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Document Details :
Title: Entirely Necessary, but not a Part
Subtitle: Aquinas on Virtue and Perfect Happiness
Author(s): STENBERG, Joseph L.
Journal: Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales
Volume: 84 Issue: 1 Date: 2017
Thomas Aquinas maintains that one must be virtuous in order to be happy. Broadly speaking, one might hold to that claim either because one takes virtue to be a constituent of happiness or because one takes virtue to be a kind of necessary instrument without which one could not obtain happiness. In trying to determine which of these paths Aquinas takes, one will be importantly influenced by how one understands his account of happiness. So, in this essay, I outline two interpretations of Aquinas’s views concerning what perfect happiness most fundamentally is. According to the first, which I call 'the actualization account', Aquinas treats perfect happiness as most fundamentally a matter of complete actualization. According to the second reading, which I call the knowing-and-enjoying account, Aquinas treats perfect happiness as most fundamentally a matter of knowing and enjoying God in God’s essence forever. I briefly argue that we ought to prefer the second of these readings. More centrally, I argue that some have been misled by the actualization account into thinking that, according to Aquinas, virtue is a constituent of perfect happiness. I then spend the bulk of the essay arguing that, in fact, Aquinas treats virtue as necessary for perfect happiness only because it is a kind of necessary instrument that makes possible the sort of activity in which perfect happiness consists.