Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.112 a.2

Q113: BIRONY* (TWO ARTICLES)

[*Irony here must be given the signification of the Greek (eironia), whence it is derived: dissimulation of one's own good points.]


We must now consider irony, under which head there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether irony is a sin?

(2) Of its comparison with boasting.



Whether irony is a sin?



Objection: 1. It seems that irony, which consists in belittling oneself, is not a sin. For no sin arises from one's being strengthened by God: and yet this leads one to belittle oneself, according to Pr 30,1-2: "The vision which the man spoke, with whom is God, and who being strengthened by God, abiding with him, said, I am the most foolish of men." Also it is written (Amos 7:14): "Amos answered . . . I am not a prophet." Therefore irony, whereby a man belittles himself in words, is not a sin.
2. Further, Gregory says in a letter to Augustine, bishop of the English (Regist. xii): "It is the mark of a well-disposed mind to acknowledge one's fault when one is not guilty." But all sin is inconsistent with a well-disposed mind. Therefore irony is not a sin.
3. Further, it is not a sin to shun pride. But "some belittle themselves in words, so as to avoid pride," according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 7). Therefore irony is not a sin.

On the contrary Augustine says (De Verb. Apost., Serm. xxix): "If thou liest on account of humility, if thou wert not a sinner before lying, thou hast become one by lying."
I answer that To speak so as to belittle oneself may occur in two ways. First so as to safeguard truth, as when a man conceals the greater things in himself, but discovers and asserts lesser things of himself the presence of which in himself he perceives. To belittle oneself in this way does not belong to irony, nor is it a sin in respect of its genus, except through corruption of one of its circumstances. Secondly, a person belittles himself by forsaking the truth, for instance by ascribing to himself something mean the existence of which in himself he does not perceive, or by denying something great of himself, which nevertheless he perceives himself to possess: this pertains to irony, and is always a sin.

Reply to Objection: 1. There is a twofold wisdom and a twofold folly. For there is a wisdom according to God, which has human or worldly folly annexed to it, according to 1Co 3,18, "If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise." But there is another wisdom that is worldly, which as the same text goes on to say, "is foolishness with God." Accordingly, he that is strengthened by God acknowledges himself to be most foolish in the estimation of men, because, to wit, he despises human things, which human wisdom seeks. Hence the text quoted continues, "and the wisdom of men is not with me," and farther on, "and I have known the science of the saints" [*Vulg.: 'and I have not known the science of the saints'].It may also be replied that "the wisdom of men" is that which is acquired by human reason, while the "wisdom of the saints" is that which is received by divine inspiration.Amos denied that he was a prophet by birth, since, to wit, he was not of the race of prophets: hence the text goes on, "nor am I the son of a prophet."
2. It belongs to a well-disposed mind that a man tend to perfect righteousness, and consequently deem himself guilty, not only if he fall short of common righteousness, which is truly a sin, but also if he fall short of perfect righteousness, which sometimes is not a sin. But he does not call sinful that which he does not acknowledge to be sinful: which would be a lie of irony.
3. A man should not commit one sin in order to avoid another: and so he ought not to lie in any way at all in order to avoid pride. Hence Augustine says (Tract. xliii in Joan.): "Shun not arrogance so as to forsake truth": and Gregory says (Moral. xxvi, 3) that "it is a reckless humility that entangles itself with lies."



Whether irony is a less grievous sin than boasting?



Objection: 1. It seems that irony is not a less grievous sin than boasting. For each of them is a sin through forsaking truth, which is a kind of equality. But one does not forsake truth by exceeding it any more than by diminishing it. Therefore irony is not a less grievous sin than boasting.
2. Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 7), irony sometimes is boasting. But boasting is not irony. Therefore irony is not a less grievous sin than boasting.
3. Further, it is written (Pr 26,25): "When he shall speak low, trust him not: because there are seven mischiefs in his heart." Now it belongs to irony to speak low. Therefore it contains a manifold wickedness.

