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50. The Subject of Habits

1. The subject of anything is the precise reality in which the thing resides or has place. The subject of habits is that precise reality to which habits are properly ascribed. The body has habits, such as health, beauty, fatness, leanness, etc., and therefore the body is the subject of habits. But body-habits are not perfect habits, for they have not a high degree of stability; they are to some extent readily changeable. Hence body-habits are more properly called habitual dispositions than habits simply. The principle and primary subject of habits is the soul. Even operative habits which are exercised by bodily members have their root in the life principle or soul.

2. Human habits are rooted in the soul. They are not, indeed, in the essence of the soul, but in its powers and operations. An operative habit can exist where a variety of operations is possible; it disposes the operator to exercise one rather than any other of these possible operations. Where there is only one way of doing a thing (as, for example, in digesting food), there can be no operative habit.

3. The sensitive powers of a man can be called subjects of habits in so far as these powers are under the control of reason. Animals, which have no higher powers than sentient powers, are not properly the subjects of habits. Wild animals that are domesticated may appear to have changed their habits, but this is only seeming. Animals are instinctively inclined to act in a manner that is good for them; the same instinct that guides them in the wild state, guides them, with different outer effects, in the tame state. Besides, animals have no free choice among possible modes ofaction, and such choice appears to belong to the very essence of operative habit.

4. Knowledge in the human mind or intellect is a habit; it disposes a man to act in accordance with it. Science (that is, evidenced knowledge) and wisdom (that is, deep, valuable, and appreciated knowledge) are also habits of the mind or intellect. Therefore the intellect is the subject of habits.

5. The will likewise is the subject of habits. Indeed, habit is specially referred to will. It is said of human action that "habit is what one uses when one wills." The moral virtues, for example, are habits of the will.

6. In the angels, too, there are habits, for angels have intellect and will. Yet habits are in angels in a manner suited to their superior nature, and not precisely as habits are in the human soul.

"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."
St Philip Neri

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"A tree that is cultivated and guarded through the care of its owner produces its fruit at the expected time. "
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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