Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION V.: OF THE ATTAINMENT OF HAPPINESS. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION V.: OF THE ATTAINMENT OF HAPPINESS. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE ATTAINMENT OF HAPPINESS.
Article I.—Can man attain to happiness?
R. Whoever is capable of perfect good, can attain to happiness. That man is capable of perfect good, appears from the fact of his intellect being able to grasp universal and perfect good, and his will to desire it; and therefore man can attain to happiness.1
§ 1. The way that the rational nature exceeds the sensitive is not like the way that the intellectual nature exceeds the rational.2 For the rational nature exceeds the sensitive in point of the object of its knowledge, because sense can nowise be cognisant of the universal, whereof reason is cognisant. But the intellectual nature exceeds the rational in point of the manner of knowing an intelligible truth. For the intellectual nature immediately apprehends the truth, whereunto the rational nature arrives by the inquiry of reason; and therefore what intellect apprehends, reason attains by a process of making its way thither. Hence a rational nature can attain to happiness, which is the perfection of an intellectual nature, yet after another fashion than the angels: for the angels gained it immediately after the beginning of their creation, but men take time to arrive at it. But a sensitive nature can never reach this goal at all.
§ 3. To none of the Blessed is there wanting any good that he can desire, since he has the Infinite Good itself, which is “the good of all good,” as Augustine says. But one of them is said to be happier than another according to different degrees of partaking of the same good. The addition of other goods to this does not increase happiness.
Article III.—Can any one be happy in this life?
“Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries.”1
R. Some manner of participation in happiness may be had in this life, but not perfect and true happiness, as may be seen from two considerations. First, from the general notion of happiness: for happiness, being a perfect and sufficient good, excludes all evil and satisfies all desire: but in this life all evil cannot be excluded. The present life is liable to many evils that cannot be avoided, ignorance on the part of the intellect, inordinate affection on the part of the desire, and manifold penal inflictions on the part of the body. In like manner also the desire of good cannot be satisfied in this life. For naturally man desires permanence in the good that he has. But the goods of this life are transient, as life itself is transient, which we naturally desire, and would wish permanently to hold, since every man naturally shrinks from death. Secondly, if we consider that wherein particularly happiness consists, to wit, the vision of the Divine Essence, that cannot be the portion of man in this life.
Article IV.—Can happiness once attained be ever lost?
R. If we speak of imperfect happiness, such as can be had in this life, happiness thus considered can be lost. And this is apparent in the happiness of study and contemplation, which is lost either by forgetfulness, as in sickness, which makes havoc of a man’s learning, or by occupations that entirely withdraw a man from study. The same is apparent in the case of the happiness of practical life: for the will of man may alter so as to degenerate from that virtue, the exercise of which is the principal element of happiness. But if we speak of the perfect happiness which is looked for after this life, we must observe that Origen, following the error of some Platonists, laid it down as possible for man to fall into misery after the attainment of the final goal of happiness. But that is evidently an error, as appears from two considerations. First, from the general notion of happiness. For happiness, being a perfect and sufficient good, must set man’s desire at rest and exclude all evil. Now naturally man desires to retain the good which he has got, and to obtain security for retaining it: otherwise he must needs be afflicted by fear of losing it, or grief at the certainty of the loss. It is requisite therefore for true happiness that man shall have sure ground for thinking that the good which he has got, he never shall be dispossessed of. If his thinking so is correct, it follows that he never shall lose his happiness. But if he is mistaken in thinking so, that by itself is an evil, to have a false opinion: for falsehood is the evil of the intellect, as truth is its good. He will not then be truly happy, if there is any evil upon him. Secondly, the same appears from the consideration of the notion of happiness in special detail. It has been shown above that the perfect happiness of man consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now it is impossible that any one seeing the Divine Essence should wish not to see it: because every good gift which one is willing to go without, is either insufficient, so that something else more sufficing is sought in its place, or has some inconvenience annexed to it, whereby it comes to excite disgust. But the vision of the Divine Essence fills the soul with all good things, since it unites to it the Source of all good. Hence it is said, “I shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear;”1 and, “All good things have come to me along with it,”2 that is, with the contemplation of wisdom. In like manner also that vision has no inconvenience annexed: as it is said of the contemplation of wisdom: “Her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness.”3 Thus it is evident that of his own will the happy being cannot forsake happiness. In like manner also he cannot lose it by God withdrawing it; because, since the withdrawal of happiness is a punishment, such withdrawal cannot come from God, the just Judge, except for some fault: but he who sees the Essence of God cannot fall into any fault, seeing that rectitude of will necessarily follows upon such vision.4
Article V.—Can man acquire happiness by the exercise of his own natural powers?