On the contrary The Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 7): "Those who speak with irony and belittle themselves are more gracious, seemingly, in their manners."
I answer that As stated above (Question [110], Articles [2],4), one lie is more grievous than another, sometimes on account of the matter which it is about---thus a lie about a matter of religious doctrine is most grievous---and sometimes on account of the motive for sinning; thus a mischievous lie is more grievous than an officious or jocose lie. Now irony and boasting lie about the same matter, either by words, or by any other outward signs, namely, about matters affecting the person: so that in this respect they are equal.But for the most part boasting proceeds from a viler motive, namely, the desire of gain or honor: whereas irony arises from a man's averseness, albeit inordinate, to be disagreeable to others by uplifting himself: and in this respect the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 7) that "boasting is a more grievous sin than irony."Sometimes, however, it happens that a man belittles himself for some other motive, for instance that he may deceive cunningly: and then irony is more grievous.

Reply to Objection: 1. This argument applies to irony and boasting, according as a lie is considered to be grievous in itself or on account of its matter: for it has been said that in this way they are equal.
2. Excellence is twofold: one is in temporal, the other in spiritual things. Now it happens at times that a person, by outward words or signs, pretends to be lacking in external things, for instance by wearing shabby clothes, or by doing something of the kind, and that he intends by so doing to make a show of some spiritual excellence. Thus our Lord said of certain men (Mt 6,16) that "they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast." Wherefore such persons are guilty of both vices, irony and boasting, although in different respects, and for this reason they sin more grievously. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 7) that it is "the practice of boasters both to make overmuch of themselves, and to make very little of themselves": and for the same reason it is related of Augustine that he was unwilling to possess clothes that were either too costly or too shabby, because by both do men seek glory.
3. According to the words of Si 19,23, "There is one that humbleth himself wickedly, and his interior is full of deceit," and it is in this sense that Solomon speaks of the man who, through deceitful humility, "speaks low" wickedly.



Q114: OF THE FRIENDLINESS WHICH IS CALLED AFFABILITY (TWO ARTICLES)




We must now consider the friendliness which is called affability, and the opposite vices which are flattery and quarreling. Concerning friendliness or affability, there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether it is a special virtue?

(2) Whether it is a part of justice?



Whether friendliness is a special virtue?



Objection: 1. It seems that friendliness is not a special virtue. For the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 3) that "the perfect friendship is that which is on account of virtue." Now any virtue is the cause of friendship: "since the good is lovable to all," as Dionysius states (Div. Nom. iv). Therefore friendliness is not a special virtue, but a consequence of every virtue.
2. Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 6) of this kind of friend that he "takes everything in a right manner both from those he loves and from those who are not his friends." Now it seems to pertain to simulation that a person should show signs of friendship to those whom he loves not, and this is incompatible with virtue. Therefore this kind of friendliness is not a virtue.
3. Further, virtue "observes the mean according as a wise man decides" (Ethic. ii, 6). Now it is written (Qo 7,5): "The heart of the wise is where there is mourning, and the heart of fools where there is mirth": wherefore "it belongs to a virtuous man to be most wary of pleasure" (Ethic. ii, 9). Now this kind of friendship, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 6), "is essentially desirous of sharing pleasures, but fears to give pain." Therefore this kind of friendliness is not a virtue.

On the contrary The precepts of the law are about acts of virtue. Now it is written (Si 4,7): "Make thyself affable to the congregation of the poor." Therefore affability, which is what we mean by friendship, is a special virtue.
I answer that As stated above (Question [109], Article [2]; I-II 55,3), since virtue is directed to good, wherever there is a special kind of good, there must needs be a special kind of virtue. Now good consists in order, as stated above (Question [109], Article [2]). And it behooves man to be maintained in a becoming order towards other men as regards their mutual relations with one another, in point of both deeds and words, so that they behave towards one another in a becoming manner. Hence the need of a special virtue that maintains the becomingness of this order: and this virtue is called friendliness.

