Summa Theologiae I-II, Q. 2, Arts. 1, 4, and 6

by Thomas Aquinas

Web page by Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised date: August 4, 2004

based on the text found at

Original English Source:
The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Summa Theologica I-II, question 2, articles 1, 4, and 6

For information about The Summa Theologica (more properly known as the Summa Theologiae) and the way in which it is subdivided, see the important information at the end of this web page.

Although Thomas Aquinas is a Christian who was writing for Catholic Christians of the thirteenth century, most of his reasoning in these articles is philosophical rather than theological in our sense. What I mean by that is that his reasoning does not usually assume that we accept strictly religious premises (starting points that require an act of religious faith on our parts). These topics, in fact, were standard topics of discussion already among pagan Greek philosophers in the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

His reason for occasionally citing Scripture is not that he wants to overwhelm the reader with an appeal to authority but that the Scriptural passage states a truth the reason of the reader can quickly grasp. If the passage is a bit obscure, Thomas will normally explain its meaning briefly.

Note: The translation uses the term "man" when it is translating the Latin word "homo," which refers to human beings, not merely the male of the human species.

[Article 1.] Whether man's happiness consists in wealth?

Objection 1. It would seem that man's happiness consists in wealth. For since happiness is man's last end, it must consist in that which has the greatest hold on man's affections. Now this is wealth: for it is written (Eccles. 10:19): "All things obey money." Therefore man's happiness consists in wealth.

Objection 2. Further, according to [the early Christian philosopher] Boethius (De Consol. iii), happiness is "a state of life made perfect by the aggregate of all good things." Now money seems to be the means of possessing all things: for, as the [philosopher Aristotle] says ([Nicomachean] Ethic[s] v, 5), money was invented, that it might be a sort of guarantee for the acquisition of whatever man desires. Therefore happiness consists in wealth.

Objection 3. Further, since the desire for the sovereign good never fails, it seems to be infinite. But this is the case with riches more than anything else; since "a covetous man shall not be satisfied with riches" (Eccles. 5:9). Therefore happiness consists in wealth.

On the contrary, Man's good consists in retaining happiness rather than in spreading it. But as Boethius says (De Consol. ii), "wealth shines in giving rather than in hoarding: for the miser is hateful, whereas the generous man is applauded." Therefore man's happiness does not consist in wealth.

I answer that, It is impossible for man's happiness to consist in wealth. For wealth is twofold, as [Aristotle] says (Polit[ics]. i, 3), viz. natural and artificial. Natural wealth is that which serves man as a remedy for his natural wants: such as food, drink, clothing, cars, dwellings, and such like, while artificial wealth is that which is not a direct help to nature, as money, but is invented by the art of man, for the convenience of exchange, and as a measure of things salable.

Now it is evident that man's happiness cannot consist in natural wealth. For wealth of this kind is sought for the sake of something else, viz. as a support of human nature: consequently it cannot be man's last end, rather is it ordained to man as to its end. Wherefore in the order of nature, all such things are below man, and made for him, according to Ps[alms] 8:8: "Thou hast subjected all things under his feet."

And as to artificial wealth, it is not sought save for the sake of natural wealth; since man would not seek it except because, by its means, he procures for himself the necessaries of life. Consequently much less can it be considered in the light of the last end. Therefore it is impossible for happiness, which is the last end of man, to consist in wealth.

Reply to Objection 1. All material things obey money, so far as the multitude of fools is concerned, who know no other than material goods, which can be obtained for money. But we should take our estimation of human goods not from the foolish but from the wise: just as it is for a person whose sense of taste is in good order, to judge whether a thing is palatable.

Reply to Objection 2. All things [that can be sold] can be had for money: not so spiritual things, which cannot be sold. Hence it is written (Prov[erbs] 17:16): "What doth it avail a fool to have riches, seeing he cannot buy wisdom."

Reply to Objection 3. The desire for natural riches is not infinite: because they suffice for nature in a certain measure. But the desire for artificial wealth is infinite, for it is the servant of disordered concupiscence [uncontrolled appetite], which is not curbed, as [Aristotle] makes clear (Polit[ics] i, 3). Yet this desire for wealth is infinite [unlike] the desire for the sovereign good. For the more perfectly the sovereign good is possessed, the more it is loved, and other things despised: because the more we possess it, the more we know it. Hence it is written (Sirach 24:29): "They that eat me shall yet hunger." Whereas in the desire for wealth and for whatsoever temporal goods, the contrary is the case: for when we already possess them, we despise them, and seek others: which is the sense of Our Lord's words (J[ohn] 4:13): "Whosoever drinketh of this water," by which temporal goods are signified, "shall thirst again." The reason of this is that we realize more their insufficiency when we possess them: and this very fact shows that they are imperfect, and the sovereign good does not consist therein.

