48. Four moral qualities

Virtues and vices

Virtue is a certain positive moral quality, which a human being possesses or can  master. As such it is as old as humanity itself. Within the context of tetradic thinking, it brings us right into the heart of the Fourth Quadrant, or the area designated to the feelings as the prominent way of observation. Alasdair MACINTYRE (1981/1984; p. 12), in his challenging book ‘After Virtue’, painted the home ground of the virtues (and vices):

‘Moral judgements, being expressions of attitude or feeling, are neither true nor false; and agreement in moral judgement is not to be secured by any rational method, for there are none. It is to be secured, if at all, by producing certain non-rational effects on the emotions or attitudes of those who disagree with one. We use moral judgements not only to express our own feelings and attitudes, but also precisely to produce such effects in others.’

The emphasis on virtues is, in a historical context, an indication of the position of an observer (in the Fourth Quadrant) and the width of a communication in general. It is worthwhile to explore the path of moral concern in history in order to learn more about the state of division thinking within a culture.

Plato mentioned the (four) virtues in the ‘Politeia‘ (MÄHL, 1969). Aristotle, although an important tetradic-minded philosopher, did not separate them. His inquiries tended towards the logical and physical/biological aspects of the cosmos. Even the Greek cultural development was (at that time) not advanced enough to isolate man completely from his surroundings. This could only happen in the declining years of the cultural period, when the philosopher Zenon of Citium (on Cyprus) – living in the third century BC – gave the virtues a central place as a condition of human happiness. Zenon was the founder of the school of philosophy in the ‘Stoa Poecile’ (‘painted arcade’). He mentioned the four principal virtues in a (lost) work on the affects:

—————————  Prudentia                                                 wisdom/caution

—————————  Fortitudo                                                  courage/power

—————————  Temperantia                                            temperance/consideration

—————————  Justitia                                                      justice/righteous

Since then these virtues are also called the stoic virtues. They coincide with the four positions in a (quadralectic) communication:

I. Prudence as a beginning and end, with all the opportunities of an unknown future and the knowledge of an invisible past;

II. Fortitude as a dynamic interference with the universe, a time of decision and action;

III. Temperance as a tightening up of the reins, establishing the boundaries and obeying them. And finally,

IV. Justice as a fair and right way to deal with (the feelings of) other human beings.

The period of renewed attention of the virtues took place in the Roman cultural presence during the first half of the first century BC. It found in Cicero (106 – 43 BC) its most important representative. The three books of the ‘De officiis‘ were inspired by the work of the Stoic Panaetius, living in the second century BC. The cardinal virtues were summed up as follows (MILLER, 1921; Book I, V):

1. The full perception and intelligent development of the true (wisdom);

2. The conservation of organized society, with rendering to every man his due, and with the faithful discharge of obligations assumed (justice);

3. The greatness and strength of a noble and invincible spirit (fortitude/ courage);

4. The orderliness and moderation of everything that is said and done, wherein consist temperance and self-control (temperance).

It can be noted that, the sequence of the virtues does not follow the Greek/Zenonian succession. Cicero placed the courage in the Third Quadrant, and it became therefore the most ‘visible’ of the four virtues. Compared to the ‘classical’ sequence: (1) Prudence – (2) Fortitude – (3) Temperance – (4) Justice is the ‘Ciceronian’ order given as: 1 – 4 – 2 – 3. It is hard to prove that Cicero employed such a succession on purpose, but in the light of his position in the Roman cultural history – living in the (interpreted) third part of the Third Quadrant (III,3) – such a choice would be understandable.

The theme of the virtues was further elaborated by the Church Fathers. Ambrosius (c. 340 – 397 AD) used – in his book ‘De officiis ministrorum‘ – the  Platonic-Stoic quadripartite scheme of virtues, which was directly taken from Cicero (including the title). Ambrosius was, in his writings ‘In Lucam’ and ‘De Paradiso’, heavily indebted to Philo of Alexandria, by connecting the Rivers of Paradise with the four main virtues: ‘The Cardinal Virtues could also be set in a wider and more flexible context (..) by correlating them with other groups of four, such as the four Rivers of Paradise, the horns of the altar (horns of consecretation; fig. 344/345), the Evangelists, major prophets, early Fathers.’


