Question 1--Humanity's Last End is Happiness
Human actions are reasoned, deliberate acts of the
free will with an end in mind (1st). The rational nature knows the good in
general and chooses among particular goods with an end in mind. The will
functions as a kind of rational appetite (2nd). Human acts have a will
toward a perceived good; in this sense, the end is present at every step
of the journey (3rd). An end is needed for there to be intention on our
parts, an indefinite search is finally incompatible with the good (4th).
There is one last end, our happiness (our blessedness, the objective
good), which orders everything; it orders our life's choices and meaning
(5th). Humans choose things because they perceive in them their good,
though often mistakenly. One need not always be thinking of the last end,
such as with virtues like humor and speculative science (6th). All people
desire the last end, that is "the fulfillment of their
perfection," but not all agree on the manner or content of this
- How would you define "happiness,"
"joy," or "blessedness"? How would Aquinas'
- Do you think that all human actions are toward a
- Must one always have the final end of blessedness
in heaven in mind in life?
Question 2--What Happiness is Not
Human happiness cannot exist in wealth. Natural
wealth (such as food, drink, clothing, housing, etc.) is to to support our
human nature and is not an end in itself, while artificial wealth
(currency) is sought to acquire natural wealth. We should take our
estimation of wealth from the wise. The desire for natural wealth is
finally finite, while artificial wealth can be desired in ad infinitum.
Thus, it serves as "the servant of disordered concupiscence"
(363). The more wealth we possess, the more we realize its insufficiency
to bring happiness (1st). Human happiness cannot exist in honor for true
honor is an account of some excellent quality in a person, so the
happiness is a result of the quality. Honor does not make one excellent,
rather it reflects what is already there (2nd). Happiness cannot exist in
fame or glory because happiness exists in knowledge of another's
happiness, and personal fame robs that. Human blessedness can only arise
in praise from God who actually transforms us into the good in question
(3rd). Happiness cannot exist in power since power can be used for evil,
as well as for good. Happiness is not compatible with evil because it must
satisfy of itself, lacking no good. Power without goodness will not
satisfy (4th). Happiness cannot exist in bodily goods, such as health
since they are ordained as means to a further end, and a human's end is in
soul-body and not body alone (5th). Happiness does not consist in pleasure
itself, rather delight accompanies various goods, so the best delight will
result from the supreme good (6th). While happiness is a good of the soul,
the soul exists in potentiality for something beyond itself and thus
happiness constitutes something outside the soul (7th). Thus, no created
good can constitute a person's perfect happiness. Perfect goodness, the
universal good, is found in God alone, for God alone represents human
- Do you agree with Aquinas' assessments of what
doesn't bring happiness? Why or why not?
- Can there be intermediate forms of happiness
along the way to the final form? Why or why not?
Question 3--The Definition of Happiness
Happiness is an operation since it is a person's
last [teleological] act (2nd). A thing may belong to happiness in three
ways: 1) essentially in being united to God; 2) as an antecedent to
intellectual reasoning; and 3) as a consequence of happiness. The senses
can function as an antecedent of happiness in this life, as an assistant to
reasoning, and consequently in the blessed resurrection body (3rd).
Happiness itself cannot exist in an act of the will since happiness is
finally in the attainment of our last end; however, the will can be
disposed toward this end. The will is subordinate to the actual intimate
knowing of God, though it assists in the obtaining of this. Therefore, the
delight that results from happiness does pertain to the will (4th).
Happiness is an operation of the speculative intellect because it is
contemplative in nature, which is for its own sake (5th). However,
happiness is not speculative science because it is found in knowing God
not in knowing about God (e.g theology) (6th). Happiness consists in the
vision of the Divine Essence since humans are not happy as long as
something higher remains to desire, and our intellect was designed for this
perfection of perception and contemplation (8th).
- Why does Aquinas feel the will itself is not an
act of the will?
- Do you agree with Aquinas' vision of the beatific
vision as our final happiness and end? Why or why not?
Question 4--What is Required for Happiness?
Delight is necessary for happiness because it
functions as instruction for it, is necessary for its life, helps us
toward it, is attendant upon it, and is a key element in the Supreme Good
(1st). This vision is the very cause of delight (2nd), and our volition
will be completely subordinated to God's will (4th). The resurrected body
is a necessity for the perfect happiness of the beatific vision because
our enjoyment of God should overflow into our bodies which are a element
of our perfection; however, incomplete happiness can be inexperienced
without these bodies (5th). These bodies will be perfect, designed to see
and enjoy God fully (6th). In this life, external goods are not necessary
for happiness, but they often serve in an instrumental manner, signifying
greater forms of happiness (7th). While friendship would not be absolutely
necessary for happiness before the beatific vision, it can only add to and
increase this perfect bliss (8th).
