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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[1] Out. Para. 1/4 - SECOND PART OF THE SECOND PART (SS) (QQ[1]-189)
      • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] Out. Para. 1/1 - POTENTIAL PARTS OF TEMPERANCE, AND CONTRARY VICES (QQ[155]-170)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] Out. Para. 1/1 - POTENTIAL PARTS OF TEMPERANCE, AND CONTRARY VICES (QQ[155]-170)


OF CONTINENCE (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must next consider the potential parts of temperance: (1) continence;
(2) clemency; (3) modesty. Under the first head we must consider
continence and incontinence. With regard to continence there are four
points of inquiry:

(1) Whether continence is a virtue?

(2) What is its matter?

(3) What is its subject?

(4) Of its comparison with temperance.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether continence is a virtue?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that continence is not a virtue. For species and
genus are not co-ordinate members of the same division. But continence is
co-ordinated with virtue, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vii, 1,9).
Therefore continence is not a virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1
OBJ 2: Further, no one sins by using a virtue, since, according to
Augustine (De Lib. Arb. ii, 18,19), "a virtue is a thing that no one
makes ill use of." Yet one may sin by containing oneself: for instance,
if one desire to do a good, and contain oneself from doing it. Therefore
continence is not a virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, no virtue withdraws man from that which is lawful, but
only from unlawful things: for a gloss on Gal. 5:23, "Faith, modesty,"
etc., says that by continence a man refrains even from things that are
lawful. Therefore continence is not a virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Every praiseworthy habit would seem to be a virtue. Now
such is continence, for Andronicus says [*De Affectibus] that "continence
is a habit unconquered by pleasure." Therefore continence is a virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, The word "continence" is taken by various people in two
ways. For some understand continence to denote abstention from all
venereal pleasure: thus the Apostle joins continence to chastity (Gal.
5:23). In this sense perfect continence is virginity in the first place,
and widowhood in the second. Wherefore the same applies to continence
understood thus, as to virginity which we have stated above (Q[152], A[3]
) to be a virtue. Others, however, understand continence as signifying
that whereby a man resists evil desires, which in him are vehement. In
this sense the Philosopher takes continence (Ethic. vii, 7), and thus
also it is used in the Conferences of the Fathers (Collat. xii, 10,11).
In this way continence has something of the nature of a virtue, in so
far, to wit, as the reason stands firm in opposition to the passions,
lest it be led astray by them: yet it does not attain to the perfect
nature of a moral virtue, by which even the sensitive appetite is subject
to reason so that vehement passions contrary to reason do not arise in
the sensitive appetite. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 9) that
"continence is not a virtue but a mixture," inasmuch as it has something
of virtue, and somewhat falls short of virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] Body Para. 2/2

If, however, we take virtue in a broad sense, for any principle of
commendable actions, we may say that continence is a virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The Philosopher includes continence in the same division
with virtue in so far as the former falls short of virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Properly speaking, man is that which is according to
reason. Wherefore from the very fact that a man holds [tenet se] to that
which is in accord with reason, he is said to contain himself. Now
whatever pertains to perversion of reason is not according to reason.
Hence he alone is truly said to be continent who stands to that which is
in accord with right reason, and not to that which is in accord with
perverse reason. Now evil desires are opposed to right reason, even as
good desires are opposed to perverse reason. Wherefore he is properly and
truly continent who holds to right reason, by abstaining from evil
desires, and not he who holds to perverse reason, by abstaining from good
desires: indeed, the latter should rather be said to be obstinate in evil.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: The gloss quoted takes continence in the first sense, as
denoting a perfect virtue, which refrains not merely from unlawful goods,
but also from certain lawful things that are lesser goods, in order to
give its whole attention to the more perfect goods.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether desires for pleasures of touch are the matter of continence?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that desires for pleasures of touch are not the
matter of continence. For Ambrose says (De Offic. i, 46): "General
decorum by its consistent form and the perfection of what is virtuous is
restrained* in its every action." [*"Continentem" according to St.
Thomas' reading; St. Ambrose wrote "concinentem = harmonious"].