Reply to Objection: 1. The Philosopher speaks of a twofold friendship in his Ethics. One consists chiefly in the affection whereby one man loves another and may result from any virtue. We have stated above, in treating of charity (Question [23], Article [1], Article [3], ad 1; Questions [25],26), what things belong to this kind of friendship. But he mentions another friendliness, which consists merely in outward words or deeds; this has not the perfect nature of friendship, but bears a certain likeness thereto, in so far as a man behaves in a becoming manner towards those with whom he is in contact.
2. Every man is naturally every man's friend by a certain general love; even so it is written (Si 13,19) that "every beast loveth its like." This love is signified by signs of friendship, which we show outwardly by words or deeds, even to those who are strangers or unknown to us. Hence there is no dissimulation in this: because we do not show them signs of perfect friendship, for we do not treat strangers with the same intimacy as those who are united to us by special friendship.
3. When it is said that "the heart of the wise is where there is mourning" it is not that he may bring sorrow to his neighbor, for the Apostle says (Rm 14,15): "If, because of thy meat, thy brother be grieved, thou walkest not now according to charity": but that he may bring consolation to the sorrowful, according to Si 7,38, "Be not wanting in comforting them that weep, and walk with them that mourn." Again, "the heart of fools is where there is mirth," not that they may gladden others, but that they may enjoy others' gladness. Accordingly, it belongs to the wise man to share his pleasures with those among whom he dwells, not lustful pleasures, which virtue shuns, but honest pleasures, according to Ps 132,1, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."Nevertheless, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 6), for the sake of some good that will result, or in order to avoid some evil, the virtuous man will sometimes not shrink from bringing sorrow to those among whom he lives. Hence the Apostle says (2Co 7,8): "Although I made you sorrowful by my epistle, I do not repent," and further on (2Co 7,9), "I am glad; not because you were made sorrowful, but because you were made sorrowful unto repentance." For this reason we should not show a cheerful face to those who are given to sin, in order that we may please them, lest we seem to consent to their sin, and in a way encourage them to sin further. Hence it is written (Si 7,26): "Hast thou daughters? Have a care of their body, and show not thy countenance gay towards them."



Whether this kind of friendship is a part of justice?



Objection: 1. It seems that this kind of friendship is not a part of justice. For justice consists in giving another man his due. But this virtue does not consist in doing that, but in behaving agreeably towards those among whom we live. Therefore this virtue is not a part of justice.
2. Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 6), this virtue is concerned about the joys and sorrows of those who dwell in fellowship. Now it belongs to temperance to moderate the greatest pleasures, as stated above (I-II 60,5; I-II 61,3). Therefore this virtue is a part of temperance rather than of justice.
3. Further, to give equal things to those who are unequal is contrary to justice, as stated above (Question [59], Articles [1],2). Now, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 6), this virtue "treats in like manner known and unknown, companions and strangers." Therefore this virtue rather than being a part of justice is opposed thereto.

On the contrary Macrobius (De Somno Scip. i) accounts friendship a part of justice.
I answer that This virtue is a part of justice, being annexed to it as to a principal virtue. Because in common with justice it is directed to another person, even as justice is: yet it falls short of the notion of justice, because it lacks the full aspect of debt, whereby one man is bound to another, either by legal debt, which the law binds him to pay, or by some debt arising out of a favor received. For it regards merely a certain debt of equity, namely, that we behave pleasantly to those among whom we dwell, unless at times, for some reason, it be necessary to displease them for some good purpose.

Reply to Objection: 1. As we have said above (Question [109], Article [3], ad 1), because man is a social animal he owes his fellow-man, in equity, the manifestation of truth without which human society could not last. Now as man could not live in society without truth, so likewise, not without joy, because, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii), no one could abide a day with the sad nor with the joyless. Therefore, a certain natural equity obliges a man to live agreeably with his fellow-men; unless some reason should oblige him to sadden them for their good.
2. It belongs to temperance to curb pleasures of the senses. But this virtue regards the pleasures of fellowship, which have their origin in the reason, in so far as one man behaves becomingly towards another. Such pleasures need not to be curbed as though they were noisome.
3. This saying of the Philosopher does not mean that one ought to converse and behave in the same way with acquaintances and strangers, since, as he says (Ethic. iv, 6), "it is not fitting to please and displease intimate friends and strangers in the same way." This likeness consists in this, that we ought to behave towards all in a fitting manner.


