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The Co-Activity of Gifts and Virtues: A Response to Angela Knobel


In this essay, I explain why I agree with Angela Knobel’s judgement that, despite recent claims to the contrary, Aquinas did not jettison from his mature theology the distinction of ‘human mode’ and ‘superhuman mode’ of action in articulating his understanding of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and their relationship to the virtues. However, I disagree with Knobel’s claim that, in his mature thought, Aquinas saw the infused virtues as inherently part of the superhuman mode. Rather, I argue that, in Aquinas’s mature thought, the infused virtues have an inherently human mode of operation, even if they can be elevated to the higher superhuman mode, when they operate in unison with the Gifts. I also diverge from Knobel in as much as I argue that the infused virtues have a default operation that is distinct from the Gifts, whereas a gift never operates without the co-operation of an infused virtue.