Jacques Maritain Center: Ethics Without God?

The Role of God in Aquinas' ethical thought:

can an atheist be moral?

Giacomo Samek Lodovici{1}

In my paper I will focus on the role of God in Aquinas' ethical thought. Leaving back its foundation, I will consider the requirements that it expresses. In other words I will try to give an answer to this question: "can an atheist be moral?".

The formulation of the Thomistic ethics

In order to understand the importance of God in Aquinas' ethical thought we must interrogate the object of his moralis consideratio.

With regard to it, and also to enhance the value of Aquinas' ethics foundation, I will begin from the very incisive objection of Nietzsche to ethics in its wholeness. It is an unavoidable objection that attacks moral life as the paradigm of frustration and sacrifice, as the whole of constraints and duties, of restrictions and negations imposed on man, and as being a machine of binding rules which stifles our spontaneity and oppresses our freedom. The moral praxis, according to this attack, produces a frustrating life characterized by unhappiness, and implies a contempt towards life, on behalf of a promise of happiness in an eschatological completion.

Now, this objection reveals a need that can be valid against a secular formulation of moral philosophy and theology. As S. Pinckaers{2} underlines, moral theology and ethics have been deeply transformed over history. They have changed from a formulation based on self-fulfilment, happiness and virtue, to a formulation based on obligation, rule, law and duty. The first formulation is typical of the classical tradition up to Aquinas{3}; the second one is instead typical of almost all the modern moral reflection.

Having given such an ethical paradigm, the first problem and the most important question which ethics must answer are: which are the rules of right behaviour? What do we have to do? What can or cannot we do? What is allowed? What is forbidden and which are the prohibitions we cannot transgress? The problem of duty becomes so architectonic that the moral inquiry will be limited to human acts which are subordinated to a duty. In this way, ethics becomes the science of duties and obligations. It is clear that such an ethical formulation eliminates the aim, and moral life is easily marked by frustration, as Nietzsche says.

On the contrary, in the classical ethics the main question which all ethical reflection must confront is: how can I carry out a good or worthy life? Which is the best way of living?{4} How can I obtain self fulfilment? Precisely, the moral Thomistic science is the science of human acts, both in general (I-II) and in particular (II-II), and the whole of human acts forms the motus rationalis creaturae in Deum, and sets up the architrave of the Thomistic ethics of the II Pars{5}. Now, the motus rationalis creaturae in Deum coincides with the dynamism and the overall movement of man towards self-fulfilment and happiness, which are the very key stone of moral philosophy, because they fix the last aim and the general orientation. The whole structure of Secunda Pars directly depends on the answer to the problem of self fulfilment.

The fundamental inclinations

On the grounds of the above statements, I can now try to answer the initial question: " can an atheist be moral?". Now, ethics can prescribe some goods and shows some aims without demanding of a man the knowledge of God's existence. Aquinas in I-II, q. 94, a. 2, after having fixed the first principle of the practical reason -- bonum est faciendum et prosequendum, et malum vitandum -- recognizes the very general human aims, correlated to fundamental inclinations. And, in order to understand some of these aims, a man doesn't require a knowledge, whatever it is, of God's existence: we are dealing with aims such as self-preservation (an aim that all the beings have in common); the union of a male with a female, the procreation and the education of the children (aims that are in common with all the animals); the social life (aim that is exclusive to human beings, because{6} animals are not social beings, but gregarious); the knowledge of the truth (also this aim is exclusive to human beings, because the animal only knows what is useful and useless, and it does not question the truth of things apart from their usefulness{7}).

But just these two general aims that are exclusive to human beings, receive a specification that requires the knowledge of God in order to be realized: to know the truth and to live in common means for a man to know the truth about God , as the most important thing, and to live absolutely in society with Him.

