Thursday, August 31, 2006

Aquinas on Hope

Reading some student blogs, I was reminded of a passage from Aquinas that I discovered in college. Aquinas asks whether hope abounds in young men and drunkards. He answers in the affirmative:

Youth is a cause of hope for three reasons, as the Philosopher states in Rhet. ii, 12: and these three reasons may be gathered from the three conditions of the good which is the object of hope--namely, that it is future, arduous and possible, as stated above.

For youth has much of the future before it, and little of the past: and therefore since memory is of the past, and hope of the future, it has little to remember and lives very much in hope.

Again, youths, on account of the heat of their nature, are full of spirit; so that their heart expands: and it is owing to the heart being expanded that one tends to that which is arduous; wherefore youths are spirited and hopeful.

Likewise they who have not suffered defeat, nor had experience of obstacles to their efforts, are prone to count a thing possible to them. Wherefore youths, through inexperience of obstacles and of their own shortcomings, easily count a thing possible; and consequently are of good hope.

Two of these causes are also in those who are in drink--viz. heat and high spirits, on account of wine, and heedlessness of dangers and shortcomings. For the same reason all foolish and thoughtless persons attempt everything and are full of hope.

I think that this also explains why the young don't appreciate the Aeneid.


Anonymous said...

Hmm... as a juvenile and idealistic young person, I can't say that this exactly enamors (sp? correct usage?) me to the Philosopher or his Catholic Counterpart. (aliteration!)

Anyway, I'll give the Aeneid credit for improving in the last few books; also, I blame part of my dislike on Fitzgerald. I tried to read his Iliad and couldn't get through it; Lattimore was love at first meinen.

Returning, though, to the main topic. Perhaps hope is the thing of youths- and drunks, if you must. However, where would the world be without it? Without hope for something better to come, belief in the ability to exceed our limits, would there ever be improvement?

Would there be Mendelssohn, Mozart? No. Everyone would be Brahms. (Shudder.)

Of course, there is such thing as delusional hope. But as Thoreau says: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; for that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

Emma-O said...

While I understand what the Beast is poking at, I also have to say I really enjoyed this passage. I'm more idealistic than I'd like to admit, but I've had very tangible, stark moments when I realize my own shortcomings, and wonder if I should have really been in the intellectual situation which pointed them out to me at all. This little snippit somehow reaffirms my belief that I should be here, it's just, I shouldn't expect to be as good as I hopefully will be eventually.

As for the Aeneid, hey, Achilleus is a hard act to follow. Him and his god-like strength. *twitter*

Dread Pirate MD said...

.. the 'Aeneid' is like a fine bottle of Diet Peach Snapple - it improves upon consumption. Actually, that sentence doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm afraid I'm in a much more wacked-out mood than my two august companions. Most likely because I've just consumed a bottle of Diet Peach Snapple.

No, I don't think there is any hope for me, either.

mccaleb said...

I don't often lay much claim to words, unless it be "begrumpled" or "aflunters" or "by cracky" (which is two words, incidentally), but I have the distinct feeling that our dread pirate friend...stole the term "august" from me. I say this because I used the term recently in her hearing. QED. ...alas, I too am suffering a bit of a wacked-out mood. Consumption of diet snapple, however, has nothing to do with it. Attempted intellectual digestion of the Aeneid has everything to do with it.

As for hope: I think there is something to all three of Aquinas' points. I also adhere, however, to a more Wordsworthian and (in a different way) Chestertonian view: that there is a certain wisdom to youth which causes that period to be the one most abounding with hope. There is something unclouded and perceptive about youth, a simpleness of thought (though not in a bad way), a readiness of belief and a strange wisdom of spirit which it's easy to lose on the path to adulthood. (oh, and there's a delight in repetition too. "For we have sinned and grown old, but our Father is younger than we..." ...thanks again, Orthodoxy) Adults are not as hopeful, perhaps, because they have lost their childhood and they have forgotten who they are.

aaand that'll be the end of philosophising for tonight. I'm off to finish (is it odd that I always want to spell that "phinnish?") my essay...