The seven capital sins and their “daughters” (Summa Th., II-II)
1. Vainglory. Q132, a.5. Whether the daughters of vainglory are suitably reckoned
to be disobedience, boastfulness, hypocrisy, contention, obstinacy, discord, and love
Objection 1. It seems that the daughters of vainglory are unsuitably reckoned to be "disobedience, boastfulness, hypocrisy, contention, obstinacy, discord, and eccentricity [Praesumptio novitatum, literally
'presumption of novelties']." For according to Gregory (Moral. xxiii) boastfulness is numbered among the
species of pride. Now pride does not arise from vainglory, rather is it the other way about, as Gregory says
(Moral. xxxi). Therefore boastfulness should not be reckoned among the daughters of vainglory.
Objection 2. Further, contention and discord seem to be the outcome chiefly of anger. But anger is a capital vice condivided with vainglory. Therefore it seems that they are not the daughters of vainglory.
Objection 3. Further, Chrysostom says (Hom. xix in Matth.) that vainglory is always evil, but especially in philanthropy, i.e. mercy. And yet this is nothing new, for it is an established custom among
men. Therefore eccentricity should not be specially reckoned as a daughter of vainglory.
On the contrary, stands the authority of Gregory (Moral. xxxi), who there assigns the above daughters to vainglory. I answer that, As stated above (34, 5;35, 4; I-II, 84, A3,4), the vices which by their
very nature are such as to be directed to the end of a certain capital vice, are called its daughters. Now the
end of vainglory is the manifestation of one's own excellence, as stated above (A1,4): and to this end a man
may tend in two ways. On one way directly, either by words, and this is boasting, or by deeds, and then if
they be true and call for astonishment, it is love of novelties which men are wont to wonder at most; but if
they be false, it is hypocrisy. On another way a man strives to make known his excellence by showing that
he is not inferior to another, and this in four ways. First, as regards the intellect, and thus we have
"obstinacy," by which a man is too much attached to his own opinion, being unwilling to believe one that is
better. Secondly, as regards the will, and then we have "discord," whereby a man is unwilling to give up his
own will, and agree with others. Thirdly, as regards "speech," and then we have "contention," whereby a
man quarrels noisily with another. Fourthly as regards deeds, and this is "disobedience," whereby a man
refuses to carry out the command of his superiors.
Reply to Objection 1. As stated above (112, 1, ad 2), boasting is reckoned a kind of pride, as regards its interior cause, which is arrogance: but outward boasting, according to Ethic. iv, is directed
sometimes to gain, but more often to glory and honor, and thus it is the result of vainglory.
Reply to Objection 2. Anger is not the cause of discord and contention, except in conjunction with vainglory, in that a man thinks it a glorious thing for him not to yield to the will and words of others.
Reply to Objection 3. Vainglory is reproved in connection with almsdeeds on account of the lack of charity apparent in one who prefers vainglory to the good of his neighbor, seeing that he does the latter
for the sake of the former. But a man is not reproved for presuming to give alms as though this were
2. Sloth. Q35, a.4, ad 2. Whether sloth should be accounted a capital vice?
Objection 1. It would seem that sloth ought not to be accounted a capital vice. For a capital vice is one that moves a man to sinful acts, as stated above (34, 5). Now sloth does not move one to action, but on
the contrary withdraws one from it. Therefore it should not be accounted a capital sin.
Objection 2. Further, a capital sin is one to which daughters are assigned. Now Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) assigns six daughters to sloth, viz. "malice, spite, faint-heartedness, despair, sluggishness in
regard to the commandments, wandering of the mind after unlawful things." Now these do not seem in
reality to arise from sloth. For "spite" is, seemingly the same as hatred, which arises from envy, as stated
above (34, 6); "malice" is a genus which contains all vices, and, in like manner, a "wandering" of the mind
after unlawful things is to be found in every vice; "sluggishness" about the commandments seems to be the
same as sloth, while "faint-heartedness" and "despair" may arise from any sin. Therefore sloth is not rightly
accounted a capital sin.
