THE NOTION OF HAPPINESS IN ARISTOTLE AND THOMAS AQUINAS (A COMPARATIVE STUDY)

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Product Code: 00001377

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Title                                                                                        

Certification                                    

Dedication                                                                              

Acknowledgements                                                                

Table of contents                                                                    

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0            INTRODUCTION                        

1.1     Statement of the Problem             

1.2            Purpose of Study                                                          

1.3            Methodology                                                                

1.4            Scope of Work                                                              

1.5            Division of Work                                                          

 

CHAPTER TWO

2.0            MEANING OF HAPPINESS                                       

2.1     Ordinary Usage                                                            

2.2.0    Philosophers’ Views                

2.2.1    Ancient Era                                                                   

2.2.2    Medieval Era                                                                

2.2.3    Modern Era                                                                  

2.2.4    Contemporary Era          

 

CHAPTER THREE

3.0            ARISTOTLE AND AQUINAS ON HAPPINESS         

3.1.0    Aristotle                                               

3.1.1    What Happiness is                                   

3.1.2    The End of Human Actions                                          

3.1.3  Happiness as an Activity      

3.1.4    What Happiness Consists in                                        

3.1.5    Attainability of Happiness                                           

3.2.0    Thomas Aquinas

3.2.1    What Happiness is

3.2.2    What Happiness Consists in

3.2.3    Attainability of Happiness    

 

CHAPTER FOUR

4.0            COMPARISON OF ARISTOTLE AND AQUINAS

NOTIONS OF HAPPINESS   

4.1     What Happiness is              

4.2            What Happiness Consists in        

4.3            Attainment of Happiness            

4.4            Requisites for Happiness            

 

CHAPTER FIVE

5.0            CRITICAL EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION       

5.1.0    Evaluation of the Notions of Aristotle and Aquinas

on Happiness            

5.1.1    Evaluation of Aristotle’s Notion   

5.1.2    Evaluation of Aquinas’ Notion               

5.2            Conclusion: Discovering Happiness     












                                      CHAPTER ONE


1.0     GENERAL INTRODUCTION

It is indispensably in the nature of man to be happy.  This necessarily follows from his nature as a ‘homo rationis’ (reasoning animal).  By the virtue of his reason, man has the capacity to make a choice of an action.  His choice of action is predominantly determined by some desired good, which serves as an end.  As soon as this desired end is met, man’s face brightens.  He feels to some extent fulfilled.  But what actually is going on in him? He is happy.  But if the contrary were the case, man becomes unhappy. This is simply because he has not realized that end which prompted his choice of that action.

Consequently, the concept of happiness can be said to be as old as man.  It always lies irresistibly behind our choice of actions.  Even the actions that we refrain from are undeniably motivated by this inexplicable but irrepressible desire for happiness.  This nature of man was long discovered by Aristotle when in the beginning   of his Nichomachean Ethics, he writes:

Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that which all things aim 1 

Unveiling this nature in man, he identified happiness as, “the highest of all goods achievable by action”2.  This he said following his discovery that every human action is a means to an end, which is seen as a good.  He however noticed that some of these ends are sought not as ends themselves but only as a means to further ends.

Having identified happiness as the highest of all goods that can be achieved by human action, he remarked immediately the existence of a unanimous acceptance of this fact about happiness.  But at the same time, he commented that there is no general agreement on what happiness is.  This problem of general agreement on what happiness is has remained a philosophical problem till date.   This can be seen in the different actions exhibited by human beings even till date. People steal, and even kill in order to get that which they want so as to be happy. Also some people are known for their habit of over-eating or over-drinking. Such persons, when asked, also claim that they want to be happy. There are still some others who are involved in embezzlement of funds, human trafficking, addictions of various kinds, sexual abuses and perversions, prostitution, and other debasing actions. These actions are motivated by the quest for happiness by those concerned.