Fig. 344 – The Cather Mausoleum at Walworth Old Church, near Ballykelly in Northern Ireland, is a Neo-Classical example of the use of the four horns of the altar in funerary architecture (Photo by CURL, 1980). This motive is often used (and re-used in Neo-Classicism) as a reminder of the four corners of the world, and originated from Egypt. The Church father Ambrosius, in the fourth century AD, has applied the symbolism of the tetrad, including the horns of the altar, to revive the spirit of tetradic thinking. In: CURL (1980).


Fig. 345 – Jaffa Cemetary, Delft.  The ‘Horns of Consecration’ – a name given in 1901 by the archaeologist Arthur Evans, who studied the Minoan building complex (‘labyrinth’) at Knossos (Crete) – point to a representation of a set of horns. He inferred, by giving this particular name, that the symbolism of the horns had a religious context. In the Knossos-case the number is two (a pair), solitary positioned like a sculpture. However, there is also a tradition related to the Four Corners (of the earth), depicted as elevations at the corners of a rectangular (tomb)stone. The association with a consecration holds in the case of the funerary culture, but its general, historical reference is to the fourfold (of the universe).  p. 463 in: Quadralectic Architecture – Marten Kuilman.

A comparison of Rivers of Paradise, virtues and world periods was given by O’REILLY (1972/1988; p. 114):

Rivers of Paradise                               Virtue                                    World period


Phison                                                   Prudentia                          Abel, Henoch, Noach

Geon                                                      Temperantia                    Abraham, Izaak, Jacob

Tigris                                                     Fortitudo                          Moses and the prophets

Euphrates                                            Justitia                              Christ till present

 The sequence gives, again, an insight in the preference of the author. The connection of the virtues to a dualistic-linear time-scale indicates a hierarchical order. Prudentia is in all divisions number one. Temperantia (as number two by Ambrosius) is number three by Zenon and number four by Cicero. Ambrosias followed Cicero in placing Fortitudo number three and adhered to Zenon in placing Justitia as number four.

The appearance of the virtues seemed less obvious after the fourth century, but they return in the early-Scholastic times as ‘ritterlichen Standes ethik‘  (knightly hierarchical ethic)(MÄHL, 1969). The four virtues were from 750 to 900 AD part and parcel of the early European cultural environment (fig. 346/347).

Eriugena, in the ninth century, repeated the common knowledge of virtues in his ‘Periphyseon‘ (The Division of Nature, Book II, 603D; SHELDON-WILLIAMS, 1987): ‘Moreover, none of the wise denies that that source in paradise, which is divided into the four cardinal rivers, interpreted typologically, signifies the Holy Spirit, from Whom, as from their principal and unique and inexhaustible source flow the four cardinal virtues in the paradise of the rational soul, I mean prudence, temperance, courage, and justice…’  Eriugena’s sequence was similar to the one used by Ambrosius, putting most emphasis on the courage as the prime virtue in the field of (tetradic) visibility.


Fig. 346 – An emperor and the cardinal virtues. A Carolingian ruler sits on a throne in a lozenge and is surrounded by the four cardinal virtues. Cambrai, Bibl. Mun., MS 327, fol. 16v. In: KATZENELLENBOGEN (1939) Also in: KESSLER (1977).

Many more examples of the visual expression of the  theme of the virtues can be found in this period, like the illustration of David playing the harp, in the Vivian Bible (around 845 AD; DODWELL, 1971), or the Bible of S. Callisto (c. 876 – 888), with the virtues depicted behind the throne of Charles the Bald (O’REILLY, 1972/1988, p. 113).


Fig. 347 – The four cardinal virtues. 1. Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram, Late 10th century; 2. Gospel of Hitda of Meschede, c. 1030. 3. Rhenish Sacramentarium, early 11th century; 4. Sacramentarium of Marmoutier, Autun. 1/2/3 in: KATZENELLENBOGEN (1939). 4. HUBERT et al.  (1968/1970).

The ‘quadriga virtutum‘ was in Carolingian times the symbol of the human soul as a carriage with four horses. The wheels gave a further reference to the dynamic character. The cardinal virtues referred to a ‘cardo‘ or pivot, which makes a door turn.  The virtues should be regarded, in a metaphorical sense, as the pivot in a human life. In the process of self-knowledge (‘gnothi seauton‘) the division was thought of in qualities, which could improve the quality of life.

