Resilience and the virtue of fortitude

Resilience and the virtue of fortitude: Aquinas in Dialogue with the Psychosocial Sciences

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Resilience and the virtue of fortitude
    Book Description:

    The book offers a renewed, classic vision of the human person and the ordering of the sciences as read through the complementary and, at one level, corrective insights of empirical psychosocial studies on resilience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1662-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Although suffering and challenge demoralize some human beings, others cope and construct instead. Rather than grinding to a halt, certain people hurdle the obstacles or creatively maneuver around them. They even make something positive out of the negative situation. In the face of crisis, they not only survive but also thrive. Resilience capacities involve coping well with difficulty, actively resisting destructive pressures, and rebuilding positively after adversity. However, people do not exercise these capacities in equal measure. Human beings faced with similar situations end up in diverse spots. Some manage destructive life events more efficaciously. Others lose a sense of...


    • 1 The Resilience Perspective
      (pp. 3-29)

      At every level of society, particular situations make or break the lives of children, adolescents, and adults—situations of violence, loss, indifference, and hatred. Some human beings cope well when faced with them, and others do not. Specialists call this capacity to do well in adversity “resilience.” Psychosocial research has documented three types of resilience phenomena: good outcomes in the midst of high risk (coping), sustained competence under stress (constancy), and recovery from trauma (constructing).² In order to track these resilience phenomena, researchers have changed their perspectives and methods.³ Moral theologians can benefit from these sciences’ insights into how humans...

    • 2 Resilience Input for a Virtue-Based Philosophical Anthropology
      (pp. 30-75)

      In this chapter, I investigate further the research on protective and risk processes.¹ I interpret the insights within a classic anthropological schema (temperament and emotion, cognitional and volitional processes, and familial and social contexts).² At the same time, I employ an overlapping division that differentiates natural characteristics from religious and spiritual ones. This meta-analysis of the resilience findings inductively identifies resources that make some difference in resilience outcomes. It offers elements for a renewed philosophy of nature and philosophical anthropology.

      In general, “temperament” and “personality” are used to identify what differentiates human beings at the level of psychosocial makeup and...

    • 3 Renewing Moral Theology: Aquinas’ Virtue Theory and Resilience Research
      (pp. 76-140)

      In order to contribute to the renewal of moral theology,¹ I shall critically assess, contrast, and integrate two levels of observation and reflection concerning human agency: a psychosocial resilience perspective, on the one hand, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ virtue theory and theology of character, on the other. Previously, we saw that resilience research offers anthropological insights about extreme cases of adversity, as well as more typical challenges to growth. In this chapter, I widen the focus, by addressing how these studies relate to ethical principles and moral reflection. Aquinas’ virtue anthropology and moral theology offer a qualitative vision of human...


    • 4 Resilience and Aquinas’ Virtue of Fortitude
      (pp. 143-187)

      If any of our communities, families, or selves were invulnerable, we would need neither emotions such as fear, hope, and daring, nor virtues such as fortitude. Even in the most protected environments, we rightly experience fear when faced with real and potential deformation, destruction, or loss. Fear is based on human vulnerabilities that extend from physical to psychological, from economic to social, and from moral to spiritual levels. Can we prevent fear from causing deeper anxiety? Can we prepare ourselves in order to better control fearful situations? Can we resist fear without forgoing what is good, right, and true? Courage...

    • 5 Constructive Resilience and Aquinas’ Virtues of Initiative
      (pp. 188-240)

      Hope and foresight are vital for constructive resilience. Through individual and communal resilience resources, we muster hope, confidence, and generosity toward initiatives that have a twofold effect. Not only do they promote personal flourishing, they also promote community. Constructive resilience entails rebuilding in the wake of disasters. It empowers us to face the challenges present in worthwhile but difficult projects, enabling us to build something positive out of destructive events. The concept of constructive resilience can help to deepen our understanding of Aquinas’ treatment of initiative. For Aquinas, besides what is specific to the virtues of courage and patience, there...

