|Andrea di Cione (Orcagna),|
Strozzi Altarpiece (1357, detail),
S. Maria Novella, Florence.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
"principalius bonum est ipsa operatio in qua quietatur voluntas, quam quietatio voluntatis in ipso."
Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I-II.4.2.Resp., trans. McInerny. Recall that
- the blessed God is a pure act of self-contemplation, and that therefore
- "Each [created] thing is perfect insofar as it is actual" ("Unumquodque autem intantum perfectum est, inquantum est actu") (I-II.3.2.Resp.), and that therefore
- "happiness must consist in man's ultimate act" ("Oportet ergo beatitudinem in ultimo actu hominis consistere"), and that
- "activity is the ultimate [(or second)] act of the agent" ("operatio est ultimus actus operantis"), so that
- "'happiness is an activity in accord with perfect virtue'" ("'felicitas est operatio secundum perfectam virtutem'") (I-II.3.6.arg. 1, quoting Aristotle).
"perfect happiness [(beatitudo perfecta)] is promised us by God, when we will be like the angels in heaven. . . . With respect to that perfect happiness, the object ceases, because by one and continuous and sempiternal activity [(una et continua et sempiterna operatione)] in that state of happiness [the mind of] man [(mens hominis)] is joined to God. But in the present life, to the degree that we fall short of the unity and continuity of such an activity [(unitate et continuitate talis operationis)], to that degree we fall short of happiness. But there is some participation of happiness, and so much the greater, insofar as the activity [(operatio)] can be more continuous and one [(magis continua et una)]. Therefore, in the active life [(activa vita)] which is concerned with many things, there is less of the notion of happiness than in the contemplative life [(vita contemplativa)], which turns on one thing, that is, the contemplation of truth [(veritatis contemplationem)]. And if at times man does not actually engage in this activity [(Et si aliquando homo actu non operetur huiusmodi operationem, And if at some time or other a man does not in fact engage in an operation of this kind)], he is always ready to do so, and because taking time out for sleep or some natural activity [(occupationis)] is ordered to it, it seems to be a continuous activity [(operatio continua)]."