Ethics and ordo amoris

Moreover, a man runs into many goods and a virtuous man must hierarchically order them. Now, virtue is the habitus which improves the appetitive human dimension{8}. Despite some intellectualist passages, according to Aquinas bonitas vel malitia moralis principaliter in voluntatis consistit{9}, and that means that being good depends on the will, because human acts, in order to be moral, must be willing acts{10} and quilibet habet bona voluntatem, dicitur bonus, in quantum habet bonam voluntatem; quia per voluntatem utitur omnibus quae sunt in nobis{11}. In this sense Aquinas says that the will is the main part of a man: voluntas hominis, . . . est potissimum in homine{12}. In this way the place of virtue is the will and every principle of human behaviour that stands under will's control{13}.

More, virtue is the bonum rationis, which is the moderation of the passions and of the operations of the appetitive dimension of man. Besides, according to Aquinas, a genetic supremacy and an immanence of love exists in every passion and in every operation{14}. If all that is true, it is now possible to make a very important equivalence between two definitions of virtue: virtue as a realization of bonum rationis (which is preferably used by Aquinas) is indeed equivalent to virtue as ordo amoris (which Aquinas uses incidentally taking it from Augustine{15}). Such an equivalence makes us understand that the Thomistic ethics hinges on the primacy of love.

Actually, virtue is a sort of affection that is connatural to good{16}, it is a sort of orientation of the affectivity{17} so that it corresponds to the order of reason. If all this is correct, and if every passion and every operation of the appetites start from love, and if moral virtue is essentially a particular explication of appetitive acts{18}, it is easy to infer that virtue, achieving the bonum rationis, achieving the regulation of passions and operations, achieves also the ordo amoris, the order of love, the regulation of love, that is the motor principle of every appetitive movement.

As Aquinas writes incidentally, we can say that virtue is the order of love because this order is precisely its aim, its purpose, and towards this aim it is directed and in this aim it is realized.{19} Any virtue requires a well ordered affection and, on the other hand, love is the root of every affection{20}; on the contrary, the disordered love is implicit in every evil act{21}. So virtue is "the rectification operated by practical reason, of the fundamental operating principle of human acts that is love. . . . Thanks to this regulation, love takes the good, worthy and right form for a man"{22}. According again to Aquinas, who cites a concise statement of Augustin{23}: recta voluntas est bonus amor, et perversa voluntas est malus amor{24}.

The ordo amoris, precisely, is realized whenever a man loves the goods:

Goods are indeed many and various and of a different dignity, so the problem is to order the desire, the affections and the passions that they arouse. In this way, aims give a content; virtues give form to inclinations, to desire, to affections and to passions: form means order, that is the order required, so that the desire could be determined in a congruent way in every choice.

The last criterion of such an order, that is the last criterion of morality, must be the last aim of human life, to which the finis proximus of all the virtue is ordered, because the goodness and the malice of the will depends on the ultimate end. All the goods that a man desires, desiring them in order and consistent with the ultimate end, are sought after honestly and vice versa{26}. Now, since the ultimate end of human inclinations is the communion with God (as I will explain later), it is obvious that the totality of the acts of the will must be directed towards a last single end, that is just God, and towards the other goods insofar as being directed to them respects the order to the ultimate end: a human act is good and virtuous when it is consistent with the love of God. Aquinas says that for example In duo praecepta caritatis, II, 1138: quodlibet humanum opus rectum est et virtuosum quando regulae divinae dilectionis concordat. The will is right only in this way, otherwise it is evil{27}, that is only if amat quidquid amat sub ordinem ad Deum{28}, so the human will is good if it is addressed to the supreme good that is God{29}.

In this way, the drama of freedom, its dizziness and the meaning of life are the necessity to order love so that it is directed towards the true, authentic, ultimate end, and in a congruent way so that to God's descending love in the creation corresponds an ascending and rational love towards God and towards those who are loved by Him. In fact, when we love somebody we actually love the things that the beloved wishes, as long as these things are not evil, and God can want nothing but the good, because He is the supreme Wisdom.

With these statements, the role of God in the Thomistic ethics is already partly explained: God is the main aim of human inclinations and He is the criterion to order the aims hierarchically and to achieve the ordo amoris.

Ethics' ultimate end and Delectatio

But an essential link is still missing. I have tried to explain that the ethics of Aquinas shows to men the ultimate end, differing in this way from the formulation of modern and contemporary ethics that is predominantly legalistic. I have just said that the last aim is God, but I still have to explain the reason.