[Article 4] Whether man's happiness consists in power?

Objection 1. It would seem that happiness consists in power. For all things desire to become like to God, as to their last end and first beginning. But men who are in power, seem, on account of the similarity of power, to be most like to God: hence also in Scripture they are called "gods" (Ex[odus] 22:28), "Thou shalt not speak ill of the gods." Therefore happiness consists in power.

Objection 2. Further, happiness is the perfect good. But the highest perfection for man is to be able to rule others; which belongs to those who are in power. Therefore happiness consists in power.

Objection 3. Further, since happiness is supremely desirable, it is contrary to that which is before all to be shunned. But, more than aught else, men shun servitude, which is contrary to power. Therefore happiness consists in power.

On the contrary, Happiness is the perfect good. But power is most imperfect. For as Boethius says (De Consol. iii), "the power of man cannot relieve the gnawings of care, nor can it avoid the thorny path of anxiety": and further on: "Think you a man is powerful who is surrounded by attendants, whom he inspires with fear indeed, but whom he fears still more?"

I answer that, It is impossible for happiness to consist in power; and this for two reasons. First because power has the nature of principle [i.e., a cause of change], as is stated in [Aristotle's] Metaph[ysics] v, 12, whereas happiness has the nature of last end [i.e., what is ultimately aimed at or sought]. Secondly, because [a] power [can be used for either] good and evil: whereas happiness is man's proper and perfect good. Wherefore some happiness might consist in the good use of power, which [results from] virtue, rather than [from] power itself.

Now four general reasons may be given to prove that happiness consists in none of the foregoing external goods. [Thomas has just discussed not only wealth and power but also honors and fame or glory.--JG]

First, because, since happiness is man's supreme good, it is incompatible with any evil. Now all the foregoing can be found both in good and in evil men.

Secondly, because, since it is the nature of happiness to "satisfy of itself," as stated in [Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics] i, 7, having gained happiness, man cannot lack any needful good. But after acquiring any one of the foregoing, man may still lack many goods that are necessary to him; for instance, wisdom, bodily health, and such like.

Thirdly, because, since happiness is the perfect good, no evil can accrue to anyone therefrom. This cannot be said of the foregoing: for it is written (Eccles. 5:12) that "riches" are sometimes "kept to the hurt of the owner"; and the same may be said of the other three.

Fourthly, because man is ordained to [i.e., disposed to seek] happiness through principles [causes] that are in him; since he is ordained thereto naturally. Now the four goods mentioned above are due rather to external causes, and in most cases to fortune [i.e., accidental events, good luck]; for which reason they are called goods of fortune. Therefore it is evident that happiness nowise consists in the foregoing.

Reply to Objection 1. God's power is His goodness: hence He cannot use His power otherwise than well. But it is not so with men. Consequently it is not enough for man's happiness, that he become like God in power, unless he become like Him in goodness also.

Reply to Objection 2. Just as it is a very good thing for a man to make good use of power in ruling many, so is it a very bad thing if he makes a bad use of it. And so it is that power is towards good and evil.

Reply to Objection 3. Servitude is a hindrance to the good use of power: therefore is it that men naturally shun it; not because man's supreme good consists in power.

[Article 6] Whether man's happiness consists in pleasure?

Objection 1. It would seem that man's happiness consists in pleasure. For since happiness is the last end [ultimate goal of life], it is not desired for something else, but other things for it. But this [description] answers to [i.e., fits] pleasure more than to anything else: "for it is absurd to ask anyone what is his motive in wishing to be pleased" ([Nicomachean Ethics] x, 2). Therefore happiness consists principally in pleasure and delight.

Objection 2. Further, "the first cause goes more deeply into the effect than the second cause" (De Causis i). Now the causality of the end [goal or thing sought for its own sake] consists in its attracting the appetite. Therefore, seemingly that which moves most the appetite, answers [corresponds] to the notion of the last end. Now this is pleasure: and a sign of this is that delight so far absorbs man's will and reason, that it causes him to despise other goods. Therefore it seems that man's last [i.e., ultimate] end, which is happiness, consists principally in pleasure.

Objection 3. Further, since desire is for good, it seems that what all desire is best. But all desire delight; both wise and foolish, and even irrational creatures. Therefore delight is the best of all. Therefore happiness, which is the supreme good, consists in pleasure.

On the contrary, Boethius says (De Consol. iii): "Any one that chooses to look back on his past excesses, will perceive that pleasures had a sad ending: and if they can render a man happy, there is no reason why we should not say that the very beasts are happy too."

