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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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Pagan Virtue: Perfect, Unified, and True

Pagan Virtue: Perfect, Unified, and True

(p.106) 4 Pagan Virtue: Perfect, Unified, and True
Ethics as a Work of Charity

David Decosimo

Stanford University Press

This chapter explicates Thomas’s conception of virtue. Virtues are good habits that incline one to use them – and all other habits – well. What this means and that this is his view is the chapter’s focus. Inherent in this conception of virtue is the notion that the virtues are unified. While many read Thomas to hold that pagans can obtain only disconnected, highly imperfect “virtues” – loosely held dispositions for good in some limited domain – this chapter show such a perspective to be incoherent from Thomas’s perspective. Virtues cause the good to be done well, and this adverbial character, rooted in prudence, entails their unity. The chapter concludes with the initial case that Thomas regards those without charity as capable of attaining such virtues, virtues justly called perfect, simple, and true. It also shows how his conception represents a transformative synthesis of Augustinian and Aristotelian accounts.

Keywords:   perfect virtue, virtus simpliciter, political virtue, human virtue, unity of the virtues, natural virtue, adverbial character, prudence, post-lapsarian, good operative habit

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