The aim of human polity

GK Chesterton weighs in at

The aim of human polity is human happiness. For those holding certain beliefs it is conditioned by the hope of a larger happiness, which it must not imperil. But happiness, the making glad of the heart of man, is the secular test and the only realistic test. So far from this test, by the talisman of the heart, being merely sentimental, it is the only test that is in the least practical. There is no law of logic or nature or anything else forcing us to prefer anything else. There is no obligation on us to be richer, or busier, or more efficient, or more productive, or more progressive, or in any way worldlier or wealthier, if it does not make us happier.

This article ( at First Things clarifies ‘happiness’ for GKC a bit more:

The happiness that pervades every word Chesterton writes is occasioned both by things and by people. In his hands, as in the hands of an artist, something is done to the ordinary world that enables the viewer to see its landscape and its citizens anew. “At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise or wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy.” To Chesterton, all things appear as wonderful parts of a thrilling fairyland. He retains an innocent, original delight in things instead of succumbing to the monotony that assails most of us as we grow older. It is adults who become bored with life; children find the world as exotic as a fairy tale. “

The Catholic Catechism ( notes (1877 is in a section on ‘participation on social life’, by the way) happiness as

1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:

1719 The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith.


1877 The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son. This vocation takes a personal form since each of us is called to enter into the divine beatitude; it also concerns the human community as a whole.

Though this last quotation might not be as obvious, its reference to the ‘divine beatitude’ clearly is commentary and extension of the former passages into the human community.

So, what do ya think? Is happiness the ‘secular’ goal we should be striving for in politics? Should there even be something like a ‘secular’ goal in politics vs a ‘religious’ goal? Does this (ie Chesterton’s quotation) yield too much to Sen Obama’s point in the previous article that social plurality demands a separation between faith and the arguments used in the public square?


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