A Review of Saint Augustine’s Virtue and the Human Soul
In Augustine’s article “Virtue and the Human Soul,” happiness is discussed in great detail. What makes a man happy? How do we obtain this happiness and where does happiness reside? Can this happiness be lost? Augustine answers these questions by the notion of one’s “chief good.” He explains that a man’s chief good is the reason behind all happiness. If one is not happy, it is because they have not found their chief good, and therefore cannot be happy until they find it (Augustine 264-267).
“Happiness is in the enjoyment of man’s chief good. Two conditions of the chief good: 1st, Nothing is better than it; 2nd, it cannot be lost against the will” (Augustine 264-267). As human beings, we all want to be happy and live enjoyable lives. However, Augustine believes that only one type of person can fully achieve happiness, the man who both loves and possesses their chief good (Augustine 264-267). He describes three other cases when happiness is not obtained. First, one who seeks what he cannot obtain suffers torture (Augustine 264-267). This means that someone who strives for something that they will never be able to reach is not happy. Secondly, one who has got what is not desirable is cheated (Augustine 264-267). This is saying that someone who has received happiness in a way that they do not like, or has received happiness that they do not want, can never be happy. Thirdly, one who does not seek for what is worth seeking for is diseased (Augustine 264-267). This final case is when someone seeks happiness through things that are wrong and not worth having. In all of these three mentioned cases, one’s chief good has not been found.
Augustine continues in the article by discussing how man’s chief good is not inferior to man itself, but more as an equal to man. The chief good then must be something that is never lost against the will (Augustine 264-267). The chief good, once properly in the heart of a man,...
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