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Category: SAMT

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

June 24, 2018 | 2 Comments

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.

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

Previous post.

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.