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Magnanimity: Aquinas’ Examination of the Aristocratic Virtue

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Abstract

According to Aristotle, a man’s economic and political status characterizes him in one of two ways: common or wealthy. Both classes possess the capacity to acquire all of the moral virtues (except one) by way of habituation, and the possession of these virtues makes a man good. However, magnanimity is a moral virtue that arises accidentally and is not part of the inherent moral paradigm within the species man, a paradigm that gives each man equal right to virtue. The common man is relegated to cultivating the set of moral virtues that include liberality; only the wealthy man can ascend into the domain that includes magnanimity. Aquinas believes he can reconcile this seemingly problematic dichotomy that elevates the virtue and honor of the rich man above that of the poor man. Although Aquinas attempts to alleviate this problem by showing how magnanimity is consigned to one of the four cardinal virtues, thus not placing it in as prominent of a position as Aristotle, who designates it “the crown of the virtues,” he still seems too over-accommodating toward the Aristotelian definition. This article will attempt to show how Aristotle’s definition of magnanimity creates two domains of virtue ethics and how Aquinas’ attempt at modification ultimately fails.

Keith Aaron Boozer, "Magnanimity: Aquinas' Examination of the Aristocratic Virtue," Journal of Markets & Morality 12, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 153-163


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