Of God and His Creatures

That the Final Happiness of Man is not in this Life*

IF then human happiness does not consist in the knowledge of God whereby He is commonly known by all or most men according to some vague estimate, nor again in the knowledge of God whereby He is known demonstratively in speculative science, nor in the knowledge of God whereby He is known by faith, as has been shown above (Chapp. XXXVIII-XL); if again it is impossible in this life to arrive at a higher knowledge of God so as to know Him in His essence, or to understand other pure spirits, and thereby attain to a nearer knowledge of God (Chapp. XLI-XLVI); and still final happiness must be placed in some knowledge of God (Ch. XXXVII); it follows that it is impossible for the final happiness of man to be in this life.

2. The last end of man bounds his natural desire, so that, when that is reached, nothing further is sought: for if there is still a tendency to something else, the end of rest is not yet gained. But that cannot be in this life: for the more one understands, the more is the desire of understanding. natural to all men, increased.*

3. When one gains happiness, he gains also stability and rest. All have this idea of happiness, that it involves stability as a necessary condition: hence the philosopher says that we do not take man for a chameleon.* But in this life there is no stability: for however happy a man be called, sicknesses and misfortunes may always happen to debar him from that activity, whatever it is, wherein happiness consists.

4. It seems unfitting and irrational that the period of development should be great and the period of duration small: for it would follow that nature for the greater part of its time went without its final perfection. Hence we see that animals that live for a short time take a short time in arriving at maturity. But if human happiness consists in perfect activity according to perfect virtue, whether intellectual or moral, such happiness cannot accrue to man till after a long lapse of time; and this is especially apparent in speculative activity, in which the happiness of man is ultimately placed. For scarcely in extreme age can a man arrive [at] a perfect view of scientific truth;* and then for the most part there is little of human life left.

5. That is the perfect good of happiness, which is absolutely free from admixture of evil, as that is perfect whiteness, which is absolutely unmingled with black. But it is impossible for man in the state of this life to be altogether free from evils, -- not to say bodily evils, as hunger, thirst, cold and heat, but even from evils of the soul. There is no man living who is not at times disturbed by inordinate passions, who does not at times overstep the mean in which virtue consists, or fall short of it, who is not in some things deceived, or ignorant of what he wishes to know, or driven to weak surmises on points where he would like absolute certainty.

6. Man naturally shrinks from death, and is sad at the thought of it. Yet man must die, and therefore cannot be perfectly happy while here he lives.*

7. Happiness consists, not in habit, but in activity: for habits are for the sake of acts. But it is impossible in this life to do any act continually.*

8. The more a thing is desired and loved, the greater grief and sadness does its loss bring. But if final happiness be in this world, it will certainly be lost, at least by death; and it is uncertain whether it will last till death, since to any man there may possibly happen in this life diseases totally debarring him from any virtuous activity, such as insanity. Such happiness therefore must always have a natural pendent of sadness.

But it may be replied that whereas happiness is the good of an intelligent nature, true and perfect happiness belongs to those in whom intelligent nature is found in its perfection, that is, in pure spirits;* but in man it is found imperfectly by way of a limited participation. And this seems to have been the mind of Aristotle: hence, enquiring whether misfortunes take away happiness, after showing that happiness lies in virtuous activities, which are the most permanent things in this life, he concludes that they who enjoy such perfection in this life are "happy for men," meaning that they do not absolutely attain happiness, but only in a human way.*

Now it is demonstrable that the aforesaid answer is not to the undoing of the arguments above alleged.* For (a) though man is inferior in the order of nature to pure spirits, yet he is superior to irrational creatures; and therefore he must gain his final end in a more perfect way than they. But they gain their final end so perfectly as to seek nothing further. Thus the natural desire of dumb animals is at rest in the enjoyment of sensual delights. Much more must the natural desire of man be put to rest by his arrival at his last end. But that is impossible in this life: therefore it must be attained after this life.*

(b) It is impossible for a natural desire to be empty and vain: for nature does nothing in vain. But the desire of nature (for happiness) would be empty and vain, if it never possibly could be fulfilled. Therefore this natural desire of man is fulfillable. But not in this life. Therefore it must be fulfilled after this life.*

Alexander and Averroes laid it down that the final happiness of man is not in such knowledge as is possible to man through the speculative sciences, but in a knowledge gained by conjunction with a separately subsistent intelligence, which conjunction they conceived to be possible to man in this life. But because Aristotle saw that there was no other knowledge for man in this life than that which is through the speculative sciences, he supposed man not to gain perfect happiness, but a limited measure of happiness suited to his state. In all which investigation it sufficiently appears how hard pressed on this side and on that these fine geniuses (praeclara ingenia) were. From this stress of difficulty we shall find escape in positing, according to the proofs already given, that man can arrive at true happiness after this life, the soul of man being immortal.* In this disembodied state the soul will understand in the way in which pure spirits understand (B. II, Chapp. XCVI, sq.) The final happiness of man then will be in the knowledge of God, which the human soul has after this life according to the manner in which pure spirits know Him.

Therefore the Lord promises us reward in heaven (Matt. v, 12), and says that the saints shall be as the angels (Matt. xxii, 30), who see the face of God in heaven (Matt. xviii, 10).

3.47 : That we cannot in this Life see God as He essentially is
3.49 : That the Knowledge which Pure Spirits have of God through knowing their own Essence does not carry with it a Vision of the Essence of G od