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Summum Bonum

Summum Bonum


This lesson will explain the concept of Summum bonum.

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Summum bonum

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[MUSIC PLAYING] We're going to take a look at a few different terms in this lesson. First of all, the word sacred. This word as an adjective comes from the French word "sacre." And it means consecrated or acceptable to a deity. It was first used in English in around 1380. And it was used to apply to the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine.

Next, the word "transcendent," used as both an adjective and a noun. This word makes its way over from Latin, where it was used in philosophical and theological treatises. Especially in the work of Duns Scotus, who was a famous medieval theologian.

Transcendent in this context means beyond the ordinary limits or excelling. It first appears in English in 1598 in works of philosophy and theology. So it stayed pretty close to its origins in Latin as a technical term in philosophy and theology.

Next, let's take a look at the concept of summum bonum-- the highest good. This term comes from Aristotle, who said that the highest good for humanity is happiness. The Greek term for happiness is "eudaimonia--" having a good spirit, a good life, or a blessed life.

Saint Thomas Aquinas in the medieval period adopts Aristotle for the Catholic Church in Catholic theology. And Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote of an order of loves-- love of God and love of neighbor. Saint Thomas Aquinas conceded that love of God was rather difficult to wrap our minds around and that it actually requires some pretty sophisticated thinking to arrive at the love of God. But it's much easier to love our neighbor who is right in front of our faces.

Next, the same idea of the summum bonum appears also in other religions. For now, sticking with the Abrahamic religions. So Rabbi Hillel, a very important figure in Judaism. He's seen as the ideal Jewish person.

He lived just before the Christian era. And he said, that which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole Torah and the rest is commentary. Go and learn it. So a version of what Christians call The Golden Rule.

Moving on to Muhammad. In one of the hadith-- the sayings of Muhammad, Muhammad says, that which you want for yourself seek for mankind. So two other Abrahamic religions and also the same idea of the summum bonum, which is to care about other people before yourself.

Let's just go over the terms that we've talked about so far. The word sacred comes from the French "sacre," which means set apart from the ordinary, the worldly, and the mundane. The term "transcendent," makes its way into English from medieval Latin. And it means that which is beyond the ordinary. And summum bonum is the Latin for highest good.

Terms to Know

That which is set apart from the ordinary, the worldly, and the mundane.

Summum Bonum

Latin for "highest good."


That which is beyond the ordinary.