Thomas Aquinas on the Pursuit of Happiness Essay

Thomas Aquinas on the Pursuit of Happiness Essay

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In this paper I will look at Thomas Aquinas’ discussion from the Summa Contra Gentiles Book III Chapters 27 to 37 examining the pursuit of happiness and the ultimate source of happiness. I will first discuss the various kinds of happiness which Aquinas describes in the Contra Gentiles and how they may appear at first sight to satisfy the definition of happiness. I will then look at why he refutes these pursuits as the true source of happiness. Secondly, I will look at how the knowledge of God, to Aquinas is the ultimate source of happiness for man even though a full understanding is unattainable in this life. I will then defend this argument which I feel supports that happiness is linked to God and why I believe it is a valid argument.
In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, Chapters 27 to 37, Thomas Aquinas in a very systematic fashion describes various pursuits of mankind that although they may be pleasurable they fail to meet the ultimate definition of happiness of which Aquinas speaks. He describes these various pursuits and then explains why they fail to meet the criteria required to be true happiness. To Aquinas the ultimate and most desirable kind of happiness is that which is found in the knowledge of God. These various pursuits’ progress from our most instinctive nature and progress towards more reason based assertions and pursuits.
Beginning with chapter 27, paragraph 1 of the Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas states, “it is impossible for human felicity to consist in bodily pleasures, the chief of which are those of food and sex” (Aquinas, 1264) Although, food and sex may indeed be forms of pleasure, they ultimately have a more important purpose than pleasure alone. Food is required in order for the individual to ...


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...rldly desires found within riches, power, physicality and his senses. As man becomes further aware, he looks towards the external world in order seek out happiness through, acts of moral virtue, acts of prudence and the representation and appreciation of art. I think that this represents a valid interpretation of Chapters 27-37 of Book III of the Summa Contra Gentiles and presents a very clear representation of the stages through which man progresses in the pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, if man continues on this journey of self-discovery he will find the ultimate happiness he seeks through the contemplation of those things greater than man himself, and that is the contemplation of God.



Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (1264). Contra Gentiles. Book Three Questions 27 -37 translated by Vernon J. Bourke Retrieved from: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles.htm

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