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CHAPTER XXVIThat Happiness does not consist in any Act of the Will554554In this conclusion St Thomas stands by Aristotle, and is contradicted by Scotus and all his school. It has ever been the translator’s intimate conviction that St Thomas and Aristotle are right, and the Scotists wrong, and all compromise or blending of these two opposite opinions impossible. Be this said to stimulate inquiry. A reader ought to be told when he is brought face to face with a great issue.

SINCE a subsistent intelligence in its activity arrives at God, not by understanding alone, but also by an act of the will desiring and loving Him and taking delight in Him, some one may think that the last end and final felicity of man is not in knowing God, but rather in loving Him, or exercising some other act of the will upon Him; especially seeing that the object of the will is good, which bears the character of an end, whereas truth, which is the object of the intellect, does not bear the character of an end except in so far as it (ipsum) too is good. Hence it seems that man does not attain his last end by an act of intellect, but rather by an act of will. But this position is manifestly proved to be untenable.

1. Happiness, being the peculiar good of an intelligent nature, must attach to the intelligent nature on the side of something that is peculiar to it. But appetite is not peculiar to intelligent nature, but is found in all things, though diversely in diverse beings: which diversity however arises from the different ways in which they stand to consciousness. Things wholly devoid of consciousness have only natural appetite, or physical tendency. Things that have sensitive consciousness have sensible appetite, under which the irascible and concupiscible are included. Things that have intellectual consciousness have an appetite proportionate to that consciousness, namely, the will. The will therefore, as being an appetite, is not a peculiar appurtenance of an intelligent nature, except so far as it is dependent on the intelligence: but intelligence in itself is peculiar to an intelligent nature. Happiness therefore consists in an act of the intellect substantially and principally rather than in an act of the will.

2. In all powers that are moved by their objects the objects are naturally prior to the acts of those powers. But such a power is the will, for the desirable object moves desire. The object therefore of the will is naturally prior to the act. The prime object of will then precedes every act of will. No act of will therefore can be the prime object of volition. But the prime object of will is the last end, which is happiness. Happiness therefore cannot possibly be itself an act of will.

3. In all powers that can reflect on their own acts, the act of that power must first fix on some object, and then fix on its own act. For if the intellect understands that it understands, we must suppose that it first understands some thing, and afterwards understands its own understanding of that thing: for the act of understanding, which the intellect understands, means the understanding of some object. Hence we must either proceed to infinity; or, coming to some first object of understanding, this object, we must say, will not be a sheer act of understanding, but some intelligible thing. Similarly 205the first object of will cannot be any sheer act of willing, but some other good. But the first object of will to an intelligent nature is happiness: for it is for the sake of happiness that we will whatever we do will. Happiness therefore cannot possibly consist essentially in any act of will.

4. Everything has the truth of its nature by having the constituents of its substance: for a real man differs from a painted one by the constituents of the substance of man. But true happiness does not differ from false happiness in respect of the act of will: for the will is in the same attitude of desire, or love, or delight, whatever the object proposed to it for its sovereign good, true or false: but whether the object so proposed be the true sovereign good or a counterfeit, that difference is decided by intellect. Happiness therefore consists essentially in intellect rather than in any act of will.

5. If any act of will were happiness itself, that act would be either desire or love or delight. Now it is impossible for desire to be the last end: for desire obtains inasmuch as the will tends to something which it has not yet got: but such straining after the absent is inconsistent with the idea of an achieved last end. Love again cannot be the last end: for good is loved not only in its presence but also in its absence: for it is from love that good not possessed is sought for by desire. And though the love of good already attained is more perfect, that access of perfection is to be ascribed to the attainment and established possession of the good loved. The attainment of good then, which is the end, is a different thing from the love of good, which love is imperfect before attainment, and perfect after attainment. In like manner neither is delight the last end: for the very possession of good is the cause of delight, while we either feel the good now possessed, or remember the good possessed before, or hope for the good to be possessed in future: delight therefore is not the last end. No act of will therefore can be the substance of happiness.

6. If delight were the last end, it would be desirable of itself. But that is false: for it makes a difference what delight is desired, considering the object from which delight ensues: for the delight which follows upon good and desirable activities is good and desirable: but that which follows upon evil activities is evil and to be shunned. Delight therefore has its goodness and desirability from something beyond itself. Therefore it is not itself the final end, happiness.

7. The right order of things coincides with the order of nature, for natural things are ordained to their end without mistakes. But in natural things delight is for activity, and not the other way about: for we see that nature has attached delight to those activities of animals which are manifestly ordained to necessary ends, as in the use of food, which is ordained to the preservation of the individual, and in the intercourse of the sexes, which is ordained to the preservation of the species: for if delight were not in attendance, animals would abstain from the aforesaid necessary acts. It is impossible therefore for delight to be the final end.

8. Delight seems to be nothing else than a rest of the will in some befitting good, as desire is an inclination of the will to the gaining of some good. Now it is ridiculous to say that the end of movement is not the coming to be in one’s proper place, but the satisfaction of the inclination whereby one tended to go there. If the principle aim of nature were the satisfaction of the inclination, it would never give the inclination. It gives the inclination, that thereby one may tend to one’s proper place: when that end is gained, there 206follows the satisfaction of the inclination: thus the satisfaction of the inclination is not the end, but a concomitant of the end.

