Thomas Aquinas on Virtue and Grace in the Moral Life

Apr 27 12–3pm
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Angela KnobelUniversity of Dallas


Open to current graduate students and faculty. Advanced undergraduates and others interested in participating should contact This event is in-person only. All registrants will receive copies of the selected readings, which should be read in advance of the class. An optional wine and cheese reception will follow. 

This event is made possible through the support of ‘In Lumine: Supporting the Catholic Intellectual Tradition on Campuses Nationwide’ (Grant #62372) from the John Templeton Foundation.

Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between two kinds of moral virtue: acquired moral virtues, which are cultivated though one’s power and via one’s own repeated good acts, and infused moral virtues, which are bestowed on man directly by God in the moment of baptism.  The distinction between these two types of virtue is the focus of this master class.  The goal will be to understand how Aquinas understands the difference between the two types of virtue: the sources from which each spring, the ways in which the acts of each differ, and whether and to what extent he believes the two different types of virtue interact. 


Disputed Questions on the Virtues (Preferably the Atkins translation): 

Disputed Question on the Virtues in General a.8-11; (48 pages) 


Summa Theologiae (Preferably Alfred Freddoso’s translation, available online at

Prima Secundae q.61 a.5, 62, 63, 68 (22 pages total) 


Aquinas and the Infused Moral Virtues 

◊ Chapter 6 (30 pages) 


Both the required and recommended readings will be distributed to participants via Dropbox. If you prefer, you can pick up a printout of the readings at Gavin House (1220 E. 58th Street) Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm once they are ready. Please email David Strobach at to let us know you are coming.

Discussion Questions:

◊ Conceptually, what seem to be the most important differences between the  infused and acquired virtues? Aquinas repeatedly speaks of virtues as  “proceeding from principles,” and of the different “seeds” of infused and  acquired virtue, respectively. What is meant by the language of “principle” and  “seed,” and how are those notions important in Aquinas’s understanding of  infused and/or acquired virtue? What is meant by the claim that the two types  of virtue differ in “species”? What role does the difference in the “end” that  each virtue is ordered to play, and how important is it? 

◊ a.10 ad.4 of the Disputed Question on the Virtues in General and q.61 a.5 of the Prima Secundae are two of the very few texts where Aquinas says anything at all  about the relationship between the infused and acquired virtues. What do  these texts imply, and is what each text implies the same or different? 

◊ Given Aquinas’s insistence that only the infused virtues order us to supernatural beatitude, can it ever make sense on his account to pursue only  acquired virtue?


11:30-12:00 | Optional pre-event lunch

12:00-1:20 | Session 1

1:20-1:40 | Coffee break

1:40-3:00 | Session 2

3:00-3:30 | Reception

Angela Knobel is an associate professor at the University of Dallas. She received her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 2004. Her work focuses primarily on  Aquinas’ theory of infused virtue, virtue ethics and applied ethics. She is the author of Aquinas and the Infused Moral Virtues (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press 2021). She has  published articles on a wide variety of topics, including feminism, abortion, moral change, and the acquisition and loss of virtue. Her work has appeared in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, in journals such as Studies in Christian Ethics, The Thomist, The Journal of Moral Theology and in a variety of other journals and edited volumes.