To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.


Chapter i

Is right reason well defined?
Is virtue’s mean a mark which right reason looks to as it guides us?
Is our contemplative power, whereby we learn necessary things, distinct in kind from our deliberative power?

HERE are two routes by which we are borne in our life’s little ship to the harbor of true happiness: the one has respect to will and good, the other to intellect and the true. I have now said enough about the first (i. e., about will and the good), now a few things come up for discussion about the second (i. e., about intellect and the true). Hence I hope that it will be the case that our little souls, instructed aright both about the good and the true, will learn to be wiser and more intently contemplate God, Who is both the supreme good and the inalterably true. this is where all my effort in these precepts, this is where all my striving is tending, that by means of the human arts (which are like shining little glimmers of divine wisdom) the shadows of our purblind intellect may be illuminated. And this comes about precisely when we strive to cling to God, the summum bonum and infinitely true, by means of the will and the intellect.
2. But I come to Aristotle, who shows us both our guide and our companions on this second route: our guide is right reason, our companions are the mental virtues; the one grasps the yardstick, the others bestow the prize; direction shines forth in the former, perfection in the latter. For right reason is like virtue’s line, which directs all human activities to the Mean in accordance with circumstances. As the Philosopher says, it is a genus of mark to aim at in the theater of this life, towards which right reason urge us, guiding our steps to and fro. For just as a skilled musician tightens and loosens his strings so there will be concord, so right reason draws Man forward and backward so that virtue will be more correctly confirmed within him. But since the intellect, right reason’s subject, is twofold, practical (as they say) and speculative, in the present context the question is not idly raised what reason is best to be understood in this treatment. The Philosopher insinuates that we are to understand both that which is placed in activity and that which is located in contemplation: he calls the one deliberation about contingent and future things, and the other contemplation of established things and the principles of the sciences. These two differ in genus (as they say), i. e., they are distinct in their means and in their office.


Reason is either:

Innate, which is understood either:




Acquired, or for:

As natural instinct; as such, bees and spiders are said to have reason.
As natural habit, and as such only men are said to have a share of reason.

Contemplation of art, which in teaching is called right, and this is not meant by Aristotle. For many men teach aright who fail to follow their own precepts.

Virtue’s activity, which, being understood by the Philosopher in this context, is requisite for every activity of virtue, because of::

Its guidance of the will; for this is the yardstick by which it is ruled.
The activity of virtue; for this is the rule by which it is guided.
The perfection of activity; for this is the moderator whereby it is perfected.


The mark which right reason aims at in its guidance is twofold, either:

Of intention, and as such it is happiness, which, aiming at as its target, it more correctly directs the footsteps of the earnestly acting man.
Of activity, and as such it is the mean among the virtues and perturbations of the mind, and, looking to it as towards a mark, it guides us straightway into the harbor of happiness.


Practical and speculative intellect differ in:

Their object: for the practical discusses the individual thing and work, speculative the universal thing.
Their office: for that of practical is to deliberate about future and contingent things, that of speculative to contemplate lofty and divine things.
Their end: for the end of practical is prudence, but that of speculative is wisdom.


OBJECTION Prudence, as said in the definition of virtue, prescribes circumstances. Therefore this office is wrongly ascribed to right reason in the text.
RESPONSE Prudence prescribes by means of right reason.
OBJECTION The definition of prudence suits right reason. For prudence is a moderator of earnest activity according to circumstances. Therefore it is ill-defined.
RESPONSE Right reason has a broader reach than prudence. For it is twofold, viz. practical, which rules us with prudence in the moral virtues, and speculative, which rules us with wisdom in the mental ones.


OBJECTION There is no mean at all of virtue. Therefore a mark of right reason guiding us is wrongly called a mean of virtue. The antecedent is in Book II of the Ethics, where virtue itself is defined.
RESPONSE Virtue is called a mean, something in the mean, and an interpreter or mark of the mean. But it is called a mark, not because it is not a mean, but because fixing our eyes on virtue as a mark in our intention, we may understand that the same is a mean in activity.


OBJECTION Practical intellect is distinct from speculative only in its manner of operation, Therefore in the text it is wrongly said to be distinct and different in genus. The antecedent is clear in Book III of De Anima.
RESPONSE Just father and son, master and slave are said to differ in political species, although they do not differ in dialectic species, so in this context practical intellect is said to differ in genus from speculative, and deliberation from contemplation, not because they differ in genus, but because they are distinct in their orientation with respect to diverse objects and ends, their office and their manner of operation.
OBJECTION The sense of sight, existing in the same number, is able to perceive shape, light and color, which differ in nature. Therefore far more is intellect capable of apprehending objects of diverse genera, e. g. necessary and contingent, wherefore it is ill-considered that in the text two potentials are required for perceiving these two.
RESPONSE The active and passive intellect, the practical and the speculative, are said to be diverse potentials, not because they differ in the essence of intellect, but because they are allotted different offices. For it is intellect that deliberates about necessary things, and the same that considers contingent things, if you consider essence. But if you consider its means and manner of operation, it is called diverse.

Chapter ii

Are sensation, appetite and intellect the three principles of activity and truth in the mind?

INCE all the virtues of the arts and of the mind take their beginning from sensation, their progress from appetite, and their ending and perfection from intellect, it is opportunely indeed that this question is raised, whether sensation, appetite and intellect are the three principles of activity and truth in the mind. In this thesis, I would like two points to be considered especially: an order and a use. The order is that operation should derive from sensation, activity from action, and contemplation of truth from intellect. The use is that we contemplate God as Creator by means of art, which arises out of sensation; that we contemplate Him as provident by means of prudence, which derives from will; and that we contemplate Him as most happy in Himself by means of wisdoms, which flows from the intellect. For, to compare small things with great, the work of art is that we imitate divine creation, that of prudence is that we imitate divine administration, and that of wisdom that we imitate God’s divine comprehension within Himself.
2. This summarizes the contents of the text. And yet that these individual things be handled more distinctly, this treatment is to be distributed into four conclusions. The first is that sensation is not the starting-point for any human activity, since it is present in beasts. The second is that appetite is the cause of right action, if it is subordinated to memory’s government. For the power that affirmation and denial have over the mind, if you consider true and false, is the same that they have over the will, if you consider acquisition and avoidance. The third is that moral virtue depends upon appetite, and mental virtue upon intellect. The fourth is that election precedes moral virtue, and that contemplation follows after mental virtue. For since the mind is either practical or speculative, the Philosopher concludes that activity and prudence are engendered by the one, and contemplation and wisdom by the other. Hence is that distinction of effection, action and contemplation: effection is referred to art, action to prudence, and contemplation to wisdom; men are said to mechanics because of effection, politicians because of activity, theoretic because of contemplation. Finally election holds first place in these as well as those, and it has no respect either for the past or for the done thing, since past things cannot be recalled, nor things left undone done. This first thing is proven in the text by an example, for nobody wants to besiege Troy. The second by the testimony of Agathon, who said, “This even God seems to lack, to undo that which has is done and over with.”

