For the Greater Glory: Courage, Death and Virtue in Aquinas and His Philosophical Inheritance

Doctoral Dissertation


In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that most deaths are contemptible and offer no opportunity for the exercise of virtue. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, considers the publicly shameful death of the martyr to be not only the highest exemplification of the virtue of courage, but also the greatest proof of moral perfection more generally. What accounts for this substantial divergence from Aristotle on the possibilities of virtuous action in death? This dissertation inquires into this question by examining and contrasting the noble death tradition of classical antiquity with Thomas Aquinas’ account of courage and its exemplary act of martyrdom. It investigates the theologically informed metaphysical and anthropological framework within which Aquinas situates his claims, and then explores the implications of these claims for his broader ethical appropriation of Aristotelian virtue theory. This project ultimately intends to show the extent to which Aquinas’ conception of virtue depends upon a theological, and specifically Christological, understanding of the relation between death and human perfection.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07152009-101823

Author Patrick Mahaney Clark
Advisor Jean Porter
Contributor Jennifer Herdt, Committee Member
Contributor Gerald McKenny, Committee Member
Contributor Jean Porter, Committee Chair
Contributor John Cavadini, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2009-07-13

Submission Date 2009-07-15
  • United States of America

  • virtue

  • ethics

  • courage

  • Christology

  • fortitude

  • noble death

  • death

  • Thomas Aquinas

  • martyrdom

  • Socrates

  • metaphysics

  • Achilles

  • heroism

  • Aristotle

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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