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Studiousness, Virtue of


The virtue of studiousness is a disposition to diligence in the pursuit of knowledge. The attainment of knowledge is indispensable to the human good. Therefore its pursuit can be a matter of moral obligation. It is primarily from this point of view that studiousness is considered a virtue. Its function is to regulate the desire for knowledge, so that this is neither inadequate to enable one to meet the requirements of duty or of moral fitness, nor so exaggerated as to exceed the bounds of reason.

An individual has an obligation to acquire the knowledge necessary for leading a good moral life, for eternal salvation, and for the performance of the duties of his state. In the concrete the obligations of individuals vary considerably in accordance with their differences of intellectual ability, opportunity for learning, and other circumstances. There is a large area of knowledge that for most people could be considered optional. There is no particular obligation to know, yet the knowledge may be useful or reasonably desired for any number of reasons. In this matter it is fitting that one should follow his tastes and inclinations, provided this involves no neglect of duty nor unseemly waste of energy on the trivial at the expense of what has greater human value.

Like other moral virtues that consist in moderation, studiousness has to deal with conflicting tendencies on the part of the student. The commonest tendency that needs moderation is an inclination against study because of the tediousness and the difficulty involved. To yield to this inclination in a situation in which there is an obligation to learn involves a certain amount of sinful negligence.

Normally, the spirit of inquiry is laudable in life. However, there are circumstances in which its indulgence would be unreasonable. For example, it would be imprudent to pursue unnecessary knowledge to the neglect of duty, or to study with a vehemence that constituted a notable hazard to health. Moralists usually classify immoderation by way of excess in this matter under the heading of curiosity, the commonest instances being the unjust invasion of the privacy of others, or the illegitimate investigation of secrets.

Because studiousness consists in the moderation of an impulse, St. Thomas considers it to be a potential part of the virtue of temperance (Summa theologiae, 2a2ae, 166.2).

Bibliography: thomas aquinas, Summa theologiae, 2a2ae, 166. f. l. b. cunningham, ed., The Christian Life (Dubuque 1959) 737739.

[t. c. kane]

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