Moral Philosophy
Joseph Rickaby, S. J.

Part 2 out of 6

are not so very angry. "If he had known what he was about," we say,
or, "if he had been in his right mind, he could not have brought
himself to treat me so." But when one has done us cool and deliberate
wrong, then we are angry, because the slight is most considerable.
There is an appearance of our claims to considerations having been
weighed, and found wanting. We call it, "a cool piece of
impertinence," "spiteful malevolence," and the like. Any other motive
to which the wrong is traceable on the part of the wrong-doer, lessens
our anger against him: but the motive of contempt, and that alone, if
we seem to discover it in him, invariably increases it. To this all
other points are reducible that move our anger, as forgetfulness,
rudely delivered tidings of misfortune, a face of mirth looking on at
our distress, or getting in the way and thwarting our purpose.

3. Anger differs from hatred. Hatred is a chronic affection, anger an
acute one. Hatred wishes evil to a man as it is evil, anger as it is
just. Anger wishes evil to fall on its object in the sight of all men,
and with the full consciousness of the sufferer: hatred is satisfied
with even a secret mischief, and, so that the evil be a grievous one,
does not much mind whether the sufferer be conscious of it or no. Thus
an angry man may wish to see him who has offended brought to public
confession and shame: but a hater is well content to see his enemy
spending his fortune foolishly, or dead drunk in a ditch on a lonely
wayside. The man in anger feels grief and annoyance, not so the hater.
At a certain point of suffering anger stops, and is appeased when full
satisfaction seems to have been made: but an enemy is implacable and
insatiate in his desire of your harm. St. Augustine in his Rule to his
brethren says: "For quarrels, either have them not, or end them with
all speed, lest anger grow to hatred, and of a mote make a beam."

4. Anger, like vengeance, is then only a safe course to enter on, when
it proceeds not upon personal but upon public grounds. And even by
this maxim many deceive themselves.

_Readings_.--Ar., _Rhet_., ii., 2; _ib_., 4, ad fin.; St. Thos., 1a
2a, q. 46, art. 2, in corp.; _ib_., q. 46, art. 3, in corp.; _ib_., q.
46, art. 6; _ib_., q. 47, art. 2.



SECTION I.--_Of Habit_.

1. _A habit is a quality difficult to change, whereby an agent whose
nature it was to work one way or another indeterminately, is disposed
easily and readily at will to follow this or that particular line of
action_. Habit differs from _disposition_, as disposition is a quality
easily changed. Thus one in a good humour is in a _disposition_ to be
kind. Habit is a part of character: disposition is a passing fit.
Again, habit differs from faculty, or power: as power enables one to
act; but habit, presupposing power, renders action easy and
expeditious, and reliable to come at call. We have a power to move our
limbs, but a habit to walk or ride or swim. Habit then is the
determinant of power. One and the same power works well or ill, but
not one and the same habit.

2. A power that has only one way of working, set and fixed, is not
susceptible of habit. Such powers are the forces of inanimate nature,
as gravitation and electricity. A thing does not gravitate better for
gravitating often. The moon does not obey the earth more readily
to-day than she did in the days of Ptolemy, or of the Chaldean sages.
Some specious claim to habit might be set up on behalf of electricity
and magnetism. A glass rod rubbed at frequent intervals for six
months, is a different instrument from what it would have been, if
left all that time idle in a drawer. Then there are such cases as the
gradual magnetising of an iron bar. Still we cannot speak of
electrical habits, or magnetic habits, not at least in things without
life, because there is no will there to control the exercise of the
quality. As well might we speak of a "tumbledown" habit in a row of
houses, brought on by locomotives running underneath their
foundations. It is but a case of an accumulation of small effects,
inducing gradually a new molecular arrangement, so that the old powers
act under new material conditions. But habit is a thing of life, an
appurtenance of will, not of course independent of material conditions
and structural alterations, in so far forth as a living and volitional
is also a material agent, but essentially usable _at will_, and
brought into play and controlled in its operation by free choice.
Therefore a habit that works almost automatically has less of the
character of a true habit, and passes rather out of morality into the
region of physics. Again, bad habits, vices to which a man is become a
slave against his better judgment, are less properly called habits
than virtues are; for such evil habits do not so much attend on
volition (albeit volition has created them) as drag the will in their
wake. For the like reason, habit is less properly predicable of brute
animals than of men: for brutes have no intelligent will to govern
their habits. The highest brutes are most susceptible of habit. They
are most like men in being most educable. And, of human progeny, some
take up habits, in the best and completest sense of the term, more
readily than others. They are better subjects for education: education
being nothing else than the formation of habits.

3. Knowledge consists of intellectual habits. But the habits of most
consequence to the moralist lie in the will, and in the sensitive
appetite as amenable to the control of the will. In this category come
the virtues, in the ordinary sense of that name, and secondarily the

4. A habit is acquired by acts. Whereupon this difficulty has been
started:--If the habit, say of mental application, comes from acts of
study, and again the acts from the habit, how ever is the habit
originally acquired? We answer that there are two ways in which one
thing may come from another. It may come in point of its very
existence, as child from parent; or in point of some mode of
existence, as scholar from master. A habit has its very existence from
acts preceding: but those acts have their existence independent of the
habit. The acts which are elicited after the habit is formed, owe to
the habit, not their existence, but the mode of their existence: that
is to say, because of the habit the acts are now formed readily,
reliably, and artistically, or virtuously. The primitive acts which
gradually engendered the habit, were done with difficulty, fitfully,
and with many failures,--more by good luck than good management, if it
was a matter of skill, and by a special effort rather than as a thing
of course, where it was question of moral well-doing. (See c.ii.,
s.ii., n.9, p. 10.)

5. A habit is a living thing: it grows and must be fed. It grows on
acts, and acts are the food that sustain it. Unexercised, a habit
pines away: corruption sets in and disintegration. A man, we will say,
has a habit of thinking of God during his work. He gives over doing
so. That means that he either takes to thinking of everything and
nothing, or he takes up some definite line of thought to the exclusion
of God. Either way there is a new formation to the gradual ruin of the
old habit.

6. _Habit_ and _custom_ may be distinguished in philosophical
language. We may say that custom makes the habit. Custom does not
imply any skill or special facility. A habit is a channel whereby the
energies flow, as otherwise they would not have flowed, freely and
readily in some particular direction. A habit, then, is a
determination of a faculty for good or for evil. It is something
intrinsic in a man, a real modification of his being, abiding in him
in the intervals between one occasion for its exercise and another:
whereas custom is a mere denomination, expressive of frequent action
and no more. Thus it would be more philosophical to speak of a
_custom_ of early rising, and of a _custom_ of smoking, rather than of
a _habit_ of smoking, except so far as, by the use of the word
_habit_, you may wish to point to a certain acquired skill of the
respiratory and facial muscles, and a certain acquired temper of the
stomach, enabling one to inhale tobacco fumes with impunity.

7. Habits are acquired, but it is obvious that the rate of acquisition
varies in different persons. This comes from one person being more
predisposed by _nature_ than another to the acquiring of this or that
habit. By nature, that is by the native temper and conformation of his
body wherewith he was born, this child is more prone to literary
learning, that to mechanics, this one to obstinacy and
contentiousness, that to sensuality, and so of the rest. For though it
is by the soul that a man learns, and by the act of his will and
spiritual powers he becomes a glutton or a zealot, nevertheless the
bodily organs concur and act jointly towards these ends. The native
dispositions of the child's body for the acquisition of habits depend
to an unascertained extent upon the habits of his ancestors. This is
the fact of _heredity_.

8. Man is said to be "a creature of habits." The formation of habits
in the will saves the necessity of continually making up the mind
anew. A man will act as he has become habituated, except under some
special motive from without, or some special effort from within. In
the case of evil habits, that effort is attended with immense
difficulty. The habit is indeed the man's own creation, the outcome of
his free acts. But he is become the bondslave of his creature, so much
so that when the occasion arrives, three-fourths of the act is already
done, by the force of the habit alone, before his will is awakened, or
drowsily moves in its sleep. The only way for the will to free itself
here is not to wait for the occasion to come, but be astir betimes,
keep the occasion at arm's length, and register many a determination
and firm protest and fervent prayer against the habit. He who neglects
to do this in the interval has himself to blame for being overcome
every time that he falls upon the occasion which brings into play the
evil habit.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 49, art. 4, ad 1, 2; _ib_., q. 50,
art. 3, in corp., ad. 1, 2; _ib_., q. 51, art. 1, in corp.; _ib_., q.
53, art. 3, in corp.; Ar., _Eth_., II., i.; _ib_., III., v., 10-14;
_ib_., II., iv., 1, 2, 4.

SECTION II.--_Of Virtues in General_.

1. Virtue in its most transcendental sense means the excellence of a
thing according to its kind. Thus it is the virtue of the eye to see,
and of a horse to be fleet of foot. Vice is a _flaw_ in the make of a
thing, going to render it useless for the purpose to which it was
ordained. From the ethical standpoint, virtue is a habit that a man
has got of doing moral good, or doing that which it befits his
rational nature to do: and vice is a habit of doing moral evil. (See
c. i., n. 5.) It is important to observe that virtue and vice are not
acts but habits. Vices do not make a man guilty, nor do virtues make
him innocent. A man is guilty or innocent according to his acts, not
according to his habits. A man may do a wicked thing and not be
vicious, or a good action and not be virtuous. But no man is vicious
who has not done one, two, aye, many wicked things: and to be
virtuous, a man must have performed many acts of virtue. Children do
right and wrong, but they have neither virtues nor vices except in a
nascent state: there has not yet been time in them for the habits to
be formed. When sin is taken away by God and pardoned, the vice, that
is, the evil habit, if any such existed before, still remains, and
constitutes a danger for the future. The habit can only be overcome by
watchfulness and a long continuance of contrary acts. But vice is not
sin, nor is sin vice, nor a good deed a virtue.

2. The name of virtue is given to certain habits residing in the
intellect, as _intuition_ or _insight_ (into self-evident truths),
_wisdom_ (regarding conclusions of main application), _science_ (of
conclusions in special departments), and _art_. These are called
_intellectual virtues_.

It was a peculiarity of Socrates' teaching, largely shared by Plato,
to make all virtue intellectual, a doctrine expressed in the formula,
_Virtue is knowledge_; which is tantamount to this other, _Vice is
ignorance_, or _an erroneous view_. From whence the conclusion is
inevitable: _No evil deed is wilfully done_; and therefore, _No man is
to blame for being wicked_.

3. Undoubtedly there is a certain element of ignorance in all vice,
and a certain absence of will about every vicious act. There is
likewise an intellectual side to all virtue. These positions we
willingly concede to the Socratics. Every morally evil act is borne of
some voluntary inconsiderateness. The agent is looking the wrong way
in the instant at which he does wrong. Either he is regarding only the
solicitations of his inferior nature to the neglect of the superior,
or he is considering some rational good indeed, but a rational good
which, if he would look steadily upon it, he would perceive to be
unbefitting for him to choose. No man can do evil in the very instant
in which his understanding is considering, above all things else, that
which it behoves him specially to consider in the case. Again, in
every wrong act, it is not the sheer evil that is willed, but the good
through or with the evil. Good, real or supposed, is sought for: evil
is accepted as leading to good in the way of means, or annexed thereto
as a circumstance. Moreover, no act is virtuous that is elicited quite
mechanically, or at the blind instance of passion. To be virtuous, the
thing must be done _on principle_, that is, at the dictate of reason
and by the light of intellect.

4. Still, virtue is not knowledge. There are other than intellectual
habits needed to complete the character of a virtuous man. "I see the
better course and approve it, and follow the worse," said the Roman
poet. [Footnote 3] "The evil which I will not, that I do," said the
Apostle. It is not enough to have an intellectual discernment of and
preference for what is right: but the will must be habituated to
embrace it, and the passions too must be habituated to submit and
square themselves to right being done. In other words, a virtuous man
is made up by the union of enlightened intellect with the moral
virtues. The addition is necessary for several reasons.

[Footnote 3: Video meliora proboque,/Deteriora sequor. (Ovid,
_Metamorph_., vii., 21.)]

(a) Ordinarily, the intellect does not necessitate the will. The will,
then, needs to be clamped and set by habit to choose the right thing
as the intellect proposes it.