In discussing truth these things should be considered:

Its principles, which are:

Intellect, which is either:



Its instruments, which are:


Which will be treated in chapter iii.

3. OBJECTION In Book II of the Ethics potential, passion and habit are established as three principles of action in the mind. Therefore the Philosopher appears to have been trifling either here or there.
RESPONSE Read the solution to this argument there. You can answer in a word that there the philosopher was dealing with the principles of the good, but here with those of the truth.
OBJECTION In this chapter and in Book II of the Ethics, Man is said to be the first principle of his activities. Therefore there are more principles than these three.
RESPONSE Man is said to be the first principle with respect to those faculties.
OBJECTION In the text, sensation is denied to be a principle of activity. Therefore there are not three.


Sensation is considered either:

Per se, and as such is not the principle of any human activity.
Comparatively, namely in its relation to the intellect, and as such it is a principle. For the internal senses act by means of imagination and the appearance of external things, which first strike the external senses.

OBJECTION Intellect is the subject of truth. Therefore it is not a principle.
RESPONSE Your reasoning does not hold. For it is a subject insofar as it contains it, but it is a principle insofar as it elicits it from the combination and division of things. Others reply that it is not a subject, for just as it functions as a subject in a thing and as a sign in speech, so it does as a principle in intellect.


In seeking after truth two things are considered:

Order, and thus appetite should heed intellect, which first prescribes.
Activity, and thus intellect should heed appetite, which first chooses.

OBJECTION Intellect is a nobler part of the mind than is appetite. Therefore it should not heed appetite.
RESPONSE This argument appears to be weak, if you choose to ponder carefully and weigh the distinction.

Chapter iii

Are there five mental virtues?
Are science and its properties assigned aright?

ITH the principles of human truth now understood, as if running through the theater, with his finger the Philosopher points out its oracles. I call them his oracles, since all rays of contemplation have their start and origin from them, as from Apollo’s tripod. These are popularly called mental habits, or rather virtues, namely art, science, prudence, intelligence and wisdom, whereby truth is discerned from falsehood not otherwise than is gold from dross by means of the Lydian stone. In their treatment, science appears first, and in this context we are inquiring, not only about its power, but also its use. For, as Plato says, it is one thing to possess a science, but another to use it, since we should not study just to know more than others, but so that we may live better and more innocently. And this occurs if we study to learn not only what is true by means of causes, but also to become strongly attached to truth by means of science. I see that in the text four things are proposed by Aristotle concerning science: its material, essence, property, and end. Its material is, as he says, sure rather than doubtful, necessary rather than contingent, true rather than fallacious, and eternal rather than transitory. Its essence is to be a virtue acquired by many demonstrations, as is sufficiently set forth in the Analytics. Its property is fourfold: first, that every science should be taught; second, that every science flows from prior cognition; third, that it consists of ratiocination rather than induction, and finally that it should put its credence in the principles of science. Its end is that in our search for truth we do not accept uncertainties for certainties, falsehoods for truths, accidental things for necessary ones, and that by means of this truth in things, which is a mean, we learn to know and love that other truth which is supreme, infinite, and eternal within the First Cause.


Every mental virtue has respect to either:

Action, either:

External by means of a work, whence art.
Internal by means of counsel, whence prudence.

Contemplation, either:

With causes, whence science, which is the habit of demonstrating by means of causes.
Without causes, whence intelligence, which is the habit of believing principles.
With causes and effects, whence wisdom, which is the habit of contemplating things both human and divine.


Science is considered in two ways, either:

Dialectically, with reference to the means of knowing, and so in the Books of the Analytics.
Ethically, with reference to the end of knowing, and thus in this context.


OBJECTION Sense and skill are subsequently enumerated by Aristotle. Therefore there are more than five.
RESPONSE They are reduced to five by prudence, as will become clear.
OBJECTION Nothing should be taught in ethics which does not render us better. The mental virtues do not render us better. Therefore they should not be treated in this science. The major premise is clear, since the end of this science is the summum bonum. The minor is agreed, since many men are preeminent in the mental virtues who live basely and dishonorably.
RESONSE As intellect and will constitute a single mind, so the true and the end make up one end. wherefore, just as the union of those parts exists in the mind’s essence, so in the essence of the end there should be a conjoining of those objects. I therefore respond to your argument that these virtues of the intellect should be referred to the good of will in accordance with ethical precepts, regarded as certain means. Hence the Philosopher says that every art and every activity has an appetite for the good, wherefore pernicious men appear to possess the appearance of those virtues but not their use, their rind rather than their fruit.


OBJECTION Science is treated adequately in Book I of the Analytics. Therefore this treatment is superfluous.
RESPONSE There the inquiry is about the means of knowing, here about its use.
OBJECTION Science is defined here no differently than it is there, other properties are not set forth here than are there. Therefore they are treated in the same way both here and there.
RESPONSE This is true, but mark you that another use is introduced here, namely that it should be referred to the summum bonum.


OBJECTION Nothing is truly eternal but God. Natural science concerns things that are created or corrupted. Therefor


The object of science is considered either:

Really, and as such it is not eternal, inborn and necessary.
Intentionally, as it is referred to the eternally and inalterably good, and as such it is eternal, inborn and necessary.

Chapter iv

Is art a mental virtue?

OU are wrong, you dunce; yes indeed, you are quite thoroughly wrong if you should wish Athens to exist without the Muses, the University without professors of the arts you so greatly scorn. For what else is a university than a lofty home of the Muses, than a most safe ship of the goodly arts in which we may be happily transported to the harbor of eternal truth, in which we may be safely protected from the Sirens’ changed song, from Circe’s bewitching hatred? And so, dunce, if you remove the arts from this ship, you destroy the ship’s strength, you destroy the very illumination and eyes of its sailors: the strength without which then cannot breathe, the eyes without which we are blinder than a mole. Pardon me, good reader, if as often as I speak of the arts I thunder against its detractors and corrupters. For (alas!) too many heed their ignorance, whereby it comes to pass that either they lie wholly scorned, or at least they are valued far less than once they were. “I say you are mistaken, the arts are flourishing.” Who are you there amidst the crowd? “I say you are mistaken for the arts are flourishing.” I hear you. “So aren’t you ashamed to be a liar?” If I were a liar, I should be very ashamed. “You say the arts are prostrate, isn’t this a lie?” If they were flourishing I wouldn’t have said it. “But the arts are flourishing.” But where, pray tell? “Oh you impudent fellow, don’t you see the Schools?” I confess that I see the schools, but I should like to hear them. “You seek after the arts, you scorn Christ.” I worship the arts, I worship Christ. “What’s the value of seven words of science?” They prove it more soundly, they adorn it better. “But why more firmly? Why is it better because of a word?” I say that they prove it better, not that they are better. “What? Do you want us to dally forever over art.” I am not seeking a great deal, only enough.
2. So far I’ve been speaking out of passion, but have not digressed much from my subject. So I return to the Philosopher, who introduces the observation that some of the arts are mechanical, whose end is work, and others liberal, whose end is activity. Hence a distinction is drawn between effection and action, so that the former leads to an external work (e. g., a house), and the latter to an internal one (e. g., truth). With this distinction laid down, he proposes the object of art, which is a thing that is contingent and mutable. For art does not handle those things which endure or that transpire out of necessity. Hence that saying of Agathon, “Art loves chance, and chance art.” And yet it is to be observed that chance and art agree in the object in such way that there is a greater constancy in the latter than in the former. For although the effection of art perishes, yet its conclusion remains most firm: for example, art’s effection flows into objective material, such as construction into a house; yet contemplation, which directs this work, comprehends an assured and undoubted precept. So if we consider either art’s material, which is mutable, or its effection, which is manifold, art is indeed rightly associated with chance. But if we regard either contemplation, which directs it, or the end to which it is intended, e. g. the summum bonum, art ought to be called more assured than nature and more abiding than chance. Hence it is defined as a mental habit whereby we are directed to the making of something with true reason, and, imbued with whose precepts, we more rightly make progress to the achieving of good in this life.


