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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 Virtue of Many Gentiles“

“The Virtue of Many Gentiles“

(p.139) 5 “The Virtue of Many Gentiles“
Ethics as a Work of Charity

David Decosimo

Stanford University Press

This chapter addresses one of the two most important texts for deciphering Thomas’s perspective on pagan virtue: Summa Theologiae I.II 65.2. Both “Aristotelian” and “Augustinian” interpreters cite this complex text as evidence for their competing perspectives. This chapter shows the flaws of the typical “Augustinian” interpretation. It highlights the variability and importance of Thomas’s language of “perfection” and, drawing on his Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics and other texts, it offers a close reading of 65.2 that gives the difficulties their due. It shows that Thomas is best understood as claiming that those without charity can and do attain a rich and authentic variety of virtue that is inherently unified, although imperfect in relation to the beatific end.

Keywords:   perfect virtue, beatitude, connection, imperfect virtue, infused virtue, Nicomachean Ethics, multis gentilibus, right reason, unified

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