If we’re going to worship whole bunches of gods, and Happiness/Felicity is one of those gods, then why not worship just that one god and gain happiness? This is Augustine’s central question through these chapters. And, he asks, why not worship Virtue, by whom a person becomes happy? He argues that the Romans should have worshipped only these two gods and done away with all the rest: “But where there is virtue and felicity, why seek for anything more? What could satisfy the man for whom virtue and felicity are not enough? For virtue encompasses everything we should do, and felicity everything we should desire.” If we have virtue, then we will do the things we should and if we have felicity, then our desires are rightly ordered.

The Romans pursued other things – power, lusts, wealth, political order. But if one has virtue then one can properly order all other things. I’m interested in Augustine’s pairing of virtue and felicity – for him, these are the measures of a good life, and they work together. Virtue leads to felicity and felicity requires virtue. As Alisdair MacIntyre has argued, we are no longer in an era of virtue or of common good. We pursue freedom, or felicity without virtue, or self-expression, or even destruction and vice. And the Romans were in a similar cultural era, where basically no one pursued virtue as a good or for the common good. Virtue for us is a means to an immediate end, which means that it cannot be acquired. I cannot become wise by using wisdom to get whatever it is that I want. Wisdom requires giving up other pursuits and seeking the Lord (in the Christian tradition) or wisdom itself. It requires denying oneself. This is true of all the virtues.

So, seek virtue and felicity, and seek felicity through virtue. Why worship other gods, aside from the one true God; and why seek other goods, aside from the goods that we were made for and actually want?

Blessings,

Josh

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