On the causes of sin
Whether sin has a cause
It should be said that sin is a disordered act. Insofar as it is an act, it can have a direct cause, just like any other act, while insofar as it is disordered, it has a cause in the same way as a negation or privation can have a cause. Now two causes may be assigned to a negation: first, the lack of a cause, i.e., the negation of the cause, is the cause of the negation as such; for taking away a cause has the result of taking away its effect. In this way the absence of the sun is the cause of darkness. Secondly, the cause of an affirmation upon which a negation follows, is an indirect cause of the resulting negation. In this way fire, by primarily tending to cause heat, consequently causes a privation of cold.
The first of these kinds of causes suffices to cause a simple negation. But the disorder of sin and of every evil is not a simple negation, but the privation of that which something naturally has and ought to have. And therefore such a disorder must have an indirect efficient cause. For that which naturally is and ought to be in a thing, is never absent except on account of some impeding cause. And accordingly, we are accustomed to say that evil, which consists in a certain privation, has a deficient cause, or an accidental efficient cause.
Now every indirect cause is led back to a direct cause. Therefore since sin, on the part of its disorder, has an accidental efficient cause, and on the part of the act, a direct efficient cause, it follows that the disorder of sin follows from the cause of the act. Thus a will lacking the direction of the rule of reason and of the divine law, and intent on some changeable good, causes the act of sin directly, and the inordinateness of the act indirectly and beside the intention: for the lack of order in the act results from the lack of direction in the will.
On ignorance as a cause of sin
Whether ignorance can be the cause of sin
It should be said that according to the Philosopher a moving cause is twofold: direct and indirect. (Physics VIII, 27) A direct cause is one that moves by its own power, as the generator of heavy and light things is their moving cause. An indirect cause is either that which takes away an impediment, or is that very absence of an impediment. And in this last way ignorance can be the cause of a sinful act, since it is a privation of knowledge perfecting the reason, which prevents the sinful act, insofar as it directs human acts.
Now we should consider that reason directs human acts according to a twofold knowledge: universal and particular; for in thinking about what is to be done, it uses a syllogism, the conclusion of which is a judgment or choice, or an action. Now actions take place in particulars, and therefore the conclusion of a practical syllogism is a particular proposition. But one cannot derive a particular proposition from a universal premise, except by means of a particular premise: thus a man is restrained from an act of parricide by the knowledge that one should not kill one’s father, and that this man is his father. Hence ignorance about either of these things can cause an act of parricide, namely ignorance of the universal principle, which is a rule of reason, or of the particular circumstance.
From this it is evident that not every kind of ignorance of the sinner is the cause of a sin, but only that which takes away the knowledge that would prevent the sinful act. Hence if a man’s will were so disposed that he would not be restrained from the act of parricide, even though he recognized his father, his ignorance about his father would not be the cause of his committing the sin, but would be incidental to the sin. And therefore such a man sins, not “on account of ignorance” but “in ignorance,” as the Philosopher states (Ethics III, 1).
Whether ignorance excuses from sin entirely
It should be said that ignorance of itself conduces to make the act that it causes involuntary. Now it has was said above that ignorance is said to cause the act which the contrary knowledge would have prevented—an act that, if knowledge were present, would be contrary to the will, which is the meaning of the word involuntary. If, however, the knowledge that is removed by ignorance would not have prevented the act, on account of the inclination of the will to that act, the lack of this knowledge does not make that man act involuntarily, but not willing, as is said in Ethics III. And this kind of ignorance, which is not the cause of the sinful act, as was said, since it does not make the act involuntary, does not excuse it from sin. And the same thing applies to any ignorance that does not cause, but follows upon or simply accompanies the sinful act.