‘Num, inquid, currui tuo quartam deese non sentis rotam?’ (Can’t you see that you don’t have the fourth wheel of the wagon), that is the strong remark of count Liuthar to Ekkehard of Meissen and recorded by the German historian Thietmar of Merseburg. It was said on a meeting in the year 1002 AD, concerning the succession to the throne after the sudden death of Otto III in Italy.

HLAWITSCHKA (1978) made an in-depth survey what this expression could mean. He quoted the classical understanding that Ekkehard was no direct relative of the king and had no chance of succession (mangelnde Verwantschaft). Modern investigations resulted in a better insight in the family-relations of the German king and this view did not support the classical interpretation of the expression of Liuthar.

So one has to look further. Searching for an expression which consists of four parts (of which Ekkehard is clearly one missing). There is the (modern) phrase ‘the fifth wheel’, meaning ‘the odd one out’, but this does not refer to a fourth wheel. May be the expression was an invention of the historian Thietmar himself. But what did it mean?

Hlawitschka suggested that the lack of a fourth element (in the character of Ekkehard of Meissen) was a reference to the four cardinal virtues: Prudentia (wisdom/caution), Iustitia (justice), Fortitudo (fortitude/courage) and Temperantia (temperance). His interpretation was based on a common knowledge of the four virtues (‘quadratura mistica‘) in the centuries before and after the first millicennium. Alcuin, Hrabanus Maurus, Halitgar of Cambrai, Ermenrich of Ellwangen and many others used the motif. In particular the Carolingian illustrations provided many examples (‘Besonders sprechend sind die Bildzeugnisse für die Kardinaltugenden in der Karolingischen Malerei‘). Hlawitschka referred to the article of KATZENELLENBOGEN (1939) on the allegories of the virtues and vices in mediaeval art.

The motif of the wheel in relation to the quadripartite division was known to Julianus Pomerius (end fifth century), who recorded in his book ‘De Vita Contemplativa‘: ‘Sed et quatuor flumina quae de paradisi fonte procedunt, vel quatuor Evangelia, divini currus rotae quatuor, et animalia, alae eorum quatuor et facies, dignitatem numeri hujus abunde commendant‘ (MIGNE, 1844/64, PL. 59, Sp. 501). And to the question why there are four is the answer: ‘Quaternarium numerum perfectioni sacratum pene nullus ignorat‘ (EHRHARDT, 1945).

The expression of the historian Thietmar about the fourth wheel should be read as follows: ‘Ekkehard, you are not fit for the kingship, because you lack one of the four cardinal virtues’. Which virtue can only be guessed at, but Thietmar despised Ekkehard’s egocentric actions and blamed him for his lack of humility (‘humilitas‘). The most likely deficient virtue would therefore, be Justitia or Temperantia. In the end, Ekkehard efforts to gain the throne failed, because he was soon afterwards killed by rivaling parties.

This story proves to a certain extend also the importance of tetradic thinking around the year 1000, because it was not necessary to explain this frame of mind to the readers. The same holds for the illustration of the four Christian nations (Slavonia, Germania, Gallia, and Roma), bringing honor to emperor Otto III (fig. 348). Apparently, the symbolism of the tetrad was so strongly embedded in the mind of the intelligentsia at the beginning of the eleventh century, that no further explanation was necessary, being it either four wheels on a carriage or four women bowing for a throne.


Fig. 348 – The four nations (Slavonia, Germania, Gallia and Roma) honor the German Emperor Otto III. From a manuscript of the Gospels, copied from earlier Byzantine work. In: MIDDLETON  (1892) and p. 312 in: WRIGHT (1969/1985).

The Stoic interpretation of the four (human) virtues can be completed with the three theological (or godly) virtues:

————————–    Fide              –                    Faith

————————–    Spes              –                   Hope

————————–    Karitas         –                   Charity

The combination of the human four- and theological three-division is related to the ‘Seven Steps to Heaven‘, the path explored by Eriugena to reach the highest unification. DUNBAR (1929) demonstrated in his book on medieval symbolism, that the synthesis of these two types of virtues reached a climax in the ‘Divina Commedia‘ of Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321).

