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Category: SAMT

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

June 17, 2018 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come In Health

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

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Goods of the Body

1 Moreover, that man’s highest good does not lie in goods of the body, such as health, beauty, and strength, is clearly evident from similar considerations. For these things are possessed in common by both good and bad men; they are also unstable; moreover, they are not subject to the will.

2 Again, the soul is better than the body, which is not alive, and which does not possess the aforementioned goods except by means of the soul. So, a good of the soul, like understanding and that sort of thing, is better than a good of the body. Therefore, the good of the body is not man’s highest good.

3 Besides, these goods are common to men and other animals. But felicity is the proper good of man. Therefore, man’s felicity does not lie in the aforesaid goods.

4 Moreover, many animals are better endowed than men, as far as the goods of the body go; for some are faster than man, some are stronger, and so on. If, then, man’s highest good lay in these things, man would not be the most excellent of animals; which is obviously false. Therefore, human felicity does not consist in goods of the body.

That Human Felicity Does Not Lie in the Senses

1 In the same way, it is also apparent that man’s highest good does not lie in the goods of his sensitive part. For these goods, too, are common to men and other animals.

2 Again, intellect is better than sense. So, the good of the intellect is better than the good of the senses. Therefore, man’s highest good does not lie in sense.

Notes And you have proved that, dear reader, by reading these lines.

3 Besides, the greatest pleasures in the sense order have to do with food and sexual activities; and so, the highest good ought to lie in these areas, if it were in sense. But it is not found in these things. Therefore, man’s highest good does not lie in the senses.

Notes This relies on the hard lesson we learned a few weeks back.

4 Moreover, the senses are treasured because of their usefulness, and also because of their knowledge. Now, the entire utility of the senses has reference to the goods of the body. But sense cognition is subordinated to intellectual cognition; thus, animals devoid of understanding take no pleasure in sensing, except in regard to some benefit pertaining to the body, according as they obtain food or sexual satisfaction through sense knowledge. Therefore, man’s highest good, his felicity, does not lie in his sensitive part.

June 10, 2018 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come in Riches or Worldly Power

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Strange (again) are the things men seek out.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Riches

1 From this, moreover, it is also clear that riches are not the highest good for man.

2 Indeed, riches are only desired for the sake of something else; they provide no good of themselves but only when we use them, either for the maintenance of the body or some such use. Now, that which is the highest good is desired for its own sake and not for the sake of something else. Therefore, riches are not the highest good for man.

3 Again, man;s highest good cannot lie in the possession or keeping of things that chiefly benefit man through being spent. Now, riches are chiefly valuable because they can be expended, for this is their use. So, the possession of riches cannot be the highest good for man.

4 Besides, an act of virtue is praiseworthy in so far as it comes closer to felicity. Now, acts of liberality and magnificence, which have to do with money, are more praiseworthy in a situation in which money is spent than in one in which it is saved. So, it is from this fact that the names of these virtues are derived. Therefore, the felicity of man does not consist in the possession of riches.

5 Moreover, that object in whose attainment man’s highest good lies must be better than man. But man is better than riches, for they are but things subordinated to man’s use. Therefore, the highest good for man does not lie in riches.

6 Furthermore, man’s highest good is not subject to fortune, for things subject to fortune come about independently of rational effort. But it must be through reason that man will achieve his proper end. Of course, fortune occupies an important place in the attainment of riches, Therefore, human felicity is not founded on riches.

Notes Alas, misfortune also plays a role. And by fortune, our good saint means unforeseen causes.

7 Again, this becomes evident in the fact that riches are lost in an involuntary manner, and also that they may accrue to evil men who must fail to achieve the highest good, and also that riches are unstable—and for other reasons of this kind which may be gathered from the preceding arguments.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Riches

1 Similarly, neither can worldly power be man’s highest good, since in its attainment, also, fortune can play a most important part. It is also unstable; nor is it subject to man’s will; oftentimes it comes to bad men—and these characteristics are incompatible with the highest good, as was evident in the foregoing arguments.

2 Again, man is deemed good chiefly in terms of his attainment of the highest good. Now, he is not called good, or bad, simply because he has power, for not everyone who can do good things is a good man, nor is a person bad because he is able to do evil things. Therefore, the highest good does not consist in the fact of being powerful.

3 Besides, all power is relative to some other thing. But the highest good is not relative to something else. Therefore, power is not man’s highest good.

