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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[181] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE ACTIVE LIFE (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE ACTIVE LIFE (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider the active life, under which head there are four
points of inquiry:

(1) Whether all the works of the moral virtues pertain to the active
life?

(2) Whether prudence pertains to the active life?

(3) Whether teaching pertains to the active life?

(4) Of the duration of the active life.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether all the actions of the moral virtues pertain to the active life?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the acts of the moral virtues do not all
pertain to the active life. For seemingly the active life regards only
our relations with other persons: hence Gregory says (Hom. xiv in Ezech.)
that "the active life is to give bread to the hungry," and after
mentioning many things that regard our relations with other people he
adds finally, "and to give to each and every one whatever he needs." Now
we are directed in our relations to others, not by all the acts of moral
virtues, but only by those of justice and its parts, as stated above
(Q[58], AA[2],8; FS, Q[60], AA[2],3). Therefore the acts of the moral
virtues do not all pertain to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, Gregory says (Hom. xiv in Ezech.) that Lia who was
blear-eyed but fruitful signifies the active life: which "being occupied
with work, sees less, and yet since it urges one's neighbor both by word
and example to its imitation it begets a numerous offspring of good
deeds." Now this would seem to belong to charity, whereby we love our
neighbor, rather than to the moral virtues. Therefore seemingly the acts
of moral virtue do not pertain to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, as stated above (Q[180], A[2]), the moral virtues
dispose one to the contemplative life. Now disposition and perfection
belong to the same thing. Therefore it would seem that the moral virtues
do not pertain to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Isidore says (De Summo Bono iii, 15): "In the active
life all vices must first of all be extirpated by the practice of good
works, in order that in the contemplative life the mind's eye being
purified one may advance to the contemplation of the Divine light." Now
all vices are not extirpated save by acts of the moral virtues. Therefore
the acts of the moral virtues pertain to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, As stated above (Q[179], A[1]) the active and the
contemplative life differ according to the different occupations of men
intent on different ends: one of which occupations is the consideration
of the truth; and this is the end of the contemplative life, while the
other is external work to which the active life is directed.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] Body Para. 2/2

Now it is evident that the moral virtues are directed chiefly, not to
the contemplation of truth but to operation. Wherefore the Philosopher
says (Ethic. ii, 4) that "for virtue knowledge is of little or no avail."
Hence it is clear that the moral virtues belong essentially to the active
life; for which reason the Philosopher (Ethic. x, 8) subordinates the
moral virtues to active happiness.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The chief of the moral virtues is justice by which one man
is directed in his relations towards another, as the Philosopher proves
(Ethic. v, 1). Hence the active life is described with reference to our
relations with other people, because it consists in these things, not
exclusively, but principally.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: It is possible, by the acts of all the moral virtues, for
one to direct one's neighbor to good by example: and this is what Gregory
here ascribes to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/2

Reply OBJ 3: Even as the virtue that is directed to the end of another
virtue passes, as it were, into the species of the latter virtue, so
again when a man makes use of things pertaining to the active life,
merely as dispositions to contemplation, such things are comprised under
the contemplative life. On the other hand, when we practice the works of
the moral virtues, as being good in themselves, and not as dispositions
to the contemplative life, the moral virtues belong to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 2/2

It may also be replied, however, that the active life is a disposition
to the contemplative life.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether prudence pertains to the active life?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that prudence does not pertain to the active life.
For just as the contemplative life belongs to the cognitive power, so the
active life belongs to the appetitive power. Now prudence belongs not to
the appetitive but to the cognitive power. Therefore prudence does not
belong to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, Gregory says (Hom. xiv in Ezech.) that the "active life
being occupied with work, sees less," wherefore it is signified by Lia
who was blear-eyed. But prudence requires clear eyes, so that one may
judge aright of what has to be done. Therefore it seems that prudence
does not pertain to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, prudence stands between the moral and the intellectual
virtues. Now just as the moral virtues belong to the active life, as
stated above (A[1]), so do the intellectual virtues pertain to the
contemplative life. Therefore it would seem that prudence pertains
neither to the active nor to the contemplative life, but to an
intermediate kind of life, of which Augustine makes mention (De Civ. Dei
xix, 2,3,19).

