Ordering Reasons, Mediating Virtues: How and Why Thomas Aquinas Affirmed the Compatibility of Acquired and Infused Moral Virtue

Studies in Christian Ethics 36 (2):323-349 (2023)
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How should we conceive the interplay of nature and grace in Christian ethical life when it comes to the virtues? How did Thomas Aquinas conceive it? For Thomas, grace-given, infused moral virtues can use virtues acquired by habituation, ‘commanding’ their own proper act with its distinct, subordinate proper end and ‘referring’ or ‘mediating’ that act to beatitude. These diverse species of virtue effect distinct movements of will, practical reason, and passion answering to our distinct reasons for acting and the complex relations between those reasons. The role a virtue plays in our lives is distinct from what it produces in the world. This article elucidates, defends, and illustrates this vision, showing how it coheres with and illumines ethical life and why Thomas endorsed it, answering opponents who claim infused virtues replace acquired virtues, in fact or function, and showing non-specialists what is at stake in this debate.



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