Summary Against Modern Thought: You Have No Idea Of The Coming Good

Summary Against Modern Thought: You Have No Idea Of The Coming Good

Previous post.

It’s going to be better than you can think.


1 From the foregoing it is quite apparent that, in the felicity that comes from the divine vision, every human desire is fulfilled, according to the text of the Psalm (10-2:5): “Who satisfies your desire with good things.” And every human effort attains its completion in it. This, in fact, becomes clear to anyone who thinks over particular instances.

2 For there is in man, in so far as he is intellectual, one type of desire, concerned with the knowledge of truth; indeed, men seek to fulfill this desire by the effort of the contemplative life. And this will clearly be fulfilled in that vision, when, through the vision of the First Truth, all that the intellect naturally desires to know becomes known to it, as is evident from what was said above.

Notes You know this is true if you have read this far.

3 There is also a certain desire in man, based on his possession of reason, whereby he is enabled to manage lower things; this, men seek to fulfill by the work of the active and civic life. Indeed, this desire is chiefly for this end, that the entire life of man may be arranged in accord with reason, for this is to live in accord with virtue. For the end of the activity of every virtuous man is the good appropriate to his virtue, just as, for the brave man, it is to act bravely. Now, this desire will then be completely fulfilled, since reason will be at its peak strength, having been enlightened by the divine light, so that it cannot swerve away from what is right.

4 Going along, then, with the civic life are certain goods which man needs for civic activities. For instance, there is a high position of honor, which makes men proud and ambitious, if they desire it inordinately. But men are raised through this vision to the highest peak of honor, because they are in a sense united with God, as we pointed out above. For this reason, just as God Himself is the “King of ages” (1 Tim. 1:17), so are the blessed united with Him called kings: “They shall reign with Christ” (Apoc. 20:6).

5 Another object of desire associated with civic life is popular renown; by an inordinate desire for this men are deemed lovers of vainglory. Now, the blessed are made men of renown by this vision, not according to the opinion of men, who can deceive and be deceived, but in accord with the truest knowledge, both of God and of all the blessed. Therefore, this blessedness is frequently termed glory in Sacred Scripture; for instance, it is said in the Psalm (149:5): “The saints shall rejoice in glory.”

6 There is, indeed, another object of desire in civic life; namely, wealth. By the inordinate desire and love of this, men become illiberal and unjust. But in this beatitude there is a plenitude of all goods, inasmuch as the blessed come to enjoy Him Who contains the perfection of all good things. For this reason it is said in Wisdom (7:11): “All good things came to me together with her.” Hence it is also said in the Psalm (111:3): “Glory and wealth shall be in His house.”

7 There is even a third desire of man, which is common to him and the other animals, to enjoy pleasures. Men chiefly seek after this in the voluptuous life, and they become intemperate and incontinent through immoderation in regard to it.

However, the most perfect delight is found in this felicity: as much more perfect than the delight of the sense, which even brute animals can enjoy, as the intellect is superior to sense power; and also as that good in which we shall take delight is greater than any sensible good, and more intimate, and more continually delightful; and also as that delight is freer from all admixture of sorrow, or concern about trouble. Of this it is said in the Psalm (35:9): “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of your house, and you shall make them drink of the torrent of your pleasure.”

Notes This paragraph, contra Mark Twain, is understandably probably hardest for moderns to believe; it is also not embraced by Muslims.

8 There is, moreover, a natural desire common to all things by which they desire their own preservation, to the extent that this is possible: men are made fearful and excessively chary of work that is bard for them by immoderation in this desire. But this desire will then be completely satisfied when the blessed attain perfect sempiternity and are safe from all harm; according to the text of Isaiah (49:10) and Apocalypse 21 [see 7:16]: “They shall no more hunger or thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat.”

9 And so, it is evident that through the divine vision intellectual substances obtain true felicity, in which their desires are completely brought to rest and in which is the full sufficiency of all the goods which, according to Aristotle, are required for happiness. Hence, Boethius also says that “happiness is a state of life made perfect by the accumulation of all goods” [De consolatione philosophiae III, 2].

10 Now, there is nothing in this life so like this ultimate and perfect felicity as the life of those who contemplate truth, to the extent that it is possible in this life. And so, the philosophers who were not able to get full knowledge of this ultimate happiness identified man’s ultimate happiness with the contemplation which is possible in this life.

On this account, too, of all other lives the contemplative is more approved in divine Scripture, when our Lord says: “Mary has chosen the better part,” namely, the contemplation of truth, “which shall not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42) . In fact, the contemplation of truth begins in this life, but reaches its climax in the future; whereas the active and civic life does not go beyond the limits of this life.


  1. John

    Wait, so Aquinas actually affirms that popular renown will be a part of beatitude in Heaven? Doesn’t this imply we will receive praise by God or the other blessed, since praise is basically the same as glory?

    And as for the part about pleasure – Aquinas doesn’t directly deny that we will have physical pleasures to enjoy in the resurrection. He may speak of the superiority of rational enjoyment, but that doesn’t exclude the fulfillment of bodily goods and joys, even though they are lesser than intellectual ones.

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