Phil 30301--Second Paper Assignment

6-7 page paper due on Monday, November 25

Click here for explanation of the structure of articles from the Summa Theologiae:  Please read carefully.


Aquinas:  Beatitude
ST 1-2, qq. 1-5
Q. 1:  Man's Ultimate End
Q.2:  The Things That Man’s Beatitude Lies In Q. 3:  What Beatitude Is
Q. 4:  What is Required for Beatitude Q. 5:  The Attainment of Beatitude    

    Read carefully Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, books I and II (all), and book X, chaps. 6-9 (A New Aristotle Reader, pp. 363-387 and 468-478), and Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 1-2, qq. 1-5 (use my translation, linked above).  (Note:  In the readings from Aristotle, the Greek word arete, which is most often translated by the English term 'virtue', is translated as 'excellence' instead, and the Greek word eudaimonia, which is translated as 'happiness', can also be translated as 'flourishing'.  In the readings from Aquinas the Latin term beatitudo is translated as 'beatitude' and is Aquinas's counterpart to Aristotle's eudaimonia, and the Latin term felicitas is translated as 'happiness'.)

    Aristotle claims that human happiness or beatitude is a certain complete (or perfect) and self-sufficient good (or set of goods) such that (i) the possession of this complete good in the right way in a complete life "makes life desirable and lacking in nothing" [1097b 16], (ii) this complete good "is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else" [1097a 35], and (iii) every other good, even if desirable in itself and not just for the sake of something else, is sought for the sake of achieving this complete good.  Aquinas paraphrases this by claiming that human happiness consists in a good, the possession of which in the right way satisfies all of our (ordinate or well-ordered) desires. 

    Your task is to compare and contrast what Aristotle and Aquinas say about human happiness. Specifically, I want you to address the following questions:

    1.  What, precisely, does happiness or beatitude consist in according to Aristotle and according to Aquinas?

    2.  What, according to Aristotle and Aquinas, is the relation between being morally virtuous (or, as Aquinas puts it, having rectitude of the will) and enjoying ultimate human happiness or beatitude? 

    3.  What, according to Aristotle and Aquinas, is the relation between possessing an ample measure of the exterior goods (wealth, fame, power, etc.) and goods of the body (health, good looks, athletic prowess, comfort, etc.), on the one hand, and enjoying ultimate human happiness, on the other?

    4.  Aristotle seems at certain points to suggest that ultimate human happiness is, with difficulty and also with luck or good fortune, attainable by us in the course of our present lives.  Aquinas, by contrast, claims that this complete good (i) cannot be had in this life and (ii) cannot be had by our own natural power.  How does Aquinas argue for these claims?  Does he take Aristotle to be wholly mistaken about the attainability of human happiness in this life?  Why or why not? 

    5.  Consider, finally, two lives:

    • First, consider the life of someone who, for the sake of the Gospel, dedicates her life entirely to prayer, good works of one kind or another, and the salvation of others, living out vows of poverty, chastity (i.e., celibacy), and obedience.  (Think of someone like Mother Teresa of Calcutta.)  Would Aristotle consider this sort of life a possible paradigm of human flourishing, or would he instead think of it as a deformation of human nature?  Give considerations for both sides, and defend your answer.  What would Aquinas say about this sort of life?  (It may aid your thinking to reflect on the Gospel story of the rich and virtuous young man, found at Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-30).

    • Now consider the life of a severely mentally handicapped man like my former next door neighbor Jack Spillner, who loved to get mail and to borrow random things from me, but was incapable of carrying on a deep conversation, or just about any conversation at all for that matter. What would Aristotle say about the possibility of Jack attaining happiness? What would Aquinas say?  Defend your answers.


    NOTE: ONCE AGAIN, YOUR NAME SHOULD APPEAR ONLY 
    ON THE BACK OF THE LAST PAGE, WRITTEN IN PENCIL.