The Virtue of Studiosity

August 22, 2023
Source: District of Asia
The Virtue of Studiosity

Studiosity is the exercise of the highest attention of the mind, driven by love; for perfection, it requires the dynamism of grace. This application of the intellect is thus transformed into a supernatural virtue.

The virtue of Studiosity is defined by attention, the "applicatio mentis." Saint Thomas often uses the term intentio in the same sense. "It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to apply it well." This attention, to be effective, adds Saint Thomas, must be vehemens, that is, fervent, intense, and rigorous. There is no penetration of the intelligible object without a concentration of the subject. In the subject, it is the mind that comes into play; knowledge is primary in the genesis of personal structures. Through attention, the mind is set in motion; it is inherently intentional: "Applicatio mentis ad..". The virtue of Studiosity properly said to be about knowledge. It aims first to know. Applications will follow. We are to serve the truth, to know it, and to recognise it before it serves us.

Motivated of love

 "Man's mind is drawn, on account of his affections, towards the things for which he has an affection" The heart, the affective forces, lead the mind to consider more attentively what affects it. Further on, Saint Thomas affirms this influence of the will: The act of a cognitive power is commanded by the appetitive power, which moves all the powers. The act of the cognitive faculty is under the influence of the appetitive faculty, which sets all powers in motion. The driving force, the impulsive cause of this attention of the mind, is love. This is exactly what St. Augustine meant when he writes: “my weight is my love ; it takes me wherever I may go”. (Pondus meum amor meus ; eo feror, quocunque feror, Confessions 13, 9, 10).

Saint Thomas emphasizes this reciprocal causality of intelligence and will, the involvement of both functions of the soul. The will moves the intellect to incite attention and direct it towards its object. The intellect, in turn, moves the will to act, enlightening it, revealing the value of the object. The intellectual, without the will, would be absent-minded, a dreamer; the intellectual, without love, would be selfish. Studiosity makes us not merely intellectuals whose pursued end would be the acquisition and possession of knowledge, but wise individuals for whom truth is a sought-after object because it is the principle of life.

The Supernatural Virtue

This virtue of Studiosity for one who does not supernaturalize their intention, would remain at the level of the natural. According to Saint Thomas and the perspective of the Summa Theologica, the virtue of studiosity is a supernatural virtue infused into the soul at baptism along with grace, and its development is conditioned by prayer. In the eyes of Saint Thomas, intellectual life and spiritual life are not separate. Before studying, Saint Thomas would address this prayer to God: Give me keenness of apprehension, capacity for remembering, method and ease in learning, insight in interpretation, and copious grace in expressing myself in speech. At every moment of intellectual activity, with all faculties contributing, the saint calls upon God for help. And before dying, in a final intercession, he acknowledged that his purity of intention had been complete and that he had sought only God: "I receive you, the reward of my salvation. I receive you, the companion of my life on earth. You, for the love of whom I have studied, watched, and worked. You, for whom I have preached and taught."

One might appreciate the parallel between Saint Thomas's analysis and Saint Bernard's famous discourse on the various meanings of knowledge: curiositas, vanitas, caritas, and sapientia. The first two forms of knowledge are condemned, while the last two are retained because they are ordered towards love of others and love of God, with truth being enveloped in charity.

“You observe, I say, how St. Paul makes the fruit and utility of knowledge to consist mainly in the right manner of knowing. What, therefore, does he mean by the right manner of knowing? Evidently he wishes to teach us by these words in what order, with what ardour, and with what intention each kind of knowledge should be acquired. In what order, because we ought first to learn those truths which most immediately concern our salvation. With what ardour, because that knowledge should be most eagerly pursued which most powerfully conduces to charity. With what intention, because the motive of our studies must not be vainglory, curiosity, or anything such, but only our own spiritual advancement and the edification of our neighbour. There are some who desire to know simply for the sake of knowing, and this is shameful curiosity. And there are some who desire to know in order that they may become known themselves, and this is shameful vanity. And some there are who desire to know in order to trade with their knowledge, bartering it for gold or for honours, and this is shameful traffic. But there are some also who desire to know in order to edify, and this is charity. And some, finally, who desire to know in order to be edified, and this is prudence. Of the above-mentioned classes, the last two alone are free from the guilt of abusing knowledge, for only these seek understanding as a means of well-doing.”  (Saint Bernard, Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles, Sermon XXXVI)