The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Divine Virtues

On Sundays for the foreseeable future I'll be blogging my way through Saint Augustine's _Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love_ over at X-Catholics.

The triad of Faith, Hope, and Love are called the divine or theological virtues in contrast to the four "cardinal" virtues of Courage, Moderation, Justice, and Wisdom. It's hard to say just what distinguishes the two types of virtue, but Chesterton somewhere says, in _Orthodoxy I think, but I'm not certain, that the difference is that whereas the cardinal virtues represent what Aristotle--the greatest proponent of virtue theory--calls a "golden mean". That is, the all represent some kind of balance.

For example, the cardinal virtue of Courage represents a balance between the vice of Cowardice and the vice of being Rash. It is the displaying of a way of being which can be exercised too little or too much. The activity at work in the courageous individual can grow too strong and push the individual past courage into the vice of rashness.

By contrast, says Chesterton, the divine virtues are all extremist they exemplify a way of being which cannot be lived to much. The activity at work in the loving individual--we're talking about agape/caritas here--has no upper limit, it never becomes a vice no matter how much or to what degree it is practiced.

(the divine virtues)

The actual reflections will be posted at X-Catholics.


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