Thomas Aquinas
Treatise on Happiness: A Brief Summary

based on John A. Oesterle's translation
University of Notre Dame Press, 1983

Compiled by Dr. Jan Garrett
Last revised September 21, 2005

Question I

1. That properly human acts are for an end.

2. That rational beings but also natural beings act for an end.

3. Human acts are specified (receive their essential natures) from their ends.

4. There is an ultimate end for human life.

5. A person cannot have several ultimate ends.

6. Everyone wills what he wills for the sake of an ultimate end.

7. In general terms, every person has the same ultimate end.

Question II

1. Happiness does not consist in wealth.

2. Happiness does not consist principally in honor.

3. Happiness does not consist in fame or glory.

4. Happiness does not consist in power.

5. Happiness is not identical to bodily pleasure nor is bodily pleasure a proper accident of happiness.

6. Happiness belongs to soul but the object of happiness is outside the soul.

7. Human happiness does not consist in any created good.

Question III

1. Happiness is a created thing, with respect to precisely what happiness is, i.e., it is not an uncreated thing (even if its cause is an uncreated thing).

2. Happiness is an activity, i.e., a second act or actuality.

3. Happiness is an activity essentially of the intellect, not of the senses; but it is antecedently and consequently of the senses.

4. The essence of happiness consists in an act of the intellect, but the delight that results from happiness belongs to the will.

5. Happiness consists in the activity of the speculative (rather than the practical) intellect.

6. The act of the speculative intellect in which happiness consists is not that of scientific knowledge, because the latter is derived from sense experience.

7. Complete happiness involves the contemplation of the True, i.e., God, but angels are true only by participation.

8. Only in knowing the very essence of God (i.e., through intellectual vision of Him) is there complete happiness.

Question IV

1. Delight is required for happiness, not as a preliminary or as an external aid for it, but as an accompaniment (as fire requires heat).

2. Intellectual vision of the good is the activity central or essential to happiness; vision is primary and delight is secondary.

3. Comprehension [of the ultimate good], in the sense of "the grasping of something now directly possessed," is required for happiness, i.e. perfect happiness in the afterlife.

4. One cannot be happy without rectitude (proper disposition) of the will.

5. The imperfect happiness we can have in this life depends on the body; perfect happiness, the vision of the divine essence, does not essentially require it, but it does require it consequently.

6. The good disposition of the body is required both for the imperfect happiness we can achieve in this life and the perfect happiness possible (for good people) in the afterlife.

7. External goods are required for the imperfect happiness possible in this life but not for the perfect happiness of a soul united to a spiritual (i.e., incorruptible) body.

8. The imperfect happiness of this life requires friends; the presence of nondivine persons is not strictly required for perfect happiness because a person is completely fulfilled in (the beatific vision of) God.

Question V

1. Humans can attain happiness because the human intellect can apprehend the universal and perfect good and the human will seeks it.

2. Not everyone who is happy is equally happy. Although there is no variation in God's happiness, humans gain and enjoy this supreme good by degrees.

3. Nobody can be fully happy (find bliss) in this life, although some degree of it is possible.

4. Perfect happiness of the good and wise, which occurs in the afterlife, cannot be lost, although imperfect (contemplative and morally active) happiness possible in this life can.

5. Perfect human happiness, the perfect vision of the Good/God in the afterlife, is not achievable by the natural human powers, but imperfect human happiness can be achieved by these powers, which can produce moral and intellectual virtues.

6. Only God can grant the perfect vision of himself. All beings are bound by their position in the natural hierarchy. Not even angels can enable humans to exceed their natural limits.

7. Humans cannot receive happiness from God without doing good deeds. To possess happiness without movement belongs only to the perfect being. Humans attain it by means of a series of acts that produce the virtues in us. The order of nature established by God requires good deeds as preliminaries to happiness.

8. Everyone desires happiness insofar as happiness is understood in a general way as the complete or perfect good. Not everyone desires happiness understood as the intellectual vision of the divine essence.