On the other hand, ignorance which is the cause of the act, since it makes it involuntary, of its own nature excuses the act from sin, because voluntariness is essential to sin. But there are two reasons for which it may fail to excuse entirely from sin. First, on the part of the thing itself which is not known. For ignorance excuses from sin, insofar as something is not known to be a sin. Now a person may have sufficient knowledge of an act to know that it is sinful, and yet be ignorant of some circumstance of the act, which if he knew, would restrain him from committing the sin; and this can happen whether this circumstance contributes to the account of sin, or not. For example, if a man strikes someone, knowing that it is a man (which suffices for the account of sin) and yet be ignorant of the fact that it is his father, (which is a circumstance constituting a new species of sin); or perhaps he does not know that this man will defend himself and strike back, and that if he had known this, he would not have struck him (which is a circumstance that does not pertain to the account of sin). Hence, although this man sins on account of ignorance, he is not entirely excused; for he still possesses knowledge of the sin.
Secondly, the cause of ignorance’s failing to excuse entirely may lie on the part of the ignorance itself: because this ignorance is voluntary, either directly, as when a man wishes assiduously to be ignorant of certain things, so that he may sin more freely; or indirectly, as when a man, on account of the toil [involved in learning] or on account of other occupations, neglects to acquire the knowledge which would restrain him from sin. For such negligence make the ignorance itself voluntary and sinful, provided it is about matters one is bound and able to know. And therefore such ignorance does not entirely excuse from sin. But if the ignorance is entirely involuntary, either because it is invincible ignorance, or because it is ignorance of matters one is not bound to know, then such ignorance excuses entirely from sin.
Whether ignorance diminishes a sin
It seems that ignorance does not diminish a sin.
2. For one sin added to another makes a greater sin. But ignorance is itself a sin, as was said above. Therefore it does not diminish a sin.
4. Further, if any kind of ignorance diminishes a sin, this would seem to be especially true of ignorance which removes the use of reason altogether. But this kind of ignorance does not diminish sin, but increases it; for the Philosopher says that the “punishment is doubled for a drunken man.” (Ethics III, 5) Therefore ignorance does not diminish sin.
On the contrary:
Whatever is a reason for sin to be forgiven, diminishes sin. Now ignorance is such, as is clear from 1 Tim. 1:13: “I obtained . . . mercy . . . because I acted in ignorance.” Therefore ignorance diminishes or alleviates sin.
It should be said that since every sin is voluntary, ignorance can diminish sin insofar as it makes it less voluntary; and if it does not make it less voluntary, it in no way diminishes the sin. Now it is evident that the ignorance which excuses entirely from sin, by making it entirely involuntary, does not diminish a sin, but does away with the sin altogether. On the other hand, ignorance which is not the cause of the sin being committed, but merely accompanies it it, neither diminishes nor increases the sin. Therefore the only ignorance that can diminish sin is an ignorance that is a cause of the sin being committed, and yet does not entirely excuse from the sin.
Now this kind of ignorance can be directly and per se voluntary, as when a man is purposely ignorant so that he may sin more freely. This kind of ignorance seems rather to make the act more voluntary and more sinful, since it is because he so intensely wants to sin, that he is willing to endure the evil of ignorance, for the sake of sinning freely. Sometimes, however, the ignorance which is the cause of a sin being committed, is not directly voluntary, but indirectly or accidentally, as when a man is unwilling to do the work of studying, and so is ignorant as a consequence, or as when a man wills to drink too much wine, and so becomes drunk and lacks discretion. This ignorance diminishes voluntariness and consequently diminishes the sin. For when someone does not know that a thing is a sin, his will cannot be said to be borne directly and per se to the sin, but only accidentally; hence in such a case there is less contempt, and therefore less sin.
Replies to objections:
2. To the second it should be said that one sin added to another does make more sins, but it does not always make a greater sin; for it may be that the two sins do not come together to make one sin, but remain many sins. And it may happen, if the first sin diminishes the second, that the two together are not as grave as the second sin would have been on its own. Thus murder is a more grievous sin if committed by a man when sober than if committed by a man when drunk, although in the latter case there are two sins; for the amount that drunkenness diminishes the sinfulness of the resulting sin, is greater than the sinfulness of drunkenness itself.
