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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT FS Prologue Para. 1/1 - FIRST PART OF THE SECOND PART (FS) (QQ[1]-114)
      • Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE GOODNESS AND MALICE OF PLEASURES (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE GOODNESS AND MALICE OF PLEASURES (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider the goodness and malice of pleasures: under which
head there are four points of inquiry:

(1) Whether every pleasure is evil?

(2) If not, whether every pleasure is good?

(3) Whether any pleasure is the greatest good?

(4) Whether pleasure is the measure or rule by which to judge of moral
good and evil?


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether every pleasure is evil?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that every pleasure is evil. For that which
destroys prudence and hinders the use of reason, seems to be evil in
itself: since man's good is to be "in accord with reason," as Dionysius
says (Div. Nom. iv). But pleasure destroys prudence and hinders the use
of reason; and so much the more, as the pleasure is greater: wherefore
"in sexual pleasures," which are the greatest of all, "it is impossible
to understand anything," as stated in Ethic. vii, 11. Moreover, Jerome
says in his commentary on Matthew [*Origen, Hom. vi in Num.] that "at the
time of conjugal intercourse, the presence of the Holy Ghost is not
vouchsafed, even if it be a prophet that fulfils the conjugal duty."
Therefore pleasure is evil in itself; and consequently every pleasure is
evil.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, that which the virtuous man shuns, and the man lacking
in virtue seeks, seems to be evil in itself, and should be avoided;
because, as stated in Ethic. x, 5 "the virtuous man is a kind of measure
and rule of human actions"; and the Apostle says (1 Cor. 2:15): "The
spiritual man judgeth all things." But children and dumb animals, in whom
there is no virtue, seek pleasure: whereas the man who is master of
himself does not. Therefore pleasures are evil in themselves and should
be avoided.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, "virtue and art are concerned about the difficult and
the good" (Ethic. ii, 3). But no art is ordained to pleasure. Therefore
pleasure is not something good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 36:4): "Delight in the Lord." Since,
therefore, Divine authority leads to no evil, it seems that not every
pleasure is evil.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Body Para. 1/3

I answer that, As stated in Ethic. x, 2,[3] some have maintained that
all pleasure is evil. The reason seems to have been that they took
account only of sensible and bodily pleasures which are more manifest;
since, also in other respects, the ancient philosophers did not
discriminate between the intelligible and the sensible, nor between
intellect and sense (De Anima iii, 3). And they held that all bodily
pleasures should be reckoned as bad, and thus that man, being prone to
immoderate pleasures, arrives at the mean of virtue by abstaining from
pleasure. But they were wrong in holding this opinion. Because, since
none can live without some sensible and bodily pleasure, if they who
teach that all pleasures are evil, are found in the act of taking
pleasure; men will be more inclined to pleasure by following the example
of their works instead of listening to the doctrine of their words:
since, in human actions and passions, wherein experience is of great
weight, example moves more than words.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Body Para. 2/3

We must therefore say that some pleasures are good, and that some are
evil. For pleasure is a repose of the appetitive power in some loved
good, and resulting from some operation; wherefore we assign a twofold
reason for this assertion. The first is in respect of the good in which a
man reposes with pleasure. For good and evil in the moral order depend on
agreement or disagreement with reason, as stated above (Q[18], A[5]):
just as in the order of nature, a thing is said to be natural, if it
agrees with nature, and unnatural, if it disagrees. Accordingly, just as
in the natural order there is a certain natural repose, whereby a thing
rests in that which agrees with its nature, for instance, when a heavy
body rests down below; and again an unnatural repose, whereby a thing
rests in that which disagrees with its nature, as when a heavy body rests
up aloft: so, in the moral order, there is a good pleasure, whereby the
higher or lower appetite rests in that which is in accord with reason;
and an evil pleasure, whereby the appetite rests in that which is
discordant from reason and the law of God.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] Body Para. 3/3

