Thomas Instituut te Utrecht (Tilburg University)

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Faith, Hope and Love
Thomas Aquinas on living by the infused virtues

11 - 12 - 13 - 14 December 2013
Utrecht (Netherlands)

During the last two decades virtue ethics has become the focal point of renewed ethical and theological interest. To lead a good life, it proves useful to watch those who have mastered the art of living. The conviction that living is an art is at the heart of virtue ethics. Living a good life requires exercise, and is a question of acquiring a virtuous character rather than of complying with external ethical and legal rules.

This renaissance partly builds on Thomas Aquinas. He in turn recovered Aristotelian, Ciceronian and Augustinian thought on virtue ethics. The interpretation and development of virtues and vices form the core of his authorship, as the secunda pars of his Summa Theologiae readily displays. And yet, the most important virtues for him are not the moral ones, such as Justice, Temperance, Prudence and Fortitude, but those virtues that are both infused by and aimed at God: Faith, Hope and Love. These are virtues that the philosophers of antiquity were not aware of. To account for them, Aquinas had to adapt the classical understanding of virtues. For Aquinas, the moral virtues come to full fruition only when they are embedded in a life before God, a life lived exercising the God given theological virtues. By ignoring Faith, Hope and Love, the present discussion of virtue ethics not only ignores those virtues that were for Aquinas of utmost importance, but also fails to arrive at a complete understanding of his view of the moral virtues.

How does Aquinas elaborate his thoughts on the theological virtues?
To what extent can developments in his views on the theological virtues be traced?
How do his views on the theological virtues compare to those on the moral ones?
What do we learn here about the relationship between the philosophy of ethics and (moral) theology, between nature and grace, and between theology and spirituality?
And also: why is it useful to think about Faith, Hope and Love as virtues, even though they are gifts of God, and man can easily lose them on account of sinful behavior?
Can Christ serve as an example of virtuous life?
Did he possess theological virtues?
Why does Aquinas think that Justice is the prime moral virtue, and Love the greatest among the theological ones?
And what does all this entail for modern theological anthropology?

In a four-day conference, scholars from different disciplines and different countries devoted their attention to these questions. The proceedings of this conference have been published in the sixteenth volume of the Publications Series of the Thomas Instituut, with Peeters Publishers in Louvain, under the same title as the conference itself.

The conference committee 2013:

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Conferences and Days of Study 1995-2013

12 April 2013
On 12 April 2013 the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht organised an afternoon of studies about the last publication by prof. Ferdinand de Grijs (1931-2011): Onderzoekingen in het katholieke geloof over Jezus Christus - 'Searchings within the catholic faith about Jesus Christ'. It was a succesfull event attended by sixty people.

27 Januray 2012
On 27 January - on the eve of the feastday of Thomas Aquinas - the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht organised a morning of studies. Mark-Robin Hoogland c.p., Rudi te Velde and Henk Schoot talked about Thomasís academic sermons.

28 January 2011 Tilburg University
On 28 January 2011, feastday of Thomas Aquinas, prof.dr. Herwi Rikhof held his farewell lecture as professor for systematic theology, history of dogmatics and theology at the Tilburg School of Theology (Tilburg University). To mark this occasion and to thank him a symposium was held.

From 15 to 17 December 2005 the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht held its third international conference at the conference centre ISVW at Leusden (NL), entitled 'Divine Transcendence and Immanence in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas'.

From Thursday December 14 until Saturday December 16, 2000 some fifty scholars from all over the world gathered for the second conference of the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht in Leusden, in the neighbourhood of Utrecht. People came from the United States, Russia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to discuss 'Aquinas as Authority? Seven Centuries of Problems and Perspectives'.

On 13, 14 and 15th of December 1995 the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht held a congress on 'Guilt and Forgiveness in Aquinas'. About 40 participants gathered in the conferencecenter Woudschoten near Zeist to occupy themselves with this subject.