Of the arts, some are:

Freeborn and liberal, in which are wont to be considered:

Their subject, which is the intellect.
Their object, which is a thing that is manifold and mutable.
Their office, which is to direct the artist in his works with true reason.
Their use, which is to refer the intellect to the supremely good and true.

Mechanical, whose is end is a work, such as a ship; whose instrument is effection, such as shipbuilding; this signification is particularly treated in the text.

OBJECTION In chapter v of this Book the Philosopher denies that art is a virtue. Therefore it is wrongly defined in this context.
RESPONSE There the Philosopher means that it is not a moral virtue, but does not deny that it is a mental one.
OBJECTION No virtue should be forbidden. But some arts are forbidden. Therefore art is not a virtue.
RESPONSE No arts are forbidden for the reason that they are virtues guiding the intellect towards true judgment, but for the reason that by Man’s deceit and malice they are diverted to bad uses. And this is the fault of Man, not of art.
OBJECTION No man can abuse virtue. Therefore it is ill-responded that Man’s malice abuses art. The antecedent is Aristotle’s in the Magna Moralia.
RESPONSE There that statement is made about the moral virtues per se, and about the mental virtues, if in their activity and work they are referred to the summum bonum.
OBJECTION Activity does not belong to art, only effection does. Therefore it is ill-answered that Man cannot abuse art if in its activity it is referred to the summum bonum. The antecedent is at the end of this chapter.
RESPONSE There the word “art” is restricted exclusively to the mechanical, but here it is extended to the liberal.


Action and effection are understood either:

Generally, and as such they are synonyms.
Strictly, and as such effection is referred to the art and the work, but action is properly referred to prudence.

OBJECTION Action and effection are the same in the predication of the act. Therefore they do not differ.
RESPONSE They are the same in fact but not in their manner of operation. For action is sometimes said to be immanent, but effection is always called transient.

Chapter v

Is prudence an intellectäl virtue or a moral one?
Is temperance the preserver of prudence?

TEP by step the Philosopher comes to the summit. For, having treated the rest, now he disputes about prudence, and finally about wisdom. Once Boethius rightly said, “I have seen many learned men, but I have made the acquaintance of extremely few prudent ones.” For many schools are consecrated to the arts, but none to prudence, which surpasses all the arts by many a degree. Hence it has nearly grown to a proverb that a man is well learned but hardly prudent; endowed with many arts, but simple-minded; a good man, but a bad magistrate. Here I do not deny that a Thales, having spent a long time in solitude, is very wise, but he is scarcely prudent. Now, assuredly, the times demand that a Homer seek art and also prudence, prudence and also foresight to protect his life. Otherwise, perhaps, albeit he be a learned, he will waste away out of excessive charity.
2. The gist of this chapter is disposed of with a few conclusions. The first is that it is expedient to speak of prudence; the second is that prudence is right consultation; the third is that the prudent man should in by no means deliberate about necessary things or those which can in no wise come to pass; the fourth is that prudence is not a science (for it deals with contingent things, they with necessary ones); again, the one deals with demonstration but the other with conjecture; the fifth is that it is not the same as art; for art has respect to something external, prudence to something internal; art is discerned with work and effection, prudence with counsel and action; and finally art renders the intellect only good, but prudence makes it good and true. For prudence is a moderator of morals, for it is the habit of hunting for the true. Hence in the text it is defined as a good disposition of the mind, i. e., as a virtue, which when conjoined to reason has the power to create all the things that pertain to living our life. For it is the province of prudence to give counsel, discern good from bad and true from false, deal rightly with others, appreciate opportunities, employ words wisely and things prudently, apply timeliness and diligence to every consultation, and not to waste effort and oil in vain and unnecessary things, since two things are most hateful to prudence, namely folly and over-inquisitiveness. Nor do I care here to pass by in silence that which the Philosopher excellently writes in this context, namely that prudence is preserved in the arms and embrace of temperance. For a corrupt and depraved mind loses its wit; enthralled to pleasures, it loses its counsel.


In prudence should be considered:

Its subject, which is the practical intellect, not the will.
Its object, which is the thing subject to activity and consultation.

Its office, which is:

To prescribe the circumstances of moral virtue.
To perceive future things.
To give counsel.
To exercise entire care for the republic.

Its parts:

Right reason:

Which deliberates the present.

Foresight, which deliberates the future.
Experience, which deliberates the past.

Temperance is prudence’s preserver:

1. Because of its moderation of the senses, which often obstruct the mind.
2. Because of its domination of the passions, which harm wit.
3. Because of its suppression of pleasures and pains, which oppose wisdom.
4. Because of its preservation of health, which of all things temperance most nurses and protects.

4. OBJECTION Prudence does not exist within the intellect, therefore prudence is not an intellectual virtue. The antecedent is proven, since whatever exists within the intellect can be erased by forgetfulness. But (as said at the end of this chapter) prudence cannot be erased by forgetfulness. Therefore it does not exist within the intellect.
RESPONSE The Philosopher says that it cannot be erased, not because it is not erased, but since, becaue of the enduring nature of habit, this occurs rarely and with difficulty. Others reply that it cannot be erased with respect to its object, which are always located in the daily usage of life, although the objects of the other virtues are not thus.
OBJECTION The object of prudence is the object of all the moral virtues. Therefore it is not a distinct virtue. The antecedent is clear, since a thing to be done is made the object of prudence.


A thing to be done is considered either:

Generically, insofar as it is referred to a good of the will, and as such it is an object of all the virtues.
Specifically, insofar as it is referred to the true work of the intellect, and as such it is an object of prudence.

OBJECTION Moral philosophy is the habit of doing true things with reason concerning human goods. Therefore it is prudence.
RESPONSE Moral philosophy treats these goods generically, prudence specifically.
OBJECTION As it says in the text, prudence perfects the appetite with order for the good. Therefore it is not a mental virtue, which would perfect the intellect with order for the true.
It perfects it by directing the act, not by eliciting it. For it prescribes what is to be done according to all circumstances in all the moral virtues.

