Key Ideas in Summa I-II. Questions 26-29 (Love) & 55-70 (The Virtues)

Love is a passion for it involves being drawn to, desiring, and enjoying the object. The union is the result of love (Q 26. 2nd). Love can be divided in the habit of love, either selfish or unselfish in nature, and the action or passion of love, which can involve love chosen (dilection) or love cherished (charity) (3rd). While love of friendship wishes another good and therefore loves something for itself, love of concupiscence does something for something else it wishes to gain (4th). The good pleases the desire for a thing in love, while the beautiful pleases by apprehension (Q 27.1st). Knowledge is the cause of love because apprehension is needed to desire the good; one can only perfectly love as one knows all the elements of what is loved (2nd). All passions of the soul presuppose some kind of love (4th).
medieval painting of different men

The union of the lover and beloved is two-fold: 1) real union is the beloved with the lover; 2) union of affection wills good to the friend as himself or herself (Q 28.1st). Mutual indwelling is an effect of love because love is both desire and apprehension--in apprehension, by virtue of growing knowledge of the one loved; in desire, by taking pleasure in the one loved. Concupiscence (desire) seeks to possess the beloved perfectly by penetrating the heart, while friendship desires the same things as the friend and wills the other's good. Thus, there are three ways that love may indwell: 1) by reckoning what affects the friend as affecting the self ("the lover seems to be in the beloved"); 2) by looking on the friend as the self, thus willing his or her good ("the beloved in the lover"); and 3) by reciprocal love, whereby good things are returned for good (2nd).

Ecstasy, in a sense, is an effect of love in that we are in part outside ourselves in the other (3rd). Zeal is also an aspect of love because love is intense. The zeal of concupiscence is jealous for the love for the beloved, while the zeal of friendship is moved on the friends' behalf and for his or her good (4th). Love is a passion that wounds the lover when it loves an unsuitable object (e.g. sin), while love is otherwise a melting, a softening of the heart that produces readiness for the lover (5th). In that sense, love is the cause of all that the lover does (6th). Love is even the cause of hatred because it is contrary to what should be loved (Q 29. 2nd), though hatred is not stronger than love since it is only an effect of love (3rd). People cannot hate themselves since all desire good for themselves, though at times they accidentally desire what is contrary to reason (4th). Someone can hate the truth because 1) she wishes a particular truth not to be true; 2) an object hiders her from what she wants; or 3) because a particular truth of her condition is known by another (5th).


  1. What makes love of a friend different from romantic love? Are they similar in any way?
  2. Do you feel Aquinas has understood the nature of love? Why or why not?
  3. How are love and hatred related?
  4. Compare and contrast Aquinas' views of love with what you know of medieval love tropes.

Human virtue is a habit since habits motivate us to actions (Q 55.1st). Intellectual virtues include understanding, which is the habit of apprehending principles through demonstration; wisdom, which judges and orders all things (knowledge of first causes); and science (scientia) which examines the proximate causes of specific areas (second causes) (4th). Two others include prudence, which is "the right reason for things to be done," while art is "the right knowledge of things to be made" (4th). Prudence is a necessary virtue because it is needed for a good life made up of good deeds. We need to know not only the end, but also the means suitable to the end (5th).

The intellectual virtue of prudence (prudentia) is joined with the moral habit of a certain disposition toward the good (Q 58.2nd). All deeds perfect either the moral or intellectual virtues (3rd), so while wisdom, science, and art can exist separately as intellectual virtues, prudential understanding is always necessary for the moral life (4th-5th). Moral virtue can be a passion if it accords with reason (Q 59.1st) and if the passions are as they should be (2nd), so sorrow is compatible with moral virtue given that it helps us bemoan and avoid our sin (3rd). Moral virtue does not exist with inordinate desires, and virtues such as justice, would seem to be separate from passions, but even justice ultimately results in perfect joy for the one who practices it (5th).

Justice is an operation, while temperance, fortitude, and gentleness involve the passions (Q 60.2nd). Justice is the center of all virtues involving operations since justice involves giving what is due to a superior, an inferior, or an equal (3rd.)

Cardinal Virtues and Locations

These all exist within the natural powers of humans and overflow into one another in practice.

1. Prudence - The act of reason expressed morally - Reason in essence
2. Justice - The act of reason that puts order into something - Will
3. Temperance - Reason applied to passion by curbing its excesses - Desiring Faculty
4. Fortitude - Reason applied to passions by strengthening what is weak before danger or fear - Averting Faculty

The Seven Virtues and Locations

These all require the assistance of grace in order to achieve participation in the Divine Life without which true happiness is impossible for their object is God, they are infused by God, and they are unknown without scriptural revelation.

1. Faith - Receiving and believing the articles of faith by Divine light - Reason
2. Hope - A movement of intention toward the promised end - Will
3. Charity - A spiritual union begun here as the will is transformed - (see above)
In order of generation, faith proceeds hope since one must believe in order to desire, and hope proceeds charity since the imperfect proceeds the perfect union, but in the order of perfection, charity proceeds faith and hope since it is the end and source of them; it quickens them and completes them (Q 62.4th). Natural virtue is in us by nature, though even then only in the appetitive, not in perfection. The theological virtues must be infused by God (Q 63.1st). The moral virtues do observe the mean since it is a measure of virtue (cf. 417, n. 218). The natural virtues hold the mean in conforming passions to reason's standard; therefore, virtue is not an excess when conforming to the measure. The theological virtues cannot observe a mean since one cannot believe, hope in, or love God too much, but in human matters it is permissible to speak of mean for hope and faith. Hope can observe the mean between presumption and despair; faith can observe the mean of two heresies (e.g. Ebionitism and Gnosticism). The moral virtues are connected to one another if by this we mean they are all habits that incline us to the good, thus seeking to convert our inclination (Q 65.1st). The moral virtues, speaking simply, are not better than the intellectual virtues since the reason is higher than the appetite. However, speaking relatively, the moral virtues do exceed the intellectual virtues since they have as their object the good and represent the perfection of their power. Justice is the chief of the natural virtues since it is the most universal (4th), while wisdom is the greatest of the intellectual virtues directing and guiding the other intellectual virtues (5th). Charity is the greatest of the theological virtues since it approaches the closest to their object which is God. Faith and hope differ from prudence and moral virtues in that their object surpasses human beings. Prudence moderates the other virtues, while faith only reveals the object of desire, i.e. God (6th).


  1. Is there such a thing as an intellectual virtue? Name some examples.
  2. Define in your own words prudence, science, and art. How do yours differ from those of  Aquinas?
  3. How do our passions and desires play a role in our ethical habits?
  4. Is Aquinas right to separate the virtues into natural and theological categories? Why or why not?
  5. What is justice?
  6. Is it important to be able to rank the various virtues? Why or why not?