4. To the fourth it should be said that the drunken man deserves a “double punishment” for the two sins which he commits, namely drunkenness, and the other sin which results from his drunkenness. And yet drunkenness, by reason of the ignorance connected to it, diminishes the resulting sin, and possibly even more than the gravity of drunkenness itself, as was said above. It can also be said that the words quoted refer to an ordinance of the legislator named Pittacus, who “ordered drunkards to be more severely punished if they assaulted anyone, having an eye not to the indulgence which the drunkard might claim, but to expediency, since more drunk persons do injury than sober people do,” as the Philosopher says (Politics II).
On the cause of sin on the part of the sensitive appetite
Whether the will is moved by the passion of the sensitive appetite
It should be said that a passion of the sensitive appetite cannot draw or move the will directly, but it can do so indirectly, and this in two ways. First, by a kind of distraction: for since all the soul’s powers are rooted in the one essence of the soul, it is necessary that, when one power is applied intensely to its act, another power becomes less intense in its act, or is even entirely impeded. For firstly, every power that is dispersed among many things becomes weaker; hence conversely, when it is applied intensely to one thing, it can be less dispersed among other things; and secondly, a certain attention is required in the soul’s works, so that when it is powerfully focused on one thing, it cannot powerfully attend to another. In this way, by a kind of distraction, when the movement of the sensitive appetite with any passion becomes strong, the proper movement of the rational appetite, i.e., the will, must necessarily be lessened or even entirely impeded.
The second way in which a passion of the sensitive appetite may move the will is on the part of the will’s object, which is a good apprehended by reason. For the judgment and apprehension of reason is impeded on account of a strong and inordinate apprehension of the imagination and judgment of the estimative power, as is evident in those who are out of their mind. But it is evident that the apprehension of the imagination and the judgment of the estimative power follow the passion of the sensitive appetite, just as the judgment of the taste follows the disposition of the tongue. Hence we see that those who are in a state of passion, do not easily turn their imagination away from the object of their feelings. Consequently the judgment of the reason often follows the passion of the sensitive appetite, and consequently the will’s movement follows it also, since it has a natural inclination to follow the judgment of the reason.
Whether reason can be overcome by passion, against its knowledge
It seems that reason cannot be overcome by passion, against its knowledge.
2. For will is only of good or of apparent good. But when passion draws the will to that which is truly good, it does not incline the reason against its knowledge; and when it draws it to that which is apparently good, but not really, it draws it to that which appears good to the reason. But what appears to the reason is in the knowledge of the reason. Therefore a passion never inclines the reason against its knowledge.
4. Further, whoever knows the universal, knows also the particular which he knows is included under the universal. Thus he who knows that every mule is sterile, knows that this particular animal is sterile, provided he knows that it is a mule, as is evident from Posterior Analytics I. But he who knows something in the universal, e.g. that “no fornication should be committed,” knows also that a particular proposition such as “This is an act of fornication,” is included under the universal. Therefore it seems that he also knows in particular [that this act should not be committed.]
5. Further, according to the Philosopher (On Interpretation I), “words are signs of the soul’s understanding.” But often a man in a state of passion will admit that what he chooses is an evil, even in that particular case. Therefore he has knowledge even in that particular case. Thus it seems that the passions cannot draw the reason against its universal knowledge; for it cannot have universal knowledge, and make an opposite judgment in a particular case.
It should be said that as the Philosopher says in Ethics VII, Socrates’ opinion was that knowledge can never be overcome by passion. Hence he held that every virtue is a kind of knowledge, and every sin a kind of ignorance. And in this he was somewhat right; for since the object of the will is a good or an apparent good, it is never moved to an evil, unless that which is not good seems good to the reason in some way. And so the will would never tend to evil, unless there were some ignorance or error in the reason. Hence it is said: “They err that work evil.” (Prov. 14:22)
Experience, however, shows that many act contrary to the knowledge that they have, and this is confirmed by divine authority, according to the words of Lk. 12:47: “The servant who knew the will of his lord . . . and did not do it . . . shall be beaten with many stripes,” and of James 4:17: “To him . . . who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is a sin.” And so he was not completely right, and it is necessary to make a distinction, as the Philosopher teaches in Ethics VII.
