St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province


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Deinde considerandum est de partibus subiectivis temperantiae.
  • Et primo, de his quae sunt circa delectationes ciborum;
  • secundo, de his quae sunt circa delectationes venereorum.
Circa primum, considerandum est de abstinentia, quae est circa cibos et potus; et de sobrietate, quae est specialiter circa potum.
   We must now consider the subjective parts of temperance:
  • first, those which are about pleasures of food;
  • secondly, those which are about pleasures of sex.
The first consideration will include abstinence, which is about meat and drink, and sobriety, which is specifically about drink.
Circa abstinentiam autem consideranda sunt tria,
  • primo, de ipsa abstinentia;
  • secundo, de actu eius, qui est ieiunium;
  • tertio, de vitio opposito, quod est gula.
   With regard to abstinence three points have to be considered:
  • (1) Abstinence itself;
  • (2) its act which is fasting;
  • (3) its opposite vice which is gluttony.
Circa abstinentiam autem quaeruntur duo. Under the first head there are two points of inquiry:
Primo, utrum abstinentia sit virtus.     (1) Whether abstinence is a virtue?
Secundo, utrum sit virtus specialis.     (2) Whether it is a special virtue?


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Question: 146  [<< | >>]
Article: 1  [<< | >>]

Whether abstinence is a virtue?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod abstinentia non sit virtus. Dicit enim apostolus, I ad Cor. IV, non est regnum Dei in sermone, sed in virtute. In abstinentia autem non consistit regnum Dei, dicit enim apostolus, Rom. XIV, non est regnum Dei esca et potus; ubi dicit Glossa nec in abstinendo nec in manducando esse iustitiam. Ergo abstinentia non est virtus.   Objection 1: It seems that abstinence is not a virtue. For the Apostle says (1 Cor. 4:20): "The kingdom of God is not in speech but in power [virtute]." Now the kingdom of God does not consist in abstinence, for the Apostle says (Rm. 14:17): "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink," where a gloss [*Cf. St. Augustine, Questions. Evang. ii, qu. 11] observes that "justice consists neither in abstaining nor in eating." Therefore abstinence is not a virtue.
Praeterea, Augustinus dicit, in X Confess., ad Deum loquens, hoc me docuisti, ut quemadmodum medicamenta, sic alimenta sumpturus accedam. Sed medicamenta moderari non pertinet ad virtutem, sed ad artem medicinae. Ergo, pari ratione, moderari alimenta, quod pertinet ad abstinentiam, non est actus virtutis, sed artis.   Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (Confess. x, 11) addressing himself to God: "This hast Thou taught me, that I should set myself to take food as physic." Now it belongs not to virtue, but to the medical art to regulate medicine. Therefore, in like manner, to regulate one's food, which belongs to abstinence, is an act not of virtue but of art.
Praeterea, omnis virtus in medio consistit, ut habetur in II Ethic. Abstinentia autem non videtur in medio consistere, sed in defectu, cum ex subtractione nominetur. Ergo abstinentia non est virtus.   Objection 3: Further, every virtue "observes the mean," as stated in Ethic. ii, 6,7. But abstinence seemingly inclines not to the mean but to deficiency, since it denotes retrenchment. Therefore abstinence is not a virtue.
Praeterea, nulla virtus excludit aliam. Sed abstinentia excludit patientiam, dicit enim Gregorius, in pastorali, quod mentes abstinentium plerumque impatientia excutit a sinu tranquillitatis. Ibidem etiam dicit quod cogitationes abstinentium nonnunquam superbiae culpa transfigit, et ita excludit humilitatem. Ergo abstinentia non est virtus.   Objection 4: Further, no virtue excludes another virtue. But abstinence excludes patience: for Gregory says (Pastor. iii, 19) that "impatience not unfrequently dislodges the abstainer's mind from its peaceful seclusion." Likewise he says (Pastor. iii, 19) that "sometimes the sin of pride pierces the thoughts of the abstainer," so that abstinence excludes humility. Therefore abstinence is not a virtue.
Sed contra est quod dicitur II Pet. I, ministrate in fide vestra virtutem, in virtute autem scientiam, in scientia autem abstinentiam, ubi abstinentia aliis virtutibus connumeratur. Ergo abstinentia est virtus.   On the contrary, It is written (2 Pt. 1:5,6): "Join with your faith virtue, and with virtue knowledge, and with knowledge abstinence"; where abstinence is numbered among other virtues. Therefore abstinence is a virtue.
