Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Some stuff I'm just working out

In theological parlance faith, hope and love are known as the theological virtues. Faith is especially related to the intellect and its pursuit of truth, hope to the memory and its experience of beauty and love to the will and its appetite for goodness. (from Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed)
Hope is related to memory and its experience of beauty! That is fascinating. I don't much about all this as the medieval accounts of the virtues are new to me.

The text goes on to say,
The theological virtues are also related to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with wisdom, understanding and knowledge having a particular association with faith, fortitude with hope, and fear of the Lord and piety with love.
Why does fortitude go with hope?

Fortitude is a cardinal virtue. That means a lot of stuff but the thing that I'm thinking about now is that it is one of the virtues that you can cultivate on your own. That is unlike the theological virtues which only come with grace. On the other hand, how do "gifts of the Holy Spirit" work? Is the fortitude that comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit a special variety of fortitude that cannot be had through conscientious habit formation alone? Probably.

Fortitude, in Catholic moral thinking, is what gives us constancy. Is that constancy the same as what Jane Austen understood as constancy? It gets tricky here because the vocabulary is fluid.

In the medieval discussion of the virtues, "fortitude" replaces the classical virtue of "courage". Fortitude is understood to be more than courage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1809) says,
Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.
For Jane Austen, the supreme examples of Constancy are Fanny Price in Mansfield Park and Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. We see it most impressively when Sir Thomas, irked at Fanny for refusing the marriage proposal of Henry Crawford, sends her home to endure the squalor of poverty in the hopes that this will make her change her mind. Fanny holds out even though it becomes painfully obvious to both her and us that she may live a horrible life as a price of her constancy. So, yes, I'd say that Austen means the same thing by constancy as the Catholic church does by fortitude.

And that's all I'll say for now.

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