VICES OPPOSED TO FRIENDLINESS (Questions [115]-117)


Q115: OF FLATTERY (TWO ARTICLES)




We must now consider the vices opposed to the aforesaid virtue: (1) Flattery, and (2) Quarreling. Concerning flattery there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether flattery is a sin?

(2) Whether it is a mortal sin?



Whether flattery is a sin?



Objection: 1. It seems that flattery is not a sin. For flattery consists in words of praise offered to another in order to please him. But it is not a sin to praise a person, according to Pr 31,28, "Her children rose up and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her." Moreover, there is no evil in wishing to please others, according to 1Co 10,33, "I . . . in all things please all men." Therefore flattery is not a sin.
2. Further, evil is contrary to good, and blame to praise. But it is not a sin to blame evil. Neither, then, is it a sin to praise good, which seems to belong to flattery. Therefore flattery is not a sin.
3. Further, detraction is contrary to flattery. Wherefore Gregory says (Moral. xxii, 5) that detraction is a remedy against flattery. "It must be observed," says he, "that by the wonderful moderation of our Ruler, we are often allowed to be rent by detractions but are uplifted by immoderate praise, so that whom the voice of the flatterer upraises, the tongue of the detractor may humble." But detraction is an evil, as stated above (Question [73], Articles [2],3). Therefore flattery is a good.

On the contrary A gloss on Ez 13,18, "Woe to them that sew cushions under every elbow," says, "that is to say, sweet flattery." Therefore flattery is a sin.
I answer that As stated above (Question [114], Article [1], ad 3), although the friendship of which we have been speaking, or affability, intends chiefly the pleasure of those among whom one lives, yet it does not fear to displease when it is a question of obtaining a certain good, or of avoiding a certain evil. Accordingly, if a man were to wish always to speak pleasantly to others, he would exceed the mode of pleasing, and would therefore sin by excess. If he do this with the mere intention of pleasing he is said to be "complaisant," according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 6): whereas if he do it with the intention of making some gain out of it, he is called a "flatterer" or "adulator." As a rule, however, the term "flattery" is wont to be applied to all who wish to exceed the mode of virtue in pleasing others by words or deeds in their ordinary behavior towards their fellows.

Reply to Objection: 1. One may praise a person both well and ill, according as one observes or omits the due circumstances. For if while observing other due circumstances one were to wish to please a person by praising him, in order thereby to console him, or that he may strive to make progress in good, this will belong to the aforesaid virtue of friendship. But it would belong to flattery, if one wished to praise a person for things in which he ought not to be praised; since perhaps they are evil, according to Ps 9,24, "The sinner is praised in the desires of his soul"; or they may be uncertain, according to Si 27,8, "Praise not a man before he speaketh," and again (Si 11,2), "Praise not a man for his beauty"; or because there may be fear lest human praise should incite him to vainglory, wherefore it is written, (Si 11,30), "Praise not any man before death." Again, in like manner it is right to wish to please a man in order to foster charity, so that he may make spiritual progress therein. But it would be sinful to wish to please men for the sake of vainglory or gain, or to please them in something evil, according to Ps 52,6, "God hath scattered the bones of them that please men," and according to the words of the Apostle (Ga 1,10), "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
2. Even to blame evil is sinful, if due circumstances be not observed; and so too is it to praise good.
3. Nothing hinders two vices being contrary to one another. Wherefore even as detraction is evil, so is flattery, which is contrary thereto as regards what is said, but not directly as regards the end. Because flattery seeks to please the person flattered, whereas the detractor seeks not the displeasure of the person defamed, since at times he defames him in secret, but seeks rather his defamation.



Whether flattery is a mortal sin?