Chapter vi

Is intelligence a mental virtue?

NASMUCH as the ancient Serpent insidiously strives to confront human intellect with a ignorant and blind cave under the name and pretext of vain science, it is needful to enumerate intelligence among the other mental virtues lest, while we are attempting to discover the truth in the first causes and first principles of things, we disgracefully err and are deceived because of the black and thick fumes spread at the fountainhead of understanding. Many things in philosophy are treated by demonstration, for which exists science; many things cannot be demonstrated, for which exists intelligence. Once upon a time the sages had progressed as far as they could when illuminated by the light of nature, until they penetrated to first causes, and when they could not demonstrate these, as if by an edict published in their setting they determined that the first principles in what science you will had to be believed. Hence from them I have learned this one thing, that intellect is subject to will, so that sometimes it is drawn to believe things which cannot be proven by force of reason. Indeed, so greatly did outstanding philosophers value the virtue of belief that in this passage their prince defines intelligence as the virtue of believing in first principles. For intelligence is a habit swaying the mind to give its firm assent to things which cannot be demonstrated. This habit perfects its possessor. This habit renders a work good and perfect This habit draws the intellect to the supremely good and true, therefore it is a virtue. But it does not draw it as does science, since it does not employ demonstration; not as do art and prudence, as it is not subject to mutable things. For it is subject to first principles, which are composed of cognitions, which are called complex, or of constitutions and essences, which are called simple. The complex ones serve as axioms germane to each science, for example that everything seeks the good, and that if you subtract equal numbers from an equal number the remainder is an equal number. The simples ones are such things such as matter, form and God, and intelligence urges us to believe and give our assent to both the former and the latter, not by force of demonstrations from something a priori by means of causes, but (as they say) a posteriori by means of effects, since by studying the effects of first causes we believe without demonstration that the first causes themselves exist.


Intelligence is understood either:

Naturally, as a potential and illumination of the mind perfecting the soul.
Morally, as a habit inspiring this faculty to giving firmer assent to first principles that cannot be demonstrated, and thus in this context.

OBJECTION The mind’s power per se is sufficiently capable of giving its assent to true first principles. Therefore there is no need to posit such a virtue. The antecedent is proven, since the by its own light the intellect believes that this is true, namely that every whole is larger than its part.


First principles are either:

Clear per se, which are perceived by the light of the intellect.
Very obscure, which have need of an acquired habit whereby we give them our assent, and the text is understood to concern these.

OBJECTION Every virtue is concerned with something difficult. Intelligence is not concerned with something difficult. Therefore it is not a virtue. The minor premise is proven, since nothing is easier than to believe that first principles exist.
RESPONSE It is not only requisite that it believe, but also that it prove this by induction from effects.
OBJECTION In the next chapter wisdom is called intelligence. Therefore it is not distinguished from other things
RESPONSE Wisdom is called intelligence, not because it is that, but because it comprehends and perfects it.

Chapter vii

Is wisdom a mental virtue, and is it science and intelligence?

do not call Phidias truly wise, even if he sculpted Olympic Jove in a workmanlike manner, nor Polyclitus, that distinguished artist. I scarcely dare characterize Thales, who scorned the world, as wise; scarcely Anaxagoras, who turned his back on a magnificent patrimony and chose heaven. Indeed I admit that in the text these excellent gentlemen are called wise because of something divine that shone in them. But since the wise man ought to be free and immune from every blemish of error and ignorance, I assuredly do not know whom in this life I should characterize as wise. But just as in every ordering and ranking of things that is deemed to be perfect which most closely approaches the best, so he can be called wise who most imitates the wisdom of Apollo. Plato was mistaken, but he is said to be divine; Socrates was mistaken, but he is said to be wise. The former was wise since he soared aloft like an eagle. The latter, since he drank the hemlock for God Alone.
2. Therefore, as the Philosopher defines it, wisdom is a most capacious science of divine things. By divine things, I understand its proper material; by science, the contemplation of wisdom. Hence, albeit wisdom is popularly and commonly deemed to be the perfection of any art you care to mention, this is not true wisdom, according to that statement of Homer, “He was not made a delver nor a hard-handed ploughman, nor was he wise in any other art”. As Seneca says, he alone is wise who is content with himself, and who does nothing he should not do and omits nothing he should. But what am I doing? I am a pig offering instruction to Minerva, I am a lyre-strumming donkey. For I can admire true wisdom, but indeed I cannot define it. Yet since I am now writing about morals, pray allow me, earnest reader, to touch lightly upon the canker of our time. Where is that Pythagoras who, when once asked by King Leontius who he claimed to be, did not dare claim the title of wisdom, and so answered he was a lover of wisdom? Where is that noble Socrates, adjudged wisest by Apollo’s oracle, who said he knew this one thing, that he knew nothing? These are rare birds indeed upon this earth. How many men there nowadays who, swollen by self-love, pour forth their unripe fruit! How many men lay eggs of vanity and hatch featherless chicks! We all crave to appear and be deemed keen-sighted though we be blind, lynxes though we be moles, eagles though we be crows, lights though we be mists, oaks though we be leaves, men like Hercules though we be dwarves, Socrates-like though we be like Gryllus, wisest of all though we be most infantile of all. “Why so, pray?” You ask why so? Because true wisdom’s root has withered, namely humility. For true wisdom affects us but does not inflate us, does not puff us up. So he who knows more than one should be reckoned insolent rather than wise, arrogant rather than learned.


Concerning wisdom, there are four probable opinions:

1. That in number wisdom is the same habit as science and intelligence, but yet not formally (as they say), but by chance and numerical equality, since it is aimed at the same objects as are science and intelligence
2. That wisdom is a composite rather than a simple science, comprehending within itself the other mental habits.

3. That we give assent to:

The first principles of demonstration by means of intelligence.
Conclusions by means of science.
These two taken together by means of wisdom.

4. That metaphysical science is wisdom, properly called, since it treats things that are eternal, separate and divine.

OBJECTION Wisdom, intelligence and science are not distinct. Therefore they are ill defined. The antecedent is proven, since in the text they are called by the name of both virtues.
RESPONSE They are called by the name of both virtues since it comprehends them, being the more excellent virtue.
OPPOSITION In the text, Phidias the sculptor and Polyclitus the state-maker are called wise. Therefore any artisan who excels in his craft merits the title of wise, which is contrary to the Philosopher’s authority, who says that wisdom only concerns the most honorable things.


Wisdom is considered in two ways, either:

Absolutely, with respect to a divine and excellent object, and as such wisdom is spoken of only metaphysically.
According to something and in part, and as such a mathematician, a physician, a statue-maker can be called wise.

OBJECTION Every greater and more excellent good contain within itself something less belonging to the same genus. Therefore wisdom contains prudence. Which being conceded, Aristotle appears to have wrongly concluded that Thales and Anaxagoras were wise, while denying they were prudent.
RESPONSE Wisdom contains prudence subordinate to itself as a lesser good. Yet it is not necessary that every wise man be prudent, since the offices, ends and objects of the two are different.
OBJECTION Wisdom does not differ from the rest of the mental virtues in its object. Therefore it is not a distinct virtue. The antecedent is proven, since the object of them all is truth.


