Aquinas - Wealth and Power

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Joe Coughlin

1/3/12

Western Philosophy

Mr. Cressotti

Wealth and Power

In Question II, Thomas Aquinas breaks down the complex question of where or in what man’s happiness consists, mainly by emphasizing wealth and power. While people dream of obtaining both wealth and power in their life, Aquinas emphasizes that both are neither good nor bad, and both make up a means to an end. Aquinas argues that happiness does not consist in “wealth” or “power”, yet presents another argument where he states that happiness can, indeed, be associated with wealth and power.

Aquinas begins his second question and first article by pondering the question of whether happiness consists in wealth. He breaks down the two types of wealth into artificial and natural. He describes natural wealth as something that “relieves man’s natural needs, such as food, drink, clothing, travel, shelter and so on.” In other words, natural wealth fulfills the needs of humans to live and “cannot be man’s ultimate end.” On the other hand, artificial wealth is “sought only for the sake of natural wealth.” Augustine argues that a man would have no artificial wealth unless he had natural wealth to begin with. With natural wealth, there is a finite amount of objects one needs in order to survive. For example, a person doesn’t not need to buy several large pizzas to satisfy their hunger, just a few slices to get some food in their stomach and go on with their day. On the other hand, artificial wealth revolves around objects for which people have endless desires for, such as money. There are some people in society who feel that the only thing that matters in life is the amount of money you can earn before you die, just a dollar sign. However, money cannot buy happiness, wisdom, strong relationships, or virtue. Augustine backs up this point by quoting Proverbs 17:16 “What does it avail a fool to have riches, seeing he cannot buy wisdom?” Aquinas takes into account the arguments that say...
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