4 Moreover, a thing that one can use both for good and for evil cannot be man’s highest good, for that is better which no one can use in a bad way. Now, one can use power well or badly, “for rational powers are capable of contrary effects.” Therefore, man’s highest good does not consist in human power.

5 Furthermore, if any sort of power is the highest good, it ought to be the most perfect. But human power is most imperfect, since it is rooted in the wills and the opinions of men, in which there is the greatest inconstancy. And the more important the power is considered to be, the more does it depend on large numbers of people, which fact also contributes to its frailty, since what depends on many can be destroyed in many ways. Therefore, man’s highest good does not lie in worldly power.

6 Man’s felicity, then, consists in no exterior good, since all exterior goods, the ones that are called “goods of fortune,” are contained under the preceding headings.

June 3, 2018 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come In Honor Or Glory

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Strange are the things men seek out.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Honor

1 It is also clear from the foregoing that the highest good for man, that is felicity, does not lie in honors.

2 Indeed, the ultimate end of man, and his felicity, is his most perfect operation, as is evident in what has preceded. Now, a man’s honor is not identified with his operation, but with something done by another person who shows respect for him. Therefore, the felicity of man should not be identified with honors.

3 Again, that which is good and desirable on account of something else is not the ultimate end. But honor is of this sort. A person is not rightly honored unless it be because of some other good that is present in him. And this is why men seek to be honored, desiring, as it were, to have a witness to some good feature present in them. Hence, men take greater joy in being honored by important and wise people. So, man’s felicity is not to be identified with honors.

4 Besides, the attainment of felicity is accomplished through virtue. Now, virtuous operations are voluntary; otherwise, they would not merit praise. So, felicity ought to be some good which man may attain by his own will. But the gaining of honor is not within the power of any man; rather, it is in the power of the one who gives the honor. Therefore, human felicity is not to be identified with honors.

Notes Repeat it with me: the gaining of honor is not within the power of any man; rather, it is in the power of the one who gives the honor.

5 Moreover, to be worthy of honor can only be an attribute of good men. But it is possible for even evil men to be honored. So, it is better to become worthy of honor than to be honored. Therefore, honor is not the highest good for man.

6 Furthermore, the highest good is the perfect good. But the perfect good is completely exclusive of evil. Now, that in which there can be no evil cannot itself be evil. Therefore, that which is in possession of the highest good cannot be evil. But it is possible for a bad man to attain honor. So, honor is not the highest good for man.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Glory

1 From this it is also apparent that the highest good for man does not consist in glory, which means a widely recognized reputation.

2 Now, according to Tully, glory is “widespread repute accompanied by praise of a person.” And according to Ambrose, it is “an illustrious reputation accompanied by praise.” Now, men desire to become known in connection with some sort of praise and renown, for the purpose of being honored by those who know them. So, glory is sought for the sake of honor. Hence, if honor is not the highest good, much less is glory.

Notes “All glory is fleeting”.

3 Again, praiseworthy goods are those whereby a person is shown to be well ordered to his end. Now, he who is well ordered to his end has not yet achieved the ultimate end. So, praise is not given to him who has already attained the ultimate end, but honor, as the Philosopher says in Ethics I [12: 1101b 24]. Therefore, glory cannot be the highest good, because it consists principally in praise.

4 Besides, to know is more noble than to be known; only the more noble things know, but the lowest things are known. So, the highest good for man cannot be glory, for it consists in the fact that a person is well known.

Notes All scholars who toil in obscurity should recall this.

5 Moreover, a person desires to be known only for good things; where bad things are concerned, he seeks concealment. So, to be known is a good and desirable thing, because of the good things that are known about a person. And so, these good things are better than being widely known. Therefore, glory is not the highest good, for it consists in a person being widely known.

6 Furthermore, the highest good should be perfect, for it should satisfy the appetite. Now, the knowledge associated with fame, in which human glory consists, is imperfect, for it is possessed of the greatest uncertainty and error. Therefore, such glory cannot be the highest good.

Notes There is good reason we have the phrase “the curse of fame.”

7 Again, the highest good for man should be what is most enduring among human affairs, for an endless duration of the good is naturally desired. Now, glory, in the sense of fame, is the least permanent of things; in fact, nothing is more variable than opinion and human praise. Therefore, such glory is not the highest good for man.

May 27, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come In Pleasures Of The Flesh

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This is the . real summary against modern thought.

That Human Felicity Does Not Come In Pleasures Of The Flesh

1 Now, it is clear from what we have said that it is impossible for human felicity to consist in bodily pleasures, the chief of which are those of food and sex.