Objection 3. Further, Isidore distinguishes the vice of sloth from the vice of sorrow, saying (De
Summo Bono ii, 37) that in so far as a man shirks his duty because it is distasteful and burdensome, it is sorrow, and in so far as he is inclined to undue repose, it is sloth: and of sorrow he says that it gives rise to "spite, faint-heartedness, bitterness, despair," whereas he states that from sloth seven things arise, viz. "idleness, drowsiness, uneasiness of the mind, restlessness of the body, instability, loquacity, curiosity." Therefore it seems that either Gregory or Isidore has wrongly assigned sloth as a capital sin together with its daughters.
On the contrary, The same Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) states that sloth is a capital sin, and has the
daughters aforesaid. I answer that, As stated above (I-II, 84, 3,4), a capital vice is one which easily gives rise to others as being their final cause. Now just as we do many things on account of pleasure, both in order to obtain it, and through being moved to do something under the impulse of pleasure, so again we do many things on account of sorrow, either that we may avoid it, or through being exasperated into doing something under pressure thereof. Wherefore, since sloth is a kind of sorrow, as stated above (2; I-II, 85, 8), it is fittingly reckoned a capital sin.
Reply to Objection 1. Sloth by weighing on the mind, hinders us from doing things that cause
sorrow: nevertheless it induces the mind to do certain things, either because they are in harmony with sorrow, such as weeping, or because they are a means of avoiding sorrow.
Reply to Objection 2. Gregory fittingly assigns the daughters of sloth. For since, according to the
Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 5,6) "no man can be a long time in company with what is painful and unpleasant," it follows that something arises from sorrow in two ways: first, that man shuns whatever causes sorrow; secondly, that he passes to other things that give him pleasure: thus those who find no joy in spiritual pleasures, have recourse to pleasures of the body, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. x, 6). Now in the avoidance of sorrow the order observed is that man at first flies from unpleasant objects, and secondly he even struggles against such things as cause sorrow. Now spiritual goods which are the object of the sorrow of sloth, are both end and means. Avoidance of the end is the result of "despair," while avoidance of those goods which are the means to the end, in matters of difficulty which come under the counsels, is the effect of "faint-heartedness," and in matters of common righteousness, is the effect of "sluggishness about the commandments." The struggle against spiritual goods that cause sorrow is sometimes with men who lead others to spiritual goods, and this is called "spite"; and sometimes it extends to the spiritual goods themselves, when a man goes so far as to detest them, and this is properly called "malice." On so far as a man has recourse to eternal objects of pleasure, the daughter of sloth is called "wandering after unlawful things." From this it is clear how to reply to the objections against each of the daughters: for "malice" does not denote here that which is generic to all vices, but must be understood as explained. Nor is "spite" taken as synonymous with hatred, but for a kind of indignation, as stated above: and the same applies to the others.
Reply to Objection 3. This distinction between sorrow and sloth is also given by Cassian (De Instit.
Caenob. x, 1). But Gregory more fittingly (Moral. xxxi, 45) calls sloth a kind of sorrow, because, as stated above (2), sorrow is not a distinct vice, in so far as a man shirks a distasteful and burdensome work, or sorrows on account of any other cause whatever, but only in so far as he is sorry on account of the Divine good, which sorrow belongs essentially to sloth; since sloth seeks undue rest in so far as it spurns the Divine good. Moreover the things which Isidore reckons to arise from sloth and sorrow, are reduced to those mentioned by Gregory: for "bitterness" which Isidore states to be the result of sorrow, is an effect of "spite." "Idleness" and "drowsiness" are reduced to "sluggishness about the precepts": for some are idle and omit them altogether, while others are drowsy and fulfil them with negligence. All the other five which he reckons as effects of sloth, belong to the "wandering of the mind after unlawful things." This tendency to wander, if it reside in the mind itself that is desirous of rushing after various things without rhyme or reason, is called "uneasiness of the mind," but if it pertains to the imaginative power, it is called "curiosity"; if it affect the speech it is called "loquacity"; and in so far as it affects a body that changes place, it is called "restlessness of the body," when, to wit, a man shows the unsteadiness of his mind, by the inordinate movements of members of his body; while if it causes the body to move from one place to another, it is called "instability"; or "instability" may denote changeableness of purpose.
