Nicomachean Ethics (Chase, annotated)/Book 1
1094aEvery art, and every science reduced to a teachable form, and in like manner every action and moral choice, aims, it is thought, at some good: for which reason a common and by no means a bad description of the Chief Good is, "that which all things aim at."
Now there plainly is a difference in the Ends proposed: for in some cases they are acts of working, and in others certain works or tangible results beyond and beside the acts of working: and where there are certain Ends beyond and beside the actions, the works are in their nature better than the acts of working. Again, since actions and arts and sciences are many, the Ends likewise come to be many: of the healing art, for instance, health; of the ship-building art, a vessel; of the military art, victory; and of domestic management, wealth; are respectively the Ends.
And whatever of such actions, arts, or sciences range under some one faculty (as under that of horsemanship the art of making bridles, and all that are connected with the manufacture of horse-furniture in general; this itself again, and every action connected with war, under the military art; and in the same way others under others), in all such, the Ends of the master-arts are more choice-worthy than those ranging under them, because it is with a view to the former that the latter are pursued.
(And in this comparison it makes no difference whether the acts of working are themselves the Ends of the actions, or something further beside them, as is the case in the arts and sciences we have been just speaking of.)
Since then of all things which may be done there is some one End which we desire for its own sake, and with a view to which we desire everything else; and since we do not choose in all instances with a further End in view (for then men would go on without limit, and so the desire would be unsatisfied and fruitless), this plainly must be the Chief Good, i.e. the best thing of all.
Surely then, even with reference to actual life and conduct, the knowledge of it must have great weight; and like archers, with a mark in view, we shall be more likely to hit upon what is right: and if so, we ought to try to describe, in outline at least, what it is and of which of the sciences and faculties it is the End.
Now one would naturally suppose it to be the End of that which is most commanding and most inclusive: and to this description, πολιτικὴ  plainly answers: for this it is that determines which of the sciences should be in the communities,1095a and which kind individuals are to learn, and what degree of proficiency is to be required. Again; we see also ranging under this the most highly esteemed faculties, such as the art military, and that of domestic management, and Rhetoric. Well then, since this uses all the other practical sciences, and moreover lays down rules as to what men are to do, and from what to abstain, the End of this must include the Ends of the rest, and so must be The Good of Man. And grant that this is the same to the individual and to the community, yet surely that of the latter is plainly greater and more perfect to discover and preserve: for to do this even for a single individual were a matter for contentment; but to do it for a whole nation, and for communities generally, were more noble and godlike.
Such then are the objects proposed by our treatise, which is of the nature of πολιτικὴ: and I conceive I shall have spoken on them satisfactorily, if they be made as distinctly clear as the nature of the subject-matter will admit: for exactness must not be looked for in all discussions alike, any more than in all works of handicraft. Now the notions of nobleness and justice, with the examination of which πολιτικὴ is concerned, admit of variation and error to such a degree, that they are supposed by some to exist conventionally only, and not in the nature of things: but then, again, the things which are allowed to be goods admit of a similar error, because harm comes to many from them: for before now some have perished through wealth, and others through valour.
We must be content then, in speaking of such things and from such data, to set forth the truth roughly and in outline; in other words, since we are speaking of general matter and from general data, to draw also conclusions merely general. And in the same spirit should each person receive what we say: for the man of education will seek exactness so far in each subject as the nature of the thing admits, it being plainly much the same absurdity to put up with a mathematician who tries to persuade instead of proving, and to demand strict demonstrative reasoning of a Rhetorician.
Now each man judges well what he knows, and of these things he is a good judge: on each particular matter then he is a good judge who has been instructed in it,1095a and in a general way the man of general mental cultivation.
Hence the young man is not a fit student of Moral Philosophy, for he has no experience in the actions of life, while all that is said presupposes and is concerned with these: and in the next place, since he is apt to follow the impulses of his passions, he will hear as though he heard not, and to no profit, the end in view being practice and not mere knowledge.
And I draw no distinction between young in years, and youthful in temper and disposition: the defect to which I allude being no direct result of the time, but of living at the beck and call of passion, and following each object as it rises. For to them that are such the knowledge comes to be unprofitable, as to those of imperfect self-control: but, to those who form their desires and act in accordance with reason, to have knowledge on these points must be very profitable.
Let thus much suffice by way of preface on these three points, the student, the spirit in which our observations should be received, and the object which we propose.
