Volume 90, Issue 4, Fall 2016
Aquinas on the Relationship between the Vision and Delight in Perfect Happiness
One vexed philosophical question that once enjoyed great esteem is this: in the Beatific Vision that the saints enjoy in heaven, does happiness (beatitudo) consist in the vision of God, in delight in God, or in a combination of the vision and the delight? The answer that one gives to this question apparently commits one to a view about what happiness is ultimately about. It has long been thought that Aquinas holds that happiness consists in the vision of God alone. In this essay, I argue that, on this important issue, Aquinas actually maintains that happiness consists both in the vision of God and delight in God, but that—unlike some of his contemporaries—Aquinas unequivocally affirms that the vision is more important in happiness than the delight. After arguing for this interpretation, I consider the quite compelling account of perfect and imperfect happiness that seems to follow from it.