(b) Intellect, or Reason, is not absolute in the human constitution.
As Aristotle (_Pol_., I., v., 6) says: "The soul rules the body with a
despotic command: but reason rules appetite with a command
constitutional and kingly": that is to say, as Aristotle elsewhere
(_Eth_., I., xiii., 15, 16) explains, passion often "fights and
resists reason, opposes and contradicts": it has therefore to be bound
by ordinances and institutions to follow reason's lead: these
institutions are good habits, moral virtues, resident there where
passion itself is resident, in the inferior appetite. It is not enough
that the rider is competent, but the horse too must be broken in.

(c) It is a saying, that "no mortal is always wise." There are times
when reason's utterance is faint from weariness and vexation. Then,
unless a man has acquired an almost mechanical habit of obeying reason
in the conduct of his will and passions, he will in such a conjuncture
act inconsiderately and do wrong. That habit is moral virtue. Moral
virtue is as the fly-wheel of an engine, a reservoir of force to carry
the machine past the "dead points" in its working. Or again, moral
virtue is as discipline to troops suddenly attacked, or hard pressed
in the fight.

5. Therefore, besides the habits in the intellect that bear the name
of _intellectual virtues_, the virtuous man must possess other habits,
as well in the will, that this power may readily embrace what the
understanding points out to be good, as in the sensitive appetite in
both its parts, concupiscible and irascible, so far forth as appetite
is amenable to the control of the will, that it may be so controlled
and promptly obey the better guidance. These habits in the will and in
the sensitive appetite are called _moral virtues_, and to them the
name of _virtue_ is usually confined.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 71, art. 1, in corp.; _ib_., q. 58,
art. 2; _ib_., q. 58, art. 3, in corp., ad 3; _ib_., q. 56, art. 4, in
corp., ad 1-3.

SECTION III.--_Of the Difference between Virtues, Intellectual and

1. St. Thomas (1a 2a, q. 56, art. 3, in corp.) [Footnote 4] draws this
difference, that an intellectual virtue gives one a facility in doing
a good act; but a moral virtue not only gives facility, but makes one
put the facility in use. Thus a habit of grammar he says, enables one
readily to speak correctly, but does not ensure that one always shall
speak correctly, for a grammarian may make solecisms on purpose:
whereas a habit of justice not only makes a man prompt and ready to do
just deeds, but makes him actually do them. Not that any habit
necessitates volition. Habits do not necessitate, but they facilitate
the act of the will. (s. i., nn. 1, 2, 8, pp. 64, 68.)

[Footnote 4: By _doing good_ St. Thomas means the determination of the
appetite, rational or sensitive, to good. He says that intellectual
virtue does not prompt this determination of the appetite. Of course
it does not: it prompts only the act of the power wherein it resides:
now it resides in the intellect, not in the appetite; and it prompts
the act of the intellect, which however is cot always followed by an
act of appetite in accordance with it.]

2. Another distinction may be gathered from St. Thomas (1a 2a, q. 21,
art. 2, ad 2), that the special intellectual habit called _art_
disposes a man to act correctly towards some particular end, but a
moral habit towards the common end, scope and purpose of all human
life. Thus medical skill ministers to the particular end of healing:
while the moral habit of temperance serves the general end, which is
final happiness and perfection. So to give a wrong prescription
through sheer antecedent ignorance, is to fail as a doctor: but to get
drunk wittingly and knowingly is to fail as a man.

3. The grand distinction between intellectual and moral habits seems
to be this, that moral habits reside in powers which may act against
the dictate of the understanding,--the error of Socrates, noticed
above (c. v., s. ii., n. 2, p. 70), lay in supposing that they could
not so act: whereas the power which is the seat of the intellectual
habits, the understanding, cannot possibly act against itself. Habits
dispose the subject to elicit acts of the power wherein they reside.
Moral habits induce acts of will and sensitive appetite: intellectual
habits, acts of intellect. Will and appetite may act against what the
agent knows to be best: but intellect cannot contradict intellect. It
cannot judge that to be true and beautiful which it knows to be false
and foul. If a musician strikes discords on purpose, or a grammarian
makes solecisms wilfully, he is not therein contradicting the
intellectual habit within him, for it is the office of such a habit to
aid the intellect to judge correctly, and the intellect here does
correctly judge the effect produced. On the other hand, if the
musician or grammarian blunders, the intellect within him has not been
contradicted, seeing that he knew no better: the habit of grammar or
music has not been violated, but has failed to cover the case.
Therefore the intellectual habit is not a safeguard to keep a man from
going against his intelligent self. No such safeguard is needed: the
thing is impossible, in the region of pure intellect. In a region
where no temptation could enter, intellectual habits would suffice
alone of themselves to make a perfectly virtuous man. To avoid evil
and choose good, it would be enough to know the one and the other. But
in this world seductive reasonings sway the will, and fits of passion
the sensitive appetite, prompting the one and the other to rise up and
break away from what the intellect knows all along to be the true good
of man. Unless moral virtue be there to hold these powers to their
allegiance, they will frequently disobey the understanding. Such
disobedience is more irrational than any mere intellectual error. In
an error purely intellectual, where the will has no part, the
objective truth indeed is missed, but the intelligence that dwells
within the man is not flouted and gain-sayed. It takes two to make a
contradiction as to make a quarrel. But an intellectual error has only
one side. The intellect utters some false pronouncement, and there is
nothing within the man that says otherwise. In the moral error there
is a contradiction within, an intestine quarrel. The intellect
pronounces a thing not good, not to be taken, and the sensitive
appetite will throw a veil over the face of intellect, and seize upon
the thing. That amounts to a contradiction of a man's own intelligent

4. It appears that, absolutely speaking, intellectual virtue is the
greater perfection of a man: indeed in the act of that virtue, as we
have seen, his crowning perfection and happiness lies. But moral
virtue is the greater safeguard. The breach of moral virtue is the
direr evil. Sin is worse than ignorance, and more against reason,
because it is against the doer's own reason. Moral virtue then is more
necessary than intellectual in a world where evil is rife, as it is a
more vital thing to escape grievous disease than to attain the highest
development of strength and beauty. And as disease spoils strength and
beauty, not indeed always taking them away, but rendering them
valueless, so evil moral habits subvert intellectual virtue, and turn
it aside in a wrong direction. The vicious will keeps the intellect
from contemplating the objects which are the best good of man: so the
contemplation is thrown away on inferior things, often on base things,
and an overgrowth of folly ensues on those points whereupon it most
imports a man to be wise.

To sum up all in a sentence, not exclusive but dealing with
characteristics: _the moral virtues are the virtues for this world,
intellectual virtue is the virtue of the life to come_.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 58, art. 2, in corp.; Ar., _Eth_.,
I., xiii., 15-19; St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 66, art. 3.

SECTION IV.--_Of the Mean in Moral Virtue_.

1. Moral virtue is a habit of doing the right thing in the conduct of
the will and the government of the passions. Doing right is opposed to
overdoing the thing, and to underdoing it. Doing right is taking what
it suits a rational nature to desire, and eschewing what is unsuitable
under the circumstances. (c. i., n. 5.)

But a thing may be unsuitable in two ways, by excess, and by defect:
the rational choice is in the mean between these two. The moral order
here is illustrated from the physical. Too much exercise and too
little alike impair the strength; so of meat and drink in regard to
health; but diet and exercise in moderation, and in proportion to the
subject, create, increase, and preserve both health and strength. So
it is with temperance, and fortitude, and all varieties of moral
virtue. He who fights shy of everything, and never stands his ground,
becomes a coward; while he who never fears at all, but walks boldly up
to all danger, turns out rash. The enjoyer of every pleasure, who
knows not what it is to deny himself aught, is a libertine and loose
liver; while to throw over all the graces and delicious things of
life, not as St. Paul did, who counted all things dross, that he might
gain Christ, but absolutely, as though such things were of themselves
devoid of attraction, is boorishness and insensibility. Thus the
virtues of temperance and fortitude perish in excess and defect, and
live in the mean. It is to be noticed in this illustration that the
mean of health is not necessarily the mean of virtue. What is too
little food, and too much exercise, for the animal well-being of a
man, may be the right amount of both for him in some higher relation,
inasmuch as he is more than a mere animal; as for a soldier in a hard
campaign, where a sufficiency of food and rest is incompatible with
his serving his country's need.

2. The taking of means to an end implies the taking them in
moderation, not in excess, or we shall overshoot the mark, nor again
so feebly and inadequately as to fall short of it. No mere instrument
admits of an unlimited use; but the end to be gained fixes limits to
the use of the instrument, thus far, no more, and no less. Wherever
then reason requires an end to be gained, it requires a use of means
proportionate to the end, not coming short of it, nor going so far
beyond as to defeat the purpose in view. The variety of good that is
called the Useful lies within definite limits, between two
wildernesses, so to speak, stretching out undefined into the distance,
wilderness of Excess on the one side, and wilderness of Defect on the

3. A true work of art cannot be added to or taken from without
spoiling it. A perfect church would be spoiled by a lengthening of the
chancel or raising the tower, albeit there are buildings, secular and
ecclesiastical, that might be drawn out two miles long and not look
any worse. The colouring of a picture must not be too violent and
positive; but artistic colouring must be chaste, and artistic
utterance gentle, and artistic action calm and indicative of
self-command. Not that voice and action should not be impassioned for
a great emergency, but the very passion should bear the mark of
control: in the great master's phrase, you must not "tear a passion to
tatters." It is by moderation sitting upon power that works of art
truly masculine and mighty are produced; and by this sign they are
marked off from the lower host of things, gorgeous and redundant, and
still more from the order of "the loose, the lawless, the exaggerated,
the insolent, and the profane."

4. On these considerations Aristotle framed his celebrated definition
of moral virtue: _the habit of fixing the choice in the golden mean in
relation to ourselves, defined by reason, as a prudent man would
define it_. All virtue is a _habit_, as we have seen--a habit of doing
that which is the proper act of the power wherein the habit resides.
One class of moral virtues is resident in the will, the act of which
power is properly called _choice_. The rest of the moral virtues
reside in the sensitive appetite, which also may be said to _choose_
that object on which it fastens. Thus moral virtue is a habit of
_fixing the choice_. The _golden mean_ between two extremes of excess
and defect respectively has been already explained, and may be further
shown by a review of the virtues. Besides fortitude and temperance,
already described, _liberality_ is a mean between prodigality and
stinginess; _magnificence_ between vulgar display and pettiness:
_magnanimity_ between vainglory and pusillanimity; _truthfulness_
between exaggeration and dissimulation; _friendship_ between
complaisance, or flattery, and frowardness,--and so of the rest. The
golden mean must be taken _in relation to ourselves_, because in many
matters of behaviour and the management of the passions the right
amount for one person would be excessive for another, according to
varieties of age, sex, station, and disposition. Thus anger that might
become a layman might be unbefitting in a churchman; and a man might
be thought loquacious if he talked as much as a discreet matron.
[Footnote 5] The golden mean, then, must be _defined by reason_
according to the particular circumstances of each case. But as Reason
herself is to seek where she is not guided by Prudence, the mean of
virtue must be defined, not by the reason of the buffoon Pantolabus,
or of Nomentanus the spendthrift, but _as a prudent man_ would define
it, given an insight into the case.

[Footnote 5: Ar., _Pol_., III., iv., 17, says just the converse, which
marks the altered position of woman in modern society.]

