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 8, 2012

Philip the Chancellor: Virtues, How Are There Four?

PHILIP THE CHANCELLOR explores the four cardinal virtues in his Summa de bono. The first questions he asks regarding the virtues regards to their division and their number.  Philip defines virtue as "a perfection of the rational soul based on its powers," and so posits the possibility that the virtues might be identified by the powers in the soul so that for each power there is a corresponding virtue.

From the Mosaics at Qasr Libya

However, for Philip shared the Augustinian opinion that the soul had only three powers: reason, emotion, and desire (rationabilitas, irascibilitas, and concupiscibilitas).  This made the one-on-one correlation between  the powers of the soul and the virtues impossible, at least if the cardinal virtues were to be maintained at four.    While the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity might be neatly fitted to the tripartite powers of the soul, the relationship between the powers of the soul and the four cardinal virtues was not so neat.


Philip explored the possibility that one might assign one cardinal virtue to one particular power, and then reserve the fourth cardinal virtue, justice, which might be applied to "all the powers" of the soul.  Drawing on a gloss derived from Augustine's commentary on Genesis against the Manichees regarding Genesis 2:10-14, Philip suggested that the relationship among the virtues was like the relationship between the four rivers  in Genesis: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates:

The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed.  Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  A river rises in Eden to water the garden; beyond there it divides and becomes four branches.  The name of the first is the Pishon; it is the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; bdellium and lapis lazuli are also there. The name of the second river is the Gihon; it is the one that winds all through the land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it is the one that flows east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

Gen. 2:10-14.  The rivers Pishon, Gihon, and Tigris are all given further descriptions in Genesis, lands about which they circle.  The fourth river, the Euphrates, is not.  The Euphrates is "not assigned a land it circles," and so, the virtues of prudence, courage or fortitude, and temperance had lands about which they circle, yet justice, like the Euphrates, pertains to all the powers of the soul.  Augustine's gloss on this passage suggests this as a plausible solution.

Justice pertains to all the parts of the soul, because it is the order and equity in the soul, through which are united the other virtues: prudence, temperance, and courage. For one is just in so far as his soul is prudent in contemplating truth, temperate in restraining desires, and brave in withstanding adversity.

Q.1, obj. 3.

While the suggestion of St. Augustine that assigned justice an overarching role seemed plausible, it seemed that if an overarching principle was needed in the case of the cardinal virtues, there should be an overarching principle in the case of the theological virtues.


Moreover, if St. Augustine's principle is taken as true, then it would appear to be equally applicable to the theological virtues, so that one is just in so far as one believes in God (by faith), hopes in God (by hope), and loves God (through charity).  Is justice then an overarching theological virtue?  "For just as the fourth virtue, which puts order into the three human virtues, is a human virtue, so likewise what put order into the three theological virtues must be a theological virtues, which makes four theological virtues."  Q.1, obj. 4.

Drawing from various works of Aristotle,* Philip also noted that all motion of the soul may divided into three ways depending upon what it seeks: its own sake, removing an evil, or adding a good.  The first is good simpliciter.  The second is not enjoyable as it is chooses an "expedient evil."  The third is enjoyable as it is  chooses an "expedient good."   There are thee types of objects, the good, what accompanies, and the enjoyable, and three pleasures, and there are three powers--reason, desire, and emotion.  It follows that there are three virtues only: prudence for the reasoning part, which concerns the good; courage in the emotions, which withstands evil; and temperance for the desires, which relates to enjoyment.


However, tradition did not provide for four theological virtues, but only three.

So the solution sought by Philip shifted its focus by applying the Aristotelian distinction between matter and for.  Matter could be considered as power, and the form as act.  If the powers of the soul is the matter upon which virtue acts, then its form should be manifested by a sort of act. By focusing on the acts of the soul, rather than the powers of the soul, a solution presented itself.   His resolution is found in his reply to the first objection:

The number of virtues is not taken from the number of the powers [in the soul] but from their principal acts. Since the virtues are perfections of the powers, their perfections are compared to their acts. Therefore, temperance is based on an act of desires (concupiscibilis) as it is subject to the order of reason, that is, to restrain our cupidities. Courage is based on the act of the emotions (irascibilis) which has been ordered, that is, to confront what produces fear. Both prudence and justice are based upon acts of reason, because prudence is taken from the act of distinguishing good from bad, which is an absolute act concerning ourselves, while justice, which orders us in relation to neighbor through rendering what is sue to him, is based on act of reason, namely ordering, which concerns others.

Q.1, rep. obj. 1.  So to summarize Philip's solution: temperance relates to the ordering of an act of concupiscible desire, courage or fortitude relates to ordering an act of the irascible emotion, prudence relates to ordering an act of reason as it relates to oneself, and justice relates to the ordering of an act of reason as it relates to others.

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*Aristotle's On the Soul, Sophistical Refutations, and Topics.

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