Aquinas adopts a process of elimination to identify the last aim of men in I-II, q. 2. One after another wealth, honours, glory, power, pleasure, etc., are excluded from being an object of beatitudo. In this paper I concentrate only upon the particular reasons that lead to the exclusion of pleasure or delectatio. Is not pleasure the ultimate end?

Is it not true that it is senseless to ask somebody why he wants to have pleasant experiences and that for this reason pleasure has the character of the ultimate end, that is something that is desired for itself and not for other purposes?

In order to answer these questions, we need to study the delectatio. Now, according to Aristotle{30}, Aquinas explains that the delectatio is the result of the explication of an un-obstructed connatural operation{31}. An un-obstructed operation is indeed one that achieves its own object. So the explication of an un-obstructed connatural operation is nothing but a connatural operation which achieves a connatural good{32}. In this way, the delectatio is always the result of the operation because this operation achieves the connatural good, which means that the delectatio is mainly caused by the presence of the connatural good{33}. In other words, the agent has experience of the delectatio because at the moment, or in hope, or in memory, he has a good. So the delectatio is not a psychic condition independent of its content, but it follows the achievement of the object of the act. In other words, the will can attain the delectatio only because it achieves the desired good, intentionally or in reality{34}.

Now, if satisfaction is not a condition independent of the contents by which it is produced, if it is never a blind experience in regard to the good that produces it, its various shades, its different intensities and its distinct degrees depend on the different content of the goods with whom man has a relationship{35}. Moreover, within every sphere of delectationes there will be so many possible delectationes as the possible objects and relations with them.

That is why the delectatio cannot be the last aim but it is what follows the achievement of the last aim itself{36}.

The Amor-Delectatio connection

I will now try to explain the fundamental connection between amor and delectatio. According to Aquinas, the joy is always a corollary of love, because it is a lover becoming appeased in his loved object{37}, and love is causa delectationis{38}.

Actually (and human experience testifies to it) one could start saying that the activities that we perform for affection are joyful, even though they should be hard and difficult{39}. Anyway we want to find out an anthropological explanation.

We have just said that delectatio is the result of a connatural operation that achieves a connatural aim. Now, even apart from identifying men's connatural aims, we can say that what is connatural is exactly the object of love{40}. Then if we really consider the connatural good directed to that personal agent that is man, we clearly understand that it can only be the person and the Person, which possesses the most ontological perfection in the universe{41}. But again, it is love that explicates the interpersonal communication: transcending the accidental qualities of the other person (qualities that can be present similar in other subjects), it reaches his personal substantial centre, that is unique and unrepeatable, and it opens his inner casket. Amor amicitiae achieves the other considering it as an irreplaceable person, and only in a second moment it considers the psycho-physical accidental qualities that are related to him. On the contrary, amor concupiscentiae reduces the other to a bundle of accidental and reproducible qualities, which maybe subtend the person, who remains at a "second level", and whose value is only reduced to supporting such qualities and till such qualities stir up emotion and passions.

Moreover, the best way to attain one thing is to identify oneself with it and to live its life without destroying it. But this function is proper to amor amicitiae, that is vis estatica, which projects towards the beloved, and vis unitiva, which establishes a communion with him. Now we start to understand the connection amor-delectatio: love is the operation that has as an object that is connatural to men, and amor amicitiae is the operation that achieves an object in the most perfect way{42}.

But it also seems possible to say something else. A man is indeed open to the infinite, omnium capax{43}. That means that human nature is essentially characterized by openness, and it is a nature constitutively projected towards a union with every thing. So love not only has an object connatural to man and achieves its object in a more perfect way than every other operation, but also seems to be the operation that is above all connatural to man, because, being vis estatica, it is the expression and the connatural realization of a nature projected towards the outside, and, being vis unitiva, is the expression and connatural realization of a nature that can, in some way, join all things and found the communion with them. Therefore: 1) the more its explication is perfect and not prevented, the more it causes the delectatio; 2) the stronger is love, the more intense is the delectatio {44}.