- Can anyone sin in heaven? Why or why not?
- Is bodily existence necessary for our final
happiness? Why or why not?
- Is friendship necessary?
Question 5--The Attainment of Happiness
Humans can attain happiness provided their
intellects can apprehend it and their wills desire it (1st). Humans in a
blessed state can no longer desire anything since they have attained the
greatest good, yet some can enjoy this more than others since they have a
greater capacity than others (2nd). One can be happy in this life but not
perfectly so (3rd), and in this life, imperfect happiness can be lost
since we can lose contemplative happiness through forgetfulness or active
happiness through vice. Perfect happiness in heaven cannot be lost since
its perfect nature includes the assurance that it can never be lost and
because the Divine Essence by its very nature excludes a desire not to
behold it (4th). Imperfect happiness in this life can be obtained by human
effort, but the perfect happiness is a gift of grace. Therefore, every
person desires happiness since everyone desires to fulfill one's will, yet
not everyone knows the true satisfaction of this desire and, thus, does
not desire the true fulfillment of their desire (8th).
- Can one ever be truly happy in this life? Why or
- Is it possible to be unhappy in heaven?
- How do you think Aquinas would explain the
fall of Satan?
Questions 6, 8-9,13 [not in our
Human acts are voluntary since we act with a certain
end in view (Q6.1st). Free will ceases to be free when it is compelled,
though God has the right to compel us (4th). Violence, therefore, makes a
compelled act involuntary (5th), while fear produces a more complex
response, for actions done to avoid fear are still voluntary (6th).
Concupiscence (unregulated, disordered passion) inclines the will in a
certain direction, but it is still voluntary (7th). Ignorance can only be
said to lead to an involuntary action when it denies the knowledge
necessary to make a decision. Negligence, on the other hand, or
intentional ignorance, should be discounted in these cases (8th).
We always will toward a good or an apparent good
(Q8. 1st), so the will moves the intellect to actively act, while the
intellect moves the will to determine whether to act, and sensation obeys
reason (Q 9.1st-2nd). Astrological arguments, therefore, should be
Choice implies something belonging to the reason and
to the will (Q13.1st), so irrational animals have sensation but not choice
(2nd). One can finally only choose as to the means, not to the end itself;
that is, every choice presupposes an end in question already before the
choice is made (3rd). People choose freely, and not of necessity, since
the final end of humans is happiness (6th).
Reflection Question: Why is free will
necessary to our acts that lead to our final happiness?
Questions 18-21 [not in our assigned
Ontological goodness resides in all actions, while
human actions as intentional ethical choices can be evil in subtracting
from the ontological goodness (Q18.1st). An act is good only when it is
the right kind of act done with the right intention in the right
circumstances (2nd). If a certain necessary circumstance is missing, an
action otherwise right and well-intentioned is still evil (3rd). One,
therefore, must consider the type of action, its particular expression,
the surrounding circumstances, and the end in view (4th); one must
consider both the quality of the action and the intention behind it (6th).
It is possible that some kinds of actions by their nature are neither good
nor evil (8th), and certainly some individual actions can be morally
indifferent by virtue of not being done with any moral reasoning or
intentions (9th). Sometimes an action's nature can be judged by its
circumstances (10th) and at times by its degree (11th).
The goodness of the will is dependent upon the
object presented to the reason (Q19.1st, 3rd), but finally its goodness is
dependent upon eternal law (4th). The conscience can err, but one must
obey what you believe to be right, even if this is finally wrong (5th). An
erring conscience excuses an action (as sin) provided the ignorance is
direct and not due to intentional negligence (6th).
The intentional will is more important in judging an
action bad than the type or action (Q20.1st); however, right will is not
enough to make-up for the rest (2nd), so the exterior action and its
interior choice are to be judged finally as one act (3rd) and it neither
lessens punishment or increases reward if someone fails to do right (4th).
Likewise, the unforeseen consequences of an action do not increase an
action's goodness or malice (5th). Therefore, evil is a greater category
than sin since an evil act done in good conscience is not sin though it
remains an evil (Q 21.1st).
- How would you apply Aquinas' moral reasoning to a
particular ethical dilemma, such as the person who kills someone with
a gun by mistake?
- What makes something a sin versus simply a