The ultimate end of human life is Happiness. Happiness is the highest good, the ultimate perfection, good is an object of the will; but not all will it–or will amiss.Viz. Rectify the will.
Whether man can attain happiness?
I answer that, Happiness is the attainment of the Perfect Good. Whoever, therefore, is capable of the Perfect Good can attain Happiness. Now, that man is capable of the Perfect Good, is proved both because his intellect can apprehend the universal and perfect good, and because his will can desire it. And therefore man can attain Happiness. This can be proved again from the fact that man is capable of seeing God, as stated in FP, Q, A: in which vision, as we stated above (Q, A) (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FS_Q3_A8.html) man’s perfect Happiness consists.
Whether one can be happy in this life?
I answer that, A certain participation of Happiness can be had in this life: but perfect and true Happiness cannot be had in this life. This may be seen from a twofold consideration.
First, from the general notion of happiness. For since happiness is a “perfect and sufficient good,” it excludes every evil, and fulfils every desire. But in this life every evil cannot be excluded. For this present life is subject to many unavoidable evils; to ignorance on the part of the intellect; to inordinate affection on the part of the appetite, and to many penalties on the part of the body; as Augustine sets forth in De Civ. Dei xix, 4. Likewise neither can the desire for good be satiated in this life. For man naturally desires the good, which he has, to be abiding. Now the goods of the present life pass away; since life itself passes away, which we naturally desire to have, and would wish to hold abidingly, for man naturally shrinks from death. Wherefore it is impossible to have true Happiness in this life.
Secondly, from a consideration of the specific nature of Happiness, viz. the vision of the Divine Essence, which man cannot obtain in this life, as was shown in the FP, Q, A. Hence it is evident that none can attain true and perfect Happiness in this life.
THAT THE ULTIMATE FELICITY OF MAN CONSISTS IN THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOD
| So, if the ultimate felicity of man does not consist in external things which are called the goods of fortune, nor in the goods of the body, nor in the goods of the soul according to its sensitive part, nor as regards the intellective part according to the activity of the moral virtues, nor according to the intellectual virtues that are concerned with action, that is, art and prudence—we are left with the conclusion that the ultimate felicity of man lies in the contemplation of truth.|
| Indeed, this is the only operation of man which is proper to him, and in it he shares nothing in common with the other animals.|
| So, too, this is ordered to nothing else as an end, for the contemplation of truth is sought for its own sake.|
| Also, through this operation man is united by way of likeness with beings superior to him, since this alone of human operations is found also in God and in separate substances.|
| Indeed, in this operation he gets in touch with these higher beings by knowing them in some way.|
| Also, for this operation man is rather sufficient unto himself, in the sense that for it he needs little help from external things.|
| In fact, all other human operations seem to be ordered to this one, as to an end. For, there is needed for the perfection of contemplation a soundness of body, to which all the products of art that are necessary for life are directed. Also required are freedom from the disturbances of the passions—this is achieved through the moral virtues and prudence—and freedom from external disorders, to which the whole program of government in civil life is directed. And so, if they are rightly considered, all human functions may be seen to subserve the contemplation of truth.|
| However, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to consist in the contemplation which depends on the understanding of principles, for that is very imperfect, being most universal, including the potential cognition of things. Also, it is the beginning, not the end, of human enquiry, coming to us from nature and not because of our search for truth. Nor, indeed, does it lie in the area of the sciences which deal with lower things, because felicity should lie in the working of the intellect in relation to the noblest objects of understanding. So, the conclusion remains that man’s ultimate felicity consists in the contemplation of wisdom, based on the considering of divine matters.|
| From this, that is also clear by way of induction, which was proved above by rational arguments, namely, that man’s ultimate felicity consists only in the contemplation of God.|
THAT MAN’S FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN RICHES
| From this, moreover, it is also clear that riches are not the highest good for man.|
| Indeed, riches are only desired for the sake of something else; they provide no good of themselves but only when we use them, either for the maintenance of the body or some such use. Now, that which is the highest good is desired for its own sake and not for the sake of something else. Therefore, riches are not the highest good for man.|
| Again, man’s highest good cannot lie in the possession or keeping of things that chiefly benefit man through being spent. Now, riches are chiefly valuable because they can be expended, for this is their use. So, the possession of riches cannot be the highest good for man.|
| Besides, an act of virtue is praiseworthy in so far as it comes closer to felicity. Now, acts of liberality and magnificence, which have to do with money, are more praiseworthy in a situation in which money is spent than in one in which it is saved. So, it is from this fact that the names of these virtues are derived. Therefore, the felicity of man does not consist in the possession of riches.|
| Moreover, that object in whose attainment man’s highest good lies must be better than man. But man is better than riches, for they are but things subordinated to man’s use. Therefore, the highest good for man does not lie in riches.|
| Furthermore, man’s highest good is not subject to fortune, for things subject to fortune come about independently of rational effort. But it must be through reason that man will achieve his proper end. Of course, fortune occupies an important place in the attainment of riches, Therefore, human felicity is not founded on riches.|
| Again, this becomes evident in the fact that riches are lost in an involuntary manner, and also that they may accrue to evil men who must fail to achieve the highest good, and also that riches are unstable—and for other reasons of this kind which may be gathered from the preceding arguments.|
THAT HUMAN FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN PLEASURES OF THE FLESH
THAT FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN HONORS
THAT MAN’S FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN GLORY
THAT FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN WORLDLY POWER
THAT FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN GOODS OF THE BODY
THAT HUMAN FELICITY DOES NOT LIE IN THE SENSES
THAT MAN’S ULTIMATE FELICITY DOES NOT LIE IN ACTS OF THE MORAL VIRTUES
THAT ULTIMATE FELICITY DOES NOT LIE IN THE ACT OF PRUDENCE
THAT FELICITY DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE OPERATION OF ART
“Happiness is more of a byproduct of holiness. If you will seek happiness for happiness’ sake, you mess up.”
So being God-centered doesn’t just bring happiness, but it brings peace.
And when you think about it, the path to happiness is holiness. Happiness is more of a byproduct of holiness. If you will seek happiness for happiness’ sake, you mess up. You look for it in the wrong places, like alcohol, drugs, Vegas. And you’re not going to find it. You’re going to find cheap thrills, but not lasting joy and happiness. True joy, true happiness is a byproduct of holiness. This is why God-centered living is the best way to live your life here on earth.