BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THE SUMMA OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
FOR THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD, BY
FRS. WALTER FARRELL AND MARTIN HEALY, 1952
CHAPTER 4, HAPPINESS AND THE PASSIONS: PART 1
THE POWER OF MAN to reach perfect happiness is based on his control of his own actions. This control is exercised through the use of human reason and free will. If man were a pure spirit like an Angel we could proceed at once to a consideration of the habits of reason and will which make man's progress to happiness easier or more difficult. But man is not simply a pure spirit. Man is a natural unit composed of body and soul. The soul of man is destined by nature to union with man's body. It is the whole man, both body and soul, that seeks perfect happiness.
AS A SOUL, man is made to live in the spiritual world of universal truth and universal good. But as a body man is made to live in the material world of nature. In his soul, man is superior to the material world of sticks and stones, of flowers and irrational animals. But in his body man is part and parcel of this world of matter. As part and parcel of the world of nature man must somehow seek his ultimate perfection through a spiritual mastery of the material world in which he naturally lives and acts.
TO PARAPHRASE AN OLD ADAGE, the perfection of man demands a sound mind in a sound body. But the soundness of the body depends in part upon its adaptation to life in the material world. Now just as God has given to irrational animals an inclination to seek what is good for them in the world and to avoid what is harmful to them, so also has He given man a similar natural inclination. This inclination to seek good and avoid evil in the material world is called the sensitive appetite or the sense appetite. In both animals and men this appetite is manifested in those movements towards good or away from evil which are called passions. In irrational animals these passions move naturally and necessarily and hence have no moral character. But in man, the rational animal, the movements of the passions are subject to the control of his reason and his will. They have, therefore, a moral character in so far as they move man to actions suitable or unsuitable to man. For this reason passions are important in the pursuit of happiness.
BUT WHAT IS PASSION? Everyone knows something about passion. A young girl may say she has a passion for candy. A young woman may say she is passionately in love. A man who strikes his wife in anger is said to have acted in a passion of rage. In these and similar examples we seem to be referring to the intensity of some craving or emotional drive. But intensity is only a quality of passion. What is the essence of passion? Perhaps an example will enable us to discover the essence of passion.
A FRIEND INVITES A MAN to a steak dinner. Since the steak is his favorite food he loves the idea at once. His mouth waters at the thought of the steak. He desires to eat it. He accepts the invitation and goes to the dinner. As he eats he enjoys the steak. The taste and the feel of the steak in his mouth gives him pleasure. When he has eaten his fill he stops. His sense of fullness kills his desire for more steak. But there is still some steak left and his generous host urges him to take more. Because he fills full he dislikes the idea of eating more. When his host still urges him on he begins to hate either the steak or his host because he perceives that they are now dangerous for him. They may lead him to overeat and become ill. When he sees that his host means to have his way he begins to fear that he will really become ill. Trusting to the good sense of his host he compliments him on the quality of the steak and the cooking, but politely declines to take more. His hopes are in vain, however, and his daring to no avail. His host still insists. What shall he do now? He may become angry at his host's insistence which he now regards as a present evil. A sharp and curt refusal in an angry tome of voice may win him release from the present evil. If so, he sighs in relief and enjoys the removal of a threat to his well-being. Or, if he is weak, he may despair of avoiding the evil, eat the steak and suffer the pain of indigestion.
IN THIS RATHER ORDINARY incident at a dinner table we can find all the ordinary passions of man at work. More importantly we can discover what passion is and how the passions are related to one another.
IN THE FIRST PLACE we can see that three things are involved in every passion: knowledge, a movement of the sense appetite and some change in the body. Before the man loves or desires the steak he must know of its existence and the possibility of attaining it. When he knows it he feels inclined toward it as something good for him, or later, when he has eaten all he desires, he is inclined to avoid it as something harmful to him. The steak as either a delectable object or a dangerous object attracts or repels him. In the man this attraction or repulsion is a movement of his sense appetite. Lastly these inclinations toward or away from the steak are associated with a bodily change. When he first hears about it he feels good and his salivary glands begin to work almost as if the steak were in his mouth. When he is eating it the feel and taste of it give him a sensation of pleasure. When he is afraid that more will make him sick his stomach seems to turn. If he becomes angry at the insistence of his host the blood rushes to his head, his face becomes red and his voice becomes loud and sharp. When he gives in despairingly he feels a sinking sensation in his stomach. When indigestion develops he is in actual pain. In the case of every passion involved there is some change in the condition or action of the body.
