Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Philip the Chancellor: Cardinal Virtues--Why Four?

IN HIS THIRD QUESTION dealing with the virtues in his Summa de bono, Philip the Chancellor asks the question why the four virtues identified as prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice--and not "other virtues" with "their own proper acts different from the acts of these virtues"--are called cardinal.

Philip offers three reasons why the four virtues are called cardinal virtues.  The first reason is "taken from their conditions, the second from the meaning of the term, and the third from their acts."

The four virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice are called cardinal from their conditions.  Drawing on St. Bernard's book On Consideration to Pope Eugenius (De Consideratione ad Eugenium Papam Libri V), Philip states the following:

For the existence (esse) of virtue four things are required: to now, to will, to persevere amid difficulties, and to attain the mean between excess and deficiency. But to now comes from prudence, to will from justice, to persevere from courage, and to attain the mean between excess and deficiency from temperance. Therefore, since some universal condition is touched upon there in each of these [virtues], they are rightly called cardinal, that is principal.

But, Philip notes, this argument of St. Bernard seems to prove too much since these conditions are present in all virtues (and not only the cardinal virtues), and this supported by Aristotle in his Ethics (2.4 [1105a31 ff]).  In response, however, Philip notes that this characteristic in the other virtues is shared with the cardinal virtues because the other virtues are in fact "reduced" to the cardinal virtues, "either as their parts or as their species or as their dispositions," and so these characteristics will be shared with the cardinal virtues of which these other virtues stem from.  All other virtues are subsidiary to the cardinal virtues, as the cardinal virtues are the "principal or initiating virtues."  Drawing from On Rest for the Mind by a certain unidentified Harold, the cardinal virtues (which are required for the health of the soul) are compared to the needs of the body, and that author concludes: "As there are four element for the health of the body, so are found four bases for the virtues of the soul."


The second reason why the identified virtues are called cardinal stems from the meaning of the term cardinal. As Philip summarizes this reason:

For cardinal comes from cardo, the hinge on which a door turns. Now there are two things by means of which we enter into life: actions and passions. What is said in Matt. 19:17 concerns actions: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments," that is, act according to the commandments; and Acts 14:22 concerns passions: "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Two virtues are taken based on actions: prudence with regard to actions as they concern us, justice with regard to actions as they concern our neighbor. Tow other virtues are taken based on passions, concerning passions in us and natural to us is temperance, concerning passions introduced by others is courage.
The reason why there are four cardinal virtues "comes from their acts," Philip says.  Again, we might simply quote Philip's treatment of this entire:

The acts of these virtues are principal because they are acts of the three primary motive powers in relation to those things which lead to our end (ad finem). For the act of reasoning is to distinguish between the good which leads to that end and the bad which leads away from that end, or between two goods, to distinguish which of them leads more to the end, or two bad things, which of them leads more away from that end. Also, the principal act of the power of desire in relation to those things which lead to our end is to will the changeable good to exist under the highest good, which pertains to temperance. Also the principal act of the power of emotion in relation to those things which lead to our end is to confront the arduous, which is frightening to confront and difficult to withstand, and this pertains to courage. But the act of justice is to order all these to our proximate end and this is an act in relation to all the powers, not just one. Therefore, for this reason they are called cardinal or principal, because they are the primary acts of the powers acting in those things which lead to our end, namely, God.

Philip the Chancellor interposes an objection to naming the four virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice the cardinal virtues.  Since pride is the primary vice (as Ecclesiastes 10:15 states, "Pride is the beginning of all sin") it would seem that humility is the primary virtue, and therefore there is but one cardinal virtue, and that is humility.

In answering this objection, Philip distinguishes between pride as a love of one's own excellence and pride as one's own good.  The former is a power of the emotions and is not the beginning of sin; consequently, the humility opposed to it will not be a principal virtue.  The latter, however, is the beginning of all sin since it is equivalent to contempt for the commandments.  Therefore the love of one's self as one's own good is the source of all sin.  Similarly, the love of the highest good (the summum bonum, God) is the beginning of every cardinal virtue.  It seems, then, that Philip suggests that the cardinal virtues are all clothed with humility since both humility and the cardinal virtues have love of God in view.  Humility and the cardinal virtues therefore have God as their final cause.

That humility and the four cardinal virtues have God as their final cause would seem to lead to another problem since that would make the cardinal virtues enter into the bailiwick of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which also have God as their end.  But as Philip will later distinguish, the cardinal virtues "concern what leads up to our end, but not into our end, namely God."  It is the theological virtues which take us all the way "into" God and heaven, whereas the cardinal virtues only "carry us along the road (via) toward God," though "they do have God in sight."  Houser, 49.

Having God as the cardinal virtues' end, then raises another question: that being whether the cardinal virtues are acquired or infused.  If acquired, it seems that perhaps God is something attained through human effort, which seems to suggest a Pelagianism.  If infused, the cardinal virtues then seem to be synonymous with the divine or theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.  Accordingly, Philip the Chancellor focuses on the distinctions between the cardinal virtues and he theological virtues and their quality of being infused rather than acquired.

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