5. The "golden mean," as Horace named it (_Od_., ii., 10), obtains
principally, if not solely, in living things, and in what appertains
to living things, and in objects of art. A lake, as such, has no
natural dimensions: it may be ten miles long, it may be a hundred; but
an elephant or an oak-tree cannot go beyond a certain growth. There is
a vast range between the temperature of a blast-furnace and the
temperature of the ice-pack on the Polar Sea, but very limited is the
range possible in the blood of a living man. Viewed artistically, a
hill may be too low, or a lake want width, for man's eye to rest upon
it with perfect satisfaction. The golden mean, then, is an artistic
conception, and what I may call an _anthropological_ conception: it
suits man, and is required by man, though Nature may spurn and
over-ride it. The earthquake, the hurricane, and the angry ocean are
not in the golden mean, not at least from a human point of view. If
man chooses to personify and body forth the powers of nature, he
creates some monstrous uncouth figure, like the Assyrian and Egyptian
idols; but if man makes a study of man, and brings genius and patient
elaboration to bear on his work, there emerges the symmetry and
perfect proportion of the Greek statue. No people ever made so much of
the beauty of the human form as the ancient Greeks: they made it the
object of a passion that marked their religion, their institutions,
their literature, and their art. Their virtues and their vices turned
upon it. Hence the golden mean is eminently a Greek conception, a
leading idea of the Hellenic race. The Greek hated a thing overdone, a
gaudy ornament, a proud title, a fulsome compliment, a high-flown
speech, a wordy peroration. _Nothing too much_ was the inscription
over the lintel of the national sanctuary at Delphi. It is the
surpassing grace of Greek art of the best period, that in it there
shines out the highest power, with _nothing too much_ of straining
after effect. The study of Greek literary models operates as a
corrective to redundancy, and to what ill-conditioned minds take to be
fine writing. The Greek artist knew just how far to go, and when to
stop. That point he called, in his own unsurpassed tongue, the [Greek:
kairos]. "The right measure (_kairos_) is at the head of all," says
Pindar. "Booby, not to have understood by how much the half is more
than the whole," is the quaint cry of Hesiod. Aeschylus puts these
verses in the mouth of his _Furies_;

The golden mean is God's delight:
Extremes are hateful in His sight.
Hold by the mean, and glorify
Nor anarchy nor slavery.

Characteristic of Socrates was his _irony_, or way of understating
himself, in protest against the extravagant professions of the
Sophists. In the reckoning of the Pythagoreans, the Infinite, the
Unlimited, or Unchecked, was marked as evil, in opposition to good,
which was the Limited. From thence, Plato, taking up his parable,
writes: "The goddess of the Limit, my fair Philebus, seeing insolence
and all manner of wickedness breaking loose from all limit in point of
gratification and gluttonous greed, established a law and order of
limited being; and you say this restraint was the death of pleasure; I
say it was the saving of it." Going upon the tradition of his
countrymen, upon their art and philosophy, their poetry, eloquence,
politics, and inmost sentiment, Aristotle formulated the law of moral
virtue, to hold by the _golden mean_, as discerned by the prudent in
view of the present circumstances, between the two extremes of excess
and defect.

6. There is only one object on which man may throw himself without
reserve, his last end, the adequate object of his happiness, God. God
is approached by faith, hope, and charity; but it belongs not to
philosophy to speak of these supernatural virtues. There remains to
the philosopher the natural virtue of religion, which is a part of
justice. Religion has to do with the inward act of veneration and with
its outward expression. To the latter the rule of the mean at once
applies. Moderation in religion is necessary, so far as externals are
concerned. Not that any outward assiduity, pomp, splendour, or
costliness, can be too much in itself, or anything like enough, to
worship God with, but it may be too much for our limited means, which
in this world are drawn on by other calls. But our inward veneration
for God and desire to do Him honour, can never be too intense:
"Blessing the Lord, exalt Him as much as you can: for He is above all
praise." (Ecclus. xliii. 33.)

7. The rule of the mean, then, is a human rule, for dealing with men,
and with human goods considered as means. It is a Greek rule: for the
Greeks were of all nations the fondest admirers of man and the things
of man. But when we ascend to God, we are out among the immensities
and eternities. The vastness of creation, the infinity of the
Creator,--there is no mode or measure there. In those heights the
Hebrew Psalmist loved to soar. Christianity, with its central dogma of
the Incarnation, is the meeting of Hebrew and Greek. That mystery
clothes the Lord God of hosts with the measured beauty, grace, and
truth, that man can enter into. But enough of this. Enough to show
that the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean is a highly suggestive and
wide-reaching doctrine beyond the sphere of Morals. It throws out one
great branch into Art, another into Theology.

8. The vicious extremes, on this side and on that of a virtue, are not
always conterminous with the virtue itself, but sometimes another and
more excellent virtue intervenes; as in giving we may pass from
justice to liberality, and only through passing the bounds of
liberality, do we arrive at the vicious extreme of prodigality. So
penitential fasting intervenes between temperance in food and undue
neglect of sustenance. But it is to be noted that the _central
virtue_, so to speak, as justice, sobriety, chastity, is for all
persons on all occasions: the more excellent _side-virtue_, as
liberality, or total abstinence, is for special occasions and special
classes of persons.

_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth_., II., ii., 6, 7; _ib_., II., cc. 6-9; Hor.,
_Odes_, II., 10; Ruskin, _Modern Painters_, p. 3, s. i., c. x.

SECTION V.--_Of Cardinal Virtues_.

1. The enumeration of cardinal virtues is a piece of Greek philosophy
that has found its ways into the catechism. Prudence, justice,
fortitude, and temperance are mentioned by Plato as recognised heads
of virtue. They are recognised, though less clearly, by Xenophon,
reporting the conversations of Socrates. It does not look as though
Socrates invented the division: he seems to have received it from an
earlier source, possibly Pythagoras. They are mentioned in Holy
Scripture (Wisdom viii., 7, which is however a Greek book), and
Proverbs viii., 14. They make no figure in the philosophies of India
and China.

2. The cardinal virtues are thus made out.--Virtue is a habit that
gives a man readiness in behaving according to the reason that is in
him. Such a habit may be fourfold. (a) It may reside in the reason, or
intellect itself, enabling it readily to discern the reasonable thing
to do, according to particular circumstances as they occur. That habit
is the virtue of _prudence_. (b) It may reside in the rational
appetite, otherwise called the will, disposing a man to act fairly and
reasonably in his dealings with other men. That is _justice_. (c) It
may reside in the irrational, or sensitive, appetite, and that to a
twofold purpose; (a) to restrain the said appetite in its
concupiscible part from a wanton and immoderate eagerness after
pleasure; that is _temperance_: (b) to incite the said appetite in its
irascible part not to shrink from danger, where there is reason for
going on in spite of danger; that is _fortitude_.

3. Plato compares the rational soul in man to a charioteer, driving
two horses: one horse representing the concupiscible, the other the
irascible part of the sensitive appetite. He draws a vivid picture of
the resistance of the concupiscible part against reason, how madly it
rushes after lawless pleasure, and how it is only kept in restraint by
main force again and again applied, till gradually it grows
submissive. This submissiveness, gradually acquired, is the virtue of
temperance. Clearly the habit dwells in the appetite, not in reason:
in the horse, not in the charioteer. It is that habitual state, which
in a horse we call _being broken in_.

The concupiscible appetite is _broken in_ to reason by temperance
residing within it. Plato lavishes all evil names on the steed that
represents the concupiscible part. But the irascible part, the other
steed, has its own fault, and that fault twofold, sometimes of
over-venturesomeness, sometimes of shying and turning tail. The habit
engendered, in the irascible part, of being neither over-venturesome
nor over-timorous, but going by reason, is termed fortitude. [Footnote

[Footnote 6: It will help an Englishman to understand Plato's
comparison, if instead of _concupiscible part_ and _irascible part_,
we call the one steed Passion and the other Pluck. Pluck fails, and
Passion runs to excess, till Pluck is formed to fortitude, and Passion
to temperance.]

4. As the will is the rational appetite, the proper object of which is
rational good, it does not need to be prompted by any habit to embrace
rational good in what concerns only the inward administration of the
agent's own self. There is no difficulty in that department, provided
the sensitive appetite be kept in hand by fortitude and temperance.
But where there is question of external relations with other men, it
is not enough that the sensitive appetite be regulated, but a third
virtue is necessary, the habit of justice, to be planted in the will,
which would otherwise be too weak to attend steadily to points, not of
the agent's own good merely, but of the good of other men.

5. Thus we have the four cardinal virtues: prudence, a habit of the
intellect; temperance, a habit of the concupiscible appetite;
fortitude, a habit of the irascible appetite; and justice, a habit of
the will. Temperance and Fortitude in the Home Department; Justice for
Foreign Affairs; with Prudence for Premier. Or, to use another
comparison, borrowed from Plato, prudence is the health of the soul,
temperance its beauty, fortitude its strength, and justice its wealth.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 61, art. 2, in corp.; _ib_., q. 56,
art. 4, in corp., ad 1-3; _ib_., q. 56, art. 6, in corp., ad 1, 3;
_ib_., q. 59, art. 4, in corp., ad 2; Plato, _Laws_, 631 B, C.

SECTION VI.--_Of Prudence_.

1. Prudence is _right reason applied to practice_, or more fully it
may be defined, the habit of intellectual discernment that enables one
to hit upon the golden mean of moral virtue and the way to secure that
mean. Thus prudence tells one what amount of punishment is proper for
a particular delinquent, and how to secure his getting it. It is to be
observed that prudence does not will the golden mean in question, but
simply indicates it. To will and desire the mean is the work of the
moral virtue concerned therewith: as in the case given it is the work
of vindictive justice.

2. From the definition of moral virtue above given (c. v., s. iv., n.
4, p. 79), it is clear that no moral virtue can come into act without
prudence: for it is the judgment of the prudent man that must define
in each case the _golden mean_ in relation to ourselves, which every
moral virtue aims at. Thus, without prudence, fortitude passes into
rashness, vindictive justice into harshness, clemency into weakness,
religion into superstition.

3. But may not one with no prudence to guide him hit upon the _golden
mean_ by some happy impulse, and thus do an act of virtue? We answer,
he may do a good act, and if you will, a virtuous act, but not an act
of virtue, not an act proceeding from a pre-existent habit in the
doer. The act is like a good stroke made by chance, not by skill; and
like such a stroke, it cannot be readily repeated at the agent's
pleasure. (See c. v., s. i., n. 4, p. 66; and Ar., _Eth_., II., iv.,

4. Prudence in its essence is an intellectual virtue, being a habit
resident in the understanding: but it deals with the subject-matter of
the moral virtues, pointing out the measure of temperance, the bounds
of fortitude, or the path of justice. It is the habit of intellectual
discernment that must enlighten every moral virtue in its action.
There is no virtue that goes blundering and stumbling in the dark.

5. He is a prudent man, that can give counsel to others and to himself
in order to the attainment of ends that are worthy of human endeavour.
If unworthy ends are intended, however sagaciously they are pursued,
that is not prudence. We may call it _sagacity_, or _shrewdness_,
being a habit of ready discernment and application of means to ends.
Napoleon I. was conspicuous for this sagacity. It is the key to
success in this world. But prudence discovers worthy ends only, and to
them only does it provide means. The intellect is often blinded by
passion, by desire and by fear, so as not to discern the proper end
and term to make for in a particular instance and a practical case.
The general rules of conduct remain in the mind, as that, "In anger be
mindful of mercy:" but the propriety of mercy under the present
provocation drops out of sight. The intellect does not discern the
golden mean of justice and mercy in relation to the circumstances in
which the agent now finds himself. In other words, the habit of
prudence has failed; and it has failed because of the excess of
passion. Thus prudence is dependent on the presence of the virtues
that restrain passion, namely, fortitude and temperance. A like
argument would hold for the virtue of justice, that rectifies
inordinate action in dealing with another. The conclusion is, that as
the moral virtues cannot exist without prudence, so neither can
prudence exist without them: for vice corrupts the judgment of

6. Hence we arrive at a settlement of the question, whether the
virtues can be separated, or whether to possess one is to possess all.
We must distinguish between the rudimentary forms of virtue and the
perfect habit. The rudimentary forms certainly can exist separate:
they are a matter of temperament and inherited constitution: and the
man whom nature has kindly predisposed to benevolence, she has perhaps
very imperfectly prepared for prudence, fortitude, or sobriety. But
one perfect habit of any one of the four cardinal virtues, acquired by
repeated acts, and available at the call of reason, involves the
presence, in a matured state, of the other three habits also. A man
who acts irrationally upon one ground, will behave irrationally on
other grounds also: or if his conduct be rational there, it will not
be from regard for reason, but from impulse, temperament, or from some
other motive than the proper motive of the virtue which he seems to be

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 54, art. 4; _ib_., q. 58, art. 5, in
corp.; _ib_., 2a 2a, q. 47, art. 7, 12, 13; Ar., _Eth_., VI., v.;
_ib_., VI., xii., 9, 10; _ib_., VI., xiii., 6; St. Francis of Sales,
_Of the Love of God_, bk. xi., c. vii.

SECTION VII.--_Of Temperance_.