The consciousness of the two groups of virtues was in the eleventh and twelfth century well known. Peter of Eboli recalled, in a ‘Liber ad honorem Augusti’, the conquest of Sicily by Henry VI in 1195. An illustration (fig. 349) impersonated him amidst the virtues: three to the left and four to the right (Fortitudo and Justicia are mentioned).


Fig. 349 – Henry VI is seen here as magnificent Roman imperator amidst the virtues. Barbarossa, on his crusade to the Holy Land, left him as a representative on the isle of Sicily. When William II of Sicily died in 1189, Henry VI was the natural successor. But a nationalistic group, under the leadership of Tancred of Lecce disputed his authority and was supported by the French king Philip II Augustus and the English under Richard Plantagenet,   After their departure Henry VI foiled the rebellion. Tancred and his oldest son were killed. Henry VI’s success did not last long, because he died in 1197, thirty-two years old. From: Peter of Eboli’s ‘Liber ad honorem Augusti‘. Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 120f, 146r. In: SMALLEY (1974).

The cardinal aspect was reinforced by a wheel of Fortune, which showed Tancred, the suppressor of Sicily, first on top of the wheel and subsequently fallen at the bottom.

The idea of a new consensus became, from Dante’s time onwards, instrumental behind the Renaissance-idea to revive the world of the Roman Empire and the ‘renovatio‘ of the Roman strength and ‘virtus‘. The imperium of Rome should supply a World Ruler in the ‘Dominus mundi’, providing universal peace and justice. Virtues, and particular Justice, became an all-important tool to reach that goal.

The heritage of Cicero and his contemporaries was ransacked to create a revitalized humanistic intensity. Early examples to catch this spirit were some encyclopedic themes, painted on the walls of the Palazzo Trinci in Foligno (Italy) around 1420 and a poem by the Dominican scholar Federico Frezzi (1346? – 1416), bishop of Foligno, titled ‘Quadriregio‘ (SEZNEC, 1953/1972). He treated the Regno d’Amore, Regno di Satanasso, Regno de’ Vizi (vices) and the Regna delle Virtu (virtues) in a poetical way.

The representation of the virtues in Raphael’s ‘Stanza’s‘ (1508 – 1520), painted in the private quarters of Pope Julius II, was an apogee of the theme. The fresco ‘The cardinal virtues and the Christian virtues’ pictured three female figures: Fortitudo with an oak leaf, Prudence with a mirror and Temperance with reins. The fourth main virtue, Justice, took a central place at the ceiling and indicated with this position to be above the other virtues (SALVINI, 1989; GOMBRICH, 1972) (fig. 350).


Fig. 350 – The cardinal and theological virtues in the Stanza della Segnatura (Photo: Wikipedia).

Three of the five ‘putti‘ were representations of Christian virtues. The putto, picking the acorns of the branch carried by Fortitudo, expressed the charity (Karitas). The painting dated from around 1511 and was influenced by the same theme executed by Perugino’s in the ‘Cambio‘ at Perugia, painted in 1507. Raphael completed the ‘Stanza della Segnatura’ in the same year (1511). SEZNEC (1953/1972, p. 143) said of the philosophical and poetical subjects: ‘tout est dit, et l’on vient trop tard‘ (everything is said, and it comes too late). The subsequent ‘Stanza di Eliodoro’ is a reference to the political ambitions of pope Julius II. They give the four godly interventions in the Old Testament:

 —————————   1. the burning bush;

—————————-  2. the Jacobs ladder;

—————————-  3. the appearance of God to Noah and

—————————-  4. the sacrifice of Isaac

The Renaissance-message was clear: to bring hope of a new intervention in those troubled days at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

YATES (1975, p. 65) described, in her interesting account on the development of the imperial theme in the sixteenth century, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in Dover Town Hall: ‘behind the queen, a column on which can be seen the three theological and the four cardinal virtues; Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Prudence. Justice holds the central position with the sword. She seems to be wearing a dress similar to that of Elizabeth herself. Perhaps one may imagine that this might be a picture of the Virgin Queen as Astraea-Justice, including all the virtues’.