Truth is considered either:

In work, and is such it is the object of art, which is called truth to be done.
In contemplation, and as such it is the object of science, which is called truth to be demonstrated.
In activity, and as such it is the object of prudence, which is called truth to be put in action.
In first principles, and as such it is the object of intelligence, which is called truth to be believed.
In the ultimate end, or rather in the union of all things with the First Cause, and such it is the object of wisdom, which is called honorable and divine truth.

5. OBJECTION Truth is the object of mind itself. Therefore it is not the object of mind’s virtue.


Truth is taken either:

Commonly, and as such it is the material object of intellect.
Properly, and as such it is the formal object of virtue, as is proven in the previous demonstration.

Chapter viii

Are civil science and prudence the same habit?
Is prudence divided aright into political, household and private?

T should come as no surprise to anybody that, after the mental virtues have been treated in their order, another discussion of prudence is opened by the Philosopher, especially since civil science depends more upon prudence than upon all the others of the same genus. For prudence is the moderator of manners. But lest I seem excessively tiresome in matters of no great necessity, I promise brevity in the following appendices and annexes of this Book. Three things in particular are treated in this chapter: a distinction of prudence from civil science, a division of it into its parts, and an enumeration of the things necessarily requisite for prudence. Prudence is distinguished from civil science in three things, namely in its subject, object and office. For the subject of moral philosophy is the will, but that of prudence is the intellect. The material of ethics is the good, but that of prudence is the true. The proper office of moral science is to define virtues, but that of prudence is to prescribe circumstances.
2. The division of prudence, which is given in the second place, is that one kind is political, which has respect to the commonwealth, another domestic, which has respect to the family, and another individualistic, which has respect for private good. But this comes to pass, not in the definition of virtue, but in the ordering and form of activity, since prudence defines and prescribes existence rather than essence, activity rather than habit, virtue’s external office rather than its internal power. These things can be reduced to two chief ones, namely to experience and judgment: experience is created by length of time, judgment by practice. Hence in the text young men are said to be mathematicians and knowledgeable, but are denied to be physicists and prudent. For in the former intelligence alone is required, but judgment is in the others.


Prudence is either:

Of a single man, called individualistic.
Of a single family, called domestic.

Of the entire commonwealth, called political, and this is either:

Productive of laws (commonly called positive), which deals with universals by means of consultation and judgment.
Moderating of laws (commonly called executive, as they say), which deals with individual cases by means of decision.

3. OBJECTION In the text, prudence and civil science are said to be the same mental habit. Therefore they do not differ.
RESPONSE The are the same in genus, but not in species.
OBJECTION Prudence treats the same thing in its genus as does civil science. Therefore it is the same habit in its genus. The antecedent is proven, since it has respect for the good of the commonwealth, the family and the private man.
RESPONSE It has respect for them so that it might prescribe, not define. For it confers a means of action, not a habit.
OBJECTION Architectonic prudence, which belongs to a king concerning his realm, and military prudence, which belongs to a king concerning his army, are enumerated in the text. There are therefore more species of prudence than political, household and private.
RESPONSE Those species are contained under political and civil, as is obvious in the text.
OBJECTION If there are so many species of prudence, then there are more cardinal virtues than four, which is absurd.
RESPONSE Your reasoning does not follow, since prudence, generally understood, is alone discussed.
OBJECTION Prudence is concerned with universals, as has previously become clear. Therefore it should not be private, as is required in this context.
RESPONSE That prudence which is called productive of laws, has respect for a universal object. But the individualistic, which in this context is properly called prudence, has an eye for the good and the singularity of one man.

Chapter ix

Is consultation science, opinion or conjecture?
Is it a distinct mental virtue?

NOTHER adjunct to prudence is consultation, with which we have dealt sufficiently in Book III; now only a few things will be added. In this chapter the Philosopher strives to distinguish good consultation from science, opinion and conjecture, since nobody who is possessed of knowledge inquires. But he who consults about future things inquires and ponders. Therefore consultation is not science. Likewise, he tries to how it differs from opinion, since opinion lacks reasoning and inquiry: for he who has an opinion does not deliberate, does not inquire, whereas he who deliberates first sets before himself the question’s knot, then follows the bidding and prescription of reason. For just as a line guides the hand, so consultation directs the mind in uncertain maters. It is different than conjecture, because conjecture quickly gathers, but a good deal of time and diligence is applied to consultation. From these considerations Aristotle concludes that not all the mind’s correctness about doubtful things is good consultation, but only that which has a beginning in the best means intended to achieve an honorable end.


Consultation differs:

From science in its:

Object, for in science this is certain and necessary, whereas in consultation it is doubtful.
Means, for that of science is demonstration, that of consultation opinion.
End, for the end of science is contemplation, but that of consultation is action.

From opinion in its:

Subject, for the subject of opinion is imagination, but its subject is the will.
Object, for opinion concerns being and non-being, but consultation is not likewise.
Adjunct, for an opinion is called true or false, a consultation good or bad.

From conjecture:

Because conjecture occurs quickly, but consultation deliberately and prudently.
Because conjecture is light, but consultation is weighty and ponderous.

OBJECTION The Philosopher adequately dealt with consultation in Book III. Therefore he is wasting his time here.
RESPONSE Consultation is handled one way here, another there: there it is handled according to Thomas, insofar as it is an act of the will, but here insofar as it is a habit of the intellect.
OBJECTION In the text, consultation is not defined as a habit. Therefore it is not handled as if it were a habit.
RESPONSE Albeit the word “habit” is not applied to it in the text, this is nevertheless implied. For good counsel (called by the Greeks euboulia) is a mental habit inclining the mind to prudent deliberation, and to attaining the best end by the best means.
OBJECTION Sometimes good counsel is given to a bad end, as is said in the text. Therefore consultation is not always applied to the best end.
RESPONE In the same way that sometimes in the speculative sciences the truth sometimes follows from falsehoods, so in practical matters a good purpose sometimes comes to pass from bad means. But it is to be appreciated that for consultation, with which we are dealing in this context, two things are required, an intention for the best ends and a discovery of means that are honorable rather than base. For it is not true consultation which arises from bad beginnings and means.
OBJECTION The hoped-for end is often lost when lengthy debate is conducted about the means. Therefore a long time should not always be required for consultation.
RESPONSE So that this will not occur, another virtue is added by the Philosopher, namely cleverness, which is the habit of discovering the means swiftly and speedily. But our next disputation is devoted to this virtue.
OBJECTION Good counsel or euboulia, sagacity and decision are mental virtues. Therefore there are more mental virtues than five.


Mental virtues are either:

Primary, which are five in number.
Less primary, and as such there are more.

Chapter x

Is sagacity a mental virtue distinct from prudence?