1. Temperance is a virtue which regulates by the judgment of reason
those desires and delights which attend upon the operations whereby
human nature is preserved in the individual and propagated in the
species. Temperance is the virtue contrary to the two deadly sins of
Gluttony and Lust. As against the former, it represents Abstinence, or
moderation in solid food, and Sobriety, which is moderation in drink.
As against the latter, it is the great virtue of Chastity. The student
must bear in mind that, to a philosopher, Temperance does not mean
Total Abstinence, and Abstinence is quite independent of Fridays and
flesh-meat. Temperance then is made up of Abstinence, Sobriety, and

Aristotle writes: "Cases of falling short in the taking of pleasure,
and of people enjoying themselves less than they ought, are not apt to
occur: for such insensibility is not human: but if there be any one to
whom nothing is pleasant, and all comes alike in the matter of taste,
he must be far from the state and condition of humanity: such a being
has no name, because he is nowhere met with." This is true, because
where there is question of a virtue, such as Temperance, resident in
the concupiscible appetite, we are not concerned with any sullenness
or moroseness of will, nor with any scrupulosity or imbecility of
judgment, refusing to gratify the reasonable cravings of appetite, but
with the habitual leaning and lie of the appetite itself. Now the
concupiscible appetite in every man, of its own nature, leans to its
proper object of delectable good. No virtue is requisite to secure it
from too little inclination that way: but to restrain the appetite
from going out excessively to delight is the function, and the sole
function, of Temperance. The measure of restraint is relative, as the
golden mean is relative, and varies with different persons and in view
of different ends. The training of the athlete is not the training of
the saint.

3. Besides the primary virtue of Temperance, and its subordinate
species (enumerated above, n. 1), certain other virtues are brought
under Temperance in a secondary sense, as observing in easier matters
that moderation and self-restraint which the primary virtue keeps in
the matter that is most difficult of all. St. Thomas calls these
_potential parts_ of Temperance. There is question here of what is
most difficult to man as an animal, not of what is most difficult to
him as a rational being. To rational man, as such, ambition is harder
to restrain than sensuality: which is proved by the fact that fewer
men, who have any ambition in them, do restrain that passion than
those who restrain the animal propensities that are common to all. But
to man as an animal (and vast numbers of the human race rise little
above the animal state), it is hardest of all things to restrain those
appetites that go with the maintenance and propagation of flesh and
blood. These then are the proper matter of Temperance: other virtues,
potential parts of Temperance, restrain other cravings which are less
animal. Of these virtues the most noticeable are humility, meekness,
and modesty. [Footnote 7]

[Footnote 7: This is St. Thomas's arrangement, placing Humility under
Temperance. The connection of Humility with Magnanimity, and thereby
with Fortitude, is indicated pp. 100, 101.]

4. There is a thirst after honour and preeminence, arising from
self-esteem, and prevalent especially where there is little thought of
God, and scant reverence for the present majesty of heaven. A man who
thinks little of his Maker is great in his own eyes, as our green
English hills are mountains to one who has not seen the Alpine heights
and snows. Apart from the consideration of God there is no humility;
and this is why Aristotle, who treats of virtues as they minister to
the dealings of man with man, makes no mention of this virtue. There
are certain outward manifestations in words, acts, and gestures, the
demeanour of a humble man, which is largely identified with modesty
and with submission to others as representing God.

5. Modesty is that outward comportment, style of dress, conversation,
and carriage, which indicates the presence of Temperance, "set up on
holy pedestal" (Plato, _Phaedr_., 254 B) in the heart within.

6. Meekness is moderation in anger, and is or should be the virtue of
all men. Clemency is moderation in punishment, and is the virtue of
men in office, who bear the sword or the rod.

7. As regards the vices opposite to Temperance, an important
distinction is to be drawn between him who sins by outburst of passion
and him whose very principles are corrupt. [Footnote 8] The former in
doing evil acknowledges it to be evil, and is prone to repent of it
afterwards: the latter has lost his belief in virtue, and his
admiration for it: he drinks in iniquity like water, with no
after-qualms; he glories in his shame. The former is reclaimable, the
latter is reprobate: his intellect as well as his heart is vitiated
and gone bad. If there were no miracles, he would be a lost man: but
God can work miracles in the moral as in the physical order: in that
there is hope for him.

[Footnote 8: See the note in _Aquinas Ethicus_, Vol. I., pp. 170,

8. A nation need not be virtuous in the great bulk of her citizens, to
be great in war and in dominion, in laws, in arts, and in literature:
but the bulk of the people must possess at least the sense and
appreciation of virtue in order to such national greatness. When that
sense is lost, the nation is undone and become impotent, for art no
less than for empire. Thus the Greece of Pericles and of Phidias fell,
to be "living Greece no more."

9. As in other moral matters, no hard and fast line of division exists
between sinning from passion and sinning on principle, but cases of
the one shade into cases of the others, and by frequent indulgence of
passion principle is brought gradually to decay.

_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth._, III., x.; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 141, art. 2;
_ib._, q. 141, art. 3, in corp.; _ib._, q. 142, art. 1; _ib._, q. 143,
art. 1, in corp., ad 2, 3; _ib._, q. 161, art. 1, ad 5; _ib._, q. 161,
art. 2, in corp.; _ib._, q. 161, art. 6, in corp., ad 1; _ib._, q.
157, art. 1, in corp., ad 3; _ib_, q. 156, art. 3; Ar., _Eth._, VII.,

SECTION VIII.--_Of Fortitude_.

1. As Temperance is a curb, restraining animal nature in the pursuit
of the good to which it goes out most eagerly, namely, life and the
means of its continuance, so Fortitude also is a curb, withholding
that nature from irrational flight from the evil which it most dreads.
Aristotle tells us what that evil is: "Most dreadful of all things is
death, for it is the limit, and for the dead man there appears to be
no further good nor evil left." (_Eth._, III, vi., b.) Death is truly
the limit to human existence: for, though the soul be immortal, the
being of flesh and blood, that we call man, is dissolved in death,
and, apart from supernatural hope of the resurrection, extinct for
ever. Death therefore is the direst of all evils in the animal
economy; and as such, is supremely abhorred by the sensitive appetite,
which is the animal part of man. Fortitude moderates this abhorrence
and fear by the dictate of reason. Reason shows that there are better
things than life, and things worse than death, for man in his
spiritual capacity as an intellectual and immortal being.

2. Fortitude is a mean between Cowardice and Rashness, to which
opposite extremes we are carried by the contrary passions of Fear and
Daring respectively. Fortitude thus is a two-sided virtue, moderating
two opposite tendencies: while Temperance is one-sided, moderating
Desire alone. Life, rationally considered, bears undoubtedly a high
value, and is not to be lightly thrown away, or risked upon trivial or
ignoble objects. The brave man is circumspect in his ventures, and
moderate in his fears, which implies that he does fear somewhat. He
will fear superhuman visitations, as the judgments of God. He will
dread disgrace, and still more, sin. He will fear death in an unworthy
cause. And even in a good cause, it has well been said: "The truly
brave man is not he who fears no danger, but the man whose mind
subdues the fear, and braves the danger that nature shrinks from." The
Duke of Marlborough is said to have quaked in the saddle as he rode
into action, saying: "This poor body trembles at what the mind within
is about to do." Fortitude then is the virtue that restrains fear and
regulates venturesomeness by the judgment of reason, in danger
especially of a grand and glorious death.

3. To the ancients, there was no grander object of devotion than the
State, their native city: no direr misfortune than its dissolution, or
the loss of its self-government: no nobler death than to die in arms
in its defence. As old Tyrtaus sang:

A noble thing it is to lie dead, fallen in the front ranks,
A brave man in battle for his country. [Footnote 9]

[Footnote 9:
[Greek: tethnamenai gar kalon, eni promachoisi pesonta,
andr' agathon peri hae patridi marnamenon.]
([Greek: Tyrtaeus apud Lycurg])]

Such a death was taken to be the seal and stamp of the highest
fortitude. Nor has Christianity dimmed the glory that invests a
soldier's death. Only it points to a brighter glory, and a death in a
still nobler cause, the death of the martyr who dies for the faith,
and becomes valiant in battle for what is more to him than any earthly
city, the Church, the City of God. Nor must the martyr of charity, who
dies in succouring his neighbour, go without the praise of fortitude:
nor, in short, any one who braves death, or other heavy affliction, in
the discharge of duty, or when forwarding a good cause.

4. A man may brave death in a good cause, and not be doing an act of
fortitude. So he may subscribe a large sum to a charitable purpose
without any exercise of the virtue of charity. A virtue is then only
exercised, when its outward act is performed from the proper motive of
the virtue, and not from any lower motive. Thus the proper motive of
Fortitude is the conviction that death is an evil, the risk of which
is to be left out of count as a circumstance relatively
inconsiderable, when there is question of the defence of certain
interests dearer to a good man than life. An improper motive would be
anger, which, however useful as an accessory, by itself is not an
intellectual motive at all, and therefore no motive of virtue. The
recklessness of an angry man is not Fortitude. It is not Fortitude to
be brave from ignorance or stupidity, not appreciating the danger: nor
again from experience, knowing that the apparent danger is not real,
at least to yourself. The brave man looks a real danger in the face,
and knows it, and goes on in spite of it, because so it is meet and
just, with the cause that he has, to go on.

5. We may notice as _potential_ parts of Fortitude (s. vii., n. 3, p.
92), the three virtues of Magnificence, Magnanimity, and Patience. It
is the part of Patience, philosophically to endure all sufferings
short of death. It is the part of the former two, to dare wisely, not
in a matter of life and death, but in the matter of expense, for
Magnificence, and of honour, for Magnanimity. Magnificence,
technically understood, observes the right measure in the expenditure
of large sums of money. As being conversant with large sums, it
differs from Liberality. A poor man may be liberal out of his little
store, but never magnificent. It is a virtue in the rich, not to be
afraid of spending largely and lavishly on a great occasion, or a
grand purpose. The expense may be carried beyond what the occasion
warrants: that is one vicious extreme. The other extreme would be to
mar a costly work by sordid parsimony on a point of detail. It is not
easy to be magnificent: in the first place, because not many are rich;
and then because riches are seldom united with greatness of soul and
good judgment. Something analogous to the virtue of Magnificence is
shown in the generous use of great abilities, or, in the supernatural
order, of great graces. The destinies of the world lie with those men
who have it in their power to be magnificent.

6. We are come to Magnanimity and the Magnanimous Man, the great
creation of Aristotle. As Magnanimity ranks under Fortitude, there
must be some fear to which the Magnanimous Man rises superior, as the
brave man rises superior to the fear of death. What Magnanimity
overcomes is the fear of undeserved dishonour. The Magnanimous Man is
he who rates himself as worthy of great honours, and is so worthy
indeed. When honour is paid to such a one, he makes no great account
of it, feeling that it is but his due, or even less than his due. If
he is dishonoured and insulted, he despises the insult as an
absurdity, offered to a man of his deserts. He is too conscious of his
real worth to be much affected by the expression of his neighbour's
view of him. For a man is most elated, when complimented on an
excellence which he was not very sure of possessing: and most sensibly
grieved at an insult, where he half suspects himself of really making
a poor figure, whereas he would like to make a good one. It is
doubtless the serene and settled conviction that Englishmen generally
entertain of the greatness of their country, that enables them to
listen with equanimity to abase of England, such as no other people in
Europe would endure levelled at themselves.

7. _Proud_ is an epithet pretty freely applied to Englishmen abroad,
and it seems to fit the character of the Magnanimous Man. He seems a
Pharisee, and worse than a Pharisee. The Pharisee's pride was to some
extent mitigated by breaking out into that disease of children and
silly persons, vanity: he "did all his works to be seen of men." But
here the disease is all driven inwards, and therefore more malignant.
The Magnanimous Man is so much in conceit with himself as to have
become a scorner of his fellows. He is self-sufficient, a deity to
himself, the very type of Satanic pride. These are the charges brought
against him.