We can indeed understand that the joy is a reflection of love if we reverse the question. We can now ask: when is a man unhappy? When his existence is characterized by true loneliness: a man who is really alone is dreadfully unhappy{45}. But in order to remedy the loneliness it is not enough to live among other people, because a man can be alone also among a crowd (Kierkegaard explains it very well). If a man has superficial interpersonal relationships he is not able to remedy the ontological loneliness that is typical of his constitutively open nature. Therefore, he must instead enrich his inner world opening it to the others and achieving interpersonal communion. This latter can be gained by amor amicitiae, which ecstatically projects the agent towards the others and, in this way, allows the agent to transcend the accidental qualities and to penetrate into his ontological recesses, making an identification, so that he can live the same life of the other. Vice versa, amor concupiscentiae does not remedy the human ontological indigence and does not allow the interpersonal communion to be gained, because the exstasis produced by it is only incipient and incomplete. The movement of the agent is centripetal, of consumption and not of communion, and it closes him into the tiny walls of the self. The agent not only precludes himself the recognition of the other, because he exploits and reifies the other people{46}, but also excludes himself from the access to the personal and intimate centre of the other.

But then, if what we said is true, if joy is the subjective reflection of love that produces inter-personal communion, the one who only performs acts of amor concupiscentiae excludes himself from joy, because only amor amicitiae is vis estatica and unitiva, while with amor concupiscentiae the agent only carries out a praxis that is assimilative, not of communion; a praxis characterized by closure and not by aperture (since the ecstatic movement of amor concupiscentiae goes back to the agent himself).

Therefore, amor concupiscentiae can be at the moment a source of sensible pleasure, because it somehow implies the satisfaction of some tendency of man's sensible nature, but it cannot be the source of spiritual joy, because this depends on a conformity with human nature in its globality, as a constitutively opened nature.

But the human experience testifies that even this kind of sensible satisfaction is doomed to diminish and fade progressively. In fact, in the long run, in such a praxis characterized by closure, we see an increasing reduction of the sensible pleasure itself; we see a more decreasing satisfaction and an even more increasing desire, that can even degenerate into frustration and pathology{47}. Now we can suggest an explanation: the matter is that this particular reiterating praxis characterized by closure is no longer occasional, but it is rather a pure behaviour progressively producing an habitus{48}, a second nature. This second nature causes a strong conflict with the specific globally opened human nature, which includes the very sensible human dimension. Man is a substantial union of two co-principles, body and soul, therefore the sensible and spiritual level interact and influence each other. Thus, in the end, the conflict even affects the sensible satisfaction.

God as ethics' ultimate end

The assertion of the constituent dependence of the delectatio on its contents and the affirmation of the proportionality between the ontological quality of the content and the degree of the delectatio, are full of consequences. Indeed, they already let us foresee that the fullest delectatio (if we don't aim at it directly{49}) can be only experienced if our actions have as a content the highest object which is possible to achieve. Moreover, one must argue that only the qualitative highest object, the exceedingly perfect object, (assuming it to be achievable) can have as a corollary a complete delectatio, which leaves nothing unsatisfied.

However, Aquinas develops an observation derived from the experience, which is valid for everything that has been proposed as a candidate for the role of the ultimate end, and that was excluded, as I have told, including pleasure: when we do achieve and possess it we do not appreciate it and we desire other things, that is the desire is never satisfied by it{50}. In other words, the experience of disillusionment is always valid for all, it is always valid for all the disappointment of the attained success, not for the un-attained one: that is, the frustration that goes with the fulfilment of an aim for which we were longing, as if it had been the ultimate end. In that case we experience such a feeling which seeps inside us when we got something we wanted, and it suggests to us that we did not get what we really wanted{51}. So, in later, we consider as relative an aim that for some time we perceived as incomparable.

