Aquinas on Habit
William C. Mattison III
A compelling analysis tying the work of Aquinas to contemporary literature on virtue
Despite heightened attention to virtue, contemporary philosophical and theological literature has failed to offer detailed analysis of how people attain and grow in the good habits we know as the virtues. Though popular literature provides instruction on attaining and growing in virtue, it lacks careful scholarly analysis of what exactly these good habits are in which we grow.
Growing in Virtue is the only comprehensive account of growth in virtue in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Mattison offers a robust account of habits, including what habits are, why they are needed, and what they supply once possessed. He draws on Aquinas to carefully delineate the commonalities and differences between natural (acquired) virtues and graced (infused) virtues. Along the way, Mattison discusses the distinction between disposition and habit; the role of “custom” in virtue formation; the nature of virtuous passions; the distinct contribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to graced life; explanations for persistent activity after the loss of virtue; and the possibility of coexistence of the infused and acquired virtues in the same person.
For readers interested in virtue and morality from a philosophical perspective and scholars of theological ethics and moral theology in particular, Mattison offers compelling arguments from the work of Aquinas explicitly connected to contemporary scholarship in philosophical virtue ethics.
1. Habits: Second Nature Perfections of Personal Potential
2. Habits and Dispositions
3. Becoming Disposed: Nature and Nurture
4. Attaining Properly Human Habits: Acquired Virtues
5. Growing in Acquired Virtue
6. Attaining Supernatural Habits: Infused Virtue
7. Growing in Infused Virtue
Appendix: Disputed Question on the Acquired Virtues in the Life of Grace
"A leading Aquinas expert offers this rigorous yet lucid guide to his thoughts on habits, growth in virtue, and the interplay of divine and human action in the moral life. An indispensable text for Thomists that invites contemporary virtue ethicists to deeper engagement with Aquinas’s ever-relevant legacy."—Kate Ward, assistant professor, Department of Theology, Marquette University
"Mattison gracefully untangles the subtleties in Aquinas’s account of moral development so as to reveal the full scope of what the Common Doctor has to teach us about the inner dynamics of virtue. This book does more than fill a gap in academic discourse; it offers a rich way of understanding the broader relationship between moral theory and moral life."—Patrick M. Clark, assistant professor of theology/religious studies, University of Scranton
"Engagingly written and deftly argued, Mattison's book fills an important lacuna—a work that lays out precisely and persuasively the crucial aspects underlying and implicated in Thomas Aquinas's profound virtue ethics. This exceedingly instructive work will be a must-read for all moral theologians and students of Aquinas's thought."—Reinhard Huetter
, professor of fundamental and dogmatic theology, The Catholic University of America
"Amidst the wealth of contemporary scholarship on Thomas Aquinas’s moral theology, a comprehensive account of Aquinas’s understanding of habit and growth in the virtues has been missing. Growing in Virtue richly fills that gap, providing an indispensable resource for all those interested in Thomistic virtue ethics."—Jennifer Herdt, Yale University
"Mattison not only provides a characteristically definitive guide to the dynamics of the virtues, but also uncovers neglected distinctions—such as habit/disposition and nature/custom—that turn out to be essential for both personal growth and a virtue-driven social ethics. Not just for Aquinas experts!"—David Cloutier, assistant professor of moral theology/ethics and moral theology/ethics area director, The Catholic University of America
"Enormously readable, Growing in Virtue should serve as a classroom introduction to the topics it treats. Mattison's enviable erudition and balanced judgment pay off especially in the conceptually dense and often groundbreaking later chapters. Offering a profound analysis of action, growth,and regression in the Christian life of virtue, this book establishes Mattison in the highest echelon of contemporary Thomists."—Matthew Levering, James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
"While there has been much recent scholarship on Aquinas’s moral theory, few scholars have tackled the complex framework of habit and disposition that underlies his account of virtue. In this important book, Bill Mattison pushes Thomist scholarship in precisely the direction it needs to go, and it is hard to think of anyone more qualified to do it. Anyone serious about understanding Aquinas’s account of virtue will need to read this book."—Angela Knobel, associate professor of philosophy, University of Dallas
"Aquinas’s account of habit has received relatively little scholarly attention until recently. William Mattison’s comprehensive and closely argued analysis of habit in Aquinas represents a major addition to the literature on this difficult topic. In the course of tracing Aquinas’s treatment of habit, he offers us accounts of moral formation, the orientation of the virtues to the last end, the distinctiveness of the infused virtues, and the central role played by the gifts in the life of grace. This book sets a benchmark for scholarly work on Aquinas’s moral theory, and it offers much value to anyone with an interest in the moral psychology of the virtues."—Jean Porter, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Notre Dame
"With this book Mattison establishes himself in the first rank of both contemporary Thomists and theological ethicists."—Catholic Books Review
William C. Mattison III is the Wilsey Family Associate Professor of Theology at Notre Dame. He is the author of Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues and The Sermon on the Mount and Natural Theology: A Virtue Perspective.
266 pp., 6 x 9
266 pp., 6 x 9
Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