ALTHOUGH KNOWLEDGE, movement of the sense appetite and some bodily change are found in every passion, it is the second, the movement of the sense appetite, which is essentially passion. Every passion is a movement of the sense appetite in relation to some apprehended good or evil. The sense appetite of man is his natural inclination to seek the sensible good of his body or to avoid what is evil or harmful to his body. The passions are the movements of this sense appetite toward good or away from evil.
THE PASSIONS OF ANIMALS OR MEN are set in motion by the apprehension of good or evil. From this point of view men or animals are passive under the action of good or evil objects distinct from themselves. It is this passivity which accounts for the name of passion. It is the steak as perceived by the man which moves him to love and desire or hate and anger. This element of passivity in the passions, however, should not lead us to underestimate the importance of the passions in human life. Although man is in a certain sense passive in the movements of the passions, nevertheless the passions are the great motive force behind most human acts. It is the passion for the natural goods of the body such as food, clothing, and shelter which drive men to work in the world. It is the passionate desire for pleasure which impels man to attain the things which he judges will give him pleasure. Passion is a power driving man to accomplishment in the world. Without passion man lacks initiative, is inactive like a blunt discarded tool incapable of doing its proper work in the world.
IN THE EXAMPLE OF THE MAN invited to a steak dinner we can see the principle passions which drive men to achievement. When the steak was proposed to him he loved it, desired it, and, when he could eat it, enjoyed it. When the proposal of more than he needed appeared evil to him, he hated the steak, feared it, hoped to avoid it, dared to refuse it, and ultimately, either grew angry at his host, or submitted in despair and became sad. In other words, the man went through the whole scale of the passions: love and hate and aversion, pleasure and sadness, hope and fear, daring and despair, and anger. It is true that in this example the passions are concerned with something comparatively small and trivial---a good steak. But it is these same passions that move men to the accomplishment of great good or great evil.
A FURTHER STUDY of this same example will reveal the the relations between the varied passions and the fundamental direction of their power. Food is good---even necessary---for man's body. Hence the invited guest loves it, desires it, and enjoys it. But overeating is harmful or evil to the body. Therefore the guest hates the surplus steak, dislikes it, fears it, hopes to avoid it, becomes angry at it, or despairs of avoiding it and becomes ill about it. But in all cases it is clear that the passions are concerned with the good of man. He is either seeking good for himself directly or he is seeking good indirectly by trying to avoid evil. This is the first important characteristic of the passions in human life. The passions are all ordered, whether directly or indirectly, to the good of man. If they lead a man to evil. whether physical or moral, it will be due to some defect in his will which leads him to choose what is physically or morally evil.
THOUGH ALL THE PASSIONS are concerned with man's good they do not all seek it in the same way. Nor is the difference between them limited to the fact that some of them are exercised in the pursuit of good while others are exercised in the avoidance of evil. The story of the dinner guest shows us also that the difficulty which sometimes hinders the attainment of the object of the sense appetite distinguishes some passions from others. Love and hate, desire or dislike, pleasure and pain are concerned with good and evil considered without any perception of difficulty. But hope and despair, fear and daring, and anger are passions that come into play when there is difficulty either in obtaining the good or in avoiding the the impending evil. So the dinner guest simply loved and desired the steak when it was made easily possible for him by the invitation to dinner. When he had it in his possession at the meal he simply enjoyed it. But when it became apparent to him that it would be difficult to avoid the evil of overeating, then he hoped to avoid it through some appropriate excuse. With this hope he dared to refuse. When his refusal was not accepted then he began to feel the impending evil of illness. When it was clear that he could no longer avoid it he either became angry as a means of avoiding it or he despaired and submitted. If he avoided the danger he was again at rest in his well-being and so took pleasure in his escape. If he submitted in despair he was simply sad at the presence of evil. The passions which deal with good or evil simply---love and hate, desire and dislike, pleasure and sadness---are called concupiscible passions. We might call these the simple passions since their action is not complicated by the knowledge or apprehension of any difficulty in the way of the attainment of their objects. The passions which deal with a good difficult to obtain or an evil difficult to avoid are called the irascible passions. We might call them the emergency passions since they are only called upon in the emergency associated with difficulty.
