Cardinal and Theological Virtues



8/18 – Why, in your personal experience, is virtue so difficult to cultivate and develop?


Today in class, we reviewed the general definition of virtue (with the help of Simone Biles again! Here’s the link to her amazing floor routine if you want to relive the glory:

We also began to paint a picture of what virtue looks like, concretely, with the help of Thomas Aquinas’s distinction of the Cardinal and Theological virtues. In order to cultivate virtue, we first need to know what we’re striving for.

The 4 cardinal virtues are Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, and Prudence. These virtues are the 4 central virtues that are the source of all other virtues. The word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, or “hinge.” Hence, they are the 4 virtues that all other virtues “hinge” on. (The picture above depicts the 4 cardinal virtues. Extra challenge: see if you can figure out which is which.)

The 3 theological virtues are Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love). The theological virtues are distinct from the cardinal virtues in that they come from God’s grace. They cannot be “earned” or developed through human effort alone – ultimately, Thomas Aquinas argues that faith, hope, and charity come from our openness to God’s grace in our lives. If we desire faith, that desire itself is a gift of grace. If we desire love, that desire for love is already God acting in our lives. Although the theological virtues cannot be earned by human effort, we can still cultivate them by cultivating our openness to God and to the working of God in our life.

No assignment – we will finish talking about each of the individual virtues tomorrow!