And now, resuming the statement with which we commenced, since all knowledge and moral choice grasps at good of some kind or another, what good is that which we say πολιτικὴ aims at? or, in other words, what is the highest of all the goods which are the objects of action?
So far as name goes, there is a pretty general agreement: for happiness both the multitude and the refined few call it, and “living well” and “doing well” they conceive to be the same with “being happy;” but about the Nature of this Happiness, men dispute, and the multitude do not in their account of it agree with the wise. For some say it is some one of those things which are palpable and apparent, as pleasure or wealth or honour; in fact, some one thing, some another; nay, oftentimes the same man gives a different account of it; for when ill, he calls it health; when poor, wealth: and conscious of their own ignorance, men admire those who talk grandly and above their comprehension. Some again held it to be something by itself, other than and beside these many good things, which is in fact to all these the cause of their being good.
Now to sift all the opinions would be perhaps rather a fruitless task; so it shall suffice to sift those which are most generally current, or are thought to have some reason in them.
And here we must not forget the difference between reasoning from principles, and reasoning to principles: for with good cause did Plato too doubt about this, and inquire whether the right road is from principles or to principles,1095b just as in the racecourse from the judges to the further end, or vice versâ.
Of course, we must begin with what is known; but then this is of two kinds, what we do know, and what we may know: perhaps then as individuals we must begin with what we do know. Hence the necessity that he should have been well trained in habits, who is to study, with any tolerable chance of profit, the principles of nobleness and justice and moral philosophy generally. For a principle is a matter of fact, and if the fact is sufficiently clear to a man there will be no need in addition of the reason for the fact. And he that has been thus trained either has principles already, or can receive them easily: as for him who neither has nor can receive them, let him hear his sentence from Hesiod:
He is best of all who of himself conceiveth all things;
Good again is he too who can adopt a good suggestion;
But whoso neither of himself conceiveth nor hearing from another
Layeth it to heart;—he is a useless man.
But to return from this digression. Now of the Chief Good (i.e. of Happiness) men seem to form their notions from the different modes of life, as we might naturally expect: the many and most low conceive it to be pleasure, and hence they are content with the life of sensual enjoyment. For there are three lines of life which stand out prominently to view: that just mentioned, and the life in society, and, thirdly, the life of contemplation.
Now the many are plainly quite slavish, choosing a life like that of brute animals: yet they obtain some consideration, because many of the great share the tastes of Sardanapalus. The refined and active again conceive it to be honour: for this may be said to be the end of the life in society: yet it is plainly too superficial for the object of our search, because it is thought to rest with those who pay rather than with him who receives it, whereas the Chief Good we feel instinctively must be something which is our own, and not easily to be taken from us.
And besides, men seem to pursue honour, that they may believe themselves to be good: for instance, they seek to be honoured by the wise, and by those among whom they are known, and for virtue: clearly then, in the opinion at least of these men, virtue is higher than honour. In truth, one would be much more inclined to think this to be the end of the life in society; yet this itself is plainly not sufficiently final: for it is conceived possible, that a man possessed of virtue might sleep or be inactive all through his life, or, as a third case, suffer the greatest evils and misfortunes:1096a and the man who should live thus no one would call happy, except for mere disputation’s sake
And for these let thus much suffice, for they have been treated of at sufficient length in my Encyclia.
A third line of life is that of contemplation, concerning which we shall make our examination in the sequel.
As for the life of money-making, it is one of constraint, and wealth manifestly is not the good we are seeking, because it is for use, that is, for the sake of something further: and hence one would rather conceive the forementioned ends to be the right ones, for men rest content with them for their own sakes. Yet, clearly, they are not the objects of our search either, though many words have been wasted on them. So much then for these.
Again, the notion of one Universal Good (the same, that is, in all things), it is better perhaps we should examine, and discuss the meaning of it, though such an inquiry is unpleasant, because they are friends of ours who have introduced these εἴδη. Still perhaps it may appear better, nay to be our duty where the safety of the truth is concerned, to upset if need be even our own theories, specially as we are lovers of wisdom: for since both are dear to us, we are bound to prefer the truth. Now they who invented this doctrine of εἴδη, did not apply it to those things in which they spoke of priority and posteriority, and so they never made any ἰδέα of numbers; but good is predicated in the categories of Substance, Quality, and Relation; now that which exists of itself, i.e. Substance, is prior in the nature of things to that which is relative, because this latter is an off-shoot, as it were, and result of that which is; on their own principle then there cannot be a common ἰδέα in the case of these.
