Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Attainment of Happiness

Today is the sixth and final day of our discussion on happiness.  It is titled "The attainment of happiness".  We have determined that happiness is the main goal of human life, and that happiness is union with God.  It seems natural that we should spend some time discussion how happiness is attained.

1.  Can humans attain happiness?

Yes.  The objections to this claim all state that happiness is somehow beyond human nature, but this is not the case.  Humans are capable of attaining happiness, because they can apprehend it through their intellects and desire it through their wills.

2.  Can one person be happier than another?

Yes.  As said earlier, happiness involves attaining some kind of good, and true happiness is gained from attaining the ultimate good, which is God.

An example will be helpful here.  Say two hungry boys are eating a pie, which makes them happy.  Some people argue that neither boy can be happier than the other, because they have the same source of happiness.  It is logical to think that the pie gives equally happiness to both boys, because the pie is the same in both cases.  However, while the pie is the same, the boys can differ from each other.  If one boy dislikes pie in general, while the other boy really likes eating pie, it is obvious that the boy who likes pie is happier to eat it than the boy who dislikes it.  This is how one person can be happier than another.  Attaining a particular good brings more happiness to the person who is better disposed or ordered to enjoyment of that good.

3.  Can any person be happy in this life?

A certain participation of happiness can be had in this life, but true and perfect happiness cannot.  This is due to the general notion of happiness, which is a perfect and sufficient good that excludes every evil and fulfills every desire.  Excluding every evil is impossible in this life, and fulfilling every desire is also impossible.  Hence, perfect happiness cannot be had in this life.

Further, we said earlier that the specific nature of happiness is in the Beatific Vision, which only takes place in the life to come.  This leads to the same conclusion that perfect happiness cannot be had in this life.

4.  Can you have happiness, then lose it?

If we talk about imperfect happiness, then yes.  A person can have imperfect happiness, then lose it.  This is true, whether the happiness comes from actions or knowledge.  A person can become sick, and thereby be unable to perform the actions that make them happy.  And again, a person can become sick and forget the knowledge that makes them happy.

However, perfect happiness cannot be lost once it is gained.  If it could be lost, then it would not be perfect happiness.  The happiness would be tainted by the fear and sorrow of losing it, and it would therefore be imperfect happiness.

5.  Can humans attain happiness by means of their natural powers?

It is possible for a human to attain imperfect happiness through their natural powers, but it is impossible for a human to attain perfect happiness through their natural powers.  For the natural powers of humans are limited, whereas perfect happiness is not.

6.  Can humans attain happiness through the action of a higher creature?

This question is asked, because some people think that it is possible for an angel to make a human happy.  That seems possible, because happy angels can enlighten the intellects of humans or lower angels, especially in matters concerning God, who is the ultimate good.

However, it is clear that angels can only give humans imperfect happiness, not perfect happiness.  This is because angels are limited; like humans, they are a creation of God.  The perfect happiness coming from God remains beyond and above angel nature.

7.  Are any human actions necessary, so they can obtain the happiness of God?

Yes.  As explained yesterday, a rightly-ordered will is necessary for happiness.  This implies some sort of action on the part of humans.  God is pleased to give happiness as a reward for good works, hence, good works are necessary to receive happiness from God.  In the same way, bad works or some kind of fault is necessary for God to withhold happiness, as a punishment.  God's justice demands that this be the case, so no one will be unfairly rewarded or punished.

The only reason a person would not have to perform any actions in order to obtain happiness is if that person naturally possessed happiness.  Happiness consists of God, which was said earlier.  Therefore, a human who does not need to perform any actions to obtain happiness is a human who naturally possesses God.  No such human has existed or ever will exist, because it is proper to God alone to naturally possess himself.  Even Jesus and the Virgin Mary did not naturally possess God; they had to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God before they could obtain the happiness of union with God.

8.  Does every person desire happiness?

Yes.  Every person naturally desires happiness.  True happiness is the complete satisfaction of a person's will, and desire itself naturally seeks the satisfaction of the will.  Consequently, by the very act of desiring something, a person desires happiness.  This is true, even if we examine a person who desires unhappiness.  That person does not desire happiness, but they still desire to have their will satisfied.  And because happiness is the satisfaction of the will, it is revealed that the person desires happiness, even though they believe they desire unhappiness.

Not everyone knows what happiness consists of, which is why we often see people trying to get happiness from things that do not give happiness.  In this sense, you could say that not everyone desires happiness, because there are people who do not desire the things which result in happiness.  However, that is due to their mistaken knowledge, not due to some defect of happiness or desire.

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