    • 6 Resistant Resilience and Aquinas’ Virtues of Endurance
      (pp. 241-264)

      Fortitude fails if we only intermittently stand firm to fearful things and take initiatives to accomplish our goals. In order to resist the destructive effects of adversity, rather, we need to endure with consistency and master the emotions and dispositions that give us staying power. We must endure the difficulty, hold firm in the good, resist self-destruction, and persist until we accomplish our goal. Thomas identifies two movements and distinct virtues here: patience and perseverance.¹ These virtues are key elements in his virtue theory and in understanding moral and spiritual resiliency and vulnerability.

      Resilience research and the psychosocial sciences—such...


    • [PART THREE. Introduction]
      (pp. 265-266)

      I have delayed treating explicitly the theological aspect of fortitude until now in order to allow clear terrain for dialogue between resilience research and Aquinas’ virtue anthropology. The previous chapters serve as a foundation concerning his vision of human agency in adversity and the way in which resilience research offer psychosocial insights on human development and resilience in difficulty. By treating the theological aspects of virtue and resilience apart from the philosophical and psychosocial aspects, I do not mean to imply that the subject (person or community) examined philosophically and scientifically differs from the subject examined spiritually and theologically. Rather...

    • 7 Aquinas’ Theological Transformation of Fortitude and Resilience
      (pp. 267-299)

      In order to investigate the infused virtue of fortitude and its relationship with spiritual resilience, next we shall examine Aquinas’ teaching on martyrdom and the centrality of the gifts, beatitudes, and fruits of the Holy Spirit in Christian fortitude. We thus build upon the reflections on resilience and the virtue of fortitude found in chapter 4.

      Before entering into the content of the infused virtue of fortitude, I shall address how Aquinas distinguishes acquired and infused virtue.¹ In general, Aquinas distinguishes virtue as either acquired or infused in order to account for the interplay of divine grace in human agency....

    • 8 A Theological Dimension of Resilient Initiative-Taking?
      (pp. 300-324)

      Our theological reflections on human initiatives and divine purpose lead us to wonder about the variety of goals that humans pursue and the strength needed to accomplish them. What is the potential theological extension of the virtues and emotions of initiative in relation to constructive resilience, as examined in chapter 5?

      This juncture of the study raises several problems of vocabulary and definition. On the one hand, terms borrowed from non-Christian cultures need interpretation. For example, Aristotle or Cicero’s language and vision of the virtuous human can seem so tightly bound with Greek and Roman cultures that we find it...

    • 9 Theological Dimension of the Virtues of Enduring
      (pp. 325-362)

      Is there a specifically Christian response to pain, suffering, and sorrow? For Aquinas, the infused virtues of patience and perseverance distinctly offer Christian criteria and models. They involve necessary dispositions for Christian maturity in the face of adversity. These infused virtues should not be confused with the acquired virtues of the same names or resistant resilience (chapter 6), even though they can strengthen already existing acquired virtues. Furthermore, the theological virtue of hope, the gift of knowledge, the fruit of patience, and the beatitude of mourners all constitute a Christian type of patience and perseverance. They are completed by Aquinas’...

    • 10 Conclusions: Resilience Research and the Renewal of Moral Theology
      (pp. 363-370)

      The existential bridge that allows us to relate the psychosocial sciences and St. Thomas’s virtue theory is not only the reality of difficulty, but also the resourcefulness needed to overcome it, that is, the individual and social capacities to cope with difficulty, to resist destruction under hardship, and to construct something positive out of an otherwise negative situation. Both the virtue of fortitude (with its associated virtues of initiative and endurance) and resilience (as concept, phenomenon, and practice) relate to difficulty. Both fortitude and resilience contribute to a fundamentally positive perspective that counters an excessive focus on brokenness, vice, and...

  8. Abbreviations Theological Tradition: Revelation, Magisterium, and Patristic Sources
    (pp. 371-374)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 375-398)
  10. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 399-406)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 407-411)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 412-413)