APPY is the wit which perceives causes quickly and promptly. Often I have need for keenness of wit, but not always of counsel. Take care to note the difference, for delay brings danger, but a sagacious wit safety. Sometimes it is necessary to employ counsel, and sometimes it is also necessary to resort to wit. So just as in Aristotle there is a treatment of the virtue of counsel, so now there is one of the virtue of wit. This virtue is cleverness, which is defined as presence of mind by which the best means are discovered without deliberation’s going round and round. Another virtue, related and akin to this one, is mentioned in the text, namely sagacity, which is defined as a mental habit inclining and swaying a man towards right judgment concerning the means which are discovered by counsel or cleverness. Opposed to this virtue (as Aristotle says) is dullness of wit, and men suffering from this are called slow and donkey-like. Why waste many words? These virtues, namely counsel, cleverness, sagacity and decision, are parts and species of practical prudence. For the function of prudence is to deliberate, which it has and borrows from counsel; sometimes to discover a means with promptitude and wit, taken from cleverness; to judge aright concerning the means you have discovered, taken from sagacity, and, as it were, to conjoin the voice of equity and justice to your judgments, taken from decision. But there remains one office, namely to prescribe circumstances in the activity of each virtue, which it claims as its own germane property.


The acts of prudence are five:

To deliberate, whence is taken counsel or euboulia.
To discover a means quickly, if there be need, whence is taken cleverness or eustochia.
To judge aright about the means discovered, whence is taken sagacity or synesis.
To perform judgment, whence is taken decision or gnome.
To prescribe the circumstances of action, whence is taken the proper name of prudence.

OBJECTION Sagacity and decision are naturally present within us. Therefore they are not virtues. The antecedent is Aristotles’ in chapter xi.
RESPONSE They are naturally within us inchoatively, not perfectively.
OBJECTION Prudence consists of those virtues. Therefore they are parts of prudence rather than its species.
RESPONSE It consists as a universal whole, not as an integral whole. For it is predicated about them in the question of nature.
3. OBJECTION Sagacity is not prudence. Therefore that which is predicated about prudence is not taught aright. The antecedent is obvious in the text of this chapter.


Prudence is considered either:

Generally, and as such sagacity is prudence.
Particularly, and as such it is not.

OBJECTION Providence, circumspection, and docility are posited by many as species of prudence. Therefore there are more forms of it.
RESPONSE These are certain potentials, not species. Otherwise it is to be responded that they are reduced to these species.
OBJECTION Prudence is divided into political, household and private, as into its species. Therefore they are ill-divided into these species.
RESPONSE Prudence is a genus, and is first divided into these general. Then it is again subdivided into these as into its lowest species.

Chapter xi

Is decision a mental virtue distinct from prudence?

UST as repose brings an end to the body’s movement, so does decision to the mind’s judgment. For decision is like the prudent man’s soul, which deliberates more deeply and supplies a conclusion. For just as wisdom is more divine than science in the contemplation of things, so decision has respect greater things in human activity than does cleverness. But here it must be appreciated that, like a companion of equity, decision most greatly has regard for judgment when the law is defective: for example, when the law ordains that every homicide suffer the penalty of death, the prudent man seriously and diligently considers whether the homicide in question has shed blood accidentally, willingly, ignorantly, or with malice aforethought. If he appears to have acted accidentally or ignorantly, straightway it summons equity and decision so that the former may correct the defect in the law, and that in so great a defect of the law the latter may conclude judgment. For it is the business of equity to moderate the law’s defect, and the function of decision to end the litigation and consummate the judgment. Hence it is defined as a mental habit, endowed with which we judge aright when the law is deficient, and adjudge the truth concerning doubtful matters in accordance with equity. Hence on the basis of its effectit is said in the text to be the very judgment of a fair and good man. If you ask the distinction of this from the other virtues, observe that two have regard to the means, and two to judgment: consultation and cleverness have regard to means, but the one deliberates for a long time and the other quickly; sagacity and decision have regard to judgment, but the former proposes, whereas the latter perfects and brings to a conclusion.


Decision is understood either:

Materially, for judgment itself in accordance with equity when the law is defective.
Formally, for the habit of judging well concerning those things in which the common law is defective.

OBJECTION We are said to judge well according to cleverness. It is therefore superfluous to add decision. The antecedent is proven in the preceding chapter.
RESPONSE Cleverness, as I have taught, inclines a man judge well, but decision itself concludes the judgment. Others respond that cleverness has respect to judgment as the law ordains, but private decision has respect to judgment when the law is defective.
OBJECTION One virtue iis sufficient for consultation. Therefore one should suffice for judging. The argument draws its force from the comparison of equal things.
RESPONSE Your reasoning is not forceful. For consultation concerns universals, but judgment deals with single issues.
OBJECTION Virtue exists in necessary things, but decision deals with things that rarely arise. Therefore decision is not a virtue. The minor premise is proven, since it rarely occurs that judgment according to the laws is defective, the only instance in which decision is required.
RESPONSE This does not arise rarely, if you care to consider either the law’s obscurity or Man’s ignorance.

Chapter xii

Is wisdom a virtue more divine and useful than prudence?
Should it be sought for its own sake?
Is nobody but a good man prudent?

UST as the brightness of the sun surpasses and obscures that of all the other stars, so wisdom’s light overcomes and excels the serenity of all the other virtues by many a degree. For what comparison can there be between body and soul, between mortal and eternal things, between prudence and wisdom? At the beginning of this chapter the Philosopher indeed is playing with arguments posed and resolved on this side and on that, by which he appears to prove that prudence is not useful, nor wisdom necessary to living well and happily.
2. But, these arguments omitted, I come to the matter itself. So first the Philosopher concludes that wisdom and prudence are virtues that are to be sought for their own sakes. He adds a reason, since both perfect a part of the mind, both the one that is discerned in contemplation and that seen in activity. In the second place he proves that both are very conducive to the acquisition of happiness: as medicine renders a man healthy, so prudence makes him happy, and as health itself makes him healthy, so wisdom makes him blessed, since we employ the first as an instrument of happiness and the latter as its principle. In the third place he demonstrates this one thing which is proposed, namely that wisdom is a virtue far superior to prudence. For if you consider wisdom’s subject, it is the mind in the quietude of contemplation, not in the movement of activity. If you posit its object, it is a thing that is divine, eternal and immutable. If you consider its means of proof, it is unconquered demonstration in honorific and necessary things. If its end, it is blessedness itself, most divine by far, which is placed in the perpetual contemplation of the First Cause and in the union of all things with that Cause.


Wisdom is a virtue more excellent than prudence, from the viewpoint of:

Its subject, since the contemplative intellect is subordinate to wisdom and the practical intellect to prudence.
Its object, since eternal, divine and separate things are the material of wisdom, but mutable and contingent things are the objects of prudence.
Its means, since the wise man disputes about his objects by means of demonstration, whereas the prudent man employs consultation.
Its end, since that of wisdom is contemplative, but that of prudence is active happiness.

