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CHAPTER XXVI: DOES HAPPINESS CONSIST IN AN ACT OF THE WILL?
SINCE the intellectual substance attains to God by its operation, not only by an act of understanding but also by an act of the will, through desiring and loving Him, and through delighting in Him, someone might think that man's last end and ultimate happiness consists, not in knowing but in loving God or in some other act of the will towards Him: especially seeing that the object of the will is the good, which has the aspect of an end, whereas the true, which is the object of the intellect, has not the aspect of an end except forasmuch as it also is a good. Wherefore seemingly man does not attain to his last end by an act of his intellect, but rather by an act of his will.
Further. The ultimate perfection of operation is delight, which perfects operation as beauty perfects youth, as the Philosopher says (10 Ethic. iv.). Hence if the last end be a perfect operation, it would seem that it must consist in an act of the will rather than of the intellect.
Again. Delight apparently is desired for its own sake so that it is never desired for the sake of something else: for it is silly to ask of anyone why he seeks to be delighted. Now this is a condition of the ultimate end, namely that it be sought for its own sake. Therefore seemingly the last end consists in an act of the will rather than of the intellect.
Moreover. All agree in their desire for the last end, for it is a natural desire. Now more people seek delight than knowledge. Therefore delight would seem to be the last end rather than knowledge.
Furthermore. The will is seemingly a higher power than the intellect: for the will moves the intellect to its act; since when a person wills, his intellect considers by an act what he holds by a habit. Wherefore seemingly the act of the will is higher than the act of the intellect. Therefore it would seem that the last end, which is beatitude, consists in an act of the will rather than of the intellect.
But this can be clearly shown to be impossible. For since happiness is the proper good of the intellectual nature, it must needs become the intellectual nature according to that which is proper thereto. Now appetite is not proper to the intellectual nature, but is in all things, although it is different in different things. This difference, however, arises from things having a different relation to knowledge. For things wholly devoid of knowledge have only a natural appetite: those that have a sensitive knowledge, have also a sensitive appetite, under which the irascible and concupiscible appetites are comprised. And those which have intellective knowledge, have also an appetite proportionate to that knowledge, namely the will. The will therefore, forasmuch as it is an appetite, is not proper to the intellectual nature, but only in so far as it is dependent on the intellect. On the other hand the intellect is in itself proper to the intellectual nature. Therefore beatitude or happiness consists principally and essentially in an act of the intellect, rather than in an act of the will.
Again. In all powers that are moved by their objects, the object is naturally prior to the acts of those powers: even as the mover is naturally prior to the movable being moved. Now such a power is the will: for the appetible object moves the appetite. Therefore the will's object is naturally prior to its act: and consequently its first object precedes its every act. Therefore an act of the will cannot be the first thing willed. But this is the last end, which is beatitude. Therefore beatitude or happiness cannot be the very act of the will.
Besides. In all those powers which are able to reflect on their acts, their act must first bear on some other object, and afterwards the power is brought to bear on its own act. For if the intellect understand that it understands, we must suppose first that it understands some particular thing, and that afterwards it understands that it understands: for this very act of intelligence which the intellect understands, must have an object. Hence either we must go on for ever, or if we come to some first thing understood, this will not be an act of understanding, but some intelligible thing. In the same way the first thing willed cannot be the very act of willing, but must be some other good. Now the first thing willed by an intelligent nature, is beatitude or happiness: because for its sake we will whatever we will. Therefore happiness cannot consist in an act of the will.
Further. The truth of a thing's nature is derived from those things which constitute its essence: for a true man differs from a man in a picture, by the things which constitute man's essence. Now false happiness does not differ from true in an act of the will: because whatever be proposed to the will as the supreme good, whether truly or falsely, it makes no difference to the will, desiring, loving, or enjoying that good: the difference is on the part of the intellect, as to whether the good proposed as supreme be truly so or not. Therefore beatitude or happiness consists essentially in an act of the intellect rather than of the will.
Again. If an act of the will were happiness itself, this act would be either desire, or love, or joy. But desire cannot possibly be the last end. For desire implies that the will is tending to what it has not yet; and this is contrary to the very notion of the last end.--Nor can love be the last end. For a good is loved not only while it is in our possession, but even when it is not: because it is through love that we seek by desire what we have not: and if love of a thing we possess is more perfect, this arises from the fact that we possess the good we love. It is one thing, therefore, to possess the good which is our end; and another to love it, which love before we possessed was imperfect, and perfect after we obtained possession.--Nor again is delight the last end. For it is possession of the good that causes delight; whether we are conscious of possessing it actually; or call to mind our previous possession; or hope to possess it in the future. Therefore delight is not the last end.--Therefore no act of the will can be happiness itself essentially.
Furthermore. If delight were the last end, it would be desirable for its own sake. But this is not true. Because the desirability of a delight depends on what gives rise to the delight: since that which arises from good and desirable operations, is itself good and desirable, but that which arises from evil operations, is itself evil and to be avoided. Therefore its goodness and desirability are from something else: and consequently it is not itself the last end or happiness.
