Chapter

Aquinas on Pagan Virtue

Michael Moriarty

in Disguised Vices

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199589371
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191728808 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589371.003.0004
Aquinas on Pagan Virtue

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This chapter investigates St Thomas Aquinas’s handling of the problem of pagan virtue, in the context of his distinction between natural and supernatural spheres. He discusses (a) whether every act of an unbeliever is a sin; (b) whether grace is necessary to right action; and (c) whether virtue is possible without the supernatural gift of charity. He argues that unbelievers can do such good deeds as natural rationality enables them to perform, nor is divine grace necessary for this; but that without divine grace it is impossible to fulfil the whole of the moral law, let alone to do so in the proper way, that is, out of charity (love for God). There can be no perfect and comprehensive virtue without this love, though individual virtues can be acquired by practice. The extent of Aquinas’s agreement with Augustine (considerable but not total) is discussed.

Keywords: Aquinas; unbelievers; natuaral; supernatural; faith; charity; grace; imperfect virtue

Chapter.  5795 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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