The Value of Infused Love

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Aquinas distinguishes between love as a passion of the soul and love as a theological virtue. The distinction between both forms of love lies not in the objects of love, as if love for men was a passion of the soul, love for God a theological virtue. Love as a theological virtue comprises both love of men and love of God (STh II-II 24, 12 obj.4, 25,1); even loving our enemies is included (25,8). This seems to suggest that infused love is agape, value bestowing, gift-love: it is love that does not seek value in the beloved, but loves the beloved irrespective of his or her merits. We cannot do so of our own accord, but God can give us the virtue of doing so. In discussion with Anders Nygren and Augustine, however, Vincent Brümmer has argued that that mere gift-love is a contradictio in terminis. Briefly, his argument runs as follows: it is precisely the fact that A loves B because of who B is, that makes A’s love so valuable for B. B knows that s/he is irreplaceable for A, that no one can take his or her place. If A has mere gift-love for B, however, A’s love for B is unconditional and does in no way depend on who B is. Then, however, B is replaceable for A; A’s gift-love aims at A’s enemies as well as at the persons A likes. As a result, Brümmer argues, gift-love is not value-creating in the way that need-love is: It is precisely the fact that love is directed towards a specific person because of his/her characteristics that makes love value-creating. When reading Aquinas on infused virtue, I realised (1) that Brümmer does not include Aquinas in his discussion of this issue, and (2) that Aquinas has in fact an answer to Brümmer’s objection. This paper aims to tease out Aquinas’ answer from the relevant questions of the Summa Theologiae (STh II-II 25–26).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-123
Number of pages13
JournalJaarboek Thomas-Instituut te Utrecht
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • theological virtues, love, thomas aquinas, c.s. lewis, augustine, vincent brümmer


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