Join Prof. Mattison as he examines the pervasiveness of what the Western Tradition has come to call the “Four Cardinal Virtues.” Prof. Mattison begins with an examination of the common opinions regarding morality. Is morality simply a set or arbitrary rules? Does morality have anything to do with my happiness? Does man need religion in order to be moral?
Both the ancient Greek philosophers and the Catholic tradition affirm that friendship is at the core of human happiness. But Christian happiness surpasses such natural pagan theories in its belief that man can have friendship with God. What does this communion with God look like? What does it mean to possess God? What kinds of actions lead to the possession of the “greatest good”?
The kind of actions that lead to the good can be properly categorized as “virtues.” Virtue is not found in a single correct action, but rather in the stable disposition of a man habituated and inclined toward the good. Among the variety of all the virtues there exists particular “hinge” virtues, namely: temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude. The cardinal virtues are not simply hinges for all other virtues, but they are additionally hinges for each other. They stand and fall together.
Prof. Mattison considers each of the cardinal virtues in detail, and by so doing guides his audience towards new depths of insight. Cast aside misconceived notions of a burden laden morality of obligation and experience the liberation of a life of true happiness. The ancient Greek philosophers show us that it is through living a moral life that man finds ultimate happiness, and as Prof. Mattison demonstrates, it is through the grace of Christianity that man is raised beyond the natural and brought into contact with that greatest good, namely God himself.
- Morality and Happiness
- Why be moral? Why choose to live by a set of rules? Does morality have anything to do with my happiness? For the ancient Greek Philosophers, to live a moral life is to live a happy life. Do the Sacred Scriptures affirm such a “morality of happiness”?
- What is Happiness?
- Both the ancient Greek philosophers and the Catholic tradition affirm that friendship is at the core of human happiness. But Christian happiness surpasses such natural pagan theories in its belief that man can have friendship with God. What does this communion with God look like? What does it mean to possess God? What kinds of actions lead to the possession of the “greatest good”?
- Why Do We Need Virtue?
- What is a virtue and why is it important to have them? To say that a man is virtuous is to say something of his character. Virtue is not found in a single good act, but rather in stable dispositions that incline us toward the good.
- Grace and Virtue
- On the one hand, how is it that Christianity drastically shapes the moral life, and on the other hand, man can be moral without Christianity? Do all people have equal access to the natural law? What role does grace have in regard to virtue?
- Temperance and the Passionate Moral Life
- In discussing virtue, it is necessary to return to what the tradition has recognized as the “hinge” virtues upon which all other virtues depend: temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude. Temperance provides the perfect occasion as an introduction to these Cardinal Virtues as it deals specifically with one’s approach to pleasure.
- Prudence and Conscience
- Prudence, like all other virtues, is a stable disposition to do some sort of activity well. Specifically, this virtue enables man to see things rightly and accordingly to act rightly. This virtue does indeed depend on a kind of knowledge and the avoidance of willful ignorance.
- Justice and Absolute Norms
- The virtue of justice is not simply reserved for interpersonal relationships that are governmentally determined. Rather, justice concerns any relationship between persons. This virtue considers what is due to each, and helps us to live well with others in community.
- Fortitude and the Unity of the Virtues
- Just as temperance governs man’s relationship to pleasure, fortitude orders man’s reaction to pain. Fortitude can thereby be seen as a counterpart to temperance, it moreover allows one to be just to oneself, and in turn act rightly. The cardinal virtues are not simply hinges for all other virtues they are likewise hinges for one another.
- William C. Mattison III, PhD
- TAN Courses
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