8. To purify and rectify the character of the Magnanimous Man, we need
to take a leaf out of the book of Christianity. Not that there is
anything essentially Christian and supernatural in what we are about
to allege: otherwise it would not belong to philosophy: it is a truth
of reason, but a truth generally overlooked, till it found its
exponent in the Christian preacher, and its development in the
articles of the Christian faith. The truth is this. There is in every
human being what theologians have called _man and man_: man as he is
of himself, man again as he is by the gift and gracious mercy of God.
The reasonably Magnanimous Man is saved from pride by this
distinction. Of himself, he knows that he is nothing but nothingness,
meanness, sinfulness, and a walking sore of multitudinous actual sins.
"I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is, in my flesh, any
good." (Rom. vii. 18.) If he is insulted, he takes it as his due, not
any questionable due, for then he would resent the insult, but as
being undoubtedly what he deserves. If he is honoured, he smiles at
the absurdity of the compliments paid to him. It is as if an old
gentleman, a prey to gout and rheumatism, were lauded for his
fleetness of foot. He is then truly magnanimous on this side of his
character by a kind of obverse magnanimity, that bears insults
handsomely, as deserved, and honours modestly, as undeserved.

9. But let us go round to the other side of the reasonably Magnanimous
Man. He was defined to be, "one that deems himself worthy of great
honours, and is so worthy indeed." Now, nothing is truly worthy of
honour but virtue. He must then be a good man, full of all virtues;
and all this goodness that he has, he recognises as being in him of
God. He has "received God's Spirit"--or something analogous in the
natural order to the gift of the Holy Ghost--"that he may know the
things that are given him of God." (2 Cor. ii. 12.) It is told of St.
Francis of Assisi, the humblest of men, that on one occasion when he
and his companions received from some persons extraordinary marks of
veneration, he, contrary to his usual wont, took it not at all amiss:
and said to his companions, who wondered at his behaviour, "Let them
alone: they cannot too much honour the work of God in us." This
magnanimity bears honours gracefully, and insult unflinchingly, from a
consciousness of internal worth, which internal worth and goodness
however it takes not for its own native excellence, but holds as
received from God, and unto God it refers all the glory.

10. Thus the genuine Magnanimous Man is a paradox and a prodigy. He
despises an insult as undeserved, and he takes it as his due. He is
conscious of the vast good that is in him; and he knows that there is
no good in him. Highly honoured, he thinks that he gets but his due,
while he believes that vials of scorn and ignominy may justly be
poured upon him. He will bear the scorn, because he deserves it, and
again, because it is wholly undeserved. The Magnanimous Man is the
humble man. The secret of his marvellous virtue is his habit of
practical discernment between the abyss of misery that he has within
himself, as of himself, and the high gifts, also within him, which
come of the mercy of God. Aristotle well says, "Magnanimity is a sort
of robe of honour to the rest of the virtues: it both makes them
greater and stands not without them: therefore it is hard to be truly
magnanimous, for that cannot be without perfect virtue." We may add,
that in the present order of Providence none can be magnanimous
without supernatural aid, and supernatural considerations of the life
of Christ, which however are not in place here.

_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth_., III., vii.; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 123, art 3,
in corp.; Ar., _Eth_., III., viii.; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 123, art. i,
ad 2; Ar., _Eth_., III., vi.; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 123, art. 4, 5. For
the Magnificent and Magnanimous Man, Ar., _Eth_., IV., ii., iii.; St.
Thos., 2a 2a, q. 129, art. 3, ad 4, 5.

SECTION IX.--_Of Justice_.

1. Justice is a habit residing in the will, prompting that power
constantly to render unto everyone his own. The fundamental notion of
Justice is some sort of equality. Equality supposes two terms,
physically distinct, or capable of existing separately, one from the
other. Between such terms alone can equality be properly predicated.
Any less distinction than this leaves room only for equality
improperly so called, and therefore no room for what is properly
termed Justice. When therefore Plato, going about to find a definition
of Justice, which is a main object in his _Republic_, acquiesces in
this position, that Justice consists in every part of the soul,
rational, irascible, and concupiscible, fulfilling its own proper
function, and not taking up the function of another, he fails for this
reason, that all Justice is relative to another, but the different
parts of one soul are not properly _other_ and _other_, since all go
to make up one man: therefore, however much Justice may be identical
with doing your own business, and leaving your neighbour free to do
his, yet this relation obtaining among the various parts of the soul
cannot properly be called Justice. What Plato defines is the beauty,
good order, and moral comeliness of the soul, but not Justice in any
sense, inasmuch as it is not referred to any being human or divine,
collective or individual, outside of the man himself.

2. Going upon the principle that all Justice is of the nature of
_equality_, and is therefore relative to _another_, we arrive at the
definition of _general justice_, which is all virtue whatsoever,
inasmuch as it bears upon another person than him who practises it.
This Justice is perfect social virtue, the crown and perfection of all
virtue from a statesman's point of view; and in that aspect, as
Aristotle says, "neither morning star nor evening star is so
beautiful." Whoever has this virtue behaves well, not by himself
merely, but towards others--a great addition. Many a one who has done
well enough as an individual, has done badly in a public capacity:
whence the proverb, that office shows the man. This Justice may well
be called _another man's good_: though not in the sense of the
sophists of old, and the altruists of our time, that virtue is a very
good thing for everyone else than its possessor. Virtue, like health,
may be beneficial to neighbours, but the first benefit of it flows in
upon the soul to whom it belongs: for virtue is the health of the

3. Another elementary notion of Justice connects it with Law, taking
Justice to be conformity to Law. This notion exhibits _legal justice_,
which is the same thing, under another aspect, as the _general
justice_ mentioned above, inasmuch as _general justice_ includes the
exercise of all virtues in so far as they bear upon the good of
others: and the law, to which _legal justice_ conforms a man, enjoins
acts of all virtues for the common good. It must be observed, however,
that though there is no natural virtue of which the law of man may not
prescribe some exercise, still no human law enjoins all acts of all
virtues, not even all obligatory acts. A man may fail in his duty
though he has kept all the laws of man. In order then that _legal
justice_ may include the whole duty of man, it must be referred to
that natural and eternal law of God, revealed or unrevealed, of which
we shall speak hereafter. By being conformed to this divine law a man
is a _just man_, a _righteous man_. It is this sense of Justice that
appears in the theological term, _justification_. In this sense,
Zachary and Elizabeth "were both just before God, walking in all the
commandments of the Lord without blame." (St. Luke i. 6.)

4. _General_, or _legal, justice_ is not the cardinal virtue so
called, but is in one point of view identical with all virtue.
Distinguished from the other three cardinal virtues is _particular
justice_, which is divided into _distributive_ and _commutative
justice_. _Distributive justice_ is exercised by the community through
its head towards its individual members, so that there be a fair
distribution of the common goods, in varying amount and manner,
according to the various merits and deserts of the several recipients.
The matters distributed are public emoluments and honours, public
burdens, rewards, and also punishments. _Distributive justice_ is the
virtue of the king and of the statesman, of the commander-in-chief, of
the judge, and of the public functionary generally. It is violated by
favouritism, partiality, and jobbery. _Distributive justice_ is the
Justice that we adore in the great Governor of the Universe, saying
that He is "just in all His works," even though we understand them
not. When it takes the form of punishing, it is called _vindictive
justice_. This is what the multitudes clamoured for, that filled the
precincts of the Palace of Whitehall in the days of Charles I. with
cries of Justice, Justice, for the head of Strafford.

5. Neither legal nor distributive justice fully answers to the
definition of that virtue. Justice disposes us to give _to another his
own_. The party towards whom Justice is practised must be wholly other
and different from him who practises it. But it is clear that the
member of a civil community is not wholly other and different from the
State: he is partially identified with the civil community to which he
belongs. Therefore neither the tribute of _legal justice_ paid by the
individual to the State, nor the grant of _distributive justice_ from
the State to the individual, is an exercise of Justice in the
strictest sense. Again, what the individual pays to the State because
he is legally bound to pay it, does not become the _State's own_ until
after payment. If he withhold it, though he do wrong, yet he is not
said to be keeping any portion of the public property in his private
hands: he only fails to make some of his private property public,
which the law bids him abdicate and make over. If this be true of
money and goods, it is still more evidently true of honour and
services. In like manner, in the matter of _distributive justice_, the
emoluments which a subject has a claim to, the rewards which he has
merited of the State, does not become _his_ till he actually gets them
into his hands. It may be unfair and immoral that they are withheld
from him, and in that case, so long as the circumstances remain the
same, the obligation rest with and presses upon the State, and those
who represent it, to satisfy his claim: still the State is not keeping
the individual from that which is as yet his own. In the language of
the Roman lawyers, he has at best a _jus ad rem_, a right that the
thing be made his, but not a _jus in re_; that is, the thing is not
properly his before he actually gets it.

6. _Commutative justice_ alone is Justice strictly so called: for
therein alone the parties to the act are perfectly other and other,
and the matter that passes between them, if withheld by one of the
parties, would make a case of keeping the other out of that which he
could still properly call by right his own. _Commutative justice_ runs
between two individuals, or two independent States, or between the
State and an individual inasmuch as the latter is an independent
person, having rights of his own against the former. This justice is
called _commutative_, from being concerned with _exchanges_, or
contracts, _voluntary_ and _involuntary_. The idea of voluntary
contract, like that between buyer and seller, is familiar enough. But
the notion of an _involuntary contract_ is technical, and requires
explanation. Whoever, then, wrongfully takes that which belongs to
another, enters into an involuntary contract, or makes an involuntary
exchange, with the party. This he may do by taking away his property,
honour, reputation, liberty, or bodily ease and comfort. This is an
involuntary transaction, against the will of the party that suffers.
It is a contract, because the party that does the damage takes upon
himself, whether he will or no, by the very act of doing it, the
obligation of making the damage good, and of restoring what he has
taken away. This is the obligation of _restitution_, which attaches to
breaches of _commutative justice_, and, strictly speaking, to them
alone. Thus, if a minister has not promoted a deserving officer in
face of a clear obligation of _distributive justice_, the obligation
indeed remains as that of a duty unfulfilled, so long as he remains
minister with the patronage in his hands: but the promotion, if he
finally makes it, is not an act of restitution: it is giving to the
officer that which was not his before. And if the opportunity has
passed, he owes the officer nothing in compensation. But if he has
insulted the officer, he owes him an apology for all time to come: he
must give back that honour which belonged to the officer, and of which
he has robbed him. This is restitution. In a thousand practical cases
it is important, and often a very nice question to decide, whether a
particular offence, such as failure to pay taxes, be a sin against
_commutative justice_ or only against some more general form of the
virtue. If the former, restitution is due: if the latter, repentance
only and purpose of better things in future, but not reparation of the

7. The old notion, that Justice is minding your own business, and
leaving your neighbour to mind his, furnishes a good rough statement
of the obligations of _commutative justice_. They are mainly negative,
to leave your neighbour alone in his right of life and limb, of
liberty and property, of honour and reputation. But in two ways your
neighbour's business may become yours in justice. The first way is, if
you have any contract with him, whether a formal contract, as that
between a railway company and its passengers, or a virtual contract,
by reason of some office that you bear, as the office of a bishop and
pastor in relation to the souls of his flock. The second way in which
commutative justice binds you to positive action, is when undue damage
is likely to occur to another from some activity of yours. If, passing
by, I see my neighbour's house on fire, not having contracted to watch
it for him, and not having caused the fire myself, I am not bound in
strict justice to warn him of his danger. I am bound indeed by
charity, but that is not the point here. But if the fire has broken
out from my careless use of fire, _commutative justice_ binds me to
raise the alarm.

8. The most notable potential parts of Justice--Religion, Obedience,
Truthfulness--enter into the treatise of Natural Law.

_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth_., V., i.; Plato, _Rep_., 433 A; _ib_., 443 C,
D, E; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 58, art. 2, in corp; _ib_., q. 58, art. 5;
_ib_., q. 58, art. 6, in corp; _ib_., q. 58, art. 7; _ib_., q. 58, art
9, in corp.; _ib_., q. 61, art. 1, in corp.; _ib_., q. 61, art. 3, in
corp.; Ar., _Eth_., V., ii., 12, 13; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 62, art. 1,
in corp., ad 2.

* * * * *




SECTION I.--_Of the natural difference between Good and Evil_.

1. A granite boulder lying on an upland moor stands indifferently the
August sun and the January frost, flood and drought. It neither blooms
in spring, nor fades in autumn. It is all one to the boulder whether
it remain in the picturesque solitude where the glacier dropped it, or
be laid in the gutter of a busy street. It has no growth nor
development: it is not a subject of evolution: there is no goal of
perfection to which it is tending by dint of inward germinal capacity
seconded by favourable environment. Therefore it does not matter what
you do with it: all things come alike to that lump of rock.

