Thomas Aquinas asks a host of interesting questions in his mammoth “beginners guide”, the Summa Theologicae and his five ways are famous as an argument for the existence of God. However he asks a really interesting question in Q2 of the First Part of the Second part. He explores the question, “What does a mans happiness consist in?” and he explores 8 different possibilities going from least to most likely candidates, these being Wealth, Honour, Fame & Glory, Power, Any good of the body, Pleasure, Any good of the soul, and Any created good, ultimately concluding that all of these will fall short for satisfying a mans happiness and that the only thing that will properly make man happy is relationship with their creator because there are no other non-created goods. I went through them in some detail in a recent series on the Sci Phi Show on Thomas Aquinas, Babylon 5 and the Shadows (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Now Thomas meant by “happiness” something more like the Greek word Eudiamonia, that is translated as blessedness, and he meant happy in an objective sense not simply some momentary subjective feeling. So his idea of happiness is broader than ours but still related. Now all this got me to thinking, I think Thomas makes a persuasive case for why no created good will suffice to make man properly and ultimately happy. All the created goods will fall short of satisfying mans desire to be happy. So where does this leave the atheist? Did Thomas make a mistake in his reasoning? Or is he right and the problem is that there are simply no ways for men to be truly happy in this world?
If Thomas is right about what makes constitutes a persons happiness and the atheist is right that there are no “non-created” things, in the appropriate sense, there are is eternal being that can be the ultimate object of our delight, then how is the atheist to cope with the inevitable despair this entails? Or was Thomas wrong and if so how? Where did make a mistake? Even if you reject his argument for the existence of God, where did he go wrong in what you might call, “The impossibility of atheistic happiness”?
Maybe this explains why they always seem so grumpy?