We can identify three possible negative consequences of this experience, three different attitudes:

Each attitude should be taken into careful consideration. But here we intend to highlight a fourth consequence, which has a positive nature: the epiphany of the infinite good in the desire of each finite good. In fact, when we experience the disappointment, we understand that this, far from pushing us into sadness because of man's insatiability, must be considered, according to Aquinas, in an optimistic way, as the evidence that the happiness which suits the spiritual level of human beings is another one. Then we perceive that man desires all what he wants, under the influence of the ultimate end{53}, and that the chain of disappointments is not aroused from the true nature of one or another finite good, but is originated from having forgotten the partiality that each finite good has in common{54}.

At this point we understand that when we were desiring the finite good we were desiring something else too, and we discover that human conscience is the symbolic place where we deal with the finite nature of things, but we also perceive that there is something infinite, and we know consequently that every finite good is a symbolic anticipation of the infinite good{55}. At this point the inference rising from experience meets the metaphysical deduction in an almost inevitable conclusion. In fact, according to Aquinas, the good brings to perfection the thing that aims at it, and it can be so because of its suitability for the agent himself. It is clear that this suitability is just a correspondence to the specific nature of each being, to his essence{56}. The specific virtual transcendental nature of human mind and of will, their potentially infinite openness cannot be consequently filled by a finite content, by a finite good. No created good can be the object of beatitudo because no created good can be bonum perfectum quod totaliter quietat appetitum{57}. Since each creature is not good in itself but is a participated good, it follows that the human will can be gratified only by God: solus Deus voluntatem hominis implere potest{58}.


In this paper I have tried to show the role of God for the requirements of Aquinas' ethics. First, I have explained that his ethics (that is different from modern ethics) points out self fulfilment and happiness as its aims. Then I have said that ethics indicates the aims of the inclinations and that man's specific inclinations are only fulfilled in God. Furthermore, I have explained that the virtuous man orders the aims hierarchically, realizing the ordo amoris, only if he orders them according to God's love. Then I have said why God is the ultimate end of ethics, first pointing out the connection between delectatio and the ultimate end, and the connection of amor with delectatio; then, reflecting inductively on the feeling of disappointment and deductively on human nature, which is open without limit, I have concluded that only the communion with God suits man's desire for the infinite and can be the ultimate end of human nature, whose attainment never disappoints.

{1} Catholic University of Milan, e-mail gsamek@libero.it

{2} S. Pinckaers, Les sources de la morale chrétienne. Sa méthode, son contenu, son histoire, Editions Universitaires Fribourg Suisse, Fribourg 1985, chapter 1.

{3} But F. Di Blasi, Dio e la legge naturale. Una rilettura di Tommaso d'Aquino, ETS, Pisa 1999, English version God and the Natural Law: A Rereading of Aquinas, St. Augustine's Press, South Bend 2001, differently from Pinckaers, explains that Suarez still assigns a consistent role to the ultimate end in his ethics.

{4} See B. Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Fontana Press, London 1985, chapter 1.

{5} See G. Abbà, Lex et virtus. Studi sull'evoluzione della dottrina morale di san Tommaso d'Aquino, LAS, Roma 1983. Abbà amends other interpretations about the object of Aquinas' ethical thought like R. Guindon, Bèatitude et théologie morale chez saint Thomas d'Aquin. Origines, interprétation, Ottawa 1956; O. H. Pesch, Das Gesetz. I-II, 90-105, Deutsche Thomasausgabe 13, Graz-Heidelberg 1977; W. Kluxen, Philosophische Ethik bei Thomas von Aquin, Grünevald, Mainz 1964.

{6} See In politicorum libris, I, 1.

{7} Ibidem.

{8} S. Th., I-II, q. 58, a. 3.

{9} Ibid., q. 34, a. 4.

{10} Ibid., q. 74, a. 1: cum autem proprium sit actuum moralium quod sint voluntarii.

{11} Ibid., I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 3.

{12} Ibid., II-II, q. 34, a. 1.

{13} Ibid., I-II, q. 56, a. 3: subiectum vero habitus qui simpliciter dicitur virtus, non potest esse nisi voluntas, vel aliqua potentia secundum quod est mota a voluntate.

{14} In II Sent., d. 27, q. 1, a. 3; In De Div. Nom., c. IV, l. IX, n. 401.

