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Aquinas thinks we are creatures of habit, with our future choices influenced not only by the good we perceive and the fuel of our passion, but also by the history of choices we have made in the past. These learned tendencies he calls dispositions.

We all cope with life in ways that flow not only from our nature but from the choices we have already made: we tend to use familiar and comfortable behaviors over and over again until they become second nature. The more we choose a behavior (e.g., choose to speak up or not, choose to be clueless or not, take that third piece of candy or not), the more ingrained it becomes, and the greater the odds that we will act that way again. So there are certain patterns of choice that we can consciously form which will affect our actions and thereby move us either closer to that delightful state of self-awareness we're after (e.g., "advance happiness") or further away from it (e.g., "block the road"). All voluntary action has to do with exercising reason, so the key to forming right patterns of choice is actually thinking about what we do: applying reason to the infinite sea of options we can think of as being "good for us."

For Aquinas, virtues are those patterns of choice that serve to open us up to our own potential.

They are:


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