June 09, 2008

No Pain, No Gain?

True or False: St. Thomas Aquinas wrote this:
Where there is more effort for good, there seems to be more merit, since "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:8). Now a man has to make a greater effort to love his enemy than to love his friend, because it is more difficult. Therefore it seems more meritorious to love one's enemy than to love one's friend.
Indeed, it sounds like St. Thomas.

But actually this was an objection he'd raised. He refuted it with:
The "good" has, more than the "difficult," to do with the reason of merit and virtue. Therefore it does not follow that whatever is more difficult is more meritorious, but only what is more difficult, and at the same time better.
Which makes sense. To extend it to a ridiculous extreme, it was surely difficult for Hitler to wage war and kill millions, but that obviously doesn't make it meritorious.

This was sparked by coming across the quote: "Not everything that is more difficult is more meritorious." from St. Thomas, and I wanted to see it in context. Elsewhere in the Summa he wrote: "A work can be toilsome and difficult in two ways: first, from the greatness of the work, and thus the greatness of the work pertains to the increase of merit."

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