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Ethics as a Work of CharityThomas Aquinas and Pagan Virtue$
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David Decosimo

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780804790635

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804790635.001.0001

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The Perfection of Habit

The Perfection of Habit

(p.72) 3 The Perfection of Habit
Ethics as a Work of Charity

David Decosimo

Stanford University Press

This chapter reconstructs Thomas’s account of habit demonstrating its philosophical plausibility, tracing its textual origins, and displaying its capacity to bring distinctively human agency into view. Habit is marked by at least four features – its enabling action at will, its stability, its inherently good or bad character, and its determination of an under-determined capacity. Rightly grasping habit rules out a common interpretation of Thomas on pagan virtue. Thomas’s conception of humans as creatures in need of habits drives him to anticipate virtues among outsiders and enables readers better to grasp the overlay of commonality and difference in human excellence among diverse communities. The chapter concludes by showing how, drawing on Aristotle himself, Thomas renders an essentially Aristotelian notion of habit friendly to Augustinian conceptions of supernaturally-given virtues. Chapter keywords: perfection, subject, difficile mobile, easily lost, operative habit, bodily habit, a natura, virtus inchoata, at will, disposition

Keywords:   sacra doctrina, perfection, esse, goodness, participation, Gilles Emery, Trinity, Jesus Christ, scientia, Scripture

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