Moreover. The right order of things agrees with the order of nature: for in the natural order things are directed to their end without any error. Now, in the natural order delight is on account of operation and not conversely. For it is to be observed that nature has joined delight with those animal operations which are clearly directed to necessary ends; for instance to the use of food that is directed to the preservation of the individual; and to sexual matters, that are appointed for the preservation of the species: since were there no pleasure, animals would abstain from the use of these necessary things. Therefore delight cannot be the last end.
Again. Delight, seemingly, is nothing else than the quiescence of the will in some becoming good, just as desire is the inclining of the will towards the attaining of some good. Now just as by his will, a man is inclined towards an end, and rests in it; so too have natural bodies a natural inclination to their respective ends, and are at rest when they have once attained their end. Now it is absurd to say that the end of the movement of a heavy body is not to be in its proper place, but that it is the quiescence of the inclination towards that place. For if it were nature's chief intent that this inclination should be quiescent, it would not give such an inclination: but it gives it so that the body may tend towards its place: and when it has arrived there, as though it were its end, quiescence of the inclination follows. Hence this quiescence is not the end, but accompanies the end. Neither therefore is delight the ultimate end, but accompanies it. Much less therefore is happiness any act of the will.
Besides. If a thing have something extrinsic for its end, the operation whereby it first obtains that thing will be called its last end: thus for those whose end is money, possession is said to be their end, but not love or desire. Now the last end of the intellective substance is God. Hence that operation of man whereby he first obtains God is essentially his happiness or beatitude. And this is understanding: since we cannot will what we do not understand. Therefore man's ultimate happiness is essentially to know God by the intellect, and not an act of the will.
From what has been said we can now solve the arguments that were objected in the contrary sense. For it does not necessarily follow that happiness is essentially the very act of the will, from the fact that it is the object of the will, through being the highest good, as the first argument reasoned. On the contrary the fact that it is the first object of the will, shows that it is not an act of the will, as appears from what we have said.
Nor does it follow that whatever perfects a thing in any way whatever, must be the end of that thing; as the second objection argued. For a thing perfects another in two ways: first it perfects a thing that has its species; secondly it perfects a thing that it may have its species. Thus the perfection of a house considered as already having its species, is that to which the species "house" is directed, namely to be a dwelling: for one would not build a house but for that: and consequently we must include this in the definition of a house, if the definition is to be perfect. On the other hand the perfection that conduces to the species of a house, is both that which is directed to the completion of the species, for instance its essential principles; and that which conduces to the preservation of the species, for instance the buttresses which are made to support the building; and those things which make the house more fit for use, for instance, the symmetry of the building. Accordingly that which is the perfection of a thing considered as already having its species, is its end; as the end of a house is to be a dwelling. Likewise, the operation proper to a thing, its use, as it were, is its end. On the other hand whatever perfects a thing by conducing to its species, is not the end of that thing: in fact the thing is its end; thus matter and form are for the sake of the species. For although the form is the end of generation, it is not the end of the thing already generated and having its species, but is required in order that the species be complete. Again, things that preserve the thing in its species, such as health and the nutritive power, although they perfect the animal, are not the animal's end, but vice versa. And again, those things that adapt a thing for the perfection of its proper specific operations, and for the easier attainment of its proper end, are not the end of that thing, but vice versa: for instance, a man's comeliness and bodily strength, and the like, of which the Philosopher says (1 Ethic. viii., ix.) that they conduce to happiness instrumentally.--Now delight is a perfection of operation, not as though operation were directed thereto in respect of its species, for thus it is directed to other ends; thus eating, in respect of its species, is directed to the preservation of the individual: but it is like a perfection that is conducive to a thing's species: since for the sake of the delight we perform more attentively and becomingly an operation we delight in. Wherefore the Philosopher (10 Ethic. iv.) says that delight perfects operation as beauty perfects youth: for beauty is for the sake of the one who has youth.--Nor is the fact that men seek delight not for the sake of something else but for its own sake, a sufficient indication that delight is the last end, as the third objection argued. Because delight, though it is not the last end, nevertheless accompanies the last end: since delight arises from the attainment of the end.
Nor do more people seek the pleasure that comes from knowledge, than knowledge itself. But more there are who seek sensible delights than intellectual knowledge and the delight consequent thereto: because those things that are without, are better known to the majority, in that human knowledge takes its beginning from sensible objects.
The suggestion put forward by the fifth argument, that the will is a higher power than the intellect, as being the latter's motive force, is clearly untrue. Because the intellect moves the will, first and per se: for the will, as such, is moved by its object, which is the apprehended good: whereas the will moves the intellect accidentally as it were, in so far, to wit, that the act of intelligence is itself apprehended as a good, and on that account is desired by the will, the result being that the intellect understands actually. Even in this, the intellect precedes the will, for the will would never seek the act of intelligence, did not the intellect first apprehend its act of intelligence as a good.--And again, the will moves the intellect to actual operation, in the same way as an agent is said to move; whereas the intellect moves the will in the same way as the end moves, for the good understood is the end of the will. Now the agent in moving comes after the end, for the agent does not move except on account of the end. It is therefore clear that the intellect is simply higher than the will; while the will is higher than the intellect accidentally and in a restricted sense.
|Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. by The English Dominican Fathers from the latest Leonine Edition, Benzinger Brothers: New York, 1924.|