IT IS CLEAR ALSO that all the passions are grouped in contraries, with the exception of anger. So love is contrary to hate, desire to dislike, pleasure to sadness, hope to fear, and daring to despair.
LASTLY IT IS IMPORTANT to note that love is the source of all the other passions. It is love of the good which moves a man to desire and pleasure. It is love of the good which leads a man to hate or dislike an impending evil or to be sad at an evil when it is present to him. It is love of the good which gives impetus to hope or daring, or a cutting edge to despair and sadness. It is love of the good which gives power to anger. The all important role of love in the movements of all the passions shows once again that all are fundamentally manifestations of the basic tendency of nature to good rather than to evil.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE PASSIONS to morality can be seen easily. In the animal the passions move the animal to its actions spontaneously and necessarily. But in man the movements of the passions can be controlled by reason and free will. Though a man loves a steak he can still refuse an invitation to eat one. Though a man may hate to overeat, he can still freely choose to do so. When human reason perceives that a passion has for its object something which can lead to truly human perfection, then man sees that the object can be morally good and that the pursuit of it will be a morally good action. Human reason knows that a healthy body is good for man. It knows that food is necessary for a healthy body. It sees that a good steak will help to keep the body healthy. It can therefore approve the acceptance of the invitation to dinner and the eating of the steak as morally good acts. But it can also see that overeating or gluttony is bad for man and so it can perceive it as morally evil. The will in its turn can choose to follow the judgment of reason or to act against it. If it follows the judgment of reason then the passions have led man to moral good as well as physical good. If it acts against the judgment of reason then the passions have led man to moral evil, whether physical good is achieved or not.
THE PASSIONS ARE POWERS given to man to attain what is good for him in this world. But they must be under the control of reason and will. And this control must be in the direction of moral good, else the passions will lead man astray. But the proper control of the passions demands some knowledge of the particular passions, especially love---which is the source of all the others---and of the similar emotions in the spiritual soul of man. We shall begin with the simple or concupiscible passions and conclude with the emergency or irascible passions.
THE FIRST of the concupiscible passions is love. It is only fair to say here that we are using the word love in a much more profound sense than is usual in ordinary conversation. By love we mean here whatever is the source of movement toward the goal that is loved. In this sense we can find love even in inanimate things. For love is concerned with appetite or the inclination of everything to seek its own good. Rivers by nature flow downward to the sea. This is good for them because it is the inclination of their natures. Poets then can rightly say that rivers love to flow into the sea. This kind of love is called natural love and it means the natural adaptation of an inanimate thing for the goal of its nature. In inanimate things, or, more generally, in things without any knowledge at all, it is God Who knows what is good for them and moves them to their proper goals. In animals the process is different. The animal has sense knowledge. He can perceive what is good or evil for him. But because he is incapable of reason and free will the animal's appetite moves necessarily to what he perceives as good or to the avoidance of what he perceives as evil. In man there is both sense knowledge and intellectual or rational knowledge. Man can perceive what is good or evil for him in the order of the senses and in the order of the spiritual world of reason and free will. Man is capable therefore of both sensitive love and intellectual love. Sensitive love is the movement of his sense appetite toward a good perceived by his senses of sight or touch and so on. Intellectual love is the movement of his will towards a good perceived by human reason. In both cases man can exercise free will, for even his sense appetite is to some extent under the control of reason. Both sensitive and intellectual love are the adaptation respectively of his sensitive or intellectual appetite to some good. They are a feeling of complacency in a perceived good. In man all love is this: a complacency in the realization of the harmony between some good and the appetite---sensitive love if the harmony is only between the sense appetite and a good of the senses, rational love if the harmony is between the will---or rational appetite---and the good of reason.
IN HUMAN ACTIONS we can see two kinds of love---selfish and unselfish. When a man loves cigarettes because of the pleasure they will give him, his love is selfish in the sense that he wishes this good which he derives from smoking for himself. This is called technically the love of concupiscence. When a man so loves another man that he wishes him well, i.e., wishes him health, success or virtue or the like, then his love is unselfish. He wishes good to the other man not for his own sake, but for the other man's sake. This is called technically the love of friendship.