Objection: 1. It seems that flattery is a mortal sin. For, according to Augustine (Enchiridion xii), "a thing is evil because it is harmful." But flattery is most harmful, according to Ps 9,24, "For the sinner is praised in the desires of his soul, and the unjust man is blessed. The sinner hath provoked the Lord." Wherefore Jerome says (Ep ad Celant): "Nothing so easily corrupts the human mind as flattery": and a gloss on Ps 69,4, "Let them be presently turned away blushing for shame that say to me: 'Tis well, 'Tis well," says: "The tongue of the flatterer harms more than the sword of the persecutor." Therefore flattery is a most grievous sin.
2. Further, whoever does harm by words, harms himself no less than others: wherefore it is written (Ps 36,15): "Let their sword enter into their own hearts." Now he that flatters another induces him to sin mortally: hence a gloss on Ps 140,5, "Let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head," says: "The false praise of the flatterer softens the mind by depriving it of the rigidity of truth and renders it susceptive of vice." Much more, therefore, does the flatterer sin in himself.
3. Further, it is written in the Decretals (D. XLVI, Cap. 3): "The cleric who shall be found to spend his time in flattery and treachery shall be degraded from his office." Now such a punishment as this is not inflicted save for mortal sin. Therefore flattery is a mortal sin.

On the contrary Augustine in a sermon on Purgatory (xli, de Sanctis) reckons among slight sins, "if one desire to flatter any person of higher standing, whether of one's own choice, or out of necessity."
I answer that As stated above (Question [112], Article [2]), a mortal sin is one that is contrary to charity. Now flattery is sometimes contrary to charity and sometimes not. It is contrary to charity in three ways. First, by reason of the very matter, as when one man praises another's sin: for this is contrary to the love of God, against Whose justice he speaks, and contrary to the love of his neighbor, whom he encourages to sin. Wherefore this is a mortal sin, according to Is 5,20. "Woe to you that call evil good." Secondly, by reason of the intention, as when one man flatters another, so that by deceiving him he may injure him in body or in soul; this is also a mortal sin, and of this it is written (Pr 27,6): "Better are the wounds of a friend than the deceitful kisses of an enemy." Thirdly, by way of occasion, as when the praise of a flatterer, even without his intending it, becomes to another an occasion of sin. In this case it is necessary to consider, whether the occasion were given or taken, and how grievous the consequent downfall, as may be understood from what has been said above concerning scandal (Question [43], Articles [3],4). If, however, one man flatters another from the mere craving to please others, or again in order to avoid some evil, or to acquire something in a case of necessity, this is not contrary to charity. Consequently it is not a mortal but a venial sin.

Reply to Objection: 1. The passages quoted speak of the flatterer who praises another's sin. Flattery of this kind is said to harm more than the sword of the persecutor, since it does harm to goods that are of greater consequence. namely, spiritual goods. Yet it does not harm so efficaciously, since the sword of the persecutor slays effectively, being a sufficient cause of death; whereas no one by flattering can be a sufficient cause of another's sinning, as was shown above (Question [43], Article [1], ad 3; I-II 73,8, ad 3; I-II 80,1).
2. This argument applies to one that flatters with the intention of doing harm: for such a man harms himself more than others, since he harms himself, as the sufficient cause of sinning, whereas he is only the occasional cause of the harm he does to others.
3. The passage quoted refers to the man who flatters another treacherously, in order to deceive him.



Q116: OF QUARRELING (TWO ARTICLES)




We must now consider quarreling; concerning which there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether it is opposed to the virtue of friendship?

(2) Of its comparison with flattery?



Whether quarreling is opposed to the virtue of friendship or affability?



Objection: 1. It seems that quarreling is not opposed to the virtue of friendship or affability. For quarreling seems to pertain to discord, just as contention does. But discord is opposed to charity, as stated above (Question [37], Article [1]). Therefore quarreling is also.
2. Further, it is written (Pr 26,21): "An angry man stirreth up strife." Now anger is opposed to meekness. Therefore strife or quarreling is also.
3. Further, it is written (Jc 4,1): "From whence are wars and quarrels [Douay: 'contentions'] among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences which war in your members?" Now it would seem contrary to temperance to follow one's concupiscences. Therefore it seems that quarreling is opposed not to friendship but to temperance.

