Medieval Consideration and Moral Pace

Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux on the Temporal Aspects of Virtue


  • David A. Clairmont

David Clairmont, 435 Malloy Hall, Department of Theology, Notre Dame, IN 46556,


This essay examines the relationship between virtue and understandings of time through a comparative examination of two medieval Christian writers, Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas. By locating temporal dimensions of virtue primarily in discussions of prudence, this essay compares Thomas's account of the virtue of counsel as preparatory to prudent judgment with Bernard's earlier account of consideration as an integrating virtue that coordinates an examination of physical surroundings and social responsibilities with an examination of one's own inner life and history of moral decisions. The essay argues that accounts of virtue ethics focusing on tradition-specific views of the human good and practical reasoning are insufficient if they do not also examine how practical reasoning interprets and responds to religious interpretations of time that disclose the distinctive kinds of moral problems arising in each historical period.