Human Action (Aquinas 101)

Speaker 1: One of the basic principles of
the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas is that human beings are on a quest for happiness. We’re not talking about happiness in the contemporary
and superficial sense of the term, which basically equates happiness with feeling good or being
in a good mood. We’re talking about happiness in a deeper
and richer sense. Happiness is the enjoyment of the highest
good. God did not design us to settle for shallow,
transitory and superficial things, but designed our nature to seek out goodness in the fullest
sense. The highest goodness is always calling us,
summoning us to seek it and enjoy it. The main question set before us every moment
of our lives is how? What is the way towards goodness in the deepest
and highest sense of the term? Speaker 1: In the world of nature around us,
the plants and animals seek out their full realization by instinct. Bees gather pollen, worms crawl around and
birds migrate here and there because they have built in instincts or tendencies to do
these things. The animals do not deliberate about what to
do or how to do it. Human beings on the other hand, do think and
deliberate about what to do, how to do it, how to live life to the full. Should I leave this job for another? Go to this school or that? Rent an apartment or buy a house? When acts are voluntary and come from just
this kind of thinking and willing about what to do, they’re called human acts. And human acts are sometimes also called free
acts or free choices because they come from our free agency or freedom. One of the most important characteristics
of our human nature is that we seek out happiness or the highest good, not by instinct alone,
like lower animals, but by human acts, by the choices we make. We search for happiness in freedom. Speaker 1: All human beings as such, have
the ability to carry out human acts or free choices. But in our society today, there’s a vast and
bewildering confusion about the meaning of this ability or characteristic of our nature,
the meaning of our freedom. We find ourselves confronted with a bewildering
variety of options wherever we go, the grocery store, restaurants. Many people think of freedom as the ability
to opt blindly for this or that option or has the ability to live according to impulse
and whim. However you feel at the moment, many people
think freedom means we have a right to do just anything we want, but all these accounts
leave us disoriented and wondering what the real point of life and freedom is. What is the point of freedom? Is freedom really just for the sake of impulse
satisfaction or doing whatever you want? Is there no higher purpose to freedom at all? Speaker 1: If not, then what’s the difference
between freedom and license? Did God give us freedom just so that we would
live licentiously? Without any regard for principles or guidance
on the way to true happiness? For Thomas Aquinas, the point of freedom is
to choose one’s way to happiness, real happiness, the highest and most enjoyable good of all
and every free choice is regarding the ways or means to the true happiness. The whole point of freedom is to choose those
ways and means that will actually bring us to what actually is the highest and most enjoyable
good of all. This requires learning to see through the
many counterfeits and deceptions regarding happiness and the good life. Things that look like they’ll make us happy
but in the end, fail to do so. They only disappoint. For Aquinas, deep within every human heart
there is a process of interaction, a kind of dialogue between our knowledge and our
love, our intellect and our will. Human acts issue from out of this dialogue,
how does this inner dialogue or dialogue of the heart go? Speaker 1: We don’t have to go far to answer
this question since it takes place within our experience every day. Suppose a friend comes up to you and says,
“Do you want to go to the baseball game this Friday night?” First you hear the question with your intellect
and immediately compare the proposal with your will. If the proposal meets with a love of baseball,
then you spontaneously see the goodness of it and you wish to go to the game. Aquinas calls this wish a simple volition,
but wishes are one thing and intentions are another. When a wish arises in our will, the wish confronts
a host of circumstances and limits including other intentions or pre commitments you might
have. You make a judgment of possibility about going. Maybe you have to work or maybe you have a
date. In either of these cases the wish goes no
further but maybe you judge there is nothing standing in the way of going to the game. Speaker 1: If so, your wish develops into
what Aquinas calls an intention. You resolve to go to the game with your friend. You are pursuing the end. The question now is by what means? Now there are various ways to get to the game. You can go to the game by our own car, by
taxi, by public train, or by walking. First, you might assemble the list of ways
to go and deliberate over them. Going by private car makes for a parking problem. Taxis can be expensive. Public trains after baseball games are overcrowded
or it is too far to walk. But then again, private car makes for a pleasant
ride to and from the game or the walk may not be too far and it might be a good exercise. One way or another when compared to the many
loves in your will and reasons in the mind, the batch of ways and means to the game might
meet with various forms of inner approval or disapproval of the will. And it is this inner approval or disapproval
that makes one say no or that’s fine or that sounds great. Speaker 1: Eventually you need to make a decision
with your intellect about which way or means you elect to use. The decision is an act of the intellect judging
this way rather than that as the means to take. And the election is an act of the will agreeing
to that particular means among others. Having chosen to go by car for example, you
now actually execute the choice you’ve made. The execution consists of an inner command
of the intellect to use your body parts to get into the car and use is the act of the
will actually moving your body parts to do so. Now let’s suppose you and your friend are
in the car off to the game or perhaps at the game or perhaps at some point after the game. At any one of these points, you might reflect
upon your experience of the transportation to the game or of the game itself or of the
choice to go. From out of that reflection comes the question,
did I enjoy that? Or was it worth it? Or was this a good idea? Speaker 1: The answer to the question is called
the judgment of fruition. If in your intellect you answer yes, then
in your will you enjoy the game. That joy is called fruition. The point of our example is to illustrate
the various little acts that take place within the human heart in every free choice. We carry within us, this ability to make free
choices and every day of our lives we deploy it. In the depths of our hearts we’re faced with
various proposals about good things and we have many wishes for this or that. We’re always forming judgments about whether
it is possible or desirable to pursue this or that. And we’re always forming or pursuing all sorts
of intentions. In our hearts, we also deliberate and decide
about ways to pursue our intentions and we consent to and elect specific means for doing
so. And we also make this inner executive command
to do this or that. Speaker 1: And finally we reflect upon our
pursuits and ask whether they’re worth it or whether we enjoy them or more or less. All of these little acts go on in our hearts
and they go to make up the essence of free agency. And the point of our free agency is to pursue
what will really and truly make us happy. What is really and truly the highest good
of all? When we understand human acts and freedom
this way, we realize the first and most fundamental thing a free agent needs is to know the truth
about what is good, what will really and truly satisfy. Only if we know the truth about what is good. Can we walk towards what will satisfy without
walking into a trap or a deception about happiness. Knowing the truth about what is good preserves
us from all that. And in this way, the truth will set you free,
free to love and enjoy the one true good that does not disappoint. So what is that one true good? What are you living for?


  1. Teresa Baker-Carl said:

    This is a subject I think about a great deal. I have a degenerative illness which makes life very difficult at times, but with the Lord as my goal, I find that I am at peace most of the time, and a joy which does not require riches, lots of friends, parties, constant activity, sexual activity, etc. My life is improving even as my health fails.

    February 24, 2020
  2. André Bartholomeu Fernandes said:

    Amazing. Thanks.

    February 24, 2020
  3. Chosen Skeptic said:

    🤔 happiness is everywhere, its in self value in relationships, sexuality, sharing, carriers, family, hobbies, walking with god, etc.

    February 24, 2020
  4. Colorajoe said:

    Love this!

    February 25, 2020
  5. Tim Fairchild said:

    Is there a way to find a print version of this talk? Thanks for all you do!!!

    February 25, 2020
  6. Katey Utterback said:

    You never said Who is one one, true Love, he who IS love… and then, of course, there’s baseball ⚾️ Thank-you so much! God bless your lent.🙏🏼✝️💜

    February 25, 2020

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