OBJECTION The end of prudence is living well, but the end of wisdom is only knowledge. Therefore prudence is better than wisdom. The major premise is Aristotle’s at the end of this chapter, where he teaches that the prudent man is of necessity a good man. The minor is in the proem of Book XI of the Metaphysics.
Wisdom is understood either as an mental assent in premises and a conclusion of demonstration, and as such it no better than wisdom, or as a beholding of the First Cause, and as such it is better, not only because it renders the intellect truthful, but also because it makes it good. For nobody but the good man wisely contemplates the First Cause as his happiness. Therefore the end of genuine wisdom is not just knowing, but knowing well, which contains within itself living well, according to that saying, “wisdom will not enter into a malevolent soul, nor will it dwell in a body subjected to sin.”
4. OBJECTION At the beginning of this chapter the Philosopher teaches that wisdom is concerned with nothing that makes a man happy. Therefore it is not superior for this reason.
RESPONSE He does not teach it, as you say, he says it; he does not state this as a conclusion, but raises it as a objection. For it is an objection, not a conclusion.
OBJECTION In Book VII of the Politics he teaches that prudence has the greatest power for happiness. Therefore it is the nobler virtue.
RESPONSE There he is thinking of political happiness, here of theoretic, which is concerned with itself in its own right.
OBJECTION Prudence is more helpful for the commonwealth by means of activity. Therefore it is superior.
RESPONSE Your argument does not hold, if you have regard for essence and excellence. Nor is this true that it is more helpful for the commonwealth, since every activity devolves from contemplation, and at length returns and is resolved therein.

Chapter xiii

Are all the moral virtues connected in prudence?

HE final doubtful issue in this Book is whether all the moral virtues are bound together by the golden chain of prudence. Aristotle affirms that they are. But in order to prove this more clearly and firmly, he first shows that there are certain virtues naturally within us, i. e., faculties of the virtues from which grow, as if from seeds, the moral virtues when industry is applied. With these things posited and said by way of preface, he shows that neither the one nor the other can have any strength if there be not a certain mental virtue, namely prudence, which can prescribe the way in every endeavor of nature, and the means in order and every enterprise and activity of virtue. For in the same way that it befalls a man of heavy body and lacking eyesight to fall down if he moves himself about, for the very reason that he lacks eyesight, so it comes about that both the natural and the moral virtues are swept along by a kind of blind impulse, if they are not directed by the eye of prudence. And if its vision be added, there will be great distinction in our activity, and the supreme perfection both of our praise and of our virtue. Hence he says that Socrates was in part mistaken, but that in part he said the truth. For Aristotle says he was wrong in thinking that all the virtues are prudence, but that he spoke excellently when he thought that the virtues could not exist without it. For every virtue is not prudence itself, yet no virtue exists without prudence, since, just as all the parts of a plant are united in the root, although each part is not itself the root, so all the virtues are bound together in prudence, although among themselves they remain distinct and separate. It is scarcely strange to observe many powers conjoined in a single mind, many lines in a single center, and many virtues in that one chief among them all, i. e., prudence.
2. But that these things may be demonstrated more acutely and subtly, it is to be appreciated that prudence is considered either broadly, insofar as it is heroic, or strictly, insofar as it is a distinct virtue. If it be considered in the first way, it is nothing other than universal virtue; if in the second, it is (as has been defined above) a habit composed of consultation, cleverness, sagacity and deliberation, whereby the truth is discerned concerning things to be done. Taken in this sense, it has respect to three things in particular: right reason, the manifold circumstance of activity, and the choice of the best means. These three things are the bonds whereby all the virtues are tied to prudence. Therefore the connection of all the virtues with prudence is nothing else than action according to the prescription of right reason, choice, and the manifold ordering and decorum of circumstances. So, since no other virtue than prudence has this power and property, that it can elicit the act of another virtue, that it can prescribe order, that it can choose a means, that it can direct the movement and progress of activity, it is not absurd to put prudence, as it were, at the center of this life’s circle, so that all the lines of the virtues directed from the circumference may end in it and, as it were, revolve around it. Here there are those who think there are as many forms of prudence as there are virtues in species. There mistake has come as follows, that they thought that this bond and union of the virtues could not occur otherwise than of a new form of prudence were manufactured to fit the circumstances of each virtue, a prudence that could create new circumstances and new manners of action in each one, as if one virtue is not sufficient to perform this function. A good general can direct countless soldiers, a single prudence can direct a small handful of virtues. Indeed, I admit that prudence is the acting force in the individual activities of every virtue, and I also admit that one kind of prudence or another can be inherent in this virtue or that one, but I deny that a prudence distinct in species is present within each, as these gentlemen maintain.


The moral virtues are connected in prudence, with respect to:

The first apprehension of the object.
The prescription of circumstances.
The direction of activities.
The employment of right reason and choice.
The agreement and union of the good and the true, of intellect and will, in attaining the ultimate end.

OBJECTION To obey a precept of virtue is an act of virtue. A little boy can obey a precept of virtue without prudence. Therefore an act of virtue can exists without prudence.
RESPONSE Just the act of virtue exists in the little boy inchoatively, so does prudence, which is sufficient for the production of that act.
OBJECTION Many commoners and men of the lowest station often perform an act of liberality without the prescription of prudence. it is therefore ill-demonstrated that no act of virtue can occur without prudence.


An act of liberality can be done:

Per se, which never occurs without prudence.
Per accidens, and as such it can.

OBJECTION Prudence is not by its essence a moral virtue. Therefore a moral virtue can exist without it. The antecedent is proven, since one species does not exist by the essence of another.


Virtue is considered as it exists in either:

Habit, and as such prudence does not exist by its essence.
Act, and as such it does, for it prescribes the circumstances of activity.

4. OBJECTION There are other cardinal virtues besides prudence, such as justice, temperance, and fortitude. Therefore it is probable that these virtues are also conjoined with those.
RESPONSE I have already taught that the other virtues look to justice as to a weighing-scales, to temperance as to a bridle, to fortitude as to a pillar, to prudence as to a rule of life. But in this context the virtues are said to be more united in prudence, since neither these nor those can exist without prudence.


This has already been resolved in the preceding chapter, were I show that wisdom surpasses prudence by many a degree of dignity. So this suffices for the present purpose, if I say that the intellectual virtues nobler than the moral, both because they possess a nobler subject, namely the mind, and a nobler object, namely God, and also a nobler end, namely the eternal quietude of contemplation.


Do the virtues endure in a separated mind?