FISCHLIN (1997) criticized this view in his article on the ‘Rainbow Portrait’ of Queen Elizabeth I’. This painting bears the description: ‘Non Sine Sole Iris‘ (No rainbow without the sun). Other pictures also represented her as an absolutist, cosmic symbol of a radiant power comprising the world (with Justitia in the center)(fig. 351).


Fig. 351 – Left: Queen Elizabeth I in an engraving by F. Delaram after N. Hilliard. Right: Elisabeth I on the title page of J. Case’s ‘Spheara civitatis‘ (1588), encompassing the moral virtues – with Justitia in the middle. In: YATES (1975).

The positive virtues were contrasted by the four vices: wrath, fear, avarice and lust. A woodcut from 1470 depicted the devil and the seven sins in relation to animals (fig. 269): pride (superbia) on a horse, avarice (avaritia) on a toad, wrath (ira) on a bear, envy (invidia) on a dog, laziness (acedia) on a donkey, gluttony (gula) on a pig, and lust (luxuria) on a goat. It is a ramshackle representation of a much older motif of the (numerological) eight-division, which originated in the Egyptian gnosis.

The development of a systematic octad of evil thoughts took place in the hermit colonies of the Egyptian desert towards the end of the fourth century (NEWHAUSER, 1993; p. 99). Evagrius Ponticus, who was born in 345 AD, referred to them. John Cassianus (c. 360 – 435) brought the theme to the west. The so-called ‘Evagrian or Cassianic sequence’ indicated an ascending line in difficulty for the monks: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, wrath, sloth, vainglory and pride. An echo of Cassian’s ‘battle of gula‘ is heard in an Irish text, the ‘Amra Choluim Chille’ – a poem on St Colum Cille (Columba) of Iona – dated soon after his death in 597 (O’NEILL, 1987; p. 207).

Gregory the Great considered, in his ‘Liber Moralium’ (XXXI, Cap. XLV, nr. 87), Superbia (or vanity) to be the Radix, or root of all evil. The seven main vices: inanis gloria (superbis), invidia, ira, tristitia (acedia), avaritia, ventris ingluvies (gula) and luxuria shoot from this root (fig. 352).


Fig. 352 – The devil and the seven deadly sins. The symbolism is the dualistic mirror image of the seven main virtues, with an effort – maybe only for graphical reasons – to obey to the ogdad. Germany, around 1470. In: KUNZLE  (1973).

The Dutch painter Hieronymus (Jeroen) Bosch (ca. 1450 – 1516) gave a different interpretation in his picture of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. His ‘Table with the seven deadly sins and the four last things’ was a strong reminder of symbolism and virtues. The round painting, on a wooden panel (called ‘una mesa‘ by Felipe de Guevara in 1560) measures 120 x 150 centimetres, and is now in the Prado Museum in Madrid (fig. 353).


Fig. 353 – ‘The Seven Sins and the Four Last Things’, painted by Hieronymus (Jeroen) Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516) on a wooden panel. Prado Museum, Madrid. In: HAZELZET (1994).

‘Visibility’ is in this picture a primary theme. The seven individual images of the sins are centered on the all-seeing Eye. The pupil of the eye showed Christ, rising from the grave and the words ‘Cave cave deus videt‘ (be careful, God will see you).

Bosch gave wrath (ira) a central position at the bottom, with the largest measurements (21 x 49 cm). The scene depicts two men in a quarrel before a public house. A woman tries to interfere by stopping the man with a knife.

To the right of this picture is an illustration of Superbia (or vanity), measuring 25 x 21 cm. A single woman faces a mirror (held by the devil) and a piece of furniture with precious objects, with her back turned towards the observer. It is the well-known motif of Vanitas, which was popular in the sixteenth century (often in relation to the temporaries of life, the spirit of ‘momento mori‘).

Luxuria (or indecency/lechery) is the next sin, given a fairly big stake in the circle (measuring 21 x 43 cm.). A tent is a central theme, with a couple inside and a woman at the entrance, accompanied by three men (one is dressed as a fool). All participants seem to have great fun. Bosch only hints to the effects of such behavior.