Respondeo dicendum quod abstinentia ex suo nomine importat subtractionem ciborum. Dupliciter ergo nomen abstinentiae accipi potest. Uno modo, secundum quod absolute ciborum subtractionem designat. Et hoc modo abstinentia non designat neque virtutem neque actum virtutis, sed quiddam indifferens. Alio modo potest accipi secundum quod est ratione regulata. Et tunc significat vel habitum virtutis, vel actum. Et hoc significatur in praemissa auctoritate Petri, ubi dicitur in scientia abstinentiam ministrandam, ut scilicet homo a cibis abstineat prout oportet, pro congruentia hominum cum quibus vivit et personae suae, et pro valetudinis suae necessitate.   I answer that, Abstinence by its very name denotes retrenchment of food. Hence the term abstinence may be taken in two ways. First, as denoting retrenchment of food absolutely, and in this way it signifies neither a virtue nor a virtuous act, but something indifferent. Secondly, it may be taken as regulated by reason, and then it signifies either a virtuous habit or a virtuous act. This is the meaning of Peter's words quoted above, where he says that we ought "to join abstinence with knowledge," namely that in abstaining from food a man should act with due regard for those among whom he lives, for his own person, and for the requirements of health.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod et usus ciborum et eorum abstinentia secundum se considerata, non pertinent ad regnum Dei, dicit enim apostolus, I ad Cor. VIII, esca nos non commendat Deo. Neque enim, si non manducaverimus, deficiemus, neque, si manducabimus, abundabimus, scilicet spiritualiter. Utrumque autem eorum secundum quod fit rationabiliter ex fide et dilectione Dei, pertinet ad regnum Dei.   Reply to Objection 1: The use of and abstinence from food, considered in themselves, do not pertain to the kingdom of God, since the Apostle says (1 Cor. 8:8): "Meat doth not commend us to God. For neither, if we eat not [*Vulg.: 'Neither if we eat . . . nor if we eat not'], shall we have the less, nor if we eat, shall we have the more," i.e. spiritually. Nevertheless they both belong to the kingdom of God, in so far as they are done reasonably through faith and love of God.
Ad secundum dicendum quod moderatio ciborum secundum quantitatem et qualitatem pertinet ad artem medicinae in comparatione ad valetudinem corporis, sed secundum interiores affectiones, in comparatione ad bonum rationis, pertinet ad abstinentiam. Unde Augustinus dicit, in libro de quaest. Evang., non interest omnino, scilicet ad virtutem, quid alimentorum vel quantum quis accipiat, dummodo id faciat pro congruentia hominum cum quibus vivit et personae suae, et pro valetudinis suae necessitate, sed quanta facilitate et serenitate animi his valeat, cum oportet vel necesse est, carere.   Reply to Objection 2: The regulation of food, in the point of quantity and quality, belongs to the art of medicine as regards the health of the body: but in the point of internal affections with regard to the good of reason, it belongs to abstinence. Hence Augustine says (Questions. Evang. ii, qu. 11): "It makes no difference whatever to virtue what or how much food a man takes, so long as he does it with due regard for the people among whom he lives, for his own person, and for the requirements of his health: but it matters how readily and uncomplainingly he does without food when bound by duty or necessity to abstain."
Ad tertium dicendum quod ad temperantiam pertinet refrenare delectationes quae nimis animum ad se alliciunt, sicut ad fortitudinem pertinet firmare animum contra timores a bono rationis repellentes. Et ideo sicut laus fortitudinis consistit in quodam excessu, et ex hoc denominantur omnes partes fortitudinis; ita etiam laus temperantiae consistit in quodam defectu, et ex hoc ipsa et omnes partes eius denominantur. Unde et abstinentia, quia pars est temperantiae, denominatur a defectu. Et tamen consistit in medio, inquantum est secundum rationem rectam.   Reply to Objection 3: It belongs to temperance to bridle the pleasures which are too alluring to the soul, just as it belongs to fortitude to strengthen the soul against fears that deter it from the good of reason. Wherefore, just as fortitude is commended on account of a certain excess, from which all the parts of fortitude take their name, so temperance is commended for a kind of deficiency, from which all its parts are denominated. Hence abstinence, since it is a part of temperance, is named from deficiency, and yet it observes the mean, in so far as it is in accord with right reason.
Ad quartum dicendum quod illa vitia proveniunt ex abstinentia prout non est secundum rationem rectam. Ratio enim recta facit abstinere sicut oportet, scilicet cum hilaritate mentis; et propter quod oportet, scilicet propter gloriam Dei, non propter gloriam suam.   Reply to Objection 4: Those vices result from abstinence in so far as it is not in accord with right reason. For right reason makes one abstain as one ought, i.e. with gladness of heart, and for the due end, i.e. for God's glory and not one's own.