Since man is directed to act rightly by a twofold knowledge, namely universal and particular, a defect in either of them is enough to hinder the rectitude of the will and of the deed, as was said above. A man may, then, have some knowledge in general, e.g. that no fornication should be committed, and yet not know in particular that this act, which is fornication, should not be done. And this is enough for the will not to follow the universal knowledge of the reason. Again, we should consider that nothing prevents a thing which is known habitually from not being actually considered; and so a man may have correct knowledge not only in general but also in particular, and yet not consider his knowledge actually; and in such a case it does not seem difficult for a man to act contrary to what he does not actually consider.
Now sometimes a mere lack of attention is the cause of a man’s not considering in particular what he knows habitually: e.g., a man who knows geometry, may not give attention to the consideration of geometrical conclusions, which he is prepared to consider at any moment. Sometimes the cause of man’s not actually considering what he knows habitually, is some impediment that occurs: e.g., some external occupation, or some bodily infirmity. And in this way, a man in a state of passion does not consider in particular what he knows in the universal, insofar as the passion hinders him from making this consideration.
Now passion hinders him in three ways. First, by way of distraction, as was explained above. Secondly, by way of opposition, since a passion often inclines a man to something contrary to what he knows in general. Thirdly, by way of a bodily change, which fetters reason so that it cannot act freely, just as sleep or drunkenness, through some change made within the body, fetter the use of reason. And it is evident that this takes place in the passions, from the fact that sometimes, when the passions are very intense, man loses the use of reason altogether: for many have gone out of their minds through excess of love or of anger. And in this way passion draws the reason to judge in particular, against the knowledge which it has in the universal.
Replies to objections:
2. To the second it should be said that it is on account of a passion that something which is not in fact good, seems good in particular to the reason. And this particular judgment is contrary to the universal knowledge of the reason.
4. To the fourth it should be said that a passion hinders someone who has knowledge in the universal from reasoning on the basis of that universal, so as to draw a conclusion from it, but he reasons on the basis of another universal proposition suggested by the inclination of the passion, and draws his conclusion from that. Hence the Philosopher says that the syllogism of an incontinent man has four propositions, of which two are universal. One of these universal propositions is of the reason: e.g., that no fornication should be done; and the other is of passion, e.g., that pleasure should be pursued. (Ethics VII, 3) Passion therefore fetters the reason, so that it will not employ and draw a conclusion from the first proposition. Hence while the passion lasts, the reason employs and draws a conclusion from the second proposition.
5. To the fifth it should be said that just as a drunken man sometimes utters words of deep meaning, which, however, he is unable to understand with his mind, since his drunkenness prevents him, so a man in a state of passion may indeed say in words that he ought not to do such a thing, yet his inner thought is that he should do it, as is said in Ethics VII.
Whether self-love is the principle of every sin
It seems that self-love is not the principle of every sin.
4. For as a man sometimes sins on account of inordinate self-love, so also he sometimes sins on account of inordinate love of his neighbor. Therefore self-love is not the cause of every sin.
It should be said that as was said above, the proper and direct cause of every sin should be taken on the part of the turning towards a changeable good. And in this respect, every sinful act proceeds from an inordinate appetite for some temporal good. But such an inordinate appetite for some temporal good, proceeds from an inordinate self-love; for to love someone, is to will him good. And from this it is evident that inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin.
Replies to objections:
4. To the fourth it should be said that a friend is like “another self.” And therefore he who sins on account of love of his friend, seems to sin on account of love of himself.
Whether it is fitting to give the causes of sin as “concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life.”
[Summary of article]
All passions incline us primarily to good: passions of desire incline us to good simply, irascible passions to a difficult good. Of simple desires, some are for natural goods, by which the individual and the species are preserved: e.g., food and sexual intercourse; the inordinate desire for theses goods is called the “concupiscence of the flesh.” Other desires are for goods that are pleasing only according to some apprehension of the imagination or the mind; the inordinate desire for these goods is “concupiscence of the eyes,” which can be understand as curiosity, or as avarice. Inordinate desire for difficult good is the “pride of life,” since pride is the inordinate appetite for excellence. And so all passions that are the cause of sin can be brought back to these three: passions of desire can be brought back to the first two, and irascible passions can be brought back to the third.
