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Summa Theologicae
Thomas Aquinas
Who is Thomas Aquinas?
-Doctor of the
Church, considered
to be Her greatest
theologian and
-“dumb ox”; due to
his silent ways and
Summa Theologica
-Man’s Happiness
-Four Cardinal Virtues
-Faith, Hope, and Charity
as Theological Virtues
-Divine, Natural, Human Laws
Of Those Things in Which Man’s
Happiness Consists
What is the summum bonum (highest good) that leads to the last end
of man (happiness)?
- Money ONLY buys anything money can buy
- Wealth as twofold: natural (meets basic needs) and artificial (i.e. amassing
- Natural wealth =/= happiness (it's not an end in itself, but a means to an
- Artificial wealth is the excess that provides for natural wealth (a means to
the means)
- Therefore, happiness cannot come from wealth (which can only provide for
one's basic needs), and not other needs (i.e. things money cannot buy)
> Honor more than anything else seems to be that by which virtue is
- Honor is external (comes from others who give honor), while happiness is
- Honor is given on account of excellence. Excellence is in proportion to
happiness. Therefore, honor can result from happiness, but not the other
way around.
- Honor is not the reward of virtue, it's the reward from people who have
nothing greater to offer.
- Virtue's reward is happiness itself. If one worked for honor, it would no
longer be virtue, but vice (in the form of ambition)
Fame, Glory
> Fame/Glory consists in being well-known and praised
> Happiness is the most enduring good, which fame offers at a certain point (imagine Alexander the
- Happiness is true good, but fame and glory can be obtained through lies (think Gilderoy Lockheart
from HP2).
- Glory and fame are often obtained through singular acts
- Fame has no stability (can be easily stained).
- Fame (if true) is derived from the good (and subsequently the happiness) of the person (through
excellent acts)
-To have power is to be like God
-Although people want to be happy, they also would want to avoid servitude.
-To be able to rule others is the highest perfection for man.
-Although there is happiness in having power, it is impossible for it to consist
in power.
-Happiness is man’s proper and perfect good, and power is open to both
good and evil.
-It is possible to use power for good, but it is open to being used for evil as
well. Happiness is incorruptible; it is good.
Bodily Good (Health)
-”There is no riches above the riches of the health of the body”; to be healthy
then, is to be happy
-On the contrary, while man surpasses animals in regard to happiness,
animals surpass men in bodily goods; an elephant’s longevity, a lion’s
strength, a stag’s grace
-Man is not the supreme good. Man is ordained to something as his end.
We cannot find happiness in the mere preservation of our
health and bodies.
Bodily Delights (Pleasure)
-”For it is absurd to ask of anyone what is his motive in wishing to be
pleased”; since all desires delight, man’s happiness consists in pleasure
-Pleasure is not the supreme and essential good.
Every delight results from some good, and some delight results
from that which is essential and supreme good.
Good of the Soul
- Obj: Perfection = happiness of man; happiness does not reside in the body
(as above) therefore it belongs to the soul, thus being considered as “goods
of the soul”.
- Augustine: “that which constitutes the life of happiness is to be loved for its
own sake”
> Happiness does not exist for the sake of man alone, but for the sake
of God; as a result happiness is not simply a good of the soul
> If happiness consists only for the soul, then it is not attainable for the
soul exists merely in potentiality and not in actuality
> Happiness then must be a goal existing outside of the soul for we
cannot attain something which exists in potentiality
Created Good
- Obj: Man is made happy via things that satisfy his natural desires; although
man’s creation has its limits and cannot surpass all creation
> Since man’s creation has limits, it cannot be the perfect good
> If happiness is to be our end goal, then nothing should be above this
> If happiness lies in created goods, then it cannot be our end goal because
created goods are not perfect goods
> Happiness is the perfect good that satiates all desires; if this is otherwise
then there should be something beyond happiness and it would not be our
end goal
Goodness in General
For Aquinas, there are only three reasons why
anyone would do anything:
Useful: It meets a particular end
Virtuous: It is moral;
Pleasure: Terminating the moment of an
appetite with the intent of resting in it
“Fault is a greater evil than pain.”
Fault is culminated in an act of will while pain
results from the privation of something used
by the will
Evil of fault is an active opposition of the
uncreated good. Evil of fault is the passive
deprivation of it
Of the Cardinal Virtues
The Four Cardinal Virtues
Aquinas approaches the virtues in terms of the interplay
of reason and passion.
Obtaining and abiding by reason is the goal, whilst
passion is seen to thwart reason.
The first two virtues therefore enforce reason, while the
latter two virtues curb or protect against passion.
The Four Cardinal Virtues
• Prudence: the very act of reason
• Justice: the enactment of reason
• Temperance: curbing passions that distract
reason [moderation and self-control]
Fortitude: strengthening our reason against
passions that withdraw us from reason e.g.
fear or danger [courage]
The Four Cardinal Virtues
Aquinas also adds that each value
contains/inheres a subject.
Prudence (again) is rationality in itself, whilst
the other three take on subjects of rationale
by participation.
The Four Cardinal Virtues
• Prudence: power which is rational in its
Justice: matters of the will
Temperance: concupiscible faculty [desiring
Fortitude: irascible faculty [averting
Of the Theological Virtues
Of the Theological Virtues
o Obj: Classified as imperfect knowledge therefore is not a virtue
o Reply: Man, regardless of intellect, cannot know everything
o Obj: Hope is not a virtue because it is merely a passion
o Reply: Hope is the habit of acting like what we assent to with faith will
actually come to pass
o Obj:
o Reply: The ultimate goal of man is to enjoy God, and is revealed
Aquinas on Laws
Aquinas defines Laws as the dictate of reason.
Is there an Eternal Law?
o Yes, God's law and according to His reason.
Is there in Us a Natural Law?
o Yes, in that we inherently partake in God's eternal law.
Is there a Human Law?
o Yes, as a function of our human reason.
Aquinas on Laws
Is there need for a Divine Law?
o Yes, because inasmuch that we are ordained for eternal happiness,
humans are imperfect.
Can Natural Laws be Changed?
o Fundamentally speaking, no. Although secondary precepts may be
(albeit rarely) changed.
Can Natural Laws be blotted out from the human heart?
o Fundamentally, no, but it's possible for passions and vice to blind our
reason and hence to inhibit the natural laws in the human heart.
Significance of ideas?
Aquinas makes us think and reflect on where it is we
find our happiness.
o We have a rather shallow view of happiness.
 Leads us to ask, just what is happiness exactly,
and where do we find it?
Aquinas gives us a framework with which to understand
the virtues holistically (in terms of reason).
o This frame of mind allows us to have a cohesive
view of the virtues.
Our reflections on the text
JC: We all have our different “definitions” of
J: Aquinas’ logic/approach is questionable: i.e.
presuming the philosophers’ view as fact, and
injecting theological conjecture
Hillary:His philosophy heavily relies on
Christian theology. While this is due to
the fact that his intended audience
were Christians, it presents a problem
for non-Christians who wish to
understand his philosophy.
Vernon: Aquinas’ seems biased towards
Church teaching and explains that true
happiness can only be attained through
pursuing God as the end goal and nothing