Brian Davies

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This article presents a definite and positive view of Aquinas about happiness. Aquinas distinguished between what he calls actus hominis (an act of a human being) and actus humanus (a human action). Actions are often bodily processes through which people go, but some of them occur without thinking about them at all while others involve reflection. Aquinas believed that human action is deliberative and goal-directed. It typically results from a process of practical reasoning. Aquinas argued that human action is essentially directed to what people take to be good, attractive, satisfying, and fulfilling. He thought of it as always happiness-oriented. Aquinas's theory of human action focuses on the desire for happiness. Aquinas held that thinking, knowing, and understanding are categorically different from sensations that are private property. Aquinas has a general or defining notion of happiness. He takes happiness to be the perfection of the totality of a well-lived human life. The English word ‘happiness’ can be used to translate at least two different Latin terms that include felicitas and beatitudo. Aquinas makes the use of both of these words to describe happiness. He speaks of felicitas when he means happiness enjoyed by people before death. He takes beatitudo as the ultimate good for people that include the union with God after death.

Keywords: actus hominis; actus humanus; felicitas; beatitudo; happiness; human action

Article.  6026 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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