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Article Four

Whether Despair Arises from Listlessness

We proceed to the fourth article thus:

1. It seems that despair does not arise from listlessness. For the same thing does not result from different causes, and Gregory says that despair of the future life results from lust (31 Moral. 17). It does not then result from listlessness.

2. Again, as despair is opposed to hope, so is listlessness opposed to spiritual joy. Now spiritual joy is the result of hope, according to Rom. 12:12: “Rejoicing in hope.” Hence listlessness is the result of despair, not vice versa.

3. Again, the causes of contraries are themselves contrary. Now hope is the contrary of despair, and hope seems to be caused by contemplation of the divine blessings, especially the incarnation. As Augustine says: “Nothing was so necessary in order to raise our hope, as that we should be shown how much God loves us. What could more plainly declare this to us than that the Son of God should deign to take our nature upon himself?” (13 De Trin. 10). Despair therefore results from neglect to think of these blessings, rather than from listlessness.

On the other hand: Gregory numbers despair among the results of listlessness (31 Moral. 17).

I answer: as we said in Q. 17, Art. 1, and in 12ae, Q. 40, Art. 1, the object of hope is a good which is arduous, and also 335possible to obtain. There are accordingly two ways in which one may fail in the hope of obtaining blessedness. One may fail to look upon it as an arduous good, and one may fail to look upon it as a good which it is possible to obtain, whether by oneself or through the help of another. It is especially through corruption of our affection by love of bodily pleasures, particularly those of sexuality, that we are brought to the point where spiritual goods do not savour of good, or do not seem to be very good. For it is due to love of such things that a man loses his taste for spiritual goods, and does not hope for them as arduous goods. In this way, despair arises from lust. But it is owing to excessive dejection that one fails to look upon an arduous good as possible to obtain, whether by oneself or through the help of another. For when dejection dominates a man’s affection, it seems to him that he can never rise to anything good. In this way, despair arises from listlessness, since listlessness is the kind of sadness which casts down the spirit.

Now the proper object of hope is this—that a thing is possible to obtain. For to be good, or to be arduous, pertains to the object of other passions also. It is therefore from listlessness that despair arises the more especially, although it can also arise from lust, for the reason which we have stated.

From this the reply to the first point is plain.

On the second point: as the philosopher says in 1 Rhetoric 11, just as hope creates joy, so do men have greater hope when they live joyously. So likewise do they fall the more readily into despair when they live in sadness, according to II Cor. 2:7: “lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” The object of hope is a good to which the appetite tends naturally, and from which it will not turn aside naturally, but only if some obstacle intervenes. Hence joy is more directly the result of hope, and despair more directly the result of sadness.

On the third point: neglect to think of the divine blessings is itself the result of listlessness. For a man who is affected by a passion thinks especially of the things which pertain to it. Hence it is not easy for a man who lives in sadness to contemplate any great and joyful things. He thinks only of things that are sad, unless he turns away from them by a great effort.

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