Accidia (or laziness, more generally written as ‘acedia‘, with a connotation to ‘melacholia‘, according to Hieronymus (Epist. 4), or ‘tristitia‘ (Gregory the Great, Liber Moralium, Lib. XXXI, Cap. XXXIX; MIGNE (1844/64), PL 76, Sp. 621) is positioned in the top right-hand part of the circle. It figures twice on the painting: one time in the circle of sins and another time in the Hell, one of the ‘Four Last Things’.

Acedia is symbolized as a man, sitting on a chair near an open fire, taking a nap, or – in the interpretation of GERLACH (1988) – being ill and ready to take his life with the dagger he holds in his hand. A woman (a ‘Zuster van het Gemene Leven‘?) comes to his rescue.

The topic has been relatively little used, in contrast to the next sin: Gula or gluttony, which was well known by the monks and occasionally by the common people when a party was organized. The picture (25 x 43.5 cm) is right on the top, opposite ‘ira‘ and therefore, ‘upside down’. It shows an interior with two eating and drinking man and a woman serving food. A child tries to stop the orgy.

Hieronymus Bosch associated Avaritia (or avarice) with the judges, who were willing to change their verdict for money. Two pairs of man are dealing with each other in the village-square. A fifth person, looking like a beggar, is clearly losing out.

The circle is completed by a representation of the seventh sin, Invidia or envy. Gregory distinguished in his ‘Liber moralium’ (XXXI, cap. 17) five ‘filiae‘ (daughters) of this basic sin: 1. Odium (hatred), by wishing someone the worst; 2. Susurratio (suggestions, gossip); 3. Denigratio (slander); 4. Exsultatio (delight), in someone else’s misery and 5. Afflictio (sorrow), because of another man’s happiness.

Hieronymus Bosch pictured six people in a panel of 25 x 49 cm. An (open) house occupies the left side, maybe a toll house, with four persons, and two dogs. There is an opposition between the younger couple to the left and the older couple to the right. Jealousy is the name of the game. The right half of the picture is filled with a street, with two men: one a falconer – representing the rich leisure-class – and the other (a miller?) carrying a heavy bag on his shoulder being a member of the poor working class.

The style of the ‘Table‘ suggests an early work of Bosch, but details of the clothing points to a date around 1490 (BOSING, 1973/1995). The addition of the ‘Four Last Things‘ in the corners is interesting. They are, most likely, a later addition not by the hand of Bosch, showing Heaven, Last Judgement, Death and Hell. The theme was a popular one around the year 1500, and remained so for a long time.

Whereas Jeroen Bosch kept certain modesty in his pictures of the Seven Sins (also due to the small size of the painting), it was Peter Breugel (c. 1525 – 1569), who went the full way in his representation of the subject (fig. 354).


Fig. 354 – Superbia or vanity, as one of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ by Pieter Breugel. The theme of the virtues was drawn in a multiplicity of objects, in contrast to the earlier representations of Jeroen Bosch. Bibliotheque Albert I, Bruxelles.  In: FOOTE (1970).

The cenotaph for Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459 – 1519) in the Hofkirche in Innsbruck (Austria) has a collection of sculptures, including the virtues at the corners of the marble structure. The sarcophagus was completed in 1572, and the embellishments were added in 1584.

Philip Galle composed, around 1600, a number of etchings (‘VII Peccatorum Capitalium Images Elegantissime’), with the seven deadly sins figuring as females (CHEW, 1962) (fig. 355). Galle (1537 – 1612) was a typical representative of the Mannerism, and used all kinds of classical-symbolic topics as subject for his etchings.


Fig. 355 – An etching by Philip Galle in his ‘VII Peccatorum Capitalium Imagines Elegantissime‘, around 1600. In: CHEW (1962).

The development of the virtues into a general consciousness led, in the seventeenth century, to the incorporation in a philosophical system. Arnout Geulincx (1625 – 1669) disclosed, in his ‘De Virtute’ (On Virtues, 1665/ 1667; VERHOEVEN, 1986), a new interpretation of the virtues diligence, obedience, justice and humility. Geulincx started his investigation – in the dualistic spirit of the time, highlighted in the thoughts of Descartes – of the qualities of two kinds of visibilities: a physical one (the ‘res extensa‘) and a cognitive invisibility (‘res cogitans‘). He encountered the classical philosophical problems of unity and multiplicity, being and substance, cause and effect.

