Continuing from my last post, so Aristotle’s teachings are right for most of the road to happiness. In fact, he is correct for the Journey (first four Maslow needs) and the Adventure (final Maslow need of Self-actualization). But both Maslow and Aristotle have one shortcoming – crossing the threshold into happiness.
Aristotle’s virtues take us to self-actualization: let us call that the threshold of happiness. This is the point in which the fully-virtuous individual has realized his/her calling and is complete with no further human needs or desires, except one. This one final need, outside of the abilities of the individual to satisfy, is the love or appreciation of others for all the effort of the Adventure to complete one’s calling.
St. Aquinas, the final philosopher, recognizes this need for love. This is love by society for the individual at the threshold of happiness. This individual not only needs this love to gain happiness, but society needs this love to benefit from the boon that has been captured by the individual.
St. Aquinas agrees with Aristotle that the road to happiness requires family nurturing, a just society, friends, wealth, and honor, as well as the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. But St. Aquinas goes one step further in teaching that the road to happiness in this life, while not as fulfilling as happiness in the next life, requires the Aristotelian way of life peppered with the love of neighbor. It is this love that pulls the fully-virtuous individual across the threshold to happiness while delivering the boon of his/her calling to society.
It is this simultaneous achievement of happiness by the individual and the flourishing of society that St. Aquinas presents in his teachings. This is the ultimate philosophy, supported by psychological research, that not only encourages the happiness of the individual but also the flourishing of society.
More to come!