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CHAPTER XXXVIIThat the Final Happiness of Man consists in the Contemplation of God

IF then the final happiness of man does not consist in those exterior advantages which are called goods of fortune, nor in goods of the body, nor in goods of the soul in its sentient part, nor in the intellectual part in respect of the moral virtues, nor in the virtues of the practical intellect, called art and prudence, it remains that the final happiness of man consists in the contemplation of truth. This act alone in man is proper to him, and is in no way shared by any other being in this world. This is sought for its own sake, and is directed to no other end beyond itself. By this act man is united in likeness with pure spirits, and even comes to know them in a certain way. For this act also man is more self-sufficient, having less need of external things.570570Through all this reasoning we readily discern the famous chapter of Aristotle, Nic. Eth. X, vii. Likewise to this act all other human activities seem to be directed as to their end. For to the perfection of contemplation there is requisite health of body;571571Compare Plato’s saying, that athletics have their place in education chiefly for the sake of the soul (Rep. III, 410 C). and all artificial necessaries of life are means to health. Another requisite is rest from the disturbing forces of passion: that is attained by means of the moral virtues and prudence. Likewise rest from exterior troubles, which is the whole aim of civil life and government. Thus, if we look at things rightly, we may see that all human occupations seem to be ministerial to the service of the contemplators of truth.572572   I have pointed out this subordination of practice to theory in Practical and Moral Essays, pp. 154, 155, cf. article 10, pp. 11-13.
   St Thomas proceeds to instance three kinds of contemplation. (A) Intuition of first principles. This is enjoyed by every man, educated and uneducated, who has the ordinary use of reason. Needless to say, it is not happiness, or all men would be happy. (B) Scientific Knowledge, the property of the educated. But the objects of science are creatures; and man requires for his happiness to contemplate something higher and nobler. (C) Wisdom, which is defined (in B. I, Ch. I: “The knowledge of things by their highest causes.” In this wisdom, taken for the contemplation of God, the beginning and last end of all, human happiness will be found to consist.

   (A) is further suggestive of Chap. XXXVIII, in which it is shown that the plain man’s rational knowledge of God is not happiness: while (B) and (C) together suggest Chap. XXXIX, which shows that the philosopher’s knowledge of God is not happiness either. Chapter XL proves the same of the Christian’s knowledge of God by faith. Chapter XLVII shows that we enjoy no vision of God on earth. Chapter XLVIII, that happiness is not on earth. Finally, Chap. L argues that nothing short of the immediate vision of God makes the happiness of angels and of human souls in heaven.

Now it is impossible for human happiness to consist in that contemplation which is by intuition of first principles, — a very imperfect study of things, as being the most general, and not amounting to more than a potential knowledge: it is in fact not the end but the beginning of human study: it is supplied to us by nature, and not by any close investigation of truth. Nor can happiness consist in the sciences, the object-matter of which is the meanest things, whereas happiness should be an activity of intellect dealing with the noblest objects of intelligence. Therefore the conclusion remains that the final happiness of man consists in contemplation guided by wisdom to the study of the things of God. Thus we have reached by way of induction the same conclusion that was formerly established by deductive reasoning,573573The ‘deductive reasoning’ (rationibus probatum) seems to be the arguments alleged in Chap. XXV. What St Thomas here calls ‘induction’ is the noted inductio per enumerationem simplicem. He has enumerated all other alternatives and shown that this alone remains tenable. We might call it the ‘method of residues.’ that the final happiness of man does not consist in anything short of the contemplation of God.

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