Capax Dei Eo mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest. St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV:11

Tuesday, May 14, 2002 :::

A side-note on loving persons:

Love of mankind is not love of persons. "Mankind" is an idea, an abstraction. A person cannot be abstracted, because abstraction makes a thing impersonal.

In any case, in order to love something we must know it, and mankind -- in the sense of the collection of every human being -- is unknowable to us. The idea of the collection of every human being is, of course, entirely knowable, but what good will come from loving an idea? What does "to love an idea" even mean? However that concept is defined, it will necessarily not mean the same thing as "to love a person."

All of this applies to "God," too, when "God" is an abstraction, a job title. In order to love God, we need to know God personally.

::: posted at 12:22 PM

Tuesday, May 07, 2002 :::

Human beings are capable of loving just about anything. Even hate.

A lot of the things we can love do us no good when we love them. Actually, none of the things we might love -- money, beaches, wine, fame -- will do us any good: we become like what we love, and we are not things. A person who loves a thing, even a noble thing like the virtue of charity toward our neighbors, will become less of a person and more of a thing.

If we want to be happy, then we must love, not things, but persons.

::: posted at 12:15 PM

Wednesday, April 17, 2002 :::

What can we know about what God intends us to be?

Clearly, whatever it is is something we are capable of being. And two things that jump out at us, when we look at the question of what human beings are capable of, are knowing and loving.

The dual ability to know and to love are what makes us persons. The way they operate in us is that, first we know, and then we love. We gain knowledge of something or someone, and then (possibly) we love that thing or one. And our love is a transforming love: we become like what we love. In the end, we simply become what we love.

If we become what we love, and if happiness requires that we become what God intends us to be, we must love what God intends us to be.

What are our choices of what to love?

::: posted at 10:01 PM

Tuesday, April 16, 2002 :::

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him.
-- Psalm 38:9

To be perfectly ourselves is to be fully what we are intended to be. (For now, rather than invent and rebut arguments against the outrageously teleological claims made in this post, we'll make a note of their speculativeness and move on.)

Any honest self-appraisal will show that we are not the ones who intend us to be something. We didn't create ourselves, our particular instances of human nature. We can create individual images of our perfected selves, then form ourselves in those images, but insofar as these self-created images differ from the images of the One who created us, this is a formula for unhappiness.

Happiness, then, is to be fully what God intends us to be.

How do we determine what God intends us to be? The reality of what God intends us to be is so astonishing, so beyond anything we might reasonably expect, that God had to give us His Revelation for us to know it in its fullness. But we can reason our way, based on what we know of human nature and with the sure guide of Scripture, up to the brink of the Gospel.

::: posted at 4:51 PM

Monday, April 15, 2002 :::

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. -- Ecclesiastes 3:12

Recall that happiness is not a sense of gratification, or any other emotion, but the final end of every human life. As a final end, happiness must satisfy every desire the human being is capable of.

That doesn't sound right, does it? A human being is capable of mutually exclusive desires -- to be thin and to eat chocolate all day long, for example. A person with mutually exclusive desires can never be happy, obviously, since there is necessarily something he desires that he does not have.

But each specific desire is an instance of a more fundamental desire. "I want to be thin," might be an expression of the desire to be healthy (which is an expression of the desire to live) or of the desire to be attractive (which is an expression of the desire to be loved). On examination, these fundamental desires are seen to take the form, "I want this or that ability I have to be perfected."

Human beings may have right or wrong ideas on the ways in which their abilities can be perfected, but they all share the desire to perfect them. Furthermore, all human beings have the same set of abilities to be perfected. This is what "human nature" means: a form of existence that has the set of abilities possessed by all human beings. (While a particular human being may possess a particular ability only potentially -- as, for example, a blind person is only potentially able to see -- this does not make the human being any less human.)

We can see, then, that happiness means the same thing to every human being: the perfection of everything human nature is capable of. Now, perfection is a highly individual matter; the perfection of Shakespeare's poetry is different from the perfection of Basho's poetry, even though both are perfections of the poetry that human nature is capable of. Essentially, a happy person is perfectly himself.

So, how do we become perfectly ourselves?

::: posted at 11:25 AM

Friday, April 12, 2002 :::

You will be happy and prosper. -- Psalm 128:2

Properly speaking, happiness is an end. It is not a temporary emotional state, but the goal toward which we strive our whole lives.

When you achieve your end, you are done acting for that end. And so happiness, the ultimate end of everything we do, is what we need to achieve in order for our wills to stop directing us to do more. We are happy when we have everything we desire and we desire everything we have.

Well, that sounds pleasant enough, but since everyone desires different things, happiness must mean different things to different people, right?

::: posted at 2:25 PM

Thursday, April 11, 2002 :::

"What can bring us happiness?," many say. -- Psalm 4:6

To know what will make us happy, we need to know what we are.

Well, one thing we are are beings that want to be happy. We have an end that we desire, a final cause for which we would act.

But if we are beings that want to be happy, doesn't this mean that we are beings that can be happy? Not that we necessarily will be happy, that things are bound to work out such that we wind up happy, but that it is at least possible for beings such as ourselves to be happy. If a human being, by his very nature, is incapable of happiness, then what is the source of his desire to be happy?

Humans, then, are beings who both desire and are capable of happiness. But what is happiness, and more specifically, what is human happiness?

::: posted at 9:41 PM


Eo mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest. St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV:11

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