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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Philip the Chancellor: Unity of the Infused Cardinal Virtues

PHILIP THE CHANCELLOR explores those authorities and arguments which suggest the possibility that one can have one  virtue without having all virtues.  He begins with a saying attributed to St. Augustine (but whose source he has been unable to find).  "As one can possess one virtue more than another, so one can possess one virtue but not another."  To counter this authority, Philip suggests that  the foundation of the argument is wrong in because it confuses possessing more of a virtue with making more use of a virtue.  Therefore, the fact that one might make more use of a virtue (and therefore give the appearance of possessing more of that virtue) does not mean that one can possess one virtue, but not another.

In one of his letters to St. Jerome (Ep. 167:3.10), St. Augustine states that the opinion that "whoever has one has all" is only an opinion held by some men, albeit great men.  This suggests that St. Augustine may have been implying that the argument was false.  Philip rejects this implied negative.  He interprets St. Augustine's reference to the opinions of men as an effort to distinguish between reason (which he describes as the "footprint of God") and faith (those things about which it is written "unless you believe you shall not understand").  By referring to men, St. Augustine was referring to reason, and not to revelation or faith.  And so the upshot of his statement is that the unity of the virtues is something that is not only understood as being part of the faith, but is also something that is understood as true by the use of reason.

The Cardinal Virtues

The third seemingly contrary argument is again from authority attributed to St. Augustine (in a text, the source of which Philip was unable to locate).  "As our body climbing out of a pit is not illuminated all at once," says St. Augustine, "so our soul climbing out of sin is not illuminated all at once."  Since St. Augustine appears to be adopting a law of gradualism with respect to sin, one can infer that he would adopt a law of gradualism with respect to virtue.  Philip observes that the implication is not necessary.  First, one can interpret the image of gradually coming to light as not applying to different faculties, so that reason is illuminated first, and then only the affections, so that the gradual enlightening is not of a priority of nature (which is perfected by grace and therefore has all the infused virtues, if in a state of grace, and none if it is outside a state of grace), but not a priority in time.  In other words, grace (and the infused virtues) take time to work in the nature of man; but that does not mean that the virtues are not there working to synthesize reason and affection.  The other interpretation is that St. Augustine is referring not to the existence of virtues (which cannot be piecemeal), but to their use (which may be piecemeal).

Philip next draws from scriptural interpretations as found in the marginal glosses.  For example, the gloss on Mark 8:24 (regarding the blind man who does not see all at once, but sees men at first as trees walking) is that the cure out of spiritual blindness does not occur all at once, but with "difficulty, as though step by step." If this is applied to virtues, then it suggests that one progressively acquires the infused virtues and therefore they are not "one in all and all in one."  Here, there is a sort of a law of gradualism in the virtues, but not a gradualism of the law in virtues.  "[W]hoever leaves darkness does not immediately see distinctly and fully, but with confusion.  His spiritual cure is understood to be perfect, through infusion of the virtues, yet certain remnants of sin remain, for example, in our memory and such powers, and even certain impediments [to virtue] remain, for which reason he [the blind man in the Gospel story] is said not to see fully."

Another gloss, this one on Job 38:24 ("through what way is the light dispensed?") construes that scriptural verse as follows: "Say by the way, that is, by what order do I infuse justice, with now this and now that virtue I complete [it]."  This suggests that virtues are not given all at once in the infused soul.  But this is mistaken in Philip's view, because the gloss should be interpreted to refer to the use of virtue, and not to the infused virtues being present in the soul.

The next argument is based upon reason.  It focuses on the cause of the infused virtues and their interconnectivity and comparison to vice and the interconnectivity of vice.  But to this, Philip the Chancellor states as follows:

In reality it is true, as is said in the argument that whoever has one virtues has no vice, so likewise, whoever has one vice has no virtue, not because of a connection among the vices but because of a connection among the virtues. The connection among the virtues, as the objection says, is not owing to their efficient cause [i.e., God], nor is it owing to some common effect, like making us worthy of eternal life. Rather, it comes from an intrinsic cause existing in the virtues themselves, as will be shown.
The final argument* is based upon reason.  It argues that since each act performed under the influence of infused virtue merits eternal life, then, if one were to subtract out the other virtues unnecessary to that act which merits eternal life, one would still merit eternal life.  This suggests that the infused virtues are not a "one in all and all in one" type of thing.  To this argument, Philip observes that though one act of one virtue can merit eternal life, "yet based on one virtue along one cannot be worthy of eternal life [by God's grace], which one can achieve, even without any meritorious act, as in the case of [baptized] children."  Likewise, "even though one actually can gain merit by one virtue without the rest, one cannot be worthy [by God's grace] of eternal life without being worthy [again by God's grace] of he other virtue."  For this reason, "the connection of the virtues is not based on merit, but rather on worthiness [which is dependent upon God's grace]."

*Philip the Chancellor discusses the seventh objection at great length, and we shall treat it in our next blog posting separately.

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