On the contrary The Philosopher opposes quarreling to friendship (Ethic. iv, 6).
I answer that Quarreling consists properly in words, when, namely, one person contradicts another's words. Now two things may be observed in this contradiction. For sometimes contradiction arises on account of the person who speaks, the contradictor refusing to consent with him from lack of that love which unites minds together, and this seems to pertain to discord, which is contrary to charity. Whereas at times contradiction arises by reason of the speaker being a person to whom someone does not fear to be disagreeable: whence arises quarreling, which is opposed to the aforesaid friendship or affability, to which it belongs to behave agreeably towards those among whom we dwell. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 6) that "those who are opposed to everything with the intent of being disagreeable, and care for nobody, are said to be peevish and quarrelsome."

Reply to Objection: 1. Contention pertains rather to the contradiction of discord, while quarreling belongs to the contradiction which has the intention of displeasing.
2. The direct opposition of virtues to vices depends, not on their causes, since one vice may arise from many causes, but on the species of their acts. And although quarreling arises at times from anger, it may arise from many other causes, hence it does not follow that it is directly opposed to meekness.
3. James speaks there of concupiscence considered as a general evil whence all vices arise. Thus, a gloss on Rm 7,7 says: "The law is good, since by forbidding concupiscence, it forbids all evil."



Whether quarreling is a more grievous sin than flattery?



Objection: 1. It seems that quarreling is a less grievous sin than the contrary vice, viz. adulation or flattery. For the more harm a sin does the more grievous it seems to be. Now flattery does more harm than quarreling, for it is written (Is 3,12): "O My people, they that call thee blessed, the same deceive thee, and destroy the way of thy steps." Therefore flattery is a more grievous sin than quarreling.
2. Further, there appears to be a certain amount of deceit in flattery, since the flatterer says one thing, and thinks another: whereas the quarrelsome man is without deceit, for he contradicts openly. Now he that sins deceitfully is a viler man, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vii, 6). Therefore flattery is a more grievous sin than quarreling.
3. Further, shame is fear of what is vile, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 9). But a man is more ashamed to be a flatterer than a quarreler. Therefore quarreling is a less grievous sin than flattery.

On the contrary The more a sin is inconsistent with the spiritual state, the more it appears to be grievous. Now quarreling seems to be more inconsistent with the spiritual state: for it is written (1Tm 3,2-3) that it "behooveth a bishop to be . . . not quarrelsome"; and (2Tm 3,24): "The servant of the Lord must not wrangle." Therefore quarreling seems to be a more grievous sin than flattery.
I answer that We can speak of each of these sins in two ways. In one way we may consider the species of either sin, and thus the more a vice is at variance with the opposite virtue the more grievous it is. Now the virtue of friendship has a greater tendency to please than to displease: and so the quarrelsome man, who exceeds in giving displeasure sins more grievously than the adulator or flatterer, who exceeds in giving pleasure. In another way we may consider them as regards certain external motives, and thus flattery sometimes more grievous, for instance when one intends by deception to acquire undue honor or gain: while sometimes quarreling is more grievous; for instance, when one intends either to deny the truth, or to hold up the speaker to contempt.

Reply to Objection: 1. Just as the flatterer may do harm by deceiving secretly, so the quarreler may do harm sometimes by assailing openly. Now, other things being equal, it is more grievous to harm a person openly, by violence as it were, than secretly. Wherefore robbery is a more grievous sin than theft, as stated above (Question [66], Article [9]).
2. In human acts, the more grievous is not always the more vile. For the comeliness of a man has its source in his reason: wherefore the sins of the flesh, whereby the flesh enslaves the reason, are viler, although spiritual sins are more grievous, since they proceed from greater contempt. In like manner, sins that are committed through deceit are viler, in so far as they seem to arise from a certain weakness, and from a certain falseness of the reason, although sins that are committed openly proceed sometimes from a greater contempt. Hence flattery, through being accompanied by deceit, seems to be a viler sin; while quarreling, through proceeding from greater contempt, is apparently more grievous.
3. As stated in the objection, shame regards the vileness of a sin; wherefore a man is not always more ashamed of a more grievous sin, but of a viler sin. Hence it is that a man is more ashamed of flattery than of quarreling, although quarreling is more grievous.



