Volume 92, Issue 4, October 2015
Virtue and the Emotions
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung
The Roots of Despair
This paper is an exploration of the Thomistic vice of despair, one of two vices opposed to the theological virtue of hope. Aquinas’s conception of despair as a vice, and a theological vice in particular, distances him from contemporary use of the term “despair” to describe an emotional state. His account nonetheless yields a compelling psychological portrait of moral degeneration, which I explain via despair’s link to its “root,” the capital vice of sloth. Cases in which sloth and its offspring vices progress into full-fledged despair raise interesting issues about whether and how despair might be remediable. I conclude by considering puzzles regarding despair’s disordered effects on the intellect and will and weighing three possible means of remedying it.