To understand Thomas' answer, we must be able to distinguish between the essence of something and its proper accident.

The essence of X is not only an attribute X must have but it is what X is, X's defining feature. Thomas expects it to be uncontroversial that humans are essentially mortal rational animals.

A proper accident of X, by contrast, is an attribute of X that goes along with its essence but is less basic to X than its essence. To say that [all and only] humans are risible animals, i.e., animals capable of laughing, may be true, but because this capacity may be infrequently used and yet one may remain human, Thomas would not consider it essential.

I answer that, Because bodily delights are more generally known, "the name of pleasure has been appropriated to them" ([Nicomachean Ethics] vii, 13), although other delights excel them: and yet happiness does not consist in them. Because in every thing, that which pertains to its essence is distinct from its proper accident: thus in man it is one thing that he is a mortal rational animal, and another that he is a risible animal. We must therefore consider that every delight is a proper accident resulting from happiness, or from some part of happiness; since the reason that a man is delighted is that he has some fitting good, either in reality, or in hope, or at least in memory. Now a fitting good, if indeed it be the perfect good, is precisely man's happiness: and if it is imperfect, it is a share of happiness, either proximate, or remote, or at least apparent. Therefore it is evident that neither is delight, which results from the perfect good, the very essence of happiness, but something resulting [from it] as its proper accident.

But bodily pleasure cannot result from the perfect good even in that way. For it results from a good apprehended by sense, which is a power of the soul, which power makes use of the body. Now good pertaining to the body, and apprehended by sense, cannot be man's perfect good. For since the rational soul excels the capacity of corporeal matter, that part of the soul which is independent of a corporeal organ, has a certain infinity in regard to the body and those parts of the soul which are tied down to the body: just as immaterial things are in a way infinite as compared to material things, since a form is, after a fashion, contracted and bounded by matter, so that a form which is independent of matter is, in a way, infinite. Therefore sense, which is a power of the body, knows the singular, which is determinate through matter: whereas the intellect, which is a power independent of matter, knows the universal, which is abstracted from matter, and contains an infinite number of singulars. Consequently it is evident that good which is fitting to the body, and which causes bodily delight through being apprehended by sense, is not man's perfect good, but is quite a trifle as compared with the good of the soul. Hence it is written (Wis. 7:9) that "all gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand." And therefore bodily pleasure is neither happiness itself, nor a proper accident of happiness.

Reply to Objection 1. It comes to the same whether we desire good, or desire delight, which is nothing else than the appetite's rest in good: thus it is owing to the same natural force that a weighty body is borne downwards and that it rests there. Consequently just as good is desired for itself, so delight is desired for itself and not for anything else, if the preposition "for" denote the final cause. But if it denote the formal or rather the motive cause, thus delight is desirable for something else, i.e. for the good, which is the object of that delight, and consequently is its principle, and gives it its form: for the reason that delight is desired is that it is rest in the thing desired.

Reply to Objection 2. The vehemence of desire for sensible delight arises from the fact that operations of the senses, through being the principles of our knowledge, are more perceptible. And so it is that sensible pleasures are desired by the majority.

Reply to Objection 3. All desire delight in the same way as they desire good: and yet they desire delight by reason of the good and not conversely, as stated above ([see reply to objection] 1). Consequently it does not follow that delight is the supreme and essential good, but that every delight results from some good, and that some delight results from that which is the essential and supreme good.

Important Information about the Divisions and Structure
of the Summa Theologiae

The Summa is a huge work, divided into substantial parts. This material is from the second part, which itself is subdivided into two parts; this is from the first part of the second part.

At the next level, the parts are divided into "questions" (today we might call them topics). This is from Question 2 devoted to happiness. Each question is further divided into articles. Here we have here three articles. Each article is concerned with an issue designated by "whether" phrase. Thomas proceeds by stating arguments for the view of the issue contrary to his own. In article 1 the view he opposes is "that man's happiness consists in wealth." The arguments for this position opposed to Thomas' are called objections.

Following the objections comes the "on the contrary" (sed contra). This item is usually short and usually contains a citation from an authoritative text, philosophical or religious, against the view supported in the objections. Thomas often uses this section to show that his opposition to the view defended in the objections is not a wild innovation.

Occasionally, this section will present a view contrary to that defended in the objections and yet distinct from Thomas' own position. (Thomas may then present a middle position between the objectors' and the "contrary.")

The heart of Thomas' position comes in the "I answer that." Here he lays out his own basic position on the issue of the article.

Finally we find the replies. Here Thomas tries to refute the objections in the order in which they were presented.