2. But in a cranny or cleft of the same there is a little flower
growing. You cannot do what you will with that flower. It has its
exigencies and requirements. Had it a voice, it could say, what the
stone never could: "I must have this or that: I must have light, I
must have moisture, a certain heat, some soil to grow in." There is a
course to be run by this flower and the plant that bears it, a
development to be wrought out, a perfection to be achieved. For this
end certain conditions are necessary, or helpful: certain others
prejudicial, or altogether intolerable. In fact, that plant has a
_progressive nature_, and therewith is a subject of good and evil.
Good for that plant is what favours its natural progress, and evil is
all that impedes it.

3. All organic natures are progressive: that is, each individual of
them is apt to make a certain progress, under certain conditions, from
birth to maturity. But man alone has his progress in any degree in his
own hands, to make or to mar. Man alone, in the graphic phrase of
Appius Claudius, is _faber fortuna sua_, "the shaper of his own
destiny." Any other plant or animal, other than man, however miserable
a specimen of its kind it finally prove to be, has always done the
best for itself under the circumstances: it has attained the limit
fixed for it by its primitive germinal capacity, as modified by the
events of its subsequent environment. The miserable animal that howls
under your window at night, is the finest dog that could possibly have
come of his blood and breeding, nurture and education. But there is no
man now on earth that has done all for himself that he might have
done. We all fall short in many things of the perfection that is
within our reach. Man therefore needs to stir himself, and to be
energetic with a free, self-determined energy to come up to the
standard of humanity. It is only his free acts that are considered by
the moralist. Such is the definition of Moral Science, that it deals
with _human acts_; acts, that is, whereof man is master to do or not
to do. (c. i., nn. 1, 2.)

4. We have it, then, that a morally good act is an act that makes
towards the progress of human nature in him who does it, and which is
freely done. Similarly, a morally evil act is a bar to progress, or a
diversion of it from the right line, being also a free act. Now, that
act only can make for the progress of human nature, which befits and
suits human nature, and suits it in its best and most distinctive
characteristic. What is best in man, what characterises and makes man,
what the old schoolmen called the _form_ of man, is his reason. To be
up to reason is to be up to the standard of humanity. Human progress
is progress on the lines of reason. To make for that progress, and
thereby to be morally good, an act must be done, not blindly,
brutishly, sottishly, or on any impulse of passion, however beneficial
in its effects, but deliberately, and in conscious accordance with the
reasonable nature of the doer.

5. Whatever be man's end and highest good, he must go about to compass
it reasonably. He must plan, and be systematic, and act on principle.
For instance, if the public health be the highest good, the laws which
govern it must be investigated, and their requirements carried out,
without regard to sentiment. If pleasure be the good, we must be
artists of pleasure. If, however, as has been seen (c. ii.) the
highest good of man is the highest play of reason herself in a life of
contemplation, to be prepared for, though it cannot be adequately and
worthily lived, in this world, then it is through following reason,
through subjecting appetite to reason by temperance, and the will to
reason by justice, and reason herself by a "reasonable service" to
God, that this end and consummation must be wrought out. Thus, in
Plato's phrase (_Rep._, 589 B), the moral man acts so that "the inner
man within him, the rational part of his nature, shall be strongest;
while he watches with a husbandman's care over the many-headed beast
of appetite, rearing and training the creature's tame heads, and not
letting the wild ones grow; for this purpose making an ally of the
lion, the irascible part of his nature, and caring for all the parts
in common, making them friends to one another and to himself." In this
way he will meet the true exigency of his nature _as a whole_, with
due regard to the proper order and subordination of the parts. He who
lives otherwise, acts in contradiction to his rational self. (c. v.,
s. iii., n. 3, p. 74).

6. The result of the above reasoning, if result it has, should be to
explain and justify the Stoic rule, _naturae convenienter vivere_, to
live according to nature. But some one will say: "That is the very
ideal of wickedness: all good in man comes of overcoming nature, and
doing violence to natural cravings: live according to nature, and you
will go straight to the devil." I answer: "Live _according to a part
of your nature_, and that the baser and lower, though also the more
impetuous and clamorous part, and you will certainly go where you say:
but live _up to the whole of your nature_, as explained in the last
paragraph, and you will be a man indeed, and will reach the goal of
human happiness." But again it may be objected, that our very reason,
to which the rest of our nature is naturally subordinate, frequently
prompts us to do amiss. The objection is a just one, in so far as it
goes upon a repudiation of the old Platonic position, that all moral
evil comes of the body, wherein the soul is imprisoned, and of the
desires which the body fastens upon the soul. Were that so, all sins
would be sins of sensuality. But there are spiritual sins, not
prompted by any lust or weakness of the body, as pride and mutiny,
self-opinionatedness, rejection of Divine revelation. The objection
turns on sins such as these. The answer is, that spiritual sins do not
arise from any exigency of reason, but from a deficiency of reason;
not from that faculty calling upon us, as we are reasonable men, to
take a certain course, in accordance with a just and full view of the
facts of the case, but from reason failing to look facts fully in the
face, and considering only some of them to the neglect of others, the
consideration of which would alter the decision. Thus a certain proud
creature mentioned in Scripture thought of the magnificence of the
throne above the stars of God, on the mountain of the covenant, on the
sides of the north: he did not think how such a pre-eminence would
become him as a creature. He had in view a rational good certainly,
but not a rational good for him. Partial reason, like a little
knowledge, is a dangerous thing.

7. As it is not in the power of God to bring it about, that the angles
of a triangle taken together shall amount to anything else than two
right angles, so it is not within the compass of Divine omnipotence to
create a man for whom it shall be a good and proper thing, and
befitting his nature, to blaspheme, to perjure himself, to abandon
himself recklessly to lust, or anger, or any other passion. God need
not have created man at all, but He could not have created him with
other than human exigencies. The reason is, because God can only
create upon the pattern of His own essence, which is imitable, outside
of God, in certain definite lines of possibility. These possibilities,
founded upon the Divine essence and discerned by the Divine
intelligence, are the Archetype Ideas, among which the Divine will has
to choose, when it proceeds to create. The denial of this doctrine in
the Nominalist and Cartesian Schools, and their reference to the
arbitrary will of God of the eternal, immutable, and absolutely
necessary relations of possible things, is the subversion of all
science and philosophy.

8. Still less are moral distinctions between good and evil to be set
down to the law of the State, or the fashion of society. Human
convention can no more constitute moral good than it can physical
good, or mathematical or logical truth. It is only in cases where two
or more courses are tolerable, and one of them needs to be chosen and
adhered to for the sake of social order, that human authority steps in
to elect and prescribe one of those ways of action, and brand the
others as illegitimate, which would otherwise be lawful. This is
called the making of a _positive law_.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 18, art. 5, in corp.; 1a 2a, q. 71,
art. 2; Plato, _Rep_., 588 B to end of bk. ix.; Ar., _Eth_., IX., iv.,
nn. 4-10; Suarez, _De Legibus_, II., vi., nn. 4, 11; Cicero, _De
Legibus_, i., cc. 15-17.

SECTION II.--_How Good becomes bounden Duty, and
Evil is advanced to Sin_.

1. The great problem of Moral Philosophy is the explanation of the
idea, _I ought_, (c. i., n. 6). We are now come close up to the
solution of that problem. The word _ought_ denotes the necessary
bearing of means upon end. To every _ought_ there is a pendent _if_.
The means _ought_ to be taken, _if_ the end is to be secured. Thus we
say: "You _ought_ to start betimes, _if_ you are to catch your train."
"You _ought_ to study harder, _if_ you are to pass your examination."
The person spoken to might reply: "But what if I do miss my train, and
fail in my examination?" He might be met with another _ought_: "You
_ought_ not to miss the one, _if_ you are to keep your appointment: or
to fail in the other, _if_ you are to get into a profession." Thus the
train of _oughts_ and _ifs_ extends, until we come finally to a
concatenation like the following: "You _ought_ not to break your word,
or to give needless pain to your parents, _if_ you don't want to do
violence to that nature which is yours as a reasonable being," or "to
thwart your own moral development,"--and so on in a variety of phrases
descriptive of the argument of the last section. Here it seems the
chain is made fast to a staple in the wall. If a person goes on to
ask, "Well, what if I do contradict my rational self?" we can only
tell him that he is a fool for his question. The _oughts_, such as
those wherewith our illustration commenced, Kant calls the
_hypothetical imperative_, the form being, "You must, unless:" but the
_ought_ wherein it terminated, he calls the _categorical imperative_,
the alternative being such as no rational man can accept, and
therefore no alternative at all.

2. This doctrine of the Categorical Imperative is correct and valuable
so far as it goes. But then it does not go far enough. The full notion
of what a man _ought_, is what he _must do under pain of sin_. Sin is
more than folly, more than a breach of reason. It is mild reproach to
a great criminal to tell him that he is a very foolish person, a
walking unreasonableness. If he chooses to contradict his rational
self, is not that his own affair? Is he not his own master, and may he
not play the fool if he likes? The answer is, "No, he is not his own
master; he is under law, and his folly and self-abuse becomes criminal
and sinful, by being in contravention of the law that forbids him to
throw himself away thus wantonly."

3. Kant readily takes up this idea, shaping it after his own fashion.
He contends,--and herein his doctrine is not merely deficient, but
positively in error,--that the Categorical Imperative, uttered by a
man's own reason, has the force of a law, made by that same reason; so
that the legislative authority is within the breast of the doer, who
owes it obedience. This he calls the _autonomy of reason_. It is also
called Independent Morality, inasmuch as it establishes right and
wrong without regard to external authority, or to the consequences of
actions, or to rewards and punishments. The doctrine is erroneous,
inasmuch as it undertakes to settle the matter of right and wrong
without reference to external authority; and inasmuch as it makes the
reason within a man, not the promulgator of the law to him, but his
own legislator. For a law is a precept, a command: now no one issues
precepts, or gives commands, to himself. To command is an act of
jurisdiction; and jurisdiction, like justice (see c. v., s. ix., n. 1,
p. 102) requires a distinction of persons, one ruler, and another
subject. But the reason in a man is not a distinct subject from the
will, appetites, or other faculties within him, to which reason
dictates: they are all one nature, one person, one man; consequently,
no one of them can strictly be said to command the rest; and the
dictate of reason, as emanating from within oneself, is not a law. But
without a law, there is no strict obligation. Therefore the whole
theory of obligation is not locked up in the Categorical Imperative,
as Kant formulated it.

4. The above argumentation evinces that God is not under any law; for
there is no other God above Him to command Him. As for the ideas of
what is meet and just in the Divine intelligence, though the Divine
will, being a perfect will, is not liable to act against them, yet are
those ideas improperly called a law to the Divine will, because
intellect and will are identified in one God. Kant's doctrine makes us
all gods. It is a deification of the human intellect, and
identification of that intellect with the supreme and universal
Reason; and at the same time a release of the human will from all
authority extraneous to the individual. This amounts to a putting off
of all authority properly so called, and makes each man as sovereign
and unaccountable as his Maker. "Thy heart is lifted up, and thou hast
said: I am God, and sit in the chair of God: and hast set thy heart as
if it were the heart of God: whereas thou art a man and not God."
(Ezech. xxviii. 2.) Kant is thus the father of the pantheistic school
of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.

5. But it has been contended that this phrase about a man who does
wrong _breaking a law_, is only a metaphor and figure of speech,
unless it be used with reference to the enactment of some civil
community. Thus John Austin says that a _natural law_ is a law which
is not, but which he who uses the expression thinks ought to be made.
At this rate _sin_ is not a transgression of any law, except so far as
it happens to be, in the lawyer's sense of the word, a _crime_, or
something punishable in a human court of justice. There will then be
no law but man's law. How then am I _obliged_ to obey man's law? Dr.
Bain answers: "Because, if you disobey, you will be _punished_." But
that punishment will be either just or unjust: if unjust, it
originates no obligation: if just, it presupposes an obligation, as it
presupposes a crime and sin, that is, an obligation violated. There
seems to be nothing left for John Austin but to fall back upon Kant
and his Categorical Imperative, and say that whoever rebels against
the duly constituted authority of the State in which he lives, is a
rebel against the reason that dwells within his own breast, and which
requires him to behave like a citizen. So that ultimately it is not
the State, but his own reason that he has offended; and the State has
no authority over him except what his own reason gives.