IT MUST NOT BE THOUGHT that the love of concupiscence, or what we have called selfish love---is necessarily evil. In fact the man who has no love for himself will probably have no love for anyone else. It is natural for man to love himself. It is even necessary. For it is self-love that will lead a man to seek the perfect happiness for which he was made. The point we wish to make here is that there are two ways in which a man can love something---for his own sake or for the sake of the other thing itself.
IT IS TRUE though that the love of friendship is a higher kind of love than the love of concupiscence. For selfish love makes a man grow in humanity only to the extent that the goods he acquires through the influence of this love make him richer in himself. But the unselfish love of friendship makes a man grow in humanity in the sense that he grows into the lives of other men, sharing their joys and sorrows, their defeats and triumphs. In this latter love man grows out of the limitations of his own small self into the larger world of intimacy with other free spirits, human, angelic and Divine.
THE GREAT AND SOMETIMES STRANGE multiplicity of human loves has often led men to say that love is blind. But while some particular loves may seem unexplainable to most men, it is not so much love itself as the objects of love or the actions which flow from love which are mysterious. For the causes of love itself are well known. They are knowledge, goodness and likeness or similarity.
KNOWLEDGE IS INDISPENSABLE for love. The appetite, whether sensitive or rational, is moved only by an object which attracts it or repels it. But this attraction or repulsion cannot take place unless the attractive or repulsive object is known and recognized as such. This explains the true meaning in the statement that love is blind. Either the passion of love is not moved at all because no lovable object is proposed to it by the senses or it is moved to an unsuitable object because only the good in the object and not the evil is proposed to the appetite. Without knowledge there is no love.
BUT THE KNOWLEDGE of the object of love need not be perfect. A man can love a steak perfectly even before the actual eating of it acquaints him with all its perfection. The point is that some knowledge of an object as good and therefore lovable in some way is necessary for love to exist at all in the appetite.
GOODNESS IN THE OBJECT---when perceived---is the fundamental cause of love. Love is a movement either of the sense appetite or the rational appetite. Like all appetites it is then an inclination to good. This is why we said above that love is complacency in good. A man loves a friend either because he perceives that the friend is good in himself or good for him. Goodness is the universal magnet drawing all love to itself. Likeness is also a cause of love. Musicians love other musicians. Teachers love teachers. This is because love always tends to union of the loved object with the lover. But when men have similar virtues or tastes then they seem to be united to one another.
IT MIGHT BE OBJECTED that opposites attract one another. A little man marries a tall woman or a spendthrift marries a thrifty woman. But even here it is likeness rather than unlikeness which causes the love. The small man likes to think himself tall and so he marries a woman with the quality he admires and would like to have.
WHEREVER WE SEE LOVE in action it is apparent that love aims at a union of the lover and the thing he loves. It is love which drives the young man to spend as much time as possible with his fiancee. It is love which makes a wife yearn for the presence of a husband who is away on a business trip.
THIS UNION CAUSED BY LOVE is found at its best in the intimate life that lovers lead in one another. A man in love with a woman has the thought of her with him always. She lives in his mind and imagination. She lives in his will for when she is with him he is pleased and when she is away he desires her presence. The lover seeks also to live in his beloved. He desires to know everything about her. This explains why courting couples find so much to talk about. They are trying to get into one another's personalities by learning all they can about one another. The lover seeks even to live in the heart and will of his beloved. So a woman is never satisfied with one declaration of love. She wants a man to say he loves her over and over again. When this unifying effect of love is found in both parties then human love between human beings exists at its highest.
LOVE IS ALSO ECSTATIC. To be in ecstasy means to go out of one's self. But it is characteristic of love that it makes a man think less of himself and more of the object of his love. It will even move a man to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the one he loves. In this way love is also the cause of zeal and jealousy. A lover is zealous and energetic in trying to do good things for the person he loves. Or he is jealous of anyone or anything which seems to threaten his exclusive possession of the one he loves.
BUT LOVE CAN also injure or wound man. It is a movement of the appetite, whether sense appetite or rational, to good. But sometimes a particular good thing is not suitable to a man. Food is good for man. Too much food at one meal is bad. When a man's love for good food drives him to gluttony then his love has injured him. Love must be under the control of the judgment of right reason or it can harm a man more than it benefits him.
DESPITE THE DANGER of reckless love, love is basically an inclination to good. As such it is the source of all human actions. Whatever a man seeks, he seeks because he loves it. Love is the inspiration of all human effort. It is the motive power behind all human accomplishment.
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