The essence of virtue


fighting girlThe German philosopher Josef Pieper says in Leisure, the Basis of Culture:

“…according to Kant, the moral law by definition is opposed to natural inclination. It is simply part of the nature of things that the Good is difficult and that the voluntary effort put into forcing oneself to do something becomes the standard for moral goodness. “

“Effort is good’: objecting to this thesis in the Summa theologieae, Thomas Aquinas wrote as follows: ‘The essence of virtue consists more in the Good than in the Difficult.’ ‘When something is more difficult, it is not for that reason necessarily more worthwhile, but it must be more difficult in such a way as to be at a higher level of goodness.’ The Middle Ages had something to say about virtue that whill be hard for us fellow countrymen of Kant to understand. And what was this? That virtue makes it possible for us …to master our natural inclinations? No. That is what Kant would have said, and we all might be ready to agree. What Thomas says, instead, is that virtue perfects us so that we can follow our natural inclination in the right way. Yes, the highest realizations of moral goodness are known to be such precisely in that they take place effortlessly because it is of their essence to arise from love.”

‘The essence of virtue consists more in the Good than in the Difficult.’ Thomas Aquinas

Virtues shapes our inclinations into the right directions, onto the right path, and makes doing the right thing easier.

I guess, here the easy part stops……

The reference from Pieper’s book is taken from Beth Bilynskyj. She blogs at:



One thought on “The essence of virtue

  1. Or maybe the hard part is getting to the point of finally internalizing the virtue…kind of like learning to play a sonata on the piano. At first, it takes lots of painful practice to read the notes and have one’s fingers match the keys. But at some point things “click” and one is able to play the sonata seemingly “effortlessly.”

    I love Josef Pieper, Mary! Have you read his “Zustimmung zur Welt; eine Theorie des Festes” ? I think you would enjoy it.


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