N both the mental and the moral virtues (as Aquinas says) two things are considered, material and form: in them the material is a certain propensity or inclination of the appetitive soul to activities and works; and the form is the orientation of reasoning tending towards the First Cause. According to material, as he says, they do not endure, since there will be no concupiscence, no fear, no distribution of goods, &c., but according to form they will endure most perfectly. For then every one of their ways will be directed in accordance with the order and decorum of reason. For prudence will exist in the separate mind without fear of error, fortitude without dread of evil, temperance without the provocations of the appetite, wisdom without any ignorance of the mind. So he concludes that even if appearances and imaginations, which are imbibed by the senses, are obliterated together with the corrupt body, nevertheless the pure and immutable species of possible intellect endure, since they are shattered neither by the death of their subject, nor the assault of a contrary, nor in any other way whatsoever. For the intellect is immortal, and the rooted fixed deeply within it are immutable and perpetual. If you say that the species of the virtues are not the virtues themselves, and on that basis conclude that the virtues themselves do not endure in the mind apart from the body, I reply that not only the species of their virtue, but also the very ordering in which their form is discerned and shines forth in the mind after death.
2. It is nevertheless to be observed that this orientation is twofold: either of contemplation with relation its the subject, or of activity with relation to its material object. The former is by means of the intellect’s reflection upon itself, and the latter by means of a movement and, as it were, a passage towards an external thing; the former endures after our lifetime, the latter is destroyed along with transitory things (into which passes). The truth of what is said here is clear, since the moral virtues do not exist in sensation or in any bodily potential which dies, but in the mind, which has a share of reason, which, according to Aristotle, subsists in perpetuity separated from the body without any failing or fault in its essence. So if the moral virtues are habits of mind rather than body, i. e., possessed of an eternal rather than a mortal subject, it would indeed appear absurd of the mind were to endure with no vestige of virtue remaining therein. But you will say that these moral virtues are located in the sensitive appetite, which fails along with the body, and you might confirm this from the final chapter of Book I of the Ethics, where the Philosopher asserts this selfsame thing. But if you have the leisure go back there, read the Philosopher’s words, ponder his meaning, and, if I am not greatly mistaken, you will find this meaning, that the virtues are indeed within appetite inchoatively, but within will properly and absolutely: i. e., they are begun in appetite but perfected in will. Hence throughout Book III the virtues and their activities are all said to be voluntary. Hence, too, they are defined as a habit of mind, not of body and appetite.
3. So everything tends towards this, that I think it not incompatible either with Aristotle’s meaning, with the opinion of the ancients, or with the truth itself, if I teach that the moral virtues according to their formal <subject> (as they say) endure in the separated mind. I say according to their formal, since, although the external material into which they pass is removed, the immortal and immutable soul remains in which they are perfected more and more. For just as the Fine Arts, when learned by the senses, are cruder than after they have been taken into the mind and elaborated, so the moral virtues when begun in appetite have a certain light, but when imprinted on the separate mind they are illuminated by their own light. For within it, with all pestilential vapor of the vices, all the contagious lightning of the passions removed, they shine forth not otherwise than the rays of everlasting wisdom, and indeed thus they shine that they seem to speak without voice, and, without connection to the body, to ply their internal and loveable activities by means of the species formerly conceived and now brought to perfection.
4. Here I am not dealing with the mental virtues. For concerning them it is agreed that they steadily endure after the mind’s divorce from the body, since they are needed for true contemplation, which is the mind’s proper activity. There is nonetheless within them a greater and (if I may so say) brighter and more effective power and light after this separation, since in the body their power was blunted and their light somewhat darkened by little clouds of perturbations. But just as stars shine in the clear night after the clouds have been scattered, so, after the shackles of the body have been burst asunder, they shine in a free and unfettered mind. For then is the simple and pure substance of the mind discerned, and, as if caught up in reason’s revolution it is directed to the circumference of the First Mover (whose image our mind bears), not without unbelievable pleasure and desire.


Virtue’s essence is twofold:

Material, which passes into either:

An external object, such as money, danger &c.
An internal passion, such as pleasure, wrath &c. Understood in this way, it does not endure.

Forich is concerned with the immanent activit of the mind mind.

OBJECTION As the Philosopher attests, the moral virtues exist within appetite. Appetite perishes. Therefore the moral virtues perish. The major premise is Aristotle’s in the final chapter of Book I. The minor is proven, since appetite is a bodily potential.
RESPONSE They exist in appetite inchoatively (as they say), but they exist perfectively in the will. Wherefore even if appetite fails, nevertheless intellective will endures, inviolate and unshaken.
OBJECTION The moral virtues only serve a political use. Political use is corrupted along with this life. Therefore the moral virtues are corrupted. The major premise is agreed from I.ii, where the Philosopher teaches that the end of this science is activity, not contemplation.
RESPONSE The major premise is true if the moral virtues are considered with respect to the material into which they pass, not with respect to the form in which they are perpetually preserved.
6. OBJECTION The form of moral virtue exists in combating the vices and moderating the passions. The vices and passions do not exist after this life. Therefore neither do the moral virtues.
RESPONSE In this battle against the vices and the passions a certain power of virtue is perceived, but not their form. And this power belongs to victory in part rather than simply: I say in part because it belongs to the process but not the victory. For the battle is in the process, in the victory is peace and perfection. And the greatest proof of this peace is given when the separate mind is concerned with itself by means of true contemplation.
OPPOSITION It is silly for separate minds to be called brave or temperate. It is therefore absurd to situate the moral virtues in separate minds.
RESPONSE It is no silly to say they are brave and temperate than to call blessed those who lived here chastely and honorably. For albeit the external act of this life is over and done with, the mind’s internal habit is nonetheless retained, since virtue has a political use in external things, and an internal use in theoretic ones.
OBJECTION Fortitude is defined by Aristotle as it regards peril, temperance as it regards pleasure, liberality as it regards money, and so forth. But this is deemed so only in this life. Therefore this position which defends the eternity of the virtues appears to be inane.
RESPONSE This argument greatly annoys me, for I have often spoken about the external and internal object, often about political and theoretic use, and often about the composite and simple nature of the moral virtues. So although the virtues are defined by the Philosopher by means of their external objects with respect to their political use in their composite nature, it still does not follow that they are not defined by means of their internal objects with respect to their theoretic use in their simple and absolute nature, as is clear in Book X of the Ethics, where the Philosopher describes the simple essence of virtue and happiness.
7. OBJECTION As a greater light obscures a lesser light, so theoretic virtue, which is more excellent, destroys political virtue, which is inferior. Only the theoretic virtues survive this life. Therefore the political and moral virtues are destroyed.
RESPONSE A greater light indeed does obscure a lesser one, but it does not destroy it. Therefore I admit that the political virtues are no longer spoken of after this life. But I deny that these virtues themselves are wholly destroyed and abolished. For even if act and existence do not persist, nevertheless form and essence endure, which are deemed simple, eternal and immutable.
OBJECTION The blessedness of the separate mind consists exclusively in contemplation of the First Cause. Therefore it appears superfluous to add the moral and mental virtues to make us more blessed. The antecedent is Aristotle’s in Book X of the Ethics and Book XII of the Metaphysics.
RESPONSE Even if after this life all happiness comes from God, still He does not permit the good He has given us to perish. For it goes contrary to the nature of the summum bonum to wholly destroy that which is truly good. Therefore in the separation of the mind from the body the virtues are not abolished but rather enhanced, so that, made simpler and diviner, they may make us more like God, to Whom then we truly we look and admire as the mirror of all the virtues.


Go to Book VII