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, continence takes its name from a man standing for the
good of right reason, as stated above (A[1], ad 2). Now other passions
lead men astray from right reason with greater vehemence than the desire
for pleasures of touch: for instance, the fear of mortal dangers, which
stupefies a man, and anger which makes him behave like a madman, as
Seneca remarks [*De Ira i, 1]. Therefore continence does not properly
regard the desires for pleasures of touch.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 54): "It is continence
that restrains cupidity with the guiding hand of counsel." Now cupidity
is generally used to denote the desire for riches rather than the desire
for pleasures of touch, according to 1 Tim. 6:10, "Cupidity [Douay: 'The
desire of money'] ({philargyria}), is the root of all evils." Therefore
continence is not properly about the desires for pleasures of touch

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Obj. 4 Para. 1/1

OBJ 4: Further, there are pleasures of touch not only in venereal
matters but also in eating. But continence is wont to be applied only to
the use of venereal matters. Therefore the desire for pleasures of touch
is not its proper matter.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Obj. 5 Para. 1/1

OBJ 5: Further, among pleasures of touch some are not human but bestial,
both as regards food - for instance, the pleasure of eating human flesh;
and as regards venereal matters - for instance the abuse of animals or
boys. But continence is not about such like things, as stated in Ethic.
vii, 5. Therefore desires for pleasures of touch are not the proper
matter of continence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 4) that "continence
and incontinence are about the same things as temperance and
intemperance." Now temperance and intemperance are about the desires for
pleasures of touch, as stated above (Q[141], A[4]). Therefore continence
and incontinence are also about that same matter.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Continence denotes, by its very name, a certain curbing,
in so far as a man contains himself from following his passions. Hence
continence is properly said in reference to those passions which urge a
man towards the pursuit of something, wherein it is praiseworthy that
reason should withhold man from pursuing: whereas it is not properly
about those passions, such as fear and the like, which denote some kind
of withdrawal: since in these it is praiseworthy to remain firm in
pursuing what reason dictates, as stated above (Q[123], AA[3],4). Now it
is to be observed that natural inclinations are the principles of all
supervening inclinations, as stated above (FP, Q[60], A[2]). Wherefore
the more they follow the inclination of nature, the more strongly do the
passions urge to the pursuance of an object. Now nature inclines chiefly
to those things that are necessary to it, whether for the maintenance of
the individual, such as food, or for the maintenance of the species, such
as venereal acts, the pleasures of which pertain to the touch. Therefore
continence and incontinence refer properly to desires for pleasures of
touch.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Just as temperance may be used in a general sense in
connection with any matter; but is properly applied to that matter
wherein it is best for man to be curbed: so, too, continence properly
speaking regards that matter wherein it is best and most difficult to
contain oneself, namely desires for pleasures of touch, and yet in a
general sense and relatively may be applied to any other matter: and in
this sense Ambrose speaks of continence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Properly speaking we do not speak of continence in relation
to fear, but rather of firmness of mind which fortitude implies. As to
anger, it is true that it begets an impulse to the pursuit of something,
but this impulse follows an apprehension of the soul - in so far as a man
apprehends that someone has injured him - rather than an inclination of
nature. Wherefore a man may be said to be continent of anger, relatively
but not simply.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: External goods, such as honors, riches and the like, as the
Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 4), seem to be objects of choice in
themselves indeed, but not as being necessary for the maintenance of
nature. Wherefore in reference to such things we speak of a person as
being continent or incontinent, not simply, but relatively, by adding
that they are continent or incontinent in regard to wealth, or honor and
so forth. Hence Tully either understood continence in a general sense, as
including relative continence, or understood cupidity in a restricted
sense as denoting desire for pleasures of touch.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] R.O. 4 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 4: Venereal pleasures are more vehement than pleasures of the
palate: wherefore we are wont to speak of continence and incontinence in
reference to venereal matters rather than in reference to food; although
according to the Philosopher they are applicable to both.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[2] R.O. 5 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 5: Continence is a good of the human reason: wherefore it
regards those passions which can be connatural to man. Hence the
Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 5) that "if a man were to lay hold of a
child with desire of eating him or of satisfying an unnatural passion
whether he follow up his desire or not, he is said to be continent [*See
A[4]], not absolutely, but relatively."



Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the subject of continence is the concupiscible power?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the subject of continence is the concupiscible
power. For the subject of a virtue should be proportionate to the
virtue's matter. Now the matter of continence, as stated (A[2]), is
desires for the pleasures of touch, which pertain to the concupiscible
power. Therefore continence is in the concupiscible power.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, "Opposites are referred to one same thing" [*Categ.
viii]. But incontinence is in the concupiscible, whose passions overcome
reason, for Andronicus says [*De Affectibus] that "incontinence is the
evil inclination of the concupiscible, by following which it chooses
wicked pleasures in disobedience to reason." Therefore continence is
likewise in the concupiscible.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the subject of a human virtue is either the reason, or
the appetitive power, which is divided into the will, the concupiscible
and the irascible. Now continence is not in the reason, for then it would
be an intellectual virtue; nor is it in the will, since continence is
about the passions which are not in the will; nor again is it in the
irascible, because it is not properly about the passions of the
irascible, as stated above (A[2], ad 2). Therefore it follows that it is
in the concupiscible.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Every virtue residing in a certain power removes the
evil act of that power. But continence does not remove the evil act of
the concupiscible: since "the continent man has evil desires," according
to the Philosopher (Ethic. vii, 9). Therefore continence is not in the
concupiscible power.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Every virtue while residing in a subject, makes that
subject have a different disposition from that which it has while
subjected to the opposite vice. Now the concupiscible has the same
disposition in one who is continent and in one who is incontinent, since
in both of them it breaks out into vehement evil desires. Wherefore it is
manifest that continence is not in the concupiscible as its subject.
Again the reason has the same disposition in both, since both the
continent and the incontinent have right reason, and each of them, while
undisturbed by passion, purposes not to follow his unlawful desires. Now
the primary difference between them is to be found in their choice: since
the continent man, though subject to vehement desires, chooses not to
follow them, because of his reason; whereas the incontinent man chooses
to follow them, although his reason forbids. Hence continence must needs
reside in that power of the soul, whose act it is to choose; and that is
the will, as stated above (FS, Q[13], A[1]).