Whether sin is alleviated on account of passion
It seems that sin is not alleviated on account of passion.
2. For a good passion is related to merit as a bad passion is related to sin. But acting out of a good passion seems to increase merit, as a man merits more by helping a poor person out of a greater compassion for him. Therefore also a bad passion aggravates sin rather than alleviating it.
[Summary of response:]
Passion can precede and influence the free judgment, and then it diminishes sin, since it makes it less voluntary. (Though a will aroused by passion may be an intense will, it is still a less voluntary will.) Or passion can result from the intensity of one’s voluntary appetite, and then it is a sign of the greatness of the will for the sinful thing, and therefore of the greatness of the sin.
Replies to objections:
2. To the second it should be said that a good passion that results from the judgment of reason increases merit. But if it precedes reason, so that a man acts more out of passion than out of the judgment of reason, then the passion diminishes the goodness of and praise due to the act.
Whether passion entirely excuses from sin
[Summary of response]
A passion will entirely excuse from sin, only if it makes an act involuntary. Now a passion that takes away the use of reason, will make the act involuntary, and therefore excuse it of sin—unless the passion itself is voluntary, in which case the consequent inability to use the reason, and the resulting action, will be indirectly voluntary, as for example when a person voluntarily gets drunk, or deliberately arouses his anger.
But if the passion does not entirely take away the use of reason, then reason can get rid of the passion by thinking about other things, or at least it can prevent the passion from being carried into act. And so a passion that allows for some use of reason does not entirely excuse from sin.
Whether a sin committed out of passion can be mortal
It should be said that mortal sin, as was said above, consists in turning away from the last end, which is God; this turning away pertains to the reason in its deliberation, since it is reason that orders things to the end. Therefore the only way in which the soul’s inclination to something which is contrary to the last end can be not a mortal sin, is because reason is unable to resist this inclination by its deliberation, as is the case in sudden movements of the passions. But when someone out of passion goes on to do a sinful act, or to deliberate consent, this does not happen suddenly. Hence reason by deliberating can resist this further act; for it can get rid of, or at least prevent it [from leading to action], as was said above. Hence if it does not resist it, it is a mortal sin. Thus we see that many murders and adulteries are committed out of passion.
On malice as a cause of sin
Whether anyone sins out of determined malice
It seems that no one sins purposefully [ex industria], or out of determined malice.
1. For ignorance is opposed to purpose, or determined malice. But “every evil person is ignorant,” according to the Philosophers. And in Prov 14:22 it is said, “They err who work evil.” Therefore no one sins out of determined malice.
2. Further, Dionysius says in On the Divine Names, that “no one acts intent upon evil.” But to sin out of malice seems to imply intending evil in sinning; for that which is besides the intention, is as something accidental, and does not give the act its name. Therefore no one sins out of malice.
It should be said that man, like any other thing, naturally has appetite for good. Hence, the cause of his appetite’s turning aside to evil is some corruption or disorder in one of man’s principles, just as in this way error [peccatum] is found in the actions of natural things. Now the principles of human acts are intellect and appetite: both rational appetite, which is called will, and sensitive appetite. Therefore, just as sin in human acts sometimes happens by reason of a defect of intellect, as when someone sins through ignorance, or as coming from a defect of the sensitive appetite, as when someone sins out of passion, so also sin sometimes happens by reason of the will’s defect, i.e., its disorder.
Now the will is disordered when it loves a lesser good more than a greater good. And consequence of this disorder, is that someone chooses to endure the loss of the good loved less, in order to acquire the good loved more, just as a man is willing to endure the cutting off of a limb, even knowingly, in order to preserve his life, which he loves more. And in this way, when a disordered will loves some temporal good, such as wealth or pleasure, more than the order of reason or of the divine law, or the love of God, or something else of this kind, it consequently wills to endure loss in one of the spiritual goods, in order to acquire a temporal good. But evil is nothing other than the privation of a good. And in this way, someone knowingly wills a spiritual evil, which is evil simply speaking, through which spiritual good is deprived, in order to acquire a temporal good. Hence he is said to sin out of determined malice, or purposefully, as one who knowingly chooses evil.