3. Envy. Q36, a.4, ad 3. Whether envy is a capital vice?
Objection 1. It would seem that envy is not a capital vice. For the capital vices are distinct from
their daughters. Now envy is the daughter of vainglory; for the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 10) that "those
who love honor and glory are more envious." Therefore envy is not a capital vice.
Objection 2. Further, the capital vices seem to be less grave than the other vices which arise from
them. For Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45): "The leading vices seem to worm their way into the deceived
mind under some kind of pretext, but those which follow them provoke the soul to all kinds of outrage, and
confuse the mind with their wild outcry." Now envy is seemingly a most grave sin, for Gregory says (Moral.
v, 46): "Though in every evil thing that is done, the venom of our old enemy is infused into the heart of
man, yet in this wickedness the serpent stirs his whole bowels and discharges the bane of spite fitted to
enter deep into the mind." Therefore envy is not a capital sin.
Objection 3. Further, it seems that its daughters are unfittingly assigned by Gregory (Moral. xxxi,
45), who says that from envy arise "hatred, tale-bearing, detraction, joy at our neighbor's misfortunes, and
grief for his prosperity." For joy at our neighbor's misfortunes and grief for his prosperity seem to be the
same as envy, as appears from what has been said above (3). Therefore these should not be assigned as
daughters of envy.
On the contrary stands the authority of Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) who states that envy is a capital
sin and assigns the aforesaid daughters thereto. I answer that, Just as sloth is grief for a Divine spiritual
good, so envy is grief for our neighbor's good. Now it has been stated above (35, 4) that sloth is a capital
vice for the reason that it incites man to do certain things, with the purpose either of avoiding sorrow or of
satisfying its demands. Wherefore envy is accounted a capital vice for the same reason.
Reply to Objection 1. As Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45), "the capital vices are so closely akin to
one another that one springs from the other. For the first offspring of pride is vainglory, which by
corrupting the mind it occupies begets envy, since while it craves for the power of an empty name, it
repines for fear lest another should acquire that power." Consequently the notion of a capital vice does not
exclude its originating from another vice, but it demands that it should have some principal reason for
being itself the origin of several kinds of sin. However it is perhaps because envy manifestly arises from
vainglory, that it is not reckoned a capital sin, either by Isidore (De Summo Bono) or by Cassian (De Instit.
Caenob. v, 1).
Reply to Objection 2. It does not follow from the passage quoted that envy is the greatest of sins,
but that when the devil tempts us to envy, he is enticing us to that which has its chief place in his heart, for as quoted further on in the same passage, "by the envy of the devil, death came into the world" (Wis. 2:24).
There is, however, a kind of envy which is accounted among the most grievous sins, viz. envy of another's
spiritual good, which envy is a sorrow for the increase of God's grace, and not merely for our neighbor's
good. Hence it is accounted a sin against the Holy Ghost, because thereby a man envies, as it were, the
Holy Ghost Himself, Who is glorified in His works.
Reply to Objection 3. The number of envy's daughters may be understood for the reason that in the
struggle aroused by envy there is something by way of beginning, something by way of middle, and
something by way of term. The beginning is that a man strives to lower another's reputation, and this either
secretly, and then we have "tale-bearing," or openly, and then we have "detraction." The middle consists in
the fact that when a man aims at defaming another, he is either able to do so, and then we have "joy at
another's misfortune," or he is unable, and then we have "grief at another's prosperity." The term is hatred
itself, because just as good which delights causes love, so does sorrow cause hatred, as stated above (34, 6).
Grief at another's prosperity is in one way the very same as envy, when, to Wit, a man grieves over
another's prosperity, in so far as it gives the latter a good name, but in another way it is a daughter of envy, in so far as the envious man sees his neighbor prosper notwithstanding his efforts to prevent it. On the other
hand, "joy at another's misfortune" is not directly the same as envy, but is a result thereof, because grief
over our neighbor's good which is envy, gives rise to joy in his evil.