{15} See De Moribus Ecclesiae contra Manicheos, c. 15, or De Civ. Dei, XV, 22.

{16} S. Th., I-II, q. 59, a. 4: virtus moralis perficit appetitivam partem animae ordinando ipsam in bonum rationis.

{17} Ibid., II-II, q. 108, a. 2.

{18} Ibid., I-II, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3: essentialiter in appetendo virtus moralis consistit.

{19} Ibid., I-II, q. 55, a. 1, ad 4: virtus dicitur ordo vel ordinatio amoris, sicut id ad quod est virtus: per virtutem enim ordinatur amor in nobis.

{20} Ibid., q. 62, a. 2, ad. 3: dicitur quaelibet virtus esse ordo amoris in quantum ad quamlibet cardinalium virtutum requiritur ordinata affectio: omnis autem affectionis radix et principium est amor.

{21} Ibid., II-II, q. 125, a. 2: amor ordinatus includitur in qualibet virtute, quilibet enim virtuosus amat proprium bonum virtutis; amor autem inordinatus includitur in quolibet peccato. See also Augustin, De Mor., l. I, c. 15, n. 25.

{22} G. Abbà, Felicità, vita buona e virtù, p. 61.

{23} De Civ. Dei, XIV, 7.

{24} S. Th., I-II, q. 26, a. 3, ad 3.

{25} In Ethic., l. 2, c. 6.

{26} C. G., IV, c. 95: bona quaecumque aliquis vult in ordine ad bonum finem, bene vult: mala autem quaecumque in ordine ad malum finem, male vult.

{27} In II Sent., d. 38, q. 1, sol.

{28} S. Th., I-II, q. 4, a. 4.

{29} Ibid., q. 19, a. 9: Requiritur ergo ad bonitatem humanae voluntatis, quod ordinetur ad summum bonum, quod est Deus.

{30} De Anima, 1, 1.

{31} S. Th., I-II, q. 31, a. 1: quando constituitur res in propria operatione connaturali et non impedita, sequitur delectatio.

{32} S. Th., I-II, q. 31, a. 5.

{33} S. Th., q. 31, a. 1.

{34} S. Th., I-II, q. 2, a. 6, ad 1: delectatio est appetibilis propter aliud, idest propter bonum, quod est delectationis obiectum, et per consequens est principium eius [.] ex hoc enim delectatio habet quod appetatur, quia est quies in bono desiderato.

{35} In this way, Aquinas makes a distinction between sensible pleasure, which is related to the consecution of the sensible operations' objects, and spiritual joy, which is connected to the consecution of spiritual operations' objects, S. Th., I-II, q. 31, aa. 2-3.

{36}S. Th., I-II, q. 2, a. 6: nec ipsa delectatio quae consequitur bonum perfectum, est ipsa essentia beatitudinis; sed quoddam consequens ad ipsam sicut per se accidens.

{37} S. Th., I-II, q. 4, a. 3.

{38} Ibid., I-II, q. 100, a. 9, ad 3.

{39} In duo praecepta caritatis, III, 1143: etiam adversa et difficilia suavia videntur amanti.

{40} S. Th., I-II, q. 27, a. 1.

{41} S. Th., I, q. 29, a. 3: persona significat id quod est perfectissimum in tota natura.

{42} S. Th., I-II, q. 32, a. 3, ad 3: omne enim amatum fit delectabile amanti: eo quod amor est quaedam unio vel connaturalitas amantis ad amatum.

{43} De Ver. q. 24, a. 10.

{44} See C. G., I, c. 102: cum delectatio ex amore causatur, ubi est maior amor, est maior delectatio in consecutione boni.

{45} Aristotle gives a profound insight, but without focusing on it, when he says: "We think that a friend is one of the greatest good, and that it is dreadful to live without friends and in loneliness", EE, VII, 1234b 32 -1235a 2.

{46} As in hegelian servant-lord dialectic.

{47} See V. Frankl, Theorie und Therapie der Neurosen, UTB, München-Basel 19754.

