Friday, January 27, 2012

What is Required for Happiness?

Welcome back to the discussion of happiness.  Today should be relatively straightforward.  In six questions, we will discuss what things are required for happiness.

We can say there are two types of happiness.  The first type is the imperfect happiness that can be found in this world, which comes from being virtuous.  The second type is the perfect happiness that is found in the life to come, in the Beatific Vision.  Our focus today is on the second type, which is called true happiness.

1.  Is delight required for happiness?

Delight is not required for happiness, as a prerequisite.  However, it should be noted that delight and happiness are always found together, because delight is a result of happiness.  In general, delight is caused when the will is at rest in a good it has attained.  And because true happiness is attaining the Sovereign Good, true happiness cannot exist without delight following as a result.

2.  Is comprehension required for happiness?

As said yesterday, happiness involves the use of the intellect.  But experience teaches us that it is possible to apprehend something with the intellect, without comprehending it.  Is this the case with the happiness which results from the contemplation of God?

No.  For one, full comprehension is higher and more perfect than partial comprehension; someone with only partial comprehension can be said to be lacking.  True happiness lacks nothing; therefore it involves full comprehension, not partial comprehension.  Also, we explained earlier that happiness is the final end of humanity.  Partial comprehension is not a final end, because there is something beyond it: full comprehension.  Therefore, happiness as final end requires full comprehension of the divine essence.

3.  Is a rightly-ordered will required for happiness?

Yes.  A will is called "rightly-ordered", when it is ordered towards its proper end.  For example, a dog that wills to bark has a rightly-ordered will, because it is the nature of dogs to bark.  However, a dog that wishes to purr like a cat has a wrongly-ordered will, because it desires the wrong thing.

Now, for humans, a person with a rightly-ordered will desires true happiness.  And it is in this way that we can say a rightly-ordered will is a prerequisite for happiness.  A human with a wrongly-ordered will is going to seek something other than true happiness.  They do not have happiness as an end, therefore, it is impossible for them to achieve happiness as an end.

4.  Is the body necessary for happiness?

The body is necessary for the imperfect happiness that can be attained in this life.  However, the body is not necessary for the perfect happiness which can be attained in the life to come.

This is due to the nature of the Beatific Vision.  In the Beatific Vision, God is made directly present to the mind of the viewer.  The senses are not needed for this kind of knowledge, even though the senses may be present.  Consequently, the soul can be happy without the body.

However, some people have taken this as a premise and wrongly concluded that there are no bodies in Heaven.  They say that Heaven is only made up of souls.  This is false.  For one, the angels in Heaven are spiritual bodies.  For another, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles about the resurrection of the dead all clearly state that the dead will be given new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58 is probably the most explicit of these teachings).  And thirdly, it is illogical to think that Heaven is made up of souls but no bodies, because it is the nature of the soul to be united to a body.

5.  Are external goods necessary for happiness?

In this life, external goods are necessary to help support our animal bodies, and they are necessary for certain human operations which are done by means of our animal bodies.  Since external goods are necessary for life in general, they are also necessary for happiness in this life, although they do not create happiness in and of themselves.

But in the life to come, as indicated by the previous question, happiness consists of the Beatific Vision.  Souls without bodies can participate in the Beatific Vision; an example of this is the saints, who currently enjoy Heaven but who have not yet been given the new bodies which will come to them at the resurrection of the dead.  Souls with spiritual bodies can also participate in the Beatific Vision; an example of this is the angels.  Neither souls without bodies nor souls with spiritual bodies need external goods, which are only necessary for animal life.  Therefore, external goods are not necessary for perfect happiness.

6.  Are friends necessary for happiness?

The happy person needs friends, not in order to make use of them, nor in order to delight in them, but for the purposes of doing good to them.  Doing good to other people is an exercise of virtue, which leads to happiness.  If the good person delights in his friends, it is the case that he delights in seeing them do good things, and if the good person makes use of his friends, it is so they can all help each other do good things.

But if we talk about the perfect happiness of the Beatific Vision, friends are not necessary.  But the fellowship of friends conduces to the well-being of happiness, and so, friendship should not be spurned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that was very interesting!