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Thomas Aquinas on happiness

A video course by Prof. Sir Anthony Kenny (Istituto di Studi Filosofici Lugano)

The great moral systems of Western philosophy may be divided into two classes. There are those whose key concept is that of happiness, and there are those whose key concept is that of obligation. Systems of the first type may focus on the happiness of the individual (Aristotle) or on the happiness of the greatest number (Bentham). Systems of the second type may derive obligation from a divine law (Judaism) or may derive duty from a human legislative community (Kant). St. Thomas Aquinas’ ethics combines elements from both type of system, but, following Aristotle, he gives happiness the supreme role.

1. Happiness as self-ascribed well-being: problems of evaluation of the results of polls.

2. Variety of understandings of happiness among philosophers.

3. Aristotle’s conditions for happiness: finality and self-sufficiency

4. Aristotle’s identification of happiness as exercise of virtue

5. Augustine: happiness obtainable only in afterlife, and by grace

6. Aquinas on happiness as commentator on Nicomachean Ethics

7. Aquinas on happiness as commentator on Beatitudes

8. Account of happiness in the Summa Theologiae

9. Happiness and the Dominican vocation

10. Does Aquinas’ account preserve freedom of will?

11. Rejection of Aquinas’ eudaimonism by Duns Scotus.

12. Aquinas vs Scotus compared with Bentham vs Kant

13. Happiness vs duty as overarching aim of morality

14. Rejection of Kantian morality in analytic Thomism (Anscombe)

15. Virtue ethics vs law ethics (Geach)

16. Absolute prohibitions essential to morality

17. Moral community essential to morality

18. The kingdom of ends vs the republic of ends.

19. Elements of happiness: welfare, contentment, dignity.

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