Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come in Riches or Worldly Power

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come in Riches or Worldly Power

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Strange (again) are the things men seek out.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Riches

1 From this, moreover, it is also clear that riches are not the highest good for man.

2 Indeed, riches are only desired for the sake of something else; they provide no good of themselves but only when we use them, either for the maintenance of the body or some such use. Now, that which is the highest good is desired for its own sake and not for the sake of something else. Therefore, riches are not the highest good for man.

3 Again, man;s highest good cannot lie in the possession or keeping of things that chiefly benefit man through being spent. Now, riches are chiefly valuable because they can be expended, for this is their use. So, the possession of riches cannot be the highest good for man.

4 Besides, an act of virtue is praiseworthy in so far as it comes closer to felicity. Now, acts of liberality and magnificence, which have to do with money, are more praiseworthy in a situation in which money is spent than in one in which it is saved. So, it is from this fact that the names of these virtues are derived. Therefore, the felicity of man does not consist in the possession of riches.

5 Moreover, that object in whose attainment man’s highest good lies must be better than man. But man is better than riches, for they are but things subordinated to man’s use. Therefore, the highest good for man does not lie in riches.

6 Furthermore, man’s highest good is not subject to fortune, for things subject to fortune come about independently of rational effort. But it must be through reason that man will achieve his proper end. Of course, fortune occupies an important place in the attainment of riches, Therefore, human felicity is not founded on riches.

Notes Alas, misfortune also plays a role. And by fortune, our good saint means unforeseen causes.

7 Again, this becomes evident in the fact that riches are lost in an involuntary manner, and also that they may accrue to evil men who must fail to achieve the highest good, and also that riches are unstable—and for other reasons of this kind which may be gathered from the preceding arguments.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Riches

1 Similarly, neither can worldly power be man’s highest good, since in its attainment, also, fortune can play a most important part. It is also unstable; nor is it subject to man’s will; oftentimes it comes to bad men—and these characteristics are incompatible with the highest good, as was evident in the foregoing arguments.

2 Again, man is deemed good chiefly in terms of his attainment of the highest good. Now, he is not called good, or bad, simply because he has power, for not everyone who can do good things is a good man, nor is a person bad because he is able to do evil things. Therefore, the highest good does not consist in the fact of being powerful.

3 Besides, all power is relative to some other thing. But the highest good is not relative to something else. Therefore, power is not man’s highest good.

4 Moreover, a thing that one can use both for good and for evil cannot be man’s highest good, for that is better which no one can use in a bad way. Now, one can use power well or badly, “for rational powers are capable of contrary effects.” Therefore, man’s highest good does not consist in human power.

5 Furthermore, if any sort of power is the highest good, it ought to be the most perfect. But human power is most imperfect, since it is rooted in the wills and the opinions of men, in which there is the greatest inconstancy. And the more important the power is considered to be, the more does it depend on large numbers of people, which fact also contributes to its frailty, since what depends on many can be destroyed in many ways. Therefore, man’s highest good does not lie in worldly power.

6 Man’s felicity, then, consists in no exterior good, since all exterior goods, the ones that are called “goods of fortune,” are contained under the preceding headings.


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