The second reason can be found by considering the actions, some of which
are good, some evil. Now pleasures which are conjoined to actions are
more akin to those actions, than desires, which precede them in point of
time. Wherefore, since the desires of good actions are good, and of evil
actions, evil; much more are the pleasures of good actions good, and
those of evil actions evil.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: As stated above (Q[33], A[3]), it is not the pleasures
which result from an act of reason, that hinder the reason or destroy
prudence, but extraneous pleasures, such as the pleasures of the body.
These indeed hinder the use of reason, as stated above (Q[33], A[3]),
either by contrariety of the appetite that rests in something repugnant
to reason, which makes the pleasure morally bad; or by fettering the
reason: thus in conjugal intercourse, though the pleasure be in accord
with reason, yet it hinders the use of reason, on account of the
accompanying bodily change. But in this case the pleasure is not morally
evil; as neither is sleep, whereby the reason is fettered, morally evil,
if it be taken according to reason: for reason itself demands that the
use of reason be interrupted at times. We must add, however, that
although this fettering of the reason through the pleasure of conjugal
intercourse has no moral malice, since it is neither a mortal nor a
venial sin; yet it proceeds from a kind of moral malice, namely, from the
sin of our first parent; because, as stated in the FP, Q[98], A[2] the
case was different in the state of innocence.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The temperate man does not shun all pleasures, but those
that are immoderate, and contrary to reason. The fact that children and
dumb animals seek pleasures, does not prove that all pleasures are evil:
because they have from God their natural appetite, which is moved to
that which is naturally suitable to them.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Art is not concerned with all kinds of good, but with the
making of external things, as we shall state further on (Q[57], A[3]).
But actions and passions, which are within us, are more the concern of
prudence and virtue than of art. Nevertheless there is an art of making
pleasure, namely, "the art of cookery and the art of making arguments,"
as stated in Ethic. vii, 12.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether every pleasure is good?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that every pleasure is good. Because as stated in
the FP, Q[5], A[6] there are three kinds of good: the virtuous, the
useful, and the pleasant. But everything virtuous is good; and in like
manner everything useful is good. Therefore also every pleasure is good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, that which is not sought for the sake of something else,
is good in itself, as stated in Ethic. i, 6,7. But pleasure is not sought
for the sake of something else; for it seems absurd to ask anyone why he
seeks to be pleased. Therefore pleasure is good in itself. Now that which
is predicated to a thing considered in itself, is predicated thereof
universally. Therefore every pleasure is good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, that which is desired by all, seems to be good of
itself: because good is "what all things seek," as stated in Ethic. i, 1.
But everyone seeks some kind of pleasure, even children and dumb animals.
Therefore pleasure is good in itself: and consequently all pleasure is
good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Prov. 2:14): "Who are glad when they
have done evil, and rejoice in most wicked things."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, While some of the Stoics maintained that all pleasures
are evil, the Epicureans held that pleasure is good in itself, and that
consequently all pleasures are good. They seem to have thus erred through
not discriminating between that which is good simply, and that which is
good in respect of a particular individual. That which is good simply, is
good in itself. Now that which is not good in itself, may be good in
respect of some individual in two ways. In one way, because it is
suitable to him by reason of a disposition in which he is now, which
disposition, however, is not natural: thus it is sometimes good for a
leper to eat things that are poisonous, which are not suitable simply to
the human temperament. In another way, through something unsuitable being
esteemed suitable. And since pleasure is the repose of the appetite in
some good, if the appetite reposes in that which is good simply, the
pleasure will be pleasure simply, and good simply. But if a man's
appetite repose in that which is good, not simply, but in respect of that
particular man, then his pleasure will not be pleasure simply, but a
pleasure to him; neither will it be good simply, but in a certain
respect, or an apparent good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The virtuous and the useful depend on accordance with
reason, and consequently nothing is virtuous or useful, without being
good. But the pleasant depends on agreement with the appetite, which
tends sometimes to that which is discordant from reason. Consequently not
every object of pleasure is good in the moral order which depends on the
order of reason.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The reason why pleasure is not sought for the sake of
something else is because it is repose in the end. Now the end may be
either good or evil; although nothing can be an end except in so far as
it is good in respect of such and such a man: and so too with regard to
pleasure.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: All things seek pleasure in the same way as they seek good:
since pleasure is the repose of the appetite in good. But, just as it
happens that not every good which is desired, is of itself and verily
good; so not every pleasure is of itself and verily good.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether any pleasure is the greatest good?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that no pleasure is the greatest good. Because
nothing generated is the greatest good: since generation cannot be the
last end. But pleasure is a consequence of generation: for the fact that
a thing takes pleasure is due to its being established in its own nature,
as stated above (Q[31], A[1]). Therefore no pleasure is the greatest good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, that which is the greatest good cannot be made better by
addition. But pleasure is made better by addition; since pleasure
together with virtue is better than pleasure without virtue. Therefore
pleasure is not the greatest good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, that which is the greatest good is universally good, as
being good of itself: since that which is such of itself is prior to and
greater than that which is such accidentally. But pleasure is not
universally good, as stated above (A[2]). Therefore pleasure is not the
greatest good.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Happiness is the greatest good: since it is the end of
man's life. But Happiness is not without pleasure: for it is written (Ps.
15:11): "Thou shalt fill me with joy with Thy countenance; at Thy right
hand are delights even to the end."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, Plato held neither with the Stoics, who asserted that all
pleasures are evil, nor with the Epicureans, who maintained that all
pleasures are good; but he said that some are good, and some evil; yet,
so that no pleasure be the sovereign or greatest good. But, judging from
his arguments, he fails in two points. First, because, from observing
that sensible and bodily pleasure consists in a certain movement and
"becoming," as is evident in satiety from eating and the like; he
concluded that all pleasure arises from some "becoming" and movement: and
from this, since "becoming" and movement are the acts of something
imperfect, it would follow that pleasure is not of the nature of ultimate
perfection. But this is seen to be evidently false as regards
intellectual pleasures: because one takes pleasure, not only in the
"becoming" of knowledge, for instance, when one learns or wonders, as
stated above (Q[32], A[8], ad 2); but also in the act of contemplation,
by making use of knowledge already acquired.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] Body Para. 2/2