6. If this were true, there would be no sin anywhere except what is
called _philosophical sin_, that is, a breach of the dignity of man's
rational nature; and the hardest thing that could be said in
reprobation of a wrongdoer, would be that he had gone against himself,
and against his fellow-men, by outraging reason, the common attribute
of the race.

7. Far worse than that has the sinner done. He has offended against
his own reason, and thereby against a higher Reason, substantially
distinct from his, standing to it in the relation of Archetype to
type, a Living Reason, [Greek: hepsychos logos] (cf. Ar., _Eth_., V.,
iv., 7), purely and supremely rational. The Archetype is outraged by
the violation of the type. Moreover, as the two are substantially
distinct, the one being God, the other a faculty of man, there is room
for a command, for law. A man may transgress and sin, in more than the
_philosophical_ sense of the word: he may be properly a _law-breaker_,
by offending against this supreme Reason, higher and other than his

8. Here we must pause and meditate a parable.--There was a certain
monastery where the monks lived in continual violation of monastic
observance. Their Abbot was a holy man, a model of what a monk ought
to be. But though perfectly cognisant of the delinquencies of his
community, he was content to display to his subjects the edifying
example of his own life, and to let it appear that he was aware of
their doings and pained at them. He would croon softly as he went
about the house old Hell's words: "Not so, my sons, not so: why do ye
these kind of things, very wicked things?" But the monks took no
notice of him. It happened in course of time that the Abbot went away
for about ten days. What he did in that time, never transpired: though
there was some whisper of certain "spiritual exercises," which he was
said to have been engaged in. Certain it is, that he returned to his
monastery, as he left it, a monk devout and regular: the monk was the
same, but the Abbot was mightily altered. The morning after his
arrival, a Chapter was held; the Abbot had the Rule read from cover to
cover, and announced his intention of enforcing the same. And he was
as good as his word. Transgressions of course abounded: but the monks
discovered that to transgress was quite a different thing now from
what it had been. Seeing the law proclaimed, and the Abbot in earnest
to enforce it, they too reformed themselves: the few who would not
reform had to leave. The subsequent holy lives of those monks do not
enter into this history.

9. Now, we might fancy God our Lord like the Abbot of that monastery
in the early years of his rule. We might fancy the Supreme Reason,
displeased indeed, as Reason must be, at the excesses and follies of
mankind, but not otherwise commanding men to avoid those evil courses.
Were God to be thus quiescent, what we have called (n. 6)
_philosophical sin_, would indeed carry this additional malice, beyond
what was there set down, of being an offence against God, but it would
not be a grievous offence: for it would not be a sin in the proper
sense of the term, not being a transgression of the law of God,
inasmuch as God, by the supposition, would have given no law. But the
supposition itself is absurd. God could not so withhold His command.
He is free indeed not to command, but that only by not creating. If He
wills to have creatures, He must likewise will to bind them to certain
lines of action: which will to bind in God is a law to the creature.

10. This assertion, that _God cannot but will to bind His creatures to
certain lines of action_, must be proved, though in the ascent we have
to mount to high regions, and breathe those subtle airs that are
wafted round the throne of the Eternal. As God is the one source of
all reality and of all power, not only can there be no being which He
has not created and does not still preserve, but no action either can
take place without His concurrence. God must go with His every
creature in its every act: otherwise, on the creature's part, nothing
could be done. Now, God cannot be indifferent what manner of act He
shall concur unto. A servant or a subject may be indifferent what
command he receives: he may will simply to obey,--to go here or there,
as he is bid, or to be left without orders where he is. That is
because he leaves the entire direction and management of the household
to his master. But for God to be thus indifferent what action He
should lend His concurrence to, would be to forego all design and
purpose of His own as to the use and destiny of the creatures which He
has made and continually preserves. This God cannot do, for He cannot
act aimlessly. It would be renouncing the direction of His own work,
and making the creature His superior. God is incapable of such
renunciation and subservience. He must, then, will the cooperation
which He lends, and the concurrent action of the creature, to take a
certain course, regulated and prescribed by Himself: which is our
proposition, that God cannot but will to bind His creatures to certain
lines of action. If His free creatures choose to stray from these
lines, God indeed still cooperates, and to His cooperation is to be
ascribed the _physical goodness_ of the action, not its _moral
inordinateness and inopportuneness_. Still, as the action is morally
inordinate, God may be said to cooperate, in a manner, where He would
not: whence we gather some conception of the enormity of sin. (See c.
vii., nn. 5, 6, pp. 130, 131.)

11. The lines of action laid down and prescribed by God are not
arbitrary and irrespective of the subject of the command. They are
determined in each case by the nature of the subject. The Author of
Nature is not apt to subvert that order which proceeds from Himself.
He bids every creature act up to that nature wherein He has created
it. His commands follow the line of natural exigency. What this
natural exigency amounts to in man in regard to his human acts, we
have already seen, (c. vi., s. i., p. 109.)

12. The difference between a necessary and a free agent is, that the
former is determined by its nature to act in a certain way, and cannot
act otherwise: the latter may act in more ways than one. Still, as we
have seen, the nature even of a free agent is not indifferent to all
manner of action. It requires, though it does not constrain, the agent
to act in certain definite ways, the ways of moral goodness. Acting
otherwise, as he may do, the free agent gainsays his own nature, taken
as a whole, a thing that a necessary agent can nowise do. God
therefore who, as we have shown, wills and commands all creatures
whatsoever to act on the lines of their nature, has especial reason to
give this command to His rational creatures, with whom alone rests the
momentous freedom to disobey.

13. We are now abreast of the question, of such burning interest in
these days, as to the connection of Ethics with Theology, or of
Morality with Religion. I will not enquire whether the dogmatic
atheist is logically consistent in maintaining any distinction between
right and wrong: happily, dogmatic atheists do not abound. But there
are many who hold that, whether there be a God or no, the fact ought
not to be imported into Moral Science: that a Professor of Ethics, as
such, has no business with the name of the Almighty on his lips, any
more than a lecturer on Chemistry or Fortification. This statement
must be at once qualified by an important proviso. If we have any
duties of worship and praise towards our Maker: if there is such a
virtue as religion, and such a sin as blasphemy: surely a Professor of
Morals must point that out. He cannot in that case suppress all
reference to God, for the same reason that he cannot help going into
the duties of a man to his wife, or of an individual to the State, if
marriage and civil government are natural institutions. If there is a
God to be worshipped, any book on Moral Science is incomplete without
a chapter on Religion. But the question remains, whether the name of
God should enter into the other chapters, and His being and authority
into the very foundations of the science. I do not mean the
metaphysical foundations; for Metaphysics are like a two-edged sword,
that cleaves down to the very marrow of things, and must therefore
reveal and discover God. But Morality, like Mathematics, takes certain
metaphysical foundations for granted, without enquiring into them. On
these foundations we rear the walls, so to speak, of the science of
Ethics without reference to God, but we cannot put the roof and crown
upon the erection, unless we speak of Him and of His law. Moral
distinctions, as we saw (c. vi., s. i. n. 7, p. 113), are antecedent
to the Divine command to observe them: and though they rest ultimately
on the Divine nature, that ultimate ground belongs to Metaphysics, not
to Ethics. Ethics begins with human nature, pointing out that there
are certain human acts that do become a man, and others that do not.
(c. vi., s. i., p. 109.) To see this, it is not necessary to look up
above man. Thus we shall prove lying, suicide, and murder to be wrong,
and good fellowship a duty, without needing to mention the Divine
Being, though by considering Him the proof gains in cogency. Or
rather, apart from God we shall prove certain acts wrong, and other
acts obligatory as duties, _philosophically_ speaking, with an initial
and fundamental wrongness and obligation. In the present section we
have proved once for all, that what is wrong philosophically, or is
philosophically a duty, is the same also _theologically_. Thus the
initial and fundamental obligation is transformed into an obligation
formal and complete. Therefore, hereafter we shall be content to have
established the philosophical obligation, knowing that the theological
side is invariably conjoined therewith. As St. Thomas says (1a 2a, q.
71, art. 6, ad 5): "By theologians sin is considered principally as it
is an offence against God: but by the moral philosopher, inasmuch as
it is contrary to reason." But what is contrary to reason offends God,
and is forbidden by Divine law, and thus becomes a _sin_. No God, no
sin. Away from God, there is _indecency_ and _impropriety,
unreasonableness, abomination_, and _brutality_, all this in view of
outraged humanity: there is likewise _crime_ against the State: but
the formal element of _sin_ is wanting. With sin, of course,
disappears also the punishment of sin as such. Thus to leave God
wholly out of Ethics and Natural Law, is to rob moral evil of half its
terrors, and of that very half which is more easily "understanded of
the people." A consideration for school-managers.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a, q. 22, art. 2, in corp. (against
Lucretius, ii. 646-651); Suarez, _De Legibus_, II., vi., nn. 3, 5-9,
13, 14, 17, 20-24.



1. A law is defined to be: A precept just and abiding, given for
promulgation to a perfect community. A law is primarily a rule of
action. The first attribute of a law is that it be _just_: just to the
subject on whom it is imposed, as being no harmful abridgment of his
rights: just also to other men, as not moving him to injustice against
them. An unjust law is no law at all, for it is not a rule of action.
Still, we may sometimes be bound, when only our own rights are
infringed, to submit to such an imposition, not as a law, for it is
none, but on the score of prudence, to escape direr evils. A law is no
fleeting, occasional rule of conduct, suited to meet some passing
emergency or superficial disturbance. The reason of a law lies deep
down, lasting and widespread in the nature of the governed. A law,
then, has these two further attributes of permanence in duration and
amplitude in area. Every law is made for all time, and lives on with
the life of the community for whom it is enacted, for ever, unless it
be either expressly or implicitly repealed. A law in a community is
like a habit in an individual, an accretion to nature, which abides as
part of the natural being, and guides henceforth the course of natural
action. This analogy holds especially of those laws, which are not
enacted all of a sudden--and such are rarely the best laws--but grow
upon the people with gradual growth unmarked, like a habit by the
repetition of acts, in the way of immemorial custom. I have said that
a law is for a community, that it requires amplitude and large area. A
law is not laid down for an individual, except so far as his action is
of importance to the community. The private concerns of one man do not
afford scope and room enough for a law. Neither do the domestic
affairs of one family. A father is not a legislator. A law aims at a
deep, far-reaching, primary good. But the private good of an
individual, and the domestic good of a family, are not primary goods,
inasmuch as the individual and the family are not primary but
subordinate beings: not complete and independent, but dependent and
partial; not wholes but parts. The individual is part of the family,
and the family is part of a higher community. It is only when we are
come to some community which is not part of any higher, that we have
found the being, the good of which is primary good, the aim of law.
Such a community, not being part of any higher community in the same
order, is in its own order a perfect community. Thus, in the temporal
order, the individual is part of the State. The State is a perfect
community; and the good of the State is of more consequence than the
temporal well-being of any individual citizen. The temporal good of
the individual, then, is matter of law, in so far as it is subservient
to the good of the State. We have, then, to hold that a law is given
to the members of a perfect community for the good of the whole. Not
every precept, therefore, is a law: nor every superior a lawgiver: for
it is not every superior that has charge of the good of a perfect
community. Many a precept is given to an individual, either for his
private good, as when a father commands his child, or for the private
good of him that issues the precept, as when a master commands a
servant. But every law is a precept: for a law is an imperative rule
of action, in view of a good that is necessary, at least with the
necessity of convenience. To every law there are counsels attached. A
law may be said to be a _nucleus_ of precept, having an _envelope_ of
counsel. Every law has also a pendent called punishment for those who
break it: this is called the _sanction_ of the law. A law is also for
_promulgation_, as a birch rod for _application_. The promulgation, or
application, brings the law home to the subject, but is not part of
the law itself. So much for the definition of Law.

