Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Last Lecture, by James R. Stoner, Jr.

In short, I want to talk about human happiness, and what I have called my first and most important thought is simply this: Although no one can be happy who is determined not to be, happiness is not achieved by merely wanting it, much less by getting what you thought you wanted. For to be happy, a person has to know what is good and make it one’s own—not exactly as a possession, for none of the goods I’m going to talk about are material things, but as integral to one’s world and oneself.

He lists five goods: constitutionalism, learning, beauty, faith, marriage, freedom, and patriotism. Where is religion? (Faith may be required for religion, but religion is more than faith.) What of friendship and justice? This list of goods reminds me of the New Natural Law Theory and similar attempts to delineate human goods. (Aquinas himself does give a list of goods when explaining how the precepts of the natural law are derived in I II, but he does not give an exhaustive list there. The goods are enumerated through the virtues.) Did Aristotle himself believe in an ultimate end, to which all other goods were ordered? And what is the principle by which goods might be ordered to one another? This has been a point of controversy for Aristotle scholars and for others as well.

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