2 In fact, we have shown that in the order of nature pleasure depends on operation, and not the converse. So, if operations are not the ultimate end, the pleasures that result from them are not the ultimate end, either; nor are they concomitant with the ultimate end. It stands to reason that the operations which accompany the above-mentioned pleasures are not the ultimate end, for they are ordered to certain ends that are quite obvious: eating, for instance, to the preservation of the body, and sexual intercourse to the generation of offspring. Therefore, the aforementioned Pleasures are not the ultimate end, nor are they concomitants of the ultimate end. So, felicity is not to be located in these pleasures.

3 Again, the will is higher than sense appetite, for it moves itself, as we said above. Now, we have already shown that felicity does not lie in an act of the will. Still less will it consist in the aforementioned pleasures which are located in the sense appetite.

4 Besides, felicity is a certain kind of good, appropriate to man. Indeed, brute animals cannot be deemed happy, unless we stretch the meaning of the term. But these pleasures that we are talking about are common to men and brutes. So, felicity should not be attributed to them.

5 Moreover, the ultimate end is the noblest appurtenance of a thing; in fact, the term means the best. But these pleasures are not agreeable to man by virtue of what is noblest in him, namely, his understanding, but by virtue of his sense capacity. So, felicity should not be located in pleasures of this kind.

6 Furthermore, the highest perfection of man cannot lie in a union with things inferior to himself, but, rather, in a union with some reality of a higher character, for the end is better than that which is for the sake of the end. Now, the aforementioned pleasures consist in this fact: that man is, through his senses, united with some things that are his inferiors, that is, with certain. sensible objects. So, felicity is not to be located in pleasures of this sort.

7 Again, something which is not good unless it be moderated is not good of itself; rather, it receives goodness from the source of the moderation. Now, the enjoyment of the aforementioned pleasures is not good for man unless it be moderated; otherwise, these pleasures will interfere with each other. So, these pleasures are not of themselves the good for man. But that which is the highest good is good of itself, because what is good of itself is better than what depends on something else. Therefore, such pleasures are not the highest good for man, that is, felicity.

Notes What else can you say except Amen? Especially again in the next point.

8 Besides, in the case of all things that are predicated per se, an absolute variation is directly accompanied by a similar variation in the degree of intensification. Thus, if a hot thing heats, then a hotter thing heats more, and the hottest thing will heat the most. So, if the aforementioned pleasures were goods of themselves, the maximum enjoyment of them should be the best. But this is clearly false, for excessive enjoyment of them is considered vicious, and is also, harmful to the body, and it prevents the enjoyment of similar pleasure

9 Moreover, virtuous acts are praiseworthy because they are ordered to felicity. So, if human felicity consisted in the aforementioned pleasures, a virtuous act would be more praiseworthy when it involved the enjoyment of these pleasures than when it required abstention from them. However, it is clear that this is false, for the act of temperance is given most praise when it involves abstaining from pleasures; as a result, it gets its name from this fact. Therefore, man’s felicity does not lie in the aforesaid pleasures.

Notes This is still true in private praise. What’s publicly bruited is altogether different these days.

10 Furthermore, the ultimate end of everything is God, as is clear from what has been indicated earlier. So, we should consider the ultimate end of man to be that whereby be most closely approaches God. But, through the aforesaid pleasures, man is kept away from a close approach to God, for this approach is effected through contemplation, and the aforementioned pleasures are the chief impediment to contemplation, since they plunge man very deep into sensible things, consequently distracting him from intelligible objects. Therefore, human felicity must not be located in bodily pleasures.

11 Through this conclusion we are refuting the error of the Epicureans, who placed man’s felicity in these enjoyments. Acting as their spokesman, Solomon says in Ecclesiastes (5:17): “This therefore seemed good to me, that a man should eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of his labor, and this is his portion”; and again in Wisdom (2:9): “let us everywhere leave tokens of joy, for this is our portion, and this our lot.”

12 Also refuted is the error of the Cerinthians, for they told a fabulous story about ultimate felicity, that after the resurrection there would be, in the reign of Christ, a thousand years of carnal pleasures of the belly. Hence, they were also called Chiliasts; that is, Millenarians.

13 Refuted, too, are the fables of the Jews and the Saracens, who identified the rewards for just men with these pleasures, for felicity is the reward for virtue.

13 Saracens, i.e. Muslims.