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 8) that prudence
pertains to active happiness, to which the moral virtues belong.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, As stated above (A[1], ad 3; FS, Q[18], A[6]), if one
thing be directed to another as its end, it is drawn, especially in moral
matters, to the species of the thing to which it is directed: for
instance "he who commits adultery that he may steal, is a thief rather
than an adulterer," according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 2). Now it is
evident that the knowledge of prudence is directed to the works of the
moral virtues as its end, since it is "right reason applied to action"
(Ethic. vi, 5); so that the ends of the moral virtues are the principles
of prudence, as the Philosopher says in the same book. Accordingly, as it
was stated above (A[1], ad 3) that the moral virtues in one who directs
them to the quiet of contemplation belong to the contemplative life, so
the knowledge of prudence, which is of itself directed to the works of
the moral virtues, belongs directly to the active life, provided we take
prudence in its proper sense as the Philosopher speaks of it.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] Body Para. 2/2

If, however, we take it in a more general sense, as comprising any kind
of human knowledge, then prudence, as regards a certain part thereof,
belongs to the contemplative life. In this sense Tully (De Offic. i, 5)
says that "the man who is able most clearly and quickly to grasp the
truth and to unfold his reasons, is wont to be considered most prudent
and wise."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Moral works take their species from their end, as stated
above (FS, Q[18], AA[4],6), wherefore the knowledge pertaining to the
contemplative life is that which has its end in the very knowledge of
truth; whereas the knowledge of prudence, through having its end in an
act of the appetitive power, belongs to the active life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: External occupation makes a man see less in intelligible
things, which are separated from sensible objects with which the works of
the active life are concerned. Nevertheless the external occupation of
the active life enables a man to see more clearly in judging of what is
to be done, which belongs to prudence, both on account of experience, and
on account of the mind's attention, since "brains avail when the mind is
attentive" as Sallust observes [*Bell. Catilin., LI].

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Prudence is said to be intermediate between the
intellectual and the moral virtues because it resides in the same subject
as the intellectual virtues, and has absolutely the same matter as the
moral virtues. But this third kind of life is intermediate between the
active and the contemplative life as regards the things about which it is
occupied, because it is occupied sometimes with the contemplation of the
truth, sometimes with eternal things.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether teaching is a work of the active or of the contemplative life?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that teaching is a work not of the active but of
the contemplative life. For Gregory says (Hom. v in Ezech.) that "the
perfect who have been able to contemplate heavenly goods, at least
through a glass, proclaim them to their brethren, whose minds they
inflame with love for their hidden beauty." But this pertains to
teaching. Therefore teaching is a work of the contemplative life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, act and habit would seem to be referable to the same
kind of life. Now teaching is an act of wisdom: for the Philosopher says
(Metaph. i, 1) that "to be able to teach is an indication of knowledge."
Therefore since wisdom or knowledge pertain to the contemplative life, it
would seem that teaching also belongs to the contemplative life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, prayer, no less than contemplation, is an act of the
contemplative life. Now prayer, even when one prays for another, belongs
to the contemplative life. Therefore it would seem that it belongs also
to the contemplative life to acquaint another, by teaching him, of the
truth we have meditated.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory says (Hom. xiv in Ezech.): "The active life is
to give bread to the hungry, to teach the ignorant the words of wisdom."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, The act of teaching has a twofold object. For teaching is
conveyed by speech, and speech is the audible sign of the interior
concept. Accordingly one object of teaching is the matter or object of
the interior concept; and as to this object teaching belongs sometimes to
the active, sometimes to the contemplative life. It belongs to the active
life, when a man conceives a truth inwardly, so as to be directed thereby
in his outward action; but it belongs to the contemplative life when a
man conceives an intelligible truth, in the consideration and love
whereof he delights. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. Serm. civ, 1):
"Let them choose for themselves the better part," namely the
contemplative life, "let them be busy with the word, long for the
sweetness of teaching, occupy themselves with salutary knowledge," thus
stating clearly that teaching belongs to the contemplative life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] Body Para. 2/2

The other object of teaching is on the part of the speech heard, and
thus the object of teaching is the hearer. As to this object all doctrine
belongs to the active life to which external actions pertain.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The authority quoted speaks expressly of doctrine as to its
matter, in so far as it is concerned with the consideration and love of
truth.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Habit and act have a common object. Hence this argument
clearly considers the matter of the interior concept. For it pertains to
the man having wisdom and knowledge to be able to teach, in so far as he
is able to express his interior concept in words, so as to bring another
man to understand the truth.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: He who prays for another does nothing towards the man for
whom he prays, but only towards God Who is the intelligible truth;
whereas he who teaches another does something in his regard by external
action. Hence the comparison fails.

