Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CLXVIII.: OF MODESTY, OR DECORUM, IN THE OUTWARD MOVEMENTS OF THE BODY. 2 - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CLXVIII.: OF MODESTY, OR DECORUM, IN THE OUTWARD MOVEMENTS OF THE BODY. 2 - 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 MODESTY, OR DECORUM, IN THE OUTWARD MOVEMENTS OF THE BODY.2
Article I.—Is there any virtue in the outward movements of the body?
R. Moral virtue consists in man’s performances being directed by reason. But manifestly the exterior movements of man are open to the direction of reason; for the exterior members move at the command of reason. Hence there is a moral virtue that consists in the due ordering of these movements.
§ 1. Outward movements are signs of inward dispositions, according to the text, “The attire of the body, and the laughter of the teeth, and the gait of the man, show what he is;”1 and Ambrose says, “The movement of the body is the voice of the soul.”
§ 4. The paying of special attention to the arrangement of outward movements is blameworthy, if it means that the outward movements are so feigned as not to tally with the inward dispositions. But enough special attention ought to be paid to ensure the correction of anything inordinate in our movements. Hence Ambrose says: “Away with artificiality, but secure propriety.”
Article II.—Can there be any virtue in games and sports?
R. As man needs bodily rest to refresh his body, which cannot labour continually, because its strength is limited and proportioned to finite toil, so with the mind the case is the same for the same reason. And therefore, when the mind exerts itself beyond its measure, it labours and is fatigued thereby, especially because in the operations of the soul the body labours also, inasmuch as the intellectual soul uses powers that work by means of bodily organs. But sensible goods are connatural to man; and therefore, when the mind soars above the things of sense, and is intent upon the works of reason, the result is a certain psychical fatigue, whether it be the works of practical or of speculative reason that the man is intent upon: more however if he be intent upon the works of contemplation, because thereby he soars higher above sensible things; though possibly in some exterior works of the practical reason greater labour of the body is involved. But as bodily fatigue is thrown off by rest of the body, so must psychical fatigue be thrown off by rest of the mind. Now the mind’s rest is pleasure or delight. And therefore a remedy must be applied to psychical fatigue by some pleasure, and the intense application to rational pursuits must be for the time intermitted. Thus we read of blessed John the Evangelist, that when some persons were scandalized to find him at play with his disciples, he told one of them, who had a bow, to shoot an arrow, and so again and again, and then asked him if he could go on doing that always. The other answered that if he tried to do it always, the bow would break. Hence blessed John drew the moral, that in like manner man’s head would break, if his mind was kept for ever on the strain. But sayings or doings of this sort, wherein nothing is sought beyond amusement, are spoken of as things said or done in sport or jest. And therefore we must at times make use of such things to rest the mind. In doing so there are three precautions to be observed. The first and principal is, that the aforesaid amusement be not sought for in actions or words that are unseemly or hurtful. The second is, that the gravity of the mind be not altogether relaxed. Hence Tully says: “In our very jests let some glimpse of a virtuous character shine out.” The third precaution here as in all other human actions is, that whatever is said or done should be in keeping with the person, the season, and the place, as Tully says that it should be “worthy of the time and of the man.” Now a habit working according to reason is a moral virtue; and therefore in the matter of games and sports there can be a virtue, which the Philosopher calls eutrapelia (sprightliness).1
§ 1. Jests ought to suit the matter in hand and the person speaking. Hence Tully says: “When the audience are tired, it is not without utility for the orator to start some new and ridiculous topic, provided the dignity of the subject does not bar every avenue to a jest.” Hence Ambrose, when he says, “I consider that not only extravagant jokes but all jokes are to be avoided,” does not exclude joking universally from conversation, but from the pulpit. Hence he says before: “Though jests be at times proper and pleasing, yet they are out of keeping with the ecclesiastical rule. For, not finding them in Holy Scripture, how can we use them?”2
§ 2. Chrysostom’s saying, “Not God but the devil is the giver of sport,” is to be understood of those who use sports and games inordinately, and especially of those who make it the end of their life to play and amuse themselves, as is said of some, “They have counted our life a pastime;”3 against whom Tully says, “We are not so brought into being by nature as that sport and jest should be accounted the end of our existence; rather we are meant to be on serious thoughts intent, and on grave and weighty purposes.”1
§ 3. Things done in jest in their kind are not directed to any end; but the pleasure that comes of doing them is directed to the recreation and rest of the mind. Hence Tully says: “It is lawful to use play and jesting, but only as we use sleep and other manners of repose, then when we have acquitted ourselves of our grave and serious duties.”
§ 3. Sport and play are necessary to the business of human life. Now for all purposes that are useful to society certain lawful callings may be appointed. And therefore the calling of stage-players, being directed to afford solace to men, is not in itself unlawful, nor are they in the state of sin, provided they practise their playing moderately, employing no unlawful words or actions therein, and not carrying their playing into the midst of occupations or seasons where it has no place. And though in the social order they fulfil no other office in reference to other men, yet with regard to themselves and to God they have other serious and virtuous occupations, praying, and ordering their passions and actions, and at times also giving alms to the poor. Hence they who contribute moderately to their support do not sin, but do an act of justice, giving them the hire of their service. But if any individuals run to excess, wasting their substance on such persons, or support those stage-players who act unlawful plays, they sin as fostering them in their sin. In this sense Augustine says: “To give one’s money to stage-players is a huge vice, not a virtue,”—unless some stage-player happened to be in extreme need, in which case he would have to be relieved, for Ambrose says: “Feed the man dying of hunger: whoever you are that are able to save a man by giving him food, you have slain him if you have not fed him.”
Article IV.—Is there any sin in being too little disposed to sport and play?
R. Everything that is against reason in human things is faulty. Now it is against reason for any one to make himself burdensome to others, making no fun himself and stopping other people’s fun. Hence Seneca says: “Behave so wisely as that none may account thee stern, nor despise thee as making thyself cheap.” But they who have too little disposition to sport and play, say nothing laughable themselves, and frown upon others saying such things, not admitting the moderate playfulness of others. And therefore these persons are at fault, and are called “hard and clownish,” as the Philosopher says. But because sport is useful for rest and pleasure, and pleasure and rest are not things to be sought for their own sake in human life, but as aids to work, therefore defect in the disposition to sport and play is less of a vice than excess in the same. Hence the Philosopher says: “A little pleasure is enough in life for seasoning, as a little salt to meat.”
§ 1. Sport and play are forbidden to penitents, because mourning is enjoined upon them for their sins. Nor is this a piece of vice in the way of defect: for it is according to reason that in their case the measure of sport and play should be cut down.
[2 ]A different virtue from the modesty (pudicitia) spoken of II-II. q. 151. art. 4. (Trl.)
[1 ]Ecclus. xix. 27.
[1 ]In his Rhetoric, II. 12, Aristotle defines eutrapelia as πεπαιδενμένη [Editor: illegible character]βρις, “a cultivated variety of horseplay.” (Trl.)
[2 ]Understand—in the pulpit. (Trl.)
[3 ]Wisdom xv. 12.
[1 ]Cf. Ethics and Natural Law, p. 60. (Trl.)