Sins and virtues

Cajetan’s insight into Thomas’s theory of knowledge was that it affected a union with objects more intimate than matter to form. Knowers were immaterial because, even if receptive, they do not receive as matter does. In his Mystica Theologia Thomas of Vallgonera applies this to the spiritual life which I’d interpret like this: all degrees of immaterial existence, starting at sentience, exist to bring about unities between themselves and others more intimate than the union of matter to form. The soul by cognition is more one with its object than with the body it animates.

This union is either cognitive by proportioning the object to the knower or affective by proportioning the one loving to the object. Taken in the second way, one loves his supreme good and so proportions and even transforms himself into it. One can define sin as whatever damages this proportioning or transformation and virtue as the action or habit intrinsically cultivating it. In Christianity the supreme good is God, and so the virtues that immediately attain to him are the supreme virtues while the habits that damage affective union by either cooling it or destroying it altogether are sins. Any rival to Christianity denies its affective transformation, and perhaps the most agreeable and therefore popular way to do so is to insist that affections must be accepted and even celebrated simply as we find them and never be transformed. So taken our own desires become by default the supreme good and so sin becomes whatever damages self-acceptance and virtue whatever promotes greater self-celebration of our desires exactly as we find them.

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