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Now that we've established the context, we can get to the details of Aquinas in his "Theory of Everything." And I do mean everything. Understanding the actions that best move us to happiness is a vast and messy undertaking, and Aquinas tackles it head on, being not only a philosopher and theologian, but also one of our earliest psychologists and social thinkers.

In the rest of the Summa he describes what makes us tick, including action, will, passion, morality, habits, virtues, sin, law, and grace. He then explains the meaning of Jesus, the Incarnation and the Eucharist, and how the whole business of religion helps us find and remain in that Trinity-like graced state of delighted self-awareness with world and God.

And what's at the heart of it all? Action. The heart of being self-aware is the capacity to reflect, reason and exercise free will, which gives us, as Aquinas says, the "dignity of being a cause." And from action flows happiness:

"To become happy, we must act, so now we ask which of our actions advance happiness and which block the road. This is the subject of morals."

a morality of happiness

The point of morals is to make us happy! This is the first key idea of Part Two of the Summa. We must act to become happy, so morals describe the acts that will ultimately make us happy. As we have said, it is the purpose of the universe to evolve towards increasing complexity and consciousness, so at least some of its little blobs of matter (that would be us) can take in the world around them, flourish, and seek the ultimate answers, thereby attaining a happy self-awareness. It therefore stands to reason that the rules that guide our actions should facilitate this growth. And this is indeed the case; in the thought of Aquinas, the entire structure of morality, including behaviors considered virtuous or sinful, the purpose of law, and the idea of grace, is meant to do just that. Our primary moral imperative is to recognize what we are—seekers of happiness via possession of truth and goodness—and act accordingly. All morality rests on this understanding of our basic nature. Therefore, actions tend to be either morally good or morally bad depending upon whether they help us attain the ultimate good of the graced state. And since we must act to be happy, we begin, according to Aquinas, "with a general discussion of action at its most peculiarly human, namely, voluntary action." (1a2ae,6,1)

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