The Greek words I would associate with the 7 virtues are: The 4 natural virtues: sophia, hupomone, sophrosyne or sophron, dikaiosyne; the 3 theological virtues: pistis, elpis, and agape.
Look into how those words are used and the ideas Aquinas was getting at will probably become clear. Augustine probably had similar things in mind too.
- RMB (edited for clarity)
RMB offered this in response to my plea for help: what is the telos for human beings? What is the critical feature or common core of this telos? Let’s go through these one by one. If others have better definitions / meanings, please comment below.
The Natural (Cardinal) Virtues:
Prudence / Sophia
Prudence (φρόνησις, phronēsis; Latin: prudentia; also Wisdom, Sophia, sapientia), the ability to discern the appropriate course of action to be taken in a given situation at the appropriate time.
Sophia (Koinē Greek: σοφία sophía "wisdom") is a central idea in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Platonism, Gnosticism, and Christian theology. Originally carrying a meaning of "cleverness, skill", the later meaning of the term, close to the meaning of Phronesis ("wisdom, intelligence"), was significantly shaped by the term philosophy ("love of wisdom") as used by Plato.
Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence.
Among other characteristics, “Wisdom is associated with…compassion…ethics…benevolence.” It seems wisdom is often practiced while considering the good for others.
Courage / Andreia, Hupomone
Courage (ἀνδρεία, andreia; Latin: fortitudo): also termed fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation
Courage (also called bravery or valour) is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss.
The classical virtue of fortitude (andreia, fortitudo) is also translated "courage", but includes the aspects of perseverance and patience.
Hupomone is generally translated " patience" or " endurance”; the idea is of the staying power that keeps a man going to the end.
When I am personally in a situation of mortal danger, I don’t think I act from a sense of courage, but purely self-preservation. The desire for self-preservation is innate in all organisms; there is no “virtue” in this. It is difficult to consider as examples of courage any such situation. Physical Courage, it seems to me, is best seen when in the service of others: I fight for my family, my community, values of permanence.
What of Moral Courage? I imagine that this need not always be demonstrated in the service of others.
Temperance / Sōphrosynē
Temperance (σωφροσύνη, sōphrosynē; Latin: temperantia): also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation tempering the appetition. Sōphrosynē can also be translated as sound-mindedness.
Temperance is defined as moderation or voluntary self-restraint. It is typically described in terms of what an individual voluntarily refrains from doing. This includes restraint from retaliation in the form of non-violence and forgiveness, restraint from arrogance in the form of humility and modesty, restraint from excesses such as extravagant luxury or splurging now in the form of prudence, and restraint from excessive anger or craving for something in the form of calmness and self-control.
Sophrosyne (Greek: σωφροσύνη) is an ancient Greek concept of an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind, which when combined in one well-balanced individual leads to other qualities, such as temperance, moderation, prudence, purity, decorum and self-control.
Sophron: Of a sound and well-balanced mind; moderate, prudent, sensible, reasonable.
Why bother with self-restraint unless considering the consequences of your actions on others?
Justice / Dikaiosynē
Justice (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē; Latin: iustitia): also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue; the Greek word also having the meaning righteousness
Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues in classical European philosophy and Roman Catholicism. It is the moderation or mean between selfishness and selflessness – between having more and having less than one's fair share.
Justice is closely related, in Christianity, to the practice of Charity (virtue) because it regulates the relationships with others. It is a cardinal virtue, which is to say that it is "pivotal", because it regulates all such relationships, and is sometimes deemed the most important of the cardinal virtues.
According to Aristotle, "Justice consists in a certain equality by which the just and definite claim of another, neither more nor less, is satisfied." This is equal insofar as each one receives what he is entitled to, but may be unequal insofar as different people may have different rights….
Why bother with justice unless considering the consequences of your actions on others?
I cannot consider these four Natural Cardinal Virtues without incorporating “other-regarding action.” It seems at least somewhat true for two of these, and completely true for two others.
The Theological Virtues
Faith / Pistis
Pistis was the personified spirit (daimona) of trust, honesty and good faith. She was one of the good spirits to escape Pandora's box and promptly fled back to heaven, abandoning mankind. Her Roman name was Fides and her opposite number were Apate (Deception) and the Pseudologoi (Lies).
Conviction of the truth of anything, belief. Fidelity, faithfulness: the character of one who can be relied on.
Faith, derived from Latin fides and Old French feid, is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. The word translated as "faith" in English-language editions of the New Testament, the Greek word πίστις (pístis), can also be translated as "belief", "faithfulness", or "trust".
Hope / Elpis
Elpis was the personified spirit (daimona) of hope. She and the other daimones were trapped in a jar by Zeus and entrusted to the care of the first woman Pandora. When she opened the vessel all of the spirits escaped except for Elpis (Hope) who remained behind to comfort mankind. Elpis was depicted as a young woman carrying flowers in her arms. Her opposite number was Moros, the spirit of hopelessness and doom.
From a primary elpo (to anticipate, usually with pleasure)
In classical Greek literature, elpis can be used as an expectation of the future in either a positive or a negative way, as opposed to our usual understanding when we use the term “hope” in English (anticipating something positive).
Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation."
Among its opposites are dejection, hopelessness, and despair.
Love (Charity) / Agape
Agape in the Greek classics spoke of a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved.
Agape may involve emotion, but it must always involve action. Agape is unrestricted, unrestrained, and unconditional. Agape love is the virtue that surpasses all others and in fact is the prerequisite for all the others.
…beneficial love which wills good for others.
Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agapē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, "the highest form of love, charity" … it embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. It goes beyond just the emotions to the extent of seeking the best for others.
Faith, Hope, and Love inherently have others in their sights. Can these be embraced without leaning on Christ? Not likely, it seems to me; certainly not sustainably.
Christianity expanded quickly in the first centuries after Christ. One significant reason for this was that Christians put Love in action. The Greeks (and Romans), whatever their philosophical and mythical views, certainly did not behave in a similar way.
Love your neighbor as yourself. If the Greeks or Romans had such an idea, they sure didn’t live it. Criticism is made of various practices that endured at times through Christendom’s history – yet, as Rene Girard offers, we criticize Christianity through the lens of Christianity!
What is the target at which we aim? Who is the archetype? Faith, Hope and Love have been put into proper action only through Christ. Without a target at which to aim, there is little chance to hit the target.
I repeat my conclusion from an earlier post:
Certainly, the Four Natural Virtues can exist without Faith, Hope and Love. But will they sustain through time, from generation to generation, without Faith, Hope and Love? What does this say about any hope for sustained liberty? Interesting. I cannot even write that question without leaning on one of the Theological Virtues.
Further: I cannot put the Cardinal Virtues and my desire for liberty into practice without the Theological Virtues – why would I care about or hope for liberty sustained through time unless I possessed Faith, Hope and Love?
I think I can now go further: other-regarding action is common to the four Natural Virtues – not observable in all manners for a couple of these Virtues, but common to all. The seven Virtues offer the correct standard of evaluation for an enlightened pursuit of ends. If the seven do, then these four do as well.
I can imagine forms of happiness that do not entail other-regarding action, but not many. As Fr. Thomas Joseph White offered:
Most forms of happiness come from goods held in common: the shared life together. A completely individualistic concept cannot lead to happiness as Thomas sees it.
Through examining these virtues in detail, I now better understand why this is so.