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On the Cardinal Virtues: four articles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

E. M. Atkins
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
Thomas Williams
Affiliation:
University of Iowa
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Summary

The first question is whether the cardinal virtues are practical wisdom, justice, courage, and temperateness.

The second is whether the virtues are connected in such a way that if you possess one of them you possess them all.

The third is whether all the virtues within a person are equal.

The fourth is whether when we are in our homeland the cardinal virtues will remain.

Article 1: Whether there are four cardinal virtues, i.e. practical wisdom, justice, courage, and temperateness

Objections

It seems not, because:

(1) If things are not distinguished from one another, they ought not to be counted up together, since distinctions are what make it possible to have numbers, as John Damascene tells us [OrthF 2.1]. But the virtues in question are not distinguished from one another, since Gregory says [MorJob 22.1.2], ‘Practical wisdom is not true unless it is just and temperate and courageous; temperateness is not complete unless it is courageous and just and has practical wisdom; courage is not whole unless it has practical wisdom and is temperate and just; justice is not true unless it has practical wisdom and is courageous and temperate.’ Therefore these ought not to be described as four distinct cardinal virtues.

(2) These virtues seem to be known as ‘cardinal’ because they are more fundamental than others: hence some people describe as fundamental what others call cardinal, as Gregory makes clear [MorJob 22.1.2]. But since an end is more fundamental than whatever contributes to that end, the theological virtues, which have as their object the ultimate end, seem to be more fundamental than the virtues in question here, which concern whatever contributes to that end. Therefore the virtues in question ought not to be called ‘cardinal’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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