The Catholic University of America

Andrew Kim Defense

Final Examination of Andrew Kim

For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Friday, October 5, 2012 9:00 a.m., Caldwell Room 125

 

Director

Dr. William C. Mattison III, Ph.D.

Abstract

Thomas Aquinas on the Connection of the Virtues

Does a person need to possess all of the virtues to possess even one of them? Aquinas’s affirmative response to this question is rejected by the majority of contemporary moralists. Two common charges brought to bear on the thesis are: (1) if it is true, then no one is virtuous, and (2) if it is true, then moral progress is impossible. The purpose of this study is to provide an account of Aquinas’s version of the inseparability thesis in a manner that responds to contemporary criticisms by attending to overlooked texts as well as the historical context in which Aquinas’s thesis emerged. The first chapter examines the positions of prominent critics of inseparability. The second and third chapters analyze different versions of inseparability in the periods leading up to Aquinas in philosophy and theology respectively. The fourth chapter presents Aquinas’s thesis, and the fifth chapter revisits the critiques of the first chapter. The dissertation concludes that Aquinas’s thesis is not susceptible to these objections, since he follows Aristotle and Augustine in conceiving of virtue as consisting in degrees. This is contrary to the Stoic view that virtue is an absolute state that does not allow for gradation. Another finding of this dissertation is that disagreement over inseparability stems from the fact that ancient and medieval thinkers define virtue differently than do moderns. It is not as though there is agreement with respect to the definition of virtue, but disagreement with respect to whether the virtues are inseparable. In fact, the qualities that several modern scholars insist are separable are different from the qualities that Aquinas and his philosophical and theological predecessors insisted were inseparable. Accepting or rejecting inseparability is commonly due to alternative definitions of virtue.