make of that study a ladder to ascend to immortal and everlasting goods.” A fourth way is inasmuch as one is eager to know that truth which lies above his ken; for thereby men easily fall into errors. Hence it is said: “Search not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability, and in many of his works be not curious: for the suspicion of them hath deceived many and hath detained their minds in vanity.”1
§ 1. The good of man consists in the knowledge of truth; but the sovereign good of man does not consist in the knowledge of any and every truth, but in the perfect knowledge of the higher truth. And therefore there may be an element of vice in the knowledge of some truths, inasmuch as desire of that knowledge is not duly directed to the knowledge of the sovereign truth, wherein sovereign blessedness consists.
§ 2. The knowledge of truth in itself is good; but it may be abused to an evil end, or inordinately desired: for even the desire of a good thing needs to be duly regulated.
§ 3. Though the study of philosophy in itself is lawful and praiseworthy, still because some philosophers abuse it to assail the faith, the Apostle says: “Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, and not according to Christ.”1
Article II.—Has the vice of curiosity place in the matter of sensible knowledge?
R. The knowledge that comes by the senses is ordered to two ends: in man, as in other animals, it is ordered to the end of maintenance of the body; because by means of this knowledge men and other animals avoid what is hurtful, and seek out what is necessary for their sustenance; again, in man it is specially ordered to minister to intellectual knowledge, whether speculative or practical. To apply oneself then to the eager knowing of sensible things may be vicious in two ways: in one way, inasmuch as the sensible knowledge so gained is not directed to anything useful, but rather turns a man away from some profitable inquiry;1 in another way, inasmuch as sensible knowledge makes for some evil end, as the looking at a woman makes for lust, and diligent inquiry into others’ doings makes for detraction.
§ 2. The looking on at public shows becomes criminal, in so far as such representations render a man prone to the vices either of luxury or cruelty.
[1 ]1 Cor. viii. 1.
[1 ]Ecclus. iii. 22—26.
[1 ]Coloss. ii. 8.
[1 ]To prevent our taking this too rigidly, see the next Question, art. 2. In no author more than in St. Thomas, and nowhere in St. Thomas more than in his moral writings, is it important to read one passage in the light of another, and to accord particular utterances to the general tenor of the author’s mind. (Trl.)