2. We have to learn to look upon the whole created universe, and the
fulness thereof, angels, men, earth, sun, planets, fixed stars, all
things visible and invisible, as one great and perfect community,
whose King and Lawgiver is God. He is King, because He is Creator and
Lord. But lordship and kingship are different things, even in God. It
is one thing to be lord and master, owner and proprietor of a chattel,
property and domain: it is another thing to be king and governor,
lawgiver and judge of political subjects. The former is called _power
of dominion_, or right of ownership, the latter is _power of
jurisdiction_. Power of dominion is for the good of him who wields it:
but power of jurisdiction is for the good of the governed. As God is
Lord of the universe, He directs all its operations to His own glory.
As He is King, He governs as a king should govern, for the good of His
subjects. In intellectual creatures, whose will is not set in
opposition to God, the subject's good and the glory of the Lord
finally coincide. God's power of dominion is the concern of
theologians: the moralist is taken up with His power of jurisdiction,
from whence emanates the moral law.

3. In the last chapter (s. ii., nn. 9, 10, pp. 120, 121), we stated
the moral law in these terms, that _God wills to bind His creatures to
certain lines of action_, not arbitrary lines, as we saw, but the
natural lines of each creature's being. The law thus stated takes in
manifestly a wider field than that of moral action. There is in fact
no action of created things that is not comprehended under this
statement. It comprises the laws of physical nature and the action of
physical causes, no less than the moral law and human acts. It is the
one primeval law of the universe, antecedent to all actual creation,
and co-eternal with God. And yet not necessary as God: for had God not
decreed from all eternity to create--and He need not have decreed
it--neither would He have passed in His own Divine Mind this second
decree, necessarily consequent as it is upon the decree of creation,
namely, that every creature should act in the mode of action proper of
its kind. This decree, supervening from eternity upon the creative
decree, is called the Eternal Law.

4. This law does not govern the acts of God Himself. God ever does
what is wise and good, not because He binds Himself by the decree of
His own will so to act, but because of His all-perfect nature. His own
decrees have not for Him the force of a precept: that is impossible in
any case: yet He cannot act against them, as His nature allows not of
irresolution, change of mind, and inconsistency.

5. Emanating from the will of God, and resting upon the nature of the
creature, it would seem that the Eternal Law must be irresistible.
"Who resisteth His will?" asks the Apostle. (Rom. ix. 19.) "The
streams of sacred rivers are flowing upwards, and justice and the
universal order is wrenched back." (Euripides, _Medea_, 499.) It is
only the perversion spoken of by the poet, that can anywise supply the
instance asked for by the Apostle. The thing is impossible in the
physical order. The rivers cannot flow upwards, under the conditions
under which rivers usually flow: but justice and purity, truth and
religion may be wrenched back, in violation of nature and of the law
eternal. The one thing that breaks this law is sin. Sin alone is
properly unnatural. The world is full of physical evils, pain, famine,
blindness, disease, decay and death. But herein is nothing against
nature: the several agents act up to their nature, so far as it goes:
it is the defect of nature that makes the evil. But sin is no mere
shortcoming: it is a turning round and going against nature, as though
the July sun should freeze a man, or the summer air suffocate him.
Physical evil comes by the defect of nature, and by permission of the
Eternal Law. But the moral evil of sin is a breach of that law.

6. A great point with modern thinkers is the inviolability of the laws
of physical nature, _e.g_., of gravitation or of electrical induction.
If these laws are represented, as J. S. Mill said they should be, as
_tendencies_ only, they are truly inviolable. The law of gravitation
is equally fulfilled in a falling body, in a body suspended by a
string, and in a body borne up by the ministry of an angel. There is
no law of nature to the effect that a supernatural force shall never
intervene. Even if, as may be done perhaps in the greatest miracles,
God suspends His concurrence, so that the creature acts not at all,
even that would be no violation of the physical law of the creature's
action: for all that such a law provides is, that the creature, if it
acts at all, shall act in a certain way, not that God shall always
give the concurrence which is the necessary condition of its acting at
all. The laws of physical nature then are, strictly speaking, never
violated, although the _course_ of nature is occasionally altered by
supernatural interference, and continually by free human volition. But
the laws of physical nature, in the highest generality, are identified
with the moral law. The one Eternal Law embraces all the laws of
creation. It has a physical and a moral side. On the former it
_effects_, on the latter it _obliges_, but on both sides it is
imperative; and though in moral matters it be temporarily defeated by
sin, still the moral behest must in the end be fulfilled as surely as
the physical behest. The defeat of the law must be made good, the sin
must be punished. Of the Eternal Law working itself out in the form of
punishment, we shall speak presently.

7. It is important to hold this conception of the Eternal Law as
embracing physical nature along with rational agents. To confine the
law, as modern writers do, to rational agents alone, is sadly to
abridge the view of its binding force. The rigid application of
physical laws is brought home to us daily by science and by
experience: it is a point gained, to come to understand that the moral
law, being ultimately one with those physical laws, is no less
absolute and indefeasible, though in a different manner, than they.

It is hard for us to conceive of laws being given to senseless things.
We cannot ourselves prescribe to iron or to sulphur the manner of its
action. As Bacon says (_Novum Organum_, i., Aphorism 4): "Man can only
put natural bodies together or asunder: nature does the rest within."
That is, man cannot make the laws of nature: he can only arrange
collocations of materials so as to avail himself of those laws. But
God makes the law, issuing His command, the warrant without which no
creature could do anything, that every creature, rational and
irrational, shall act each according to its kind or nature. Such is
the Eternal Law.

_Readings_.--Suarez, _De Legibus_, I., xii.; St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 90,
art. 2-4; _ib_., q. 91, art. 1, in corp., ad 1; _ib_., q. 93, art. 1,
in corp.; _ib_., q. 93, art. 4, in corp.; _ib_., q. 93, art. 5, in
corp.; _ib_., q. 93, art. 6, in corp.; Suarez, _De Legibus_, II., vi.;
Cicero, _De Legibus_, II., iv.; _id_., _De Republica_, iii. 22.



SECTION I.--_Of the Origin of Primary Moral Judgments_.

1. It is an axiom of the schools, that whatever is received, is
received according to the manner of the recipient. We have spoken of
the law that governs the world, as that law has existed from eternity
in the mind of God. We have now to consider that law as it is received
in creatures, and becomes the inward determinant of their action.
Action is either necessary or free. The great multitude of creatures
are wholly necessary agents. Even in free agents, most of what is in
them, and much that proceeds from them, is of necessity, and beyond
the control of their will. Of necessary action, whether material or
mental, we shall have nothing further to say. It is governed by the
Eternal Law, but it is not matter of moral philosophy. Henceforth we
have to do with that law, only as it is received in free agents, as
such, to be the rule of their conduct. The agents being free, the law
must be received in a manner consonant with their freedom. It is
proper to a free and rational being to guide itself, not to be dragged
or pushed, but to go its own way, yet not arbitrarily, but according
to law. The law for such a creature must be, not a physical
determinant of its action, but a law operating in the manner of a
motive to the will, obliging and binding, yet not constraining it: a
law written in the intellect after the manner of knowledge: a law
within the mind and consciousness of the creature, whereby it shall
measure and regulate its own behaviour. This is the _natural law of
conscience_. It is the Eternal Law, as made known to the rational
creature, whereby to measure its own free acts. The Eternal Law is in
the Mind of God: the Natural Law in the minds of men and angels. The
Eternal Law adjusts all the operations of creatures: the Natural Law,
only the free acts of intellectual creatures. And yet, for binding
force, the Natural Law is one with the Eternal Law. On a summer
evening one observes the sunset on the west coast; the heavens are all
aglow with the sun shining there, and the waters are aglow too,
reflecting the sun's rays. The Eternal Law is as the sun there in the
heavens, the Natural Law is like the reflection in the sea. But it is
one light.

2. It is called the _Natural Law_, first, because it is found, more or
less perfectly expressed, in all rational beings: now whatever is
found in all the individuals of a kind, is taken to belong to the
_specific nature_, or type of that kind. Again it is called the
_Natural Law_, because it is a thing which any rational nature must
necessarily compass and contain within itself in order to arrive at
its own proper perfection and maturity. Thus this inner law is
natural, in the sense in which walking, speech, civilization are
natural to man. A man who has it not, is below the standard of his
species. It will be seen that dancing, singing--at least to a pitch of
professional excellence--and a knowledge of Greek, are not, in this
sense, _natural_. The Natural Law is not _natural_, in the sense of
"coming natural," as provincial people say, or coming to be in man
quite irrespectively of training and education, as comes the power of
breathing. It was absurd of Paley (_Mor. Phil._, bk. i., c. v.) to
look to the wild boy of Hanover, who had grown up in the woods by
himself, to display in his person either the Natural Law or any other
attribute proper to a rational creature.

3. We call this the _natural law of conscience_, because every
individual's conscience applies this law, as he understands it, to his
own particular human acts, and judges of their morality accordingly.
What then is conscience? It is not a faculty, not a habit, it is an
act. It is a practical judgment of the understanding. It is virtually
the conclusion of a syllogism, the major premiss of which would be
some general principle of command or counsel in moral matters; the
minor, a statement of fact bringing some particular case of your own
conduct under that law; and the conclusion, which is conscience, a
decision of the case for yourself according to that principle: _e.g._,
"There is no obligation of going to church on (what Catholics call) a
_day of devotion_: this day I am now living is only a day of devotion;
therefore I am not bound to go to church to-day." Such is the train of
thought, not always so explicitly and formally developed, that passes
through the mind, when conscience works. It is important to remember
that conscience is an act of intellect, a judgment, not on a matter of
general principle, not about other people's conduct, but about _my own
action_ in some particular case, and the amount of moral praise or
blame that I deserve, or should deserve, for it. As regards action
already done, or not done, conscience _testifies, accusing_ or
_excusing_. As regards action contemplated, conscience _restrains_ or
_prompts_, in the way of either obligation or counsel.

4. Conscience is not infallible: it may err, like any other human
judgment. A man may be blind, if not exactly to his own action, at
least to the motives and circumstances of his action. He may have got
hold of a wrong general principle of conduct. He may be in error as to
the application of his principle to the actual facts. In all these
ways, what we may call the _conscientious syllogism_ may be at fault,
like any other syllogism. It may be a bad syllogism, either in logical
form, or in the matter of fact asserted in the premisses. This is an
_erroneous conscience_. But, for action contemplated, even an
erroneous conscience is an authoritative decision. If it points to an
obligation, however mistakenly, we are bound either to act upon the
judgment or get it reversed. We must not contradict our own reason:
such contradiction is moral evil, (c. v., s. iii., n. 3, p. 74.) If
conscience by mistake sets us free of what is objectively our bounden
duty, we are not there and then bound to that duty: but we may be
bound at once to get that verdict of conscience overhauled and
reconsidered. Conscience in this case has proceeded in ignorance,
which ignorance will be either _vincible_ or _invincible_, and must be
treated according to the rules provided in the matter of _ignorance_,
(c. iii., s. i., nn. 3-5, p. 27). An obligation, neglected in
invincible ignorance, makes a merely _material sin_. (c. iii., s. ii.,
n. 7, p. 33.)

5. There is another element of mind, often confounded under one name
with conscience, but distinct from it, as a habit from an act, and as
principles from their application. This element the schoolmen called
_synderesis_. [Footnote 10]

[Footnote 10: On the derivation of this word, whether from [Greek:
synedaesis] or [Greek: syntaeresis], see _Athenaum_, 1877, vol. i.,
pp. 738, 798, vol. iii. pp. 16, 48.]

_Synderesis_ is an habitual hold upon primary moral judgments, as,
that we must do good, avoid evil, requite benefactors, honour
superiors, punish evil-doers. There is a hot controversy as to how
these primary moral judgments arise in the mind. The coals of dispute
are kindled by the assumption, that these moral judgments must needs
have a totally other origin and birth in the mind than speculative
first principles, as, that the whole is greater than the part, that
two and two are four, that things which are equal to the same thing
are equal to one another. The assumption is specious, but unfounded.
It looks plausible because of this difference, that moral judgments
have emotions to wait upon them, speculative judgments have not.
Speculative judgments pass like the philosophers that write them down,
unheeded in the quiet of their studies. But moral judgments are rulers
of the commonwealth: they are risen to as they go by, with majesty
preceding and cares coming after. Their presence awakens in us certain
emotions, conflicts of passion, as we think of the good that we should
do, but have not done, or of the evil that goes unremedied and


Back to Full Books