Q117: OF LIBERALITY (SIX ARTICLES)




We must now consider liberality and the opposite vices, namely, covetousness and prodigality.

Concerning liberality there are six points of inquiry:

(1) Whether liberality is a virtue?

(2) What is its matter?

(3) Of its act;

(4) Whether it pertains thereto to give rather than to take?

(5) Whether liberality is a part of justice?

(6) Of its comparison with other virtues.



Whether liberality is a virtue?



Objection: 1. It seems that liberality is not a virtue. For no virtue is contrary to a natural inclination. Now it is a natural inclination for one to provide for oneself more than for others: and yet it pertains to the liberal man to do the contrary, since, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 1), "it is the mark of a liberal man not to look to himself, so that he leaves for himself the lesser things." Therefore liberality is not a virtue.
2. Further, man sustains life by means of riches, and wealth contributes to happiness instrumentally, as stated in Ethic. i, 8. Since, then, every virtue is directed to happiness, it seems that the liberal man is not virtuous, for the Philosopher says of him (Ethic. iv, 1) that "he is inclined neither to receive nor to keep money, but to give it away."
3. Further, the virtues are connected with one another. But liberality does not seem to be connected with the other virtues: since many are virtuous who cannot be liberal, for they have nothing to give; and many give or spend liberally who are not virtuous otherwise. Therefore liberality is not a virtue.

On the contrary Ambrose says (De Offic. i) that "the Gospel contains many instances in which a just liberality is inculcated." Now in the Gospel nothing is taught that does not pertain to virtue. Therefore liberality is a virtue.
I answer that As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. ii, 19), "it belongs to virtue to use well the things that we can use ill." Now we may use both well and ill, not only the things that are within us, such as the powers and the passions of the soul, but also those that are without, such as the things of this world that are granted us for our livelihood. Wherefore since it belongs to liberality to use these things well, it follows that liberality is a virtue.

Reply to Objection: 1. According to Ambrose (Serm. lxiv de Temp.) and Basil (Hom. in Luc. xii, 18) excess of riches is granted by God to some, in order that they may obtain the merit of a good stewardship. But it suffices for one man to have few things. Wherefore the liberal man commendably spends more on others than on himself. Nevertheless we are bound to be more provident for ourselves in spiritual goods, in which each one is able to look after himself in the first place. And yet it does not belong to the liberal man even in temporal things to attend so much to others as to lose sight of himself and those belonging to him. Wherefore Ambrose says (De Offic. i): "It is a commendable liberality not to neglect your relatives if you know them to be in want."
2. It does not belong to a liberal man so to give away his riches that nothing is left for his own support, nor the wherewithal to perform those acts of virtue whereby happiness is acquired. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "the liberal man does not neglect his own, wishing thus to be of help to certain people"; and Ambrose says (De Offic. i) that "Our Lord does not wish a man to pour out his riches all at once, but to dispense them: unless he do as Eliseus did, who slew his oxen and fed the poor, that he might not be bound by any household cares." For this belongs to the state of perfection, of which we shall speak farther on (Question [184], Question [186], Article [3]).It must be observed, however, that the very act of giving away one's possessions liberally, in so far as it is an act of virtue, is directed to happiness.
3. As the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1), "those who spend much on intemperance are not liberal but prodigal"; and likewise whoever spends what he has for the sake of other sins. Hence Ambrose says (De Offic. i): "If you assist to rob others of their possessions, your honesty is not to be commended, nor is your liberality genuine if you give for the sake of boasting rather than of pity." Wherefore those who lack other virtues, though they spend much on certain evil works, are not liberal.Again, nothing hinders certain people from spending much on good uses, without having the habit of liberality: even as men perform works of other virtues, before having the habit of virtue, though not in the same way as virtuous people, as stated above (I-II 65,1). In like manner nothing prevents a virtuous man from being liberal, although he be poor. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1): "Liberality is proportionate to a man's substance," i.e. his means, "for it consists, not in the quantity given, but in the habit of the giver": and Ambrose says (De Offic. i) that "it is the heart that makes a gift rich or poor, and gives things their value."




Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.112 a.2