Volume 91, Issue 1, Winter 2017
Aquinas on Will, Happiness, and God
The Problem of Love and Aristotle’s Liber de Bona Fortuna
Aquinas holds that by its nature the human will has happiness as its ultimate end in every choice, and yet he holds that one can and ought to love God more than oneself or one’s own happiness. This generates the so-called “problem of love”: how can an eudaimonist like Aquinas account for non-selfish love? I argue that Aquinas’s doctrine of goodness as the will’s object and his distinction between the love of desire and the love of friendship solve this problem and indicate that Aquinas’s eudaimonism is only “subordinated eudaimonism.” By its nature the will has happiness—total inhering goodness—as its ultimate object secundum quid (love of desire), and God—total subsisting goodness—as ultimate object simpliciter (love of friendship). Nevertheless, Aquinas argues on philosophical grounds and with the support of Aristotle’s Liber de Bona Fortuna that God Himself would have to move the will if one were to love God above oneself even in the
order of nature.