R. Imperfect happiness, which can be had in this life, can be acquired by man through the exercise of his own natural powers. But the perfect happiness of man consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now to see God by essence is above the nature, not only of man, but even of every creature. For the natural knowledge of every creature whatever is according to the mode of its substance. But every knowledge that is according to the mode of a created substance, falls short of the vision of the Divine Essence, which infinitely exceeds every created substance. Hence neither man nor any creature can gain final happiness by the exercise of his own natural powers.
§ 1. As nature is not wanting to man in things necessary, though it has not given him weapons and clothing as to other animals, because it has given him reason and hands whereby he can acquire these things for himself, so neither is it wanting to man in necessaries, albeit it give him not anything to set him on his way to attain to happiness for himself—for that were impossible: but it has given him free-will whereby he can turn to God to make him happy. For what we can do by the aid of friends, we can in a certain manner do of ourselves.
§ 2. The nature that can attain to perfect good, although it needs exterior aid to attain it, is of a nobler sort than the nature which cannot attain to perfect good, but gains an imperfect good independently of aid from without: as he is better disposed for health who can gain perfect health by the aid of medicine, than he who can get tolerably well without the aid of medicine. And therefore the rational creature, which can gain the perfect good of happiness, needing the divine assistance thereto, is more perfect than the irrational creation, which is not capable of such a good, but gains some manner of imperfect good by the effort of its own natural powers.
Article VII.—Are good works requisite for man to obtain happiness of God?
R. Rectitude of the will is requisite for happiness, being nothing else than a right order of the will towards the last end: which is needful for the attainment of the last end in the same way that a due disposition of the matter is needed for the attainment of the form. But hereby it is not shown that any activity of man need go before his happiness. For God might produce a will at once rightly tending to the end, and gaining the end, as sometimes He at once disposes the matter and introduces the form. But the orderly course of Divine Wisdom requires that this be not done. For of beings naturally apt to have perfect good, one has it without movement, another by one movement, and another by several. To have perfect good without any movement befits a being which has it naturally. But to have happiness naturally is proper to God alone. Hence it is proper to God alone not to travel towards happiness by any previous activity. But whereas happiness exceeds every created nature, no pure creature fitly gains happiness without some movement of activity tending to it. The angel, who is higher in the order of nature than man, gained happiness according to the orderly course of Divine Wisdom by one movement of meritorious activity, but men gain it by many movements of activity, which are called merits.
Article VIII.—Does every man desire happiness?
R. Happiness may be viewed in two aspects: in one way according to the general notion of happiness, and under that aspect it needs must be that every man wishes for happiness. The general notion of happiness is that of perfect good. Now as good is the object of the will, a man’s perfect good is that which entirely satisfies his will. Hence to desire happiness is nothing else than to desire that the will may be satisfied, a thing which every one wants. In another way we may speak of happiness in special detail, having regard to that wherein happiness consists; and in that regard not all men have knowledge of happiness, because they do not know to what thing the general notion of happiness applies; and consequently so far forth not all men wish for happiness.
§ 2. Since the will follows the apprehension of the intellect or reason, the same reality may be desired in one way, and in another way not desired, according to the different lights in which reason looks at it. Happiness therefore may be considered in the light of final and perfect good, which is the general notion of happiness; and, looked at in this light, the will tends to it naturally and of necessity. It may also be considered under other special points of view, as a special activity, or as conversant with a special object, and from these points of view the will is under no necessity of tending to it.1
[1 ]This argument, a very difficult one, is developed in Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 14—21. (Trl.)
[2 ]That is, the superiority of man over brute is different from the superiority of angel over man. (Trl.)
[1 ]Job xiv. 1.
[1 ]Psalm xvi. 15.
[2 ]Wisdom vii. 11.
[3 ]Wisdom viii. 16.
[4 ]Q. 4. art. 4.
[1 ]See Ethics and Natural Law, p. 4, n. 5, and p. 6, n. 1 (Trl.)