This study locates Aquinas’s theory of infused and acquired virtue in his foundational understanding of nature and grace.
Aquinas holds that all the virtues are bestowed on humans by God along with the gift of sanctifying grace. Since he also holds, with Aristotle, that we can create virtuous dispositions in ourselves through our own repeated good acts, a question arises: How are we to understand the relationship between the virtues God infuses at the moment of grace and virtues that are gradually acquired over time? In this important book, Angela McKay Knobel provides a detailed examination of Aquinas’s theory of infused moral virtue, with special attention to the question of how the infused and acquired moral virtues are related. Part 1 examines Aquinas’s own explicit remarks about the infused and acquired virtues and considers whether and to what extent a coherent “theory” of the relationship between the infused and acquired virtues can be found in Aquinas. Knobel argues that while Aquinas says almost nothing about how the infused and acquired virtues are related, he clearly does believe that the “structure” of the infused virtues mirrors that of the acquired in important ways. Part 2 uses that structure to evaluate existing interpretations of Aquinas and argues that no existing account adequately captures Aquinas’s most fundamental commitments. Knobel ultimately argues that the correct account lies somewhere between the two most commonly advocated theories. Written primarily for students and scholars of moral philosophy and theology, the book will also appeal to readers interested in understanding Aquinas’s theory of virtue.
1. The Structure of Natural Virtue
2. The Structure of Supernatural Virtue
3. Relating the Virtues: Aquinas’s Texts
4. Interpretive Options Part I: Coexistence
5. Interpretive Options Part II: Unification
6. A Proposal for a Way Forward
Angela McKay Knobel is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas. She is co-editor of Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology.
“Knobel provides what is now likely the best book available on virtue in Aquinas’s thought. Through meticulous engagement with Thomas’s text, she delineates the commonalities and discontinuities between the acquired and infused virtues and supplies a decisive intervention in recent debate on the relationship between them.” —William C. Mattison III, author of The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology
"Much ink has been spilled over the question of the relation between the acquired and the infused virtues in Aquinas’s thought. To this dense thicket of debate, Angela McKay Knobel brings admirable clarity, judicious attention to texts, and constructive imagination. Warmly recommended!" —Jennifer A. Herdt, author of Putting on Virtue
"A masterpiece of careful, insightful analysis and respectful but forthright critique...a major contribution to both Thomistic scholarship and virtue theory more generally." —Speculum
"The first substantial English monograph on Aquinas's account of the infused virtues in many years, and the most significant treatment of the issue since Gabriel Bullet." —The Review of Metaphysics
"Knobel’s book is a fine study of Aquinas’s theory of virtue that will be essential reading not only for scholars working in the field of Thomistic ethics, but for any moral theologian interested in reflecting on the dynamics of graced human action." —Journal of Moral Theology
"Knobel presents her case with an admirable rigour and clarity." —Theology