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 15, 2012

Philip the Chancellor: Different Perspectives of Virtue

PHILIP THE CHANCELLOR is not content with the description of virtues as a sort of reasoned love or loving reason, an insight obtained by synthesizing Isaac of Stella and St. Augustine's observations on virtues. He also looks at the virtues from other perspectives in distinguishing the cardinal virtues from each other.

A distinction among the virtues can also be made by invoking the "three-fold law," the law of reason which leads to free choice, the law of "indigent" or unaided nature, and the "natural law of reason."  The distinctions Philip the Chancellor makes in his "three-fold law" is between utilitarian, experiential, and relational.

"The law of reason is found in choosing what is useful," says Philip the Chancellor.  It there is concerned with prudence.  "The law of indigent nature is found in making use of good and evil."  The use of temporal goods to sustain natural life brings in the virtue of temperance.  Our confrontation with bad temporal goods, whether "for experience or to cure ourselves," will require the virtue of courage.  Finally, the "natural law of reason," which concerns itself with distributing goods between ourselves and "our neighbor who is our confederate by nature," a law which invokes the Golden rule,* involves the virtue of justice.  Again, we find confirmation in the writings of St. Augustine (De spiritu et anima, c. 20): "Prudence is found in choice, temperance in use, courage in endurance, and justice in distribution."**

The Cardinal Virtues, Fresco by Cherubino Alberti

An alternative way of distinguishing among the cardinal virtues is based on "principle and end," and this can be done because "every human virtue perfects the soul, either in its actions or passions."  With respect to actions which have an end in vie, these can be viewed the perspective of self (in which case prudence is involved) or from the perspective of others (in which case justice is involved).  When we look at passions, as distinguished from actions, then we confront those passions which come from us (and the control of these is handled by the virtue of temperance) or that which covers from others (which involves the virtue of courage).   It is the control of the passions which is based upon the principle of action.

Yet another basis for distinguishing among the four cardinal virtues is to look at their opposite: vice.  "The soul has four virtues," Philip says, "by which it is armed against vice and instructed bout its operations."

In its operations, [the soul] is instructed either in relation to us, and then we have prudence, or in relation to neighbor, and then we have justice. And it is armed against vice, either in regard to prosperity, and then we have temperance, or in regard to adversity, and then we have courage.

Summa de bono, 2: 744-56 (Q. 1, resp.)  Philip elaborates: virtue is perfection of the soul based upon reason, and that perfection arises "either in relation to neighbor or for some other reason."  If the perfection arises for some other reason, "it will concern the rational motive power or the motive power of desire or the motive power of emotion."  Prudence is concerned with the rational motive power, temperance with the motive power of desire, and courage with the motive power of emotion.  If perfection is looked at from the perspective of relations with one's neighbor, then one needs the virtue of justice.***

The distinctions between the cardinal virtues may also be looked at from the perspective of possibility.***

The function of prudence is to now what is possible, that of courage is to do what is possible, that of temperance is not to presume to do what is not possible, and that of justice is to will has is possible. Now this division is based on what is necessary for virtue, namely, to know, which requires prudence, to will, which requires justice, to do, which requires courage, and the mode of acting which requires temperance.

Summa de bono, 2: 744-56 (Q. 1, resp.).

Finally, again drawing on De spiritu et anima,**/*** Philip the Chancellor gives another way of identifying the distinction between the four cardinal virtues.  This way looks at the function of the virtue and focuses on "interior appetite, exterior deed, order to our end, and not letting stand an impediment on the way to our end."  With this quadripartite division, one can divide the virtues into four.  "The function of prudence," then, "is to desire nothing regretful, that of courage is to fear nothing but what is based, that of temperance is to repress earthly desires and completely to forget them, and that justice is to direct every motion in the soul to God alone."  "Consequently," Philip summarizes, "the function of prudence is to rule the beginning we desire, that of temperance is to rule over the means which is the deed, that of courage is to remove impediments, and that of justice is to order us to our end."  Summa de bono, 2: 744-56 (Q. 1, resp.).

Next in his treatment of the cardinal virtues, Philip the Chancellor asks about the ordering among and between the virtues, a matter he handles in Question 2 of this treatment on the virtues in his Summa de bono.  We shall address his thinking on this matter in our next few postings.

*Philip the Chancellor cites to both negative and affirmative versions of the rule by quoting Tobit 4:16 ("Do to no one what you would not want done to you") and Matt. 7:12 and Luke 6:31 ("And as you wish that  men would do to you, do so to them.")
**This is a text wrongly attributed to St. Augustine.
***As authority for this view, Philip draws from chapter 20 of the pseudo-Augustinian text of De spiritu et anima.

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