Treatise on Happiness by St. Thomas Aquinas Essay

2135 Words 9 Pages
In the history of the western world, few men have made a greater impact on humanity’s learning that Thomas of Aquino. Having written dozens of different publications, including his famous Summa Theologiæ, on subjects varying from the angels to philosophy; from law to theology, Thomas has secured himself a permanent place in academic history. Although never writing directly on the subject, Thomas also influenced the field of ethics, especially through his “Treatise on Happiness,” which are found within his Summa. In these treatises, Thomas details the nature of happiness, and how happiness is obtained. In the field of ethics, this work is important because it embraces the Aristotelian ideal how a happy person is just, or ethical. Thomas …show more content…
Thomas divides happiness into two principal categories, declaring that each has a different end, and that one is superior. Happiness that we experience in this life is referred to as felicitas, and is an inferior happiness. Felicitas is contrasted by beatitudo, which is the supreme happiness which comes only from God, and which we can only experience by being fully united with God in heaven. These two types of happiness are both good, and felicitas foreshadows the greater glory of beatitudo. Both Thomas and Aristotle believe that all persons inherently desire happiness. Thomas explains this when he writes “according to the general notion of happiness: and thus, of necessity, every man desires happiness,” . Thomas believes that men desire both felicitas and beatitudo, and agrees with Aristotle that virtue plays a role in obtaining both.

The idea of virtue also plays into the goals of both philosophers. Both writers view virtue as a state of character, and see that living virtuously is necessary for happiness. Aristotle claims that all virtues must cooperate with human nature, but we do not naturally contain virtue, because “none of the moral excellences or virtues is implanted in us by nature; for that which is by nature cannot be altered by training,” . Aristotle divides virtue into two classes: Intellectual Virtues and Moral Virtues. According to Aristotle, Intellectual Virtues…

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