{48} In fact, the habitus is an inclination to some acts which is acquired through a repetition of acts.

{49} It is the paradox of happiness: to achieve happiness we must not research it directly, see G. Samek Lodovici, La felicità del ben., Una rilettura di Tommaso d'Aquino, Vita e Pensiero, Milano 2002, pp. 179-183.

{50} S. Th., I-II, q. 2, a. 1. Aquinas here quotes Gv., 4, 13: "who drinks this water will be thirsty again".

{51} Aristotle had just told about pleasure that: "everyone research a pleasure. But, perhaps, not the pleasure that he believes or he should say to research", EN, VII, 1153b 30. This argument is also the theme of Blondel, L'action. Essai d'une critique de la vie et d'une science de la pratique, F. Alcan, Paris 1893.

{52} See, for example, the phenomenology of the aesthetic stadium depicted by Kierkegaard, where man continuously consumes a material, whose value he is unable to appreciate really. It is clear that the agent is here in search of, as Hegel would say "a bad infinite", because it is a quantitative infinite instead of a qualitative infinite.

{53}S. Th., I-II, q. 1, a. 6: necesse est quod omnia quae homo appetit, appetat propter ultimum finem.

{54} It is also recognized by Nietzsche: "every pleasure desires eternity, desires profound, profound eternity", in Also sprach Zarathustra. Ein Buch für Alles und Keinen, Italian version Così parlò Zarathustra. Un libro per tutti e per nessuno, Adelphi, Milano 1968, p. 278.

{55} To see things precisely, also aesthetic experience, which, according to Kant, should be an experience of fulfilment, on the contrary produces a sense of nostalgia, so admirably expressed by S. Weil "A beautiful thing does not contain nothing but itself. We go towards it without kwowing what can we ask to it, and this things offers us its existence. When we posses it, we do not want anything more; but, in the same time, we should desidere something more, without kwowing what. We would like to go beyond, behind the beauty, but that is only a surface. It is like a mirror which gives back our desire of good. It is a sphinx, an enigma, a painfully irritating mystery", S. Weil, Attente de Dieu, Arthème Fayard, Paris 1966, Italian version Attesa di Dio, Rusconi, Milano 1972, p. 132. In another passage: "in this world we feel as strangers, routless, in exile; like Ulysses, who awoke in an unknown country, where the sailors had transported him while he was sleeping, and felt Ithaca's desire lacerating his soul", Ibid., p. 144.

{56} S. Th., I-II, q. 18, a. 5: unicuique enim rei est bonum quod convenit ei secundum suam formam.

{57} S. Th., I-II, q. 2, a. 8.

{58} Ibid. See Augustin, Conf. I, 1: quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. The ethimology of Latin desiderium just allude to the final object of it, because the word is composed by privative "de" and by "sidera", so that it expresses that Heaven is the definitive fulfilment. See also Pascal's penetrating consideration, Pensées, Italian version Pensieri, opuscoli, lettere, Rusconi, Milano 1978, n. 370, p 535: "every man research happiness, without exceptions; though they use different means, they all aim to this end . . . . The will does not take a step to any other object. It is the reason of every action of men, including those who go to hang themselves. But, after a so long number of years, no person has gained, without the faith, the end to which everyone continuously aims. Everyone complains: princes, subjects, nobles, plebeians, old men, young people, strong and weak persons; learned men, ignorant person; healty and sick men; persons of every country, of every time; of every age, of every conditions. A so long, continuated and uniform witness, should convince us well about our incapacity to reach the good with our strenghts; but this witness does not teach us enough. Nothing is so equal to something other to exclude some thin difference; and for this reason we expect that our wait, at least that this, will not be frustrated, differently from other times. In this way, the present time does not satisfy, the experience deceives us and, passing from a misfortune to another, it conduces us to death, which is its eternal climax. What does this avidity and this incapacity claim apart from the fact . . . that man tries in vain to attain happiness with everything around him, asking the help to the absent things that the present things are unable to give, while everything is incapable, because that infinite abyss can only be filled up by an infinite and immutable object, that is God?"