Geulincx’s personal solution was an ‘occasionalism‘, making the value of the (material) substance subordinate to a higher sense of duty, or the observance of the virtues. The latter ones are then placed as holy attributes in the realm of invisibility:  God is the ‘cardo‘ of life.

Nicole Malebranche (1638 – 1715) was another representative of this approach. In his chef-d’oevre ‘Recherche de la verité (Search for the truth) he played the influence of the physical visibility down and stated that the material only exists in our own imagination. Movement was a ‘cause occasionelle‘ (exceptional case) of the experience (DESSOIR, 1925; p. 417). This firm dualism was applied by Malabranche to the material itself: bodies do not affect each other, but were guided by regulated movements of a higher order (which have their ultimate ‘occasional’ cause in God). In lower division thinking, with its insurmountable differences between visible and invisible, physical and cerebral, God can only be seen as a first and last cause.

The ‘harmonia praestabilita’ was taken by the German philosopher Leibniz (1646 – 1716) as the ultimate goal. The active interference of God in the state of affairs was characteristic of this period, but it lost its power with the (re)introduction of higher division-thinking at the end of the eighteenth century. Alternatively, like Leibniz put the alarming message – especially for a dualist – in his ‘Theodicee‘, that: ‘If God does everything, he does nothing’. Leaving Man in a position of great freedom and power.

Bernard Mandeville (1670 – 1733) touched the same dilemma. He wondered, in his amusing ‘The Fable of the Bees’ (1705), how the Christian virtues could be combined with materialistic ambitions: ‘Christian virtue is quite incompatible with worldly prosperity and greatness’ leading to the conclusion that: ‘if Christian Church had become great and prosperous it could only be by abandoning Christian virtue.’

‘The Grumbling Hive’ – as the story of the ‘Fable of the Bees’ was first called (MONRO, 1975) – was a vision of the multitude in a far more realistic sense than Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan‘. Mandeville envisaged in the dualistic struggle between (holy) virtue and (worldly) success a victory for the latter and a forthcoming rule of the laws of the jungle. Just like Leibniz and so many of his contemporaries, he was unable to comprehend a world of higher division-thinking, with God and human beings not in opposition, ruled by power-play, but as actors in the same cosmic theater, working together to create reality.

The virtues, being three, four or seven in number, are a dynamic entity which can be used in all types of division-thinking: from their original, ‘cardinal’ environment – pointing to cyclic unity – to a numerological use in dualistic thinking and further into the realm of higher understanding. The history of the virtues (within the European culture) is the history of thought itself: from the early definition (in the third century) to general acceptance (eighth century), becoming an arena of confrontation (twelfth century) and narrow, moralistic interpretation (in the seventeenth century).

The four virtues are still with us today. Maybe not directly associated with wisdom, fortitude, temperance and justice, but as four (abstract) values of human behavior. These merits emerge from an interaction between the observer and the observed and are indicative of a location. Insight in the position (of the observer) within a communication (Prudentia) and creative knowledge of division thinking (Fortitudo) leads to concrete figures (Temperance) in relation to the world in general (Justice).

Virtue, in a modern interpretation, should point to the capacity of a thoughtful approach to life. A virtuous life in a contemporary sense (quadralectic interpretation) would comprise knowledge of the mechanism of displacement in a communication and also the ways to measure and valuate the changes.

BOSING,  Walter (1973/1995). Jeroen Bosch rond 1450 – 1516. Tussen hemel  en  hel.  Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH.,  Keulen  (Thames  &  Hudson Ltd., London, 1973). Librero Nederland BV., Hedel. ISBN 3-8228-0615-3

CHEW, Samuel C. (1962). The Pilgrimage of Life. Yale University Press, New Haven/London. LCCC 62-8239

CURL, James Stevens (1980). A Celebration of death. An introduction to  some of the buildings, monuments, and settings of funerary archicture in the Western European tradition. Constable and Company Ltd., London. ISBN 0 09 46 3000 3

DESSOIR,  Max  (Ed.)(1925). Die Geschichte der Philosophie. Verlag Ull-stein, Berlin.

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