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Article: 2  [<< | >>]

Whether abstinence is a special virtue?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod abstinentia non sit specialis virtus. Omnis enim virtus secundum seipsam est laudabilis. Sed abstinentia non est secundum se laudabilis, dicit enim Gregorius, in pastorali, quod virtus abstinentiae non nisi ex aliis virtutibus commendatur. Ergo abstinentia non est specialis virtus.   Objection 1: It would seem that abstinence is not a special virtue. For every virtue is praiseworthy by itself. But abstinence is not praiseworthy by itself; for Gregory says (Pastor. iii, 19) that "the virtue of abstinence is praised only on account of the other virtues." Therefore abstinence is not a special virtue.
Praeterea, Augustinus dicit, de fide ad Petrum, quod abstinentia sanctorum est a cibo et potu, non quia aliqua creatura Dei sit mala, sed pro sola corporis castigatione. Hoc autem pertinet ad castitatem, ut ex ipso nomine apparet. Ergo abstinentia non est virtus specialis a castitate distincta.   Objection 2: Further, Augustine [*Fulgentius] says (De Fide ad Pet. xlii) that "the saints abstain from meat and drink, not that any creature of God is evil, but merely in order to chastise the body." Now this belongs to chastity, as its very name denotes. Therefore abstinence is not a special virtue distinct from chastity.
Praeterea, sicut homo debet esse contentus moderato cibo, ita et moderata veste, secundum illud I ad Tim. ult., habentes alimenta et quibus tegamur, his contenti simus. In moderatione autem vestium non est aliqua specialis virtus. Ergo neque abstinentia, quae est moderativa alimentorum.   Objection 3: Further, as man should be content with moderate meat, so should he be satisfied with moderate clothes, according to 1 Tim. 6:8, "Having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we should be [Vulg.: 'are'] content." Now there is no special virtue in being content with moderate clothes. Neither, therefore, is there in abstinence which moderates food.
Sed contra est quod Macrobius ponit abstinentiam specialem partem temperantiae.   On the contrary, Macrobius [*In Somn. Scip. i, 8] reckons abstinence as a special part of temperance.
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, virtus moralis conservat bonum rationis contra impetus passionum, et ideo ubi invenitur specialis ratio qua passio abstrahat a bono rationis, ibi necesse est esse specialem virtutem. Delectationes autem ciborum natae sunt abstrahere hominem a bono rationis, tum propter earum magnitudinem; tum etiam propter necessitatem ciborum, quibus homo indiget ad vitae conservationem, quam maxime homo desiderat. Et ideo abstinentia est specialis virtus.   I answer that, As stated above (Question [136], Article [1]; Question [141], Article [3]) moral virtue maintains the good of reason against the onslaught of the passions: hence whenever we find a special motive why a passion departs from the good of reason, there is need of a special virtue. Now pleasures of the table are of a nature to withdraw man from the good of reason, both because they are so great, and because food is necessary to man who needs it for the maintenance of life, which he desires above all other things. Therefore abstinence is a special virtue.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod virtutes oportet esse connexas, ut supra dictum est. Et ideo una virtus adiuvatur et commendatur ex alia, sicut iustitia a fortitudine. Et per hunc etiam modum virtus abstinentiae commendatur ex aliis virtutibus.   Reply to Objection 1: Virtues are of necessity connected together, as stated above (FS, Question [65], Article [1]). Wherefore one virtue receives help and commendation from another, as justice from fortitude. Accordingly in this way the virtue of abstinence receives commendation on account of the other virtues.
Ad secundum dicendum quod per abstinentiam corpus castigatur non solum contra illecebram luxuriae, sed etiam contra illecebras gulae, quia dum homo abstinet, magis redditur fortis ad impugnationes gulae vincendas, quae tanto fortiores sunt quanto homo eis magis cedit. Et tamen non prohibetur abstinentiam esse specialem virtutem per hoc quod ad castitatem valet, quia una virtus ad aliam iuvat.   Reply to Objection 2: The body is chastised by means of abstinence, not only against the allurements of lust, but also against those of gluttony: since by abstaining a man gains strength for overcoming the onslaughts of gluttony, which increase in force the more he yields to them. Yet abstinence is not prevented from being a special virtue through being a help to chastity, since one virtue helps another.
Ad tertium dicendum quod usus vestimentorum est introductus ab arte, usus autem ciborum a natura. Et ideo magis debet esse virtus specialis circa moderationem ciborum quam circa moderationem vestimentorum.   Reply to Objection 3: The use of clothing was devised by art, whereas the use of food is from nature. Hence it is more necessary to have a special virtue for the moderation of food than for the moderation of clothing.

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