Trinity and Virtue

The Cardinal Virtues are Moral Insight (φρόνησις), Courage, Self-control or Temperance, and Justice. These virtues stand or fall together, in the sense that he who possesses one possesses all. Zeno found the common source of all virtues in φρόνησις, while for Cleanthes it was self-mastery…

Source: Frederick Copleston. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. 2nd ed. Westminster: The Newman Press. 1950. p. 397.

The above passage about Stoic theories of virtue provides a glimpse of how the unity of the virtues, used by theologians as one analogy among many for understanding the Trinity, can be especially useful to this end. Note the discussion of which virtue is the source of the other virtues. This seems to provide a very good way of understanding how one of the Persons of the Trinity is the source of the others while yet they are still all one. I wonder if any theologians caught onto this. St. Augustine doesn’t seem to (thanks to Brandon for the Augustine citation). If I had read more of the Fathers, I could give a conclusive answer to this, but as it stands now I don’t know.

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6 thoughts on “Trinity and Virtue

  1. It is a basic Neoplatonic position, and I would be shocked if none of them did this. Without a position like this, the doctrine of the Trinity seems to fall totally apart. Nikolai Velimirovic says things like this. “You were like Nirvana, O Lord, you were without number or name until the Ultimate Man” was begotten in your heart, &c.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Without a position like this, the doctrine of the Trinity seems to fall totally apart.”

      I’m wondering what you mean here. Without a position like what? Using the virtues as an analogy for conceptualizing the Trinity doesn’t really seem like a position to me, just a helpful thing to do.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, yes. I actually had in mind a nice quote from St. Basil when I was writing the post. He says something like ‘do not imagine ousia as the fourth from which the Three came, but rather the Father is the ousia from which the others came’ or something like that.

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