9. If any exterior thing is to be any one’s end, we must assign the title of last end to that activity whereby the thing is first gained: thus to people who make money their end, the getting of the money is the end, not the love or desire of it. But the last end of a subsistent intelligence is God. That activity then in man makes the substance of his happiness, whereby he first attains to God. But that is the activity of understanding: for we cannot will what we do not understand. The final happiness of man then substantially consists in knowing God by the understanding, and not in any act of the will.

From what has been said we may solve the objections to the contrary. The fact of the sovereign good being the object of the will does not necessitate sovereign good being substantially the act of the will itself, as was the tenor of the argument first proposed: nay, from the fact of its being the first object, it follows that it is not the act.

Arg. 2. The last perfection of activity is delight, which perfects activity as beauty does youth.555555The reference is to the celebrated Eth. Nic. X, iv, 8: “Pleasure makes activity perfect, not as a habit of skill perfects the skilful act, but as a sort of efflorescence marking completeness, as bloom perfects maturity,” or as we might say, like the bloom on ripe grapes or peaches. So Professor Stewart (Notes on Nicomachean Ethics, ii, 418) speaks of “the law of our nature, that function is primary and pleasure only attendant,” — which is the real refutation of this objection and of hedonism in all its forms. If then any perfect activity is the last end, it seems that the last end is rather in the activity of the will than of the intellect.

Reply. There are two ways of being a perfection to a thing. In one way there is a perfection to a thing already complete in its species: in another way there is a perfection going to make up the species. Thus the perfection of a house, considered as complete in its species, is that use for which the house is intended, namely, being inhabited: hence this should be put in the definition of a house, if the definition is to be adequate. A perfection going to make up the species of a house may be one of the constituents and substantial principles of the species: or it may be something that goes to the preservation of the species, as the buttresses made to prop the house up: lastly, under this head we must count whatever makes the house more comely for use, as its beauty. That therefore which is the perfection of a thing, considered as already complete in its species, is the end of a thing, as being inhabited is the end of a house. And in like manner the proper activity of each thing, which is a sort of use of it, is the end of the thing. But the perfections which go to make up the species are not the end of the thing: rather the thing is their end. Thus matter and form are for the species. In like manner the perfections that preserve a thing in its species, as health and nutrition, though they perfect the animal, are not the end of its existence, but rather the other way about. Those perfections also whereby a thing is fitted to discharge the proper activities of its species and gain its due end more becomingly, are not the end of the thing, but rather the other way about, e.g., a man’s beauty and bodily strength, and other accomplishments, of which the philosopher says that they minister to happiness instrumentally.556556“It is impossible, or not easy to do nobly without supplies: for many things require to be done through instruments” (Eth. Nic. I, ix, 15). Now when we say that delight is the perfection of activity, we do not mean that activity specifically considered is directed to the purpose of delight, — the fact is, it is ordained to other ends, as eating is ordained to the preservation of the individual, — we mean that delight ranks among the perfections which go to make 207up the species of a thing: for through the delight that we take in any action we apply ourselves to it more attentively and becomingly.

Arg. 3. Delight seems to be so desired for its own sake as never to be desired for the sake of anything else: for it is foolish to ask of any one why [he] wishes to be delighted.557557So Aristole, Eth. Nic. X, ii, 2. But this is the condition of the last end, to be desired for its own sake. Therefore the last end is rather in an act of the will than of the understanding, so it seems.

Reply. Delight, though it is not the last end, is still a concomitant of the last end, since from the attainment of the last end delight supervenes.

Arg. 4. In the desire of the last end there is the greatest agreement amongst all men, because it is natural. But more seek delight than knowledge. Therefore it seems that delight is the end rather than knowledge.

Reply. There are not more seekers of the delight that there is in knowing than there are seekers of knowledge: but there are more seekers after sensible delights than there are seekers of intellectual knowledge and the delight thence ensuing; and the reason is because external things are more known to the majority of men, as human knowledge starts from objects of sense.

Arg. 5. The will seems to be a higher power than the understanding: for the will moves the understanding to its end: for when there is the will so to do, then it is that the understanding actually considers the knowledge which it habitually possesses. The action therefore of the will seems to be nobler than the action of the understanding; and therefore the final end of happiness seems in the act of will rather than in the act of understanding.

Reply. It is manifestly false to say that the will is higher than the understanding as moving it; for primarily and ordinarily the understanding moves the will. The will, as such, is moved by its object, which is the good apprehended: but the will moves the understanding, we may say, incidentally, inasmuch as the act of understanding itself is apprehended as good and so is desired by the will. Hence it follows that the understanding actually understands, and in this has the start of the will; for never would the will desire to understand, unless first the understanding apprehended the act of understanding itself as good. And again the will moves the understanding to actual activity in the way in which an efficient cause is said to move: but the understanding moves the will in the way in which a final cause moves, for good understood is the end of the will. Now the efficient cause is posterior in motion to the final cause, for the efficient cause moves only for the sake of the final cause. Hence it appears that, absolutely speaking, the understanding is higher than the will, but the will is higher than the understanding accidentally and in a qualified sense.


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