Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation
"Introduction" by Ralph McInerny
- How does Aristotle's Metaphysics begin?
- What does this opening line mean?
- How does the "delight" that one takes in the sense of sight prove this point?
- Why is the philosopher's contemplation always an imperfect thing?
- To whom is "perfect contemplation" offered?
- What does McInerny mean by philosophizing "in the ambiance of faith"? Is this a profitable or unprofitable endeavor?
- What controversial claim is the subject of this chapter (and the book)?
- Who made this claim?
- Pieper notes that word "happiness" has so many meanings that an essential ambiguity seems inherent in the term itself. What does he think is the "fundamental significance . . . that a single word, 'happiness,' comprehends such a variety of meanings"?
- What is the "attainment of a created good"?
- What does St. Thomas Aquinas man by the claim that "the attainment of a created good is a reflected beatitude"?
- According to Pieper, what is the "coded but unmistakable message [which] penetrates to us through the vulgarization of happiness"?
- According to Pieper, toward what is the human craving for happiness unwareringly directed?
- According to Pieper, where does the ultimate gratification of human nature take place?
- Reflect on the statement "Man craves by nature happiness and bliss." What is the radical character of this statement (according to the author)?
- Reflect on the statement "The desire to be happy is not a matter of free choice." How does this statement strike you? Is it true? Why or why not?
- According to Pieper, what does it mean to be a "created human soul"?
- According to Pieper, how does the desrie of the human spirit for happiness compare to the needs and desires of the human body?
- What does St. Thomas Aquinas mean by "felicity"?
- Why does Thomas think that happiness is "essentially" a gift?
- Is anyone happy by virtue of his or her own being?
- Why does St. Thomas think of God as a perfectly happy being?
- What does it mean to suggest that "God and happiness are the same" or "For God, . . . being and being happy are one and the same."
- Why does Pieper think that the connection between God's being and essential happiness is so important?
- Why are we tempted to disagree with Pieper and suggest that "God is not at one with Himself; God is not happy"?
- Why, according to Pieper (and Paul Claudel), does the insight that "in the end, truth is sad" miss the underlying reality of the world?
- What is the "thirst that requires quenching"?
- What are the two senses in which this is a metaphor for happiness?
- According to Pieper, what is the "substance of the drink that is adequate to quinch our thirst entirely"?
- What are some of the things that St. Thomas believes happiness does not consist in?
- Why does Pieper believe that one cannot survive and quench the thirst of happiness merely by doing and being that which is right?
- What is "artificial wealth"?
- To what does Pieper refer in his reference to "the totalitarian debasement of man to a factor of production"?
- Why can the happy person be neither judged nor praised by anyone else?
- Why is power not happiness?
- Why does happiness not consist in the accumulation of multiple goods?
- What is Pieper's "long-expected answer" to the question?
- What is St. Thomas's answer?
- How does Pieper translate bonum universale?
- Why does Pieper think that all purely worldly goals "represent, if they are conceived or sought as ultimate goals, varieties of loss and despair"?
- What is a "finite spirit"?
- What are the two meanings of capacitas?
- For St. Thomas, what is the difference between happiness and joy?
- What sorts of goods do we desire even though we know that possession of these goods will not yield joy?
- Is joy primary or secondary in reference to the having and partaking of the good?
- Why does Thomas think it is ridiculous to ask for the reason for our desire for joy?
- And what is joy?
- Why do "personal opinions" not count for much in the investigation of these matters?
- Isn't Pieper just giving us his "personal opinion"? Why does he think he is not?
- Does Pieper agree with the statement that "the process of becoming happy is like being overwhelmed by a tremendous wave"?
- Why or why not?
- Why does happiness mean perfection?
- Why does perfection mean full realization?
- Why is realization acieved by action?
- Reflect on this notion of happiness as an activity or a form of acting which opens all the potentialities of human beings to their fullest realization. Compare this notion with Aristotle and with Kierkegaard's example of the "drunken peasant."
- What does Thomas mean by "eternal life"?
- What does Pieper mean by activities which affect the actor himself?
- For Pieper, what kind of action is the activity in which we receive the drink which is happiness?
Happiness and Contemplation Reading Questions
Chapters 1-6 | Chapters 7-13
Resources on Josef Pieper