4. Anger. Q158, a.7. Whether six daughters are fittingly assigned to anger?
Objection 1. It would seem that six daughters are unfittingly assigned to anger, namely "quarreling, swelling of the mind, contumely, clamor, indignation and blasphemy." For blasphemy is reckoned by
Isidore [QQ. In Deut., qu. xvi] to be a daughter of pride. Therefore it should not be accounted a daughter of
Objection 2. Further, hatred is born of anger, as Augustine says in his rule (Ep. ccxi). Therefore it should be placed among the daughters of anger.
Objection 3. Further, "a swollen mind" would seem to be the same as pride. Now pride is not the daughter of a vice, but "the mother of all vices," as Gregory states (Moral. xxxi, 45). Therefore swelling of
the mind should not be reckoned among the daughters of anger.
On the contrary, Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) assigns these daughters to anger. I answer that, Anger may be considered in three ways. First, as consisting in thought, and thus two vices arise from anger. one is
on the part of the person with whom a man is angry, and whom he deems unworthy [indignum] of acting
thus towards him, and this is called "indignation." The other vice is on the part of the man himself, in so far
as he devises various means of vengeance, and with such like thoughts fills his mind, according to Job 15:2,
"Will a wise man . . . fill his stomach with burning heat?" And thus we have "swelling of the mind."
Secondly, anger may be considered, as expressed in words: and thus a twofold disorder arises from anger.
One is when a man manifests his anger in his manner of speech, as stated above (5, ad 3) of the man who
says to his brother, "Raca": and this refers to "clamor," which denotes disorderly and confused speech. The
other disorder is when a man breaks out into injurious words, and if these be against God, it is
"blasphemy," if against one's neighbor, it is "contumely." Thirdly, anger may be considered as proceeding
to deeds; and thus anger gives rise to "quarrels," by which we are to understand all manner of injuries
inflicted on one's neighbor through anger.
Reply to Objection 1. The blasphemy into which a man breaks out deliberately proceeds from pride, whereby a man lifts himself up against God: since, according to Sirach 10:14, "the beginning of the
pride of man is to fall off from God," i.e. to fall away from reverence for Him is the first part of pride [Cf,
162, 07, ad 2; and this gives rise to blasphemy. But the blasphemy into which a man breaks out through a
disturbance of the mind, proceeds from anger.
Reply to Objection 2. Although hatred sometimes arises from anger, it has a previous cause, from which it arises more directly, namely displeasure, even as, on the other hand, love is born of pleasure. Now
through displeasure, a man is moved sometimes to anger, sometimes to hatred. Wherefore it was fitting to
reckon that hatred arises from sloth rather than from anger.
Reply to Objection 3. Swelling of the mind is not taken here as identical with pride, but for a certain effort or daring attempt to take vengeance; and daring is a vice opposed to fortitude.
5. Covetousness. Q118, a.8. Whether treachery, fraud, falsehood, perjury,
restlessness, violence, and insensibility to mercy are daughters of covetousness?
Objection 1. It seems that the daughters of covetousness are not as commonly stated, namely, "treachery, fraud, falsehood, perjury, restlessness, violence, and insensibility to mercy." For covetousness is
opposed to liberality, as stated above (3). Now treachery, fraud, and falsehood are opposed to prudence,
perjury to religion, restlessness to hope, or to charity which rests in the beloved object, violence to justice,
insensibility to mercy. Therefore these vices have no connection with covetousness.
Objection 2. Further, treachery, fraud and falsehood seem to pertain to the same thing, namely, the deceiving of one's neighbor. Therefore they should not be reckoned as different daughters of covetousness.
Objection 3. Further, Isidore (Comment. in Deut.) enumerates nine daughters of covetousness; which are "lying, fraud, theft, perjury, greed of filthy lucre, false witnessing, violence, inhumanity,
rapacity." Therefore the former reckoning of daughters is insufficient.
Objection 4. Further, the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 1) mentions many kinds of vices as belonging to covetousness which he calls illiberality, for he speaks of those who are "sparing, tight-fisted, skinflints
[kyminopristes], misers [kimbikes], who do illiberal deeds," and of those who "batten on whoredom,