Aquinas and Happiness: Jennifer Frey

Dr. Jennifer Frey

Last Monday at the Duke Wellness Center, Professor Jennifer Frey (Philosophy, University of South Carolina) explored what Aquinas can teach us about happiness. According to Frey, the three most common views of happiness are being an emotional state, hedonism, and overall life satisfaction. While these views all share the assumption happiness is good, Aquinas would argue that they are too individualistic and do not fully consider the commonality of happiness.  Aquinas teaches us that any understanding of happiness must consider the common good and a shared understanding of well-being.

Drawing from Aquinas, Frey maintains that happiness is common to all human beings, is not competitive, and is never the sole possession of an individual.  She likened Aquinas’ pursuit of happiness to a symphony, which is only made complete by the contributions from all musicians playing together. In further illustrations, the complex concept of happiness can be understood by observing a parent only achieving full happiness once she has taken care of the needs of her child, or true friends’ happiness being intertwined.


– watch the lecture in its entirety –