Replies to objections:
1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that ignorance sometimes excludes the knowledge by which someone simply speaking knows that what he is doing is evil, and then he is said to sin out of ignorance. At other times the ignorance excludes the knowledge by which a man knows that this is evil here and now, as when one sins out of passion. At other times, however, ignorance excludes the knowledge by which someone knows that this particular evil should not be endured for the sake of attaining that other good, though he knows simply speaking that this is evil. And it is in this way that the one who says out of determined malice is said to be ignorant.
2. To the second it should be said that evil as such cannot be intended by someone, yet it can be intended in order to avoid another evil, or to obtain another good, as was said. And in such a case someone would, if possible, choose to obtain the good directly intended, without enduring the loss of the other good. E.g., a lustful person would prefer to enjoy pleasure without offending God. For given the two options, he wills more to offend God by sinning, than to be deprived of the pleasure.
On the cause of sin with respect to God
Whether God is the cause of sin
It should be said that man is in two ways the cause of his own or another’s sin: first, directly, by inclining his own or another’s will to sin; in another way, indirectly, by not preventing persons from sinning. Hence it is said to the watchman: “If you do not say to the wicked: ‘You will die the death’ . . . I will require his blood at your hand.” (Ezech. 3:18) Now God cannot be directly the cause either of a sin of his own or of the sin of another; for every sin occurs by departing from the order towards God as the end, but God inclines and turns all things towards himself as to their last end, as Dionysius says (On the Divine Names I). Hence it is impossible for him to be a cause of himself or of others departing from the order towards himself. And therefore he cannot be directly the cause of sin.
Similarly he cannot cause sin indirectly. It does indeed happen that God does not give some persons the help that would make them avoid sin. [paraphrasing] But he does all this according to the order of his wisdom and justice, since he himself is wisdom and justice. Hence when someone sins, it is not imputable to him as though he were the cause of that sin, just as a pilot is not said to cause the wrecking of the ship because of his not steering the ship, unless he cease to steer while able and bound to steer. It is therefore evident that God is in no way a cause of sin.
Whether the act of sin is from God
It should be said that the act of sin both is a being, and is an act; and in both respects it must be from God. For every being, in whatever way it exists, must be derived from the first being, as is evident from Dionysius in On the Divine Names. Every action, moreover, is caused by something that is in actuality, since nothing acts except insofar as it is in actuality. And the cause of every thing that is in actuality is ultimately traced back to the first actuality, which is God, who is actuality by his essence. [paraphrasing] Therefore God is the cause of every action insofar as it is an action.
But sin names a being and an action together with a certain defect. And that defect is from a created cause, namely free judgment, insofar as it falls away from the order of the first agent, namely God. Hence that defect is not traced back to God as its cause, but to free judgment, just as the defect of limping is traced back to a crooked leg as its cause, but not to the motive power, though this motive power causes whatever movement there is in limping. And in this way, God is the cause of the act of sin, yet not the cause of the sin, since he is not the cause of the act’s having a defect.
On the cause of sin insofar as one sin is the cause of another sin
Whether avarice [cupiditas] is the root of all sins
The Apostle says, “Avarice is the root of all evils.” (1 Tim 5:10)
I respond... it is evident that the Apostle is speaking about avarice as the inordinate desire of wealth. And accordingly, we should say that avarice, insofar as it is a specific sin, is called the root of all sins by way of likeness to the root of a tree, which provides nourishment to the whole tree. For we see that by wealth a man gains ability to commit every kind of sin, and to fulfill a desire for any kind of sin; for man can help a help to have any temporal goods, according to what is said in Eccles. 10:19, “All things obey money.” And in this way, it is evident that the desire [cupiditas] for wealth is the root of all sins.