(tm)Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the active life remains after this life?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the active life remains after this life. For
the acts of the moral virtues belong to the active life, as stated above
(A[1]). But the moral virtues endure after this life according to
Augustine (De Trin. xiv, 9). Therefore the active life remains after this
life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, teaching others belongs to the active life, as stated
above (A[3]). But in the life to come when "we shall be like the angels,"
teaching will be possible: even as apparently it is in the angels of whom
one "enlightens, cleanses, and perfects" [*Coel. Hier. iii, viii]
another, which refers to the "receiving of knowledge," according to
Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii). Therefore it would seem that the active life
remains after this life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the more lasting a thing is in itself, the more is it
able to endure after this life. But the active life is seemingly more
lasting in itself: for Gregory says (Hom. v in Ezech.) that "we can
remain fixed in the active life, whereas we are nowise able to maintain
an attentive mind in the contemplative life." Therefore the active life
is much more able than the contemplative to endure after this life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory says (Hom. xiv in Ezech.): "The active life
ends with this world, but the contemplative life begins here, to be
perfected in our heavenly home."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), the active life has its end in
external actions: and if these be referred to the quiet of contemplation,
for that very reason they belong to the contemplative life. But in the
future life of the blessed the occupation of external actions will cease,
and if there be any external actions at all, these will be referred to
contemplation as their end. For, as Augustine says at the end of De
Civitate Dei xxii, 30, "there we shall rest and we shall see, we shall
see and love, we shall love and praise." And he had said before (De Civ.
Dei xxii, 30) that "there God will be seen without end, loved without
wearying, praised without tiring: such will be the occupation of all, the
common love, the universal activity."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: As stated above (Q[136], A[1], ad 1), the moral virtues
will remain not as to those actions which are about the means, but as to
the actions which are about the end. Such acts are those that conduce to
the quiet of contemplation, which in the words quoted above Augustine
denotes by "rest," and this rest excludes not only outward disturbances
but also the inward disturbance of the passions.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/3

Reply OBJ 2: The contemplative life, as stated above (Q[180], A[4]),
consists chiefly in the contemplation of God, and as to this, one angel
does not teach another, since according to Mt. 18:10, "the little ones'
angels," who belong to the lower order, "always see the face of the
Father"; and so, in the life to come, no man will teach another of God,
but "we shall" all "see Him as He is" (1 Jn. 3:2). This is in keeping
with the saying of Jeremias 31:34: "They shall teach no more every man
his neighbor . . . saying: Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the
least of them even to the greatest."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 2/3

But as regards things pertaining to the "dispensation of the mysteries
of God," one angel teaches another by cleansing, enlightening, and
perfecting him: and thus they have something of the active life so long
as the world lasts, from the fact that they are occupied in administering
to the creatures below them. This is signified by the fact that Jacob saw
angels "ascending" the ladder - which refers to contemplation - and
"descending" - which refers to action. Nevertheless, as Gregory remarks
(Moral. ii, 3), "they do not wander abroad from the Divine vision, so as
to be deprived of the joys of inward contemplation." Hence in them the
active life does not differ from the contemplative life as it does in us
for whom the works of the active life are a hindrance to contemplation.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 3/3

Nor is the likeness to the angels promised to us as regards the
administering to lower creatures, for this is competent to us not by
reason of our natural order, as it is to the angels, but by reason of our
seeing God.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[181] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: That the durability of the active life in the present state
surpasses the durability of the contemplative life arises not from any
property of either life considered in itself, but from our own
deficiency, since we are withheld from the heights of contemplation by
the weight of the body. Hence Gregory adds (Moral. ii, 3) that "the mind
through its very weakness being repelled from that immense height recoils
on itself."





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