Experience has shown that such persons have never achieved a lasting happiness. The much they have always attained is only the pleasure that lasts only a few moments, and leaves them with much more to be desired because they are not yet satisfied. To such persons, the common saying that, the joy of having increases by having, is always applicable. Hence, there is the need to continue to ask such questions as: What actually is happiness?   In what does it consist?  By the way, is happiness attainable?  If so, where, when, and how can one attain it?

In the thirteenth century, another philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, took up this question of human happiness.  He followed the methods of Aristotle in his approach. However, he did not accept completely Aristotle’s notion of happiness especially as it concerns ‘when’ and ‘where’ happiness can be attained. Like Aristotle, he understands happiness as the last end to which all human actions tend. But unlike the former who believes that happiness is attainable in this life, Aquinas believes that what is attainable in this life is momentary happiness. He believes therefore that ultimate happiness can only be attained in the vision of God, Beatifica Dei .We can then say that, in his efforts, he tried to Christianize Aristotle’s ideas who himself was a pagan.


1.1      STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM  

Since man cannot but desire happiness, it is observed that he performs various actions, not excluding the non- pleasant and bad ones, just to be happy.  Happiness therefore means various things to various persons, even among philosophers.  Besieged by these varying and sometimes contradictory notions of happiness, one has no other option than to ask: what does this happiness mean?  Secondly, in what does it consist?  That is to say, ‘when’ and ‘where’ can we find it, if at all it is realizable?  This problem was identified by Aristotle when he wrote:

… But with regard to what happiness is they differ, and the many do not give the same account as the wise4.


1.2     PURPOSE OF STUDY

As the modern world continues to soar higher in technological advancements, it also records a great clamour for freedom.  The freedom in question is not just from rules and regulations or laws, but also the freedom to perform any action or activity.  These actions, according to Aristotle, are aimed at the attainment of some good the highest of which is happiness. 

Both Aristotle and Aquinas wrote from different backgrounds, which, no doubt, influenced them. While the former wrote from a pagan background, the latter wrote from a Christian background.  By juxtaposing their notions of happiness therefore, the researcher aims at pointing out the way to human happiness.  He also wants to examine, in the light of those philosophers, whether the actions of the modern man such as: struggle for power and fame, merriment, alcoholism, drug and sex abuses, quest for wealth, etc, are capable of giving man happiness.  If they are not, then one would at least be able to say at the end of this work what happiness is, and in what it consists.

 

1.3            METHODOLOGY    

In order to successfully and efficiently arrive at the desired end of this work, the techniques employed are expository, analytical, critical, and evaluative.

 

1.4     THE SCOPE OF WORK

Different people in different ages and at different times have different views about what it means to be happy.  A lot of philosophers have also written about happiness.  But for the sake of this work, I have restricted myself only to the notions of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.  Nevertheless, a brief mention shall be made in the course of this work, about the views of some philosophers on happiness.


1.4          DIVISION OF WORK

This work is systematically arranged into five chapters.  Chapter one is the introductory stage of this work. It contains the general introduction, the statement of the problem, purpose of work, methodology used, the scope covered, and the explanation of the contents of each of the chapters.

Chapter two takes care of the views of some philosophers and those of the man on the street about happiness.  In it also is unveiled the major influences on Aristotle and Aquinas. In chapter three, the notions of Aristotle and Aquinas on happiness are ex-rayed, while chapter four outlines the similarities and disparities between these notions, and necessarily contrasts them. Finally, chapter five brings the whole work to a conclusive end.  But before the final conclusion, it would evaluate critically the notions of Aristotle and Aquinas on happiness. 

 



1 Aristotle,  Nicomachean Ethics (Translated by W.D Ross), in The complete works  of Aristotle,

  Vol.2., ed. J. Barnes  (New Jersey, Princeton Press,1985), Bk.1. Ch.1. P.935.

2 Ibid.   P.937.

 

3 ‘Pagan’ as used above does not mean one who has no religion but refers to the non- Christian Greek

(Traditional) Religion.

 

4 Ibid. p. 937

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