Whether pride is the beginning of every sin
I respond... pride, even considered insofar as it is a specific sin, is the beginning of every sin. For we should consider that in voluntary acts, (and sins are voluntary acts), a twofold order is found: the order of intention, and the order of execution. In the first order, the end has the account of a principle, as was already said many times. But the end in acquiring all temporal kinds, is that by means of them a man may have some perfection and excellence. And therefore in this regard, pride, which is the desire for excellence, is given as the beginning of every sin. But on the part of the execution, the first thing is that which offers the opportunity of fulfilling all desires for sin, which has the account of a “root.” And since it is riches which offers this opportunity, in this respect riches are given as the root of all evils, as was said above.
Whether the seven capital vices are fittingly named
It seems that we should not say that there are seven capital vices, namely vain-glory, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust.
3. For anger is not a principal passion. Therefore it should not be put among the principal vices.
4. Further, as avarice, or covetousness, is the root of sin, so pride is the beginning of sin, as was said above. But avarice is put down as one of the seven capital vices. Therefore pride should be numbered among the capital vices.
[What a “capital” vice is]
It should be said that as was said above, “capital vices” refer to those from which others arise, especially in the manner of a final cause. Now this kind of origin may occur in two ways: first, (1) on the part of the condition of the sinner, who is disposed in such a way as to be most of all inclined to one end, which then in very many cases leads him to other sins. But this kind of origin cannot be included in the consideration of art, since the particular dispositions of men are indefinite. This kind of origin may occur in another way, (2) according to the natural relationship of the ends to one another. And in this way, in most cases one vice arises from another. Hence this kind of origin can be included within art.
Accordingly, those vices are called capital, whose ends move the appetite in certain primary ways, and the capital vices are distinguished according to the distinction of these ways. Now a thing may move the appetite in two ways. (1) First, directly and per se; and in this way the good moves the appetite to pursue it, and in the same way evil moves appetite to avoid it. (2) A thing may also move appetite indirectly, and as it were by reason of something else, as when someone pursues an evil on account of some good connected with it, or avoids a good on account of some evil connected with it.
[Goods that directly move the appetite]
Man’s good, however, is threefold. First, there is a certain good of soul, which possesses an account of desirability simply by being apprehended, namely the excellence of praise or of honor. And vainglory pursues this good inordinately. Another good is the good of the body: either in regard to the preservation of the individual, such as food and drink, and gluttony pursues this good inordinately; or in regard to the preservation of the species, such as sexual intercourse, and lust is directed to this good. The third good is external, namely wealth; and avarice is directed to this. And the same four vices inordinately flee the contrary evils.
[Alternate division of goods that directly move the appetite]
Or again, the good especially moves the appetite by reason of having some characteristic of happiness, which all men naturally desire. Now the account of happiness includes first of all perfection, since happiness is the perfect good; and to perfection pertains excellence or glory, which pride or vainglory seek. Secondly, it includes sufficiency, and avarice seeks this in wealth, which promises this sufficiency. Thirdly, it includes delight, without which there cannot be happiness, as is said in Ethics I; and gluttony and lust seek this.
[Goods that indirectly move the appetite]
And again, there are two ways in which one may avoid a good on account of an evil connected to it. For it may regard one’s own good, and then it is acedia, which is sad about spiritual good, on account of the bodily labor connected with it; or it may regard the good of another. And in the latter case, if it be without assault, it pertains to envy, which is sad about another’s good, inasmuch as it hinders one’s own excellence. If it be coupled with assault for the sake of vengeance, then it is anger. And the pursuit of the opposite evils pertain to the same vices.
Replies to objections:
3. To the third it should be said that although anger is not a principal passion, it has a special account of being an appetitive movement, inasmuch as someone makes attack against the good of another as being an honorable act, namely a just vengeance. And for this reason it is distinguished from the other capital vices.
4. To the fourth it should be said that pride is said to be the beginning of every sin in regard to the end, as was said above. And it is in the same way that the primacy of the capital vices is understood. And therefore pride, as a universal vice, is not numbered together with, but is rather placed as a certain queen of all the vices, as Gregory says. But avarice has a different reason for being called the root, as was said above.
Return to Selections from the Summa.
Catholic Books - Theology and Spirituality