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Continence has for its matter the desires for pleasures of
touch, not as moderating them (this belongs to temperance which is in the
concupiscible), but its business with them is to resist them. For this
reason it must be in another power, since resistance is of one thing
against another.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The will stands between reason and the concupiscible, and
may be moved by either. In the continent man it is moved by the reason,
in the incontinent man it is moved by the concupiscible. Hence continence
may be ascribed to the reason as to its first mover, and incontinence to
the concupiscible power: though both belong immediately to the will as
their proper subject.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Although the passions are not in the will as their subject,
yet it is in the power of the will to resist them: thus it is that the
will of the continent man resists desires.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether continence is better than temperance?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that continence is better than temperance. For it
is written (Ecclus. 26:20): "No price is worthy of a continent soul."
Therefore no virtue can be equalled to continence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the greater the reward a virtue merits, the greater the
virtue. Now continence apparently merits the greater reward; for it is
written (2 Tim. 2:5): "He . . . is not crowned, except he strive
lawfully," and the continent man, since he is subject to vehement evil
desires, strives more than the temperate man, in whom these things are
not vehement. Therefore continence is a greater virtue than temperance.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the will is a more excellent power than the
concupiscible. But continence is in the will, whereas temperance is in
the concupiscible, as stated above (A[3]). Therefore continence is a
greater virtue than temperance.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Tully (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 54) and Andronicus [*De
Affectibus] reckon continence to be annexed to temperance, as to a
principal virtue.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), continence has a twofold
signification. In one way it denotes cessation from all venereal
pleasures; and if continence be taken in this sense, it is greater than
temperance considered absolutely, as may be gathered from what we said
above (Q[152], A[5]) concerning the preeminence of virginity over
chastity considered absolutely. In another way continence may be taken as
denoting the resistance of the reason to evil desires when they are
vehement in a man: and in this sense temperance is far greater than
continence, because the good of a virtue derives its praise from that
which is in accord with reason. Now the good of reason flourishes more in
the temperate man than in the continent man, because in the former even
the sensitive appetite is obedient to reason, being tamed by reason so to
speak, whereas in the continent man the sensitive appetite strongly
resists reason by its evil desires. Hence continence is compared to
temperance, as the imperfect to the perfect.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The passage quoted may be understood in two ways. First in
reference to the sense in which continence denotes abstinence from all
things venereal: and thus it means that "no price is worthy of a
continent soul," in the genus of chastity the fruitfulness of the flesh
is the purpose of marriage is equalled to the continence of virginity or
of widowhood, as stated above (Q[152], AA[4],5). Secondly it may be
understood in reference to the general sense in which continence denotes
any abstinence from things unlawful: and thus it means that "no price is
worthy of a continent soul," because its value is not measured with gold
or silver, which are appreciable according to weight.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The strength or weakness of concupiscence may proceed from
two causes. For sometimes it is owing to a bodily cause: because some
people by their natural temperament are more prone to concupiscence than
others; and again opportunities for pleasure which inflame the
concupiscence are nearer to hand for some people than for others. Such
like weakness of concupiscence diminishes merit, whereas strength of
concupiscence increases it. on the other hand, weakness or strength of
concupiscence arises from a praiseworthy spiritual cause, for instance
the vehemence of charity, or the strength of reason, as in the case of a
temperate man. In this way weakness of concupiscence, by reason of its
cause, increases merit, whereas strength of concupiscence diminishes it.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[155] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: The will is more akin to the reason than the concupiscible
power is. Wherefore the good of reason - on account of which virtue is
praised by the very fact that it reaches not only to the will but also to
the concupiscible power, as happens in the temperate man - is shown to be
greater than if it reach only to the will, as in the case of one who is
continent.





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