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Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Lie In Acts Of Virtue

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Strange (again again) are the things men seek out.

That man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in acts of the moral virtues

1 It is clear, too, that the ultimate felicity of man does not consist in moral actions.

2 In fact, human felicity is incapable of being ordered to a further end, if it is ultimate. But all moral operations can be ordered to something else. This is evident from the most important instances of these actions. The operations of fortitude, which are concerned with warlike activities, are ordered to victory and to peace. Indeed, it would be foolish to make war merely for its own sake.

Likewise, the operations of justice are ordered to the preservation of peace among men, by means of each man having his own possessions undisturbed. And the same thing is evident for all
the other virtues. Therefore, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in moral operations.

Notes Somehow this Patton quote fits: “The Americans fight for a free world, the English mostly for honor and glory and medals, the French and Canadians decide too late that they have to participate. The Italians are too scared to fight; the Russians have no choice. The Germans for the Fatherland. The Boers? Those sons of bitches fight for the hell of it.”

3 Again, the moral virtues have this purpose: through them the mean is preserved in the internal passions and in regard to external things. Now, it is not possible for such a measuring of passions, or of external things, to be the ultimate end of human life, since these passions and exterior things are capable of being ordered to something else. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to lie in acts of the moral virtues.

4 Besides, since man is man by virtue of his possession of reason, his proper good which is felicity should be in accord with what is appropriate to reason. Now, that is more appropriate to reason which reason has within itself than which it produces in another thing. So, since the good of moral virtue is something produced by reason in things other than itself, it could not be that which is best for man; namely, felicity. Rather would felicity seem to be a good situated in reason itself.

5 Moreover, it was shown above that the ultimate end of all things is to become like unto God. So, that whereby man is made most like God will be his felicity. Now, this is not a function of moral acts, since such acts cannot be attributed to God, except metaphorically. Indeed, it does not befit God to have passions, or the like, with which moral acts are concerned. Therefore, man’s ultimate felicity, that is, his ultimate end, does not consist in moral actions.

Notes Literal atheists take note, please: “such acts cannot be attributed to God, except metaphorically”.

6 Furthermore, felicity is the proper good for man. So, that which is most proper among all human goods, for man in contrast to the other animals, is the good in which his ultimate felicity is to be sought. Now, an act of moral virtue is not of this sort, for some animals share somewhat, either in liberality or in fortitude, but an animal does not participate at all in intellectual action. Therefore, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in moral acts.

That ultimate felicity does not lie in the act of prudence

1 From this it is also apparent that man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in an act of prudence.

2 For the act of prudence is only concerned with things that pertain to the moral virtues. Now, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in acts of the moral virtues, nor, then, in the act of prudence.

3 Again, man’s ultimate felicity consists in the best operation of man. Now, the best operation of man, according to what is proper to man, lies in a relationship to the most perfect object. But the operation of prudence is not concerned with the most perfect object of understanding or reason; indeed, it does not deal with necessary objects, but with contingent problems of action. Therefore, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in this operation.

4 Besides, that which is ordered to another thing as an end is not the ultimate felicity for man. But the operation of prudence is ordered to something else as an end: both because all practical knowledge, in which category prudence is included, is ordered to action, and because prudence makes a man well disposed in regard to things that are to be chosen for the sake of the end, as is clear from Aristotle, in Ethics VI [13: 1145a 6]. Therefore, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in the operation of prudence.

5 Moreover, irrational animals do not participate in felicity, as Aristotle proves in Ethics I [9: 1099b 33]. However, some of them do participate somewhat in prudence, as appears in the same writer, in Metaphysics I [1: 980a 30]. Therefore, felicity does not consist in the operation of prudence.

That felicity does not consist in the operation of art

1 It is also clear that it does not lie in the operation of art.

2 For the knowledge that pertains to art is also practical knowledge. And so, it is ordered to an end, and is not itself the ultimate end.

3 Again, the ends of art operations are artifacts. These cannot be the ultimate end of human life, for we ourselves are, rather, the ends for all artificial things. Indeed, they are all made for man’s use. Therefore, ultimate felicity cannot lie in the operation of art.

2 thoughts on “Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Lie In Acts Of Virtue Leave a comment

  1. Now that is a typically perspicacious “take” that I had not seriously considered.

    Thank you “Uncle Tom” via Briggs.

  2. “Somehow this Patton quote fits: “The Americans fight for a free world, the English mostly for honor and glory and medals, the French and Canadians decide too late that they have to participate. The Italians are too scared to fight; the Russians have no choice. The Germans for the Fatherland. The Boers? Those sons of bitches fight for the hell of it.”

    3 Again, the moral virtues have this purpose: through them the mean is preserved in the internal passions and in regard to external things. Now, it is not possible for such a measuring of passions, or of external things, to be the ultimate end of human life, since these passions and exterior things are capable of being ordered to something else. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to lie in acts of the moral virtues.”

    Patton? America fights for freedom? pull the other one. They are no different from all of the rest.
    Terirtory and perceived threats upon it. That is why man fights.
    Only Mel Gibson and his ilk believe otherwise.
    Altruism, bravery, honour attend the battle field. They are more immediate motives. Some motives are more virtuous than others. I do believe there is confusion about why some sign up to be a soldier or a military person. Those motives often involve nothing to do with battlefield or theatre action.
    It’s easy to generalise but remember some soldiers fight because they have nowhere else to go.
    Like my paternal Grandfather who was a boy soldier from 14. He never did anything else and died a Chelsea pensioner.

    It doesn’t pay to generalise. Patton had his own reasons for saying what he did.
    Virtue is not only a Christian phenomenon. It is universal.

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