Secondly, because by greatest good he understood that which is the
supreme good simply, i.e. the good as existing apart from, and
unparticipated by, all else, in which sense God is the Supreme Good;
whereas we are speaking of the greatest good in human things. Now the
greatest good of everything is its last end. And the end, as stated above
(Q[1], A[8]; Q[2], A[7]) is twofold; namely, the thing itself, and the
use of that thing; thus the miser's end is either money or the possession
of money. Accordingly, man's last end may be said to be either God Who is
the Supreme Good simply; or the enjoyment of God, which implies a certain
pleasure in the last end. And in this sense a certain pleasure of man may
be said to be the greatest among human goods.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Not every pleasure arises from a "becoming"; for some
pleasures result from perfect operations, as stated above. Accordingly
nothing prevents some pleasure being the greatest good, although every
pleasure is not such.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: This argument is true of the greatest good simply, by
participation of which all things are good; wherefore no addition can
make it better: whereas in regard to other goods, it is universally true
that any good becomes better by the addition of another good. Moreover it
might be said that pleasure is not something extraneous to the operation
of virtue, but that it accompanies it, as stated in Ethic. i, 8.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: That pleasure is the greatest good is due not to the mere
fact that it is pleasure, but to the fact that it is perfect repose in
the perfect good. Hence it does not follow that every pleasure is
supremely good, or even good at all. Thus a certain science is supremely
good, but not every science is.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether pleasure is the measure or rule by which to judge of moral good
or evil?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that pleasure is not the measure or rule of moral
good and evil. Because "that which is first in a genus is the measure of
all the rest" (Metaph. x, 1). But pleasure is not the first thing in the
moral genus, for it is preceded by love and desire. Therefore it is not
the rule of goodness and malice in moral matters.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, a measure or rule should be uniform; hence that
movement which is the most uniform, is the measure and rule of all
movements (Metaph. x, 1). But pleasures are various and multiform: since
some of them are good, and some evil. Therefore pleasure is not the
measure and rule of morals.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, judgment of the effect from its cause is more certain
than judgment of cause from effect. Now goodness or malice of operation
is the cause of goodness or malice of pleasure: because "those pleasures
are good which result from good operations, and those are evil which
arise from evil operations," as stated in Ethic. x, 5. Therefore
pleasures are not the rule and measure of moral goodness and malice.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Augustine, commenting on Ps. 7:10 "The searcher of
hearts and reins is God," says: "The end of care and thought is the
pleasure which each one aims at achieving." And the Philosopher says
(Ethic. vii, 11) that "pleasure is the architect," i.e. the principal,
"end [*St. Thomas took "finis" as being the nominative, whereas it is the
genitive - {tou telous}; and the Greek reads "He" (i.e. the political
philosopher), "is the architect of the end."], in regard to which, we say
absolutely that this is evil, and that, good."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, Moral goodness or malice depends chiefly on the will, as
stated above (Q[20], A[1]); and it is chiefly from the end that we
discern whether the will is good or evil. Now the end is taken to be that
in which the will reposes: and the repose of the will and of every
appetite in the good is pleasure. And therefore man is reckoned to be
good or bad chiefly according to the pleasure of the human will; since
that man is good and virtuous, who takes pleasure in the works of virtue;
and that man evil, who takes pleasure in evil works.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] Body Para. 2/2

On the other hand, pleasures of the sensitive appetite are not the rule
of moral goodness and malice; since food is universally pleasurable to
the sensitive appetite both of good and of evil men. But the will of the
good man takes pleasure in them in accordance with reason, to which the
will of the evil man gives no heed.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Love and desire precede pleasure in the order of
generation. But pleasure precedes them in the order of the end, which
serves a principle in actions; and it is by the principle, which is the
rule and measure of such matters, that we form our judgment.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: All pleasures are uniform in the point of their being the
repose of the appetite in something good: and in this respect pleasure
can be a rule or measure. Because that man is good, whose will rests in
the true good: and that man evil, whose will rests in evil.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[34] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Since pleasure perfects operation as its end, as stated
above (Q[33], A[4]); an operation cannot be perfectly good, unless there
be also pleasure in good: because the goodness of a thing depends on its
end. And thus, in a way, the goodness of the pleasure is the cause of
goodness in the operation.





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