I must expand my thoughts on the idea of the telos, the final cause, the proper end for human beings. I will end this post with a request for help.
As a starting point, I offer what I have previously written on the ultimate telos for humans:
Beatitudo: (Beatitudo = happiness or blessedness). The happiness that comes from seeing the good in others and doing the good for others. It is, in essence, other-regarding action.
This needs some expansion.
For one to have acted well simply is for one to have done something that is good in every respect. There is one single ultimate human good that provides an ordering of all other human goods as partial in relation to it, namely, happiness or better in the Latin beatitudo.
It is this one single ultimate end that I am after, the one that gets to the core proper human action. I understand that it is happiness or beatitudo. But, like every term describing human behavior, it requires better definition. This is what I am after.
The first job is to determine what ‘beatitudo’ meant simply as a matter of ordinary language, reserving til later the question of its learned definitions (rationes). There are three options: happiness, well-being, and fulfillment.
A fulfilled person is aware of being so, delighted in being so, etc. To be fulfilled is to be consciously well-off. …one’s best option in current English is to translate ‘beatitudo’ with ‘fulfillment’.
Rational activity sets human agents apart from all other creatures; therefore, one who performs rational activity well will be happy – or fulfilled. However, “rational activity” is equally squishy – how is it defined, measured, judged?
That overarching goodness, what Thomas calls the ratio bonitatis, is the ultimate end. It follows that anything a human agent does is done for the sake of the ultimate end.
This isn’t sufficient; it is not satisfactory. We each differ. Is it fame, wealth, pleasure or power that we seek? Will we find an ultimate good here? If this is where we look, it is impossible to suggest that there is one common ultimate good for human agents. Yet, Thomas insists on this.
The great problem of life, as of course, is to know whether some such beliefs are more correct than others, and if so, which ones, so that one may know which concrete ideal to pursue.
Precisely – I want a concrete ideal, not something squishy. How can we know?
Moreover, so long as the fulfillment under discussion is the sort people can have in this life, “the right answer” is not quite unique. … fulfillment can be found in an enormous variety of careers, vocations, states, stations, and conditions of life.
It is true enough, but not specific enough. This was not sufficient for Aquinas. He believed that there must be something common at the core of this “enormous variety.”
He thought that the requirements of virtue and the distinctives of human nature would combine to assure that every fulfilling way of life would resemble every other one in certain core features.
I keep finding the question, yet I am looking for the answer. What is the core feature?