In the next place, since good is predicated in as many ways as there are modes of existence [for it is predicated in the category of Substance, as God, Intellect—and in that of Quality, as The Virtues—and in that of Quantity, as The Mean—and in that of Relation, as The Useful—and in that of Time, as Opportunity—and in that of Place, as Abode; and other such like things], it manifestly cannot be something common and universal and one in all: else it would not have been predicated in all the categories, but in one only.
Thirdly, since those things which range under one ἰδέα are also under the cognisance of one science, there would have been, on their theory, only one science taking cognisance of all goods collectively: but in fact there are many even for those which range under one category: for instance, of Opportunity or Seasonableness (which I have before mentioned as being in the category of Time), the science is, in war, generalship; in disease, medical science; and of the Mean (which I quoted before as being in the category of Quantity), in food, the medical science; and in labour or exercise, the gymnastic science. A person might fairly doubt also what in the world they mean by very-this that or the other,1096b since, as they would themselves allow, the account of the humanity is one and the same in the very-Man, and in any individual Man: for so far as the individual and the very-Man are both Man, they will not differ at all: and if so, then very-good and any particular good will not differ, in so far as both are good. Nor will it do to say, that the eternity of the very-good makes it to be more good; for what has lasted white ever so long, is no whiter than what lasts but for a day.
No. The Pythagoreans do seem to give a more credible account of the matter, who place “One” among the goods in their double list of goods and bads: which philosophers, in fact, Speusippus seems to have followed.
But of these matters let us speak at some other time. Now there is plainly a loophole to object to what has been advanced, on the plea that the theory I have attacked is not by its advocates applied to all good: but those goods only are spoken of as being under one ἰδέα, which are pursued, and with which men rest content simply for their own sakes: whereas those things which have a tendency to produce or preserve them in any way, or to hinder their contraries, are called good because of these other goods, and after another fashion. It is manifest then that the goods may be so called in two senses, the one class for their own sakes, the other because of these.
Very well then, let us separate the independent goods from the instrumental, and see whether they are spoken of as under one ἰδέα. But the question next arises, what kind of goods are we to call independent? All such as are pursued even when separated from other goods, as, for instance, being wise, seeing, and certain pleasures and honours (for these, though we do pursue them with some further end in view, one would still place among the independent goods)? or does it come in fact to this, that we can call nothing independent good except the ἰδέα, and so the concrete of it will be nought?
If, on the other hand, these are independent goods, then we shall require that the account of the goodness be the same clearly in all, just as that of the whiteness is in snow and white lead. But how stands the fact? Why of honour and wisdom and pleasure the accounts are distinct and different in so far as they are good. The Chief Good then is not something common, and after one ἰδέα.
But then, how does the name come to be common (for it is not seemingly a case of fortuitous equivocation)? Are different individual things called good by virtue of being from one source, or all conducing to one end, or rather by way of analogy, for that intellect is to the soul as sight to the body, and so on? However, perhaps we ought to leave these questions now, for an accurate investigation of them is more properly the business of a different philosophy. And likewise respecting the ἰδέα: for even if there is some one good predicated in common of all things that are good, or separable and capable of existing independently, manifestly it cannot be the object of human action or attainable by Man; but we are in search now of something that is so.
It may readily occur to any one, that it would be better to attain a knowledge of it with a view to such concrete goods as are attainable and practical,1097a because, with this as a kind of model in our hands, we shall the better know what things are good for us individually, and when we know them, we shall attain them.
Some plausibility, it is true, this argument possesses, but it is contradicted by the facts of the Arts and Sciences; for all these, though aiming at some good, and seeking that which is deficient, yet pretermit the knowledge of it: now it is not exactly probable that all artisans without exception should be ignorant of so great a help as this would be, and not even look after it; neither is it easy to see wherein a weaver or a carpenter will be profited in respect of his craft by knowing the very-good, or how a man will be the more apt to effect cures or to command an army for having seen the ἰδέα itself. For manifestly it is not health after this general and abstract fashion which is the subject of the physician's investigation, but the health of Man, or rather perhaps of this or that man; for he has to heal individuals.—Thus much on these points.
And now let us revert to the Good of which we are in search: what can it be? for manifestly it is different in different actions and arts: for it is different in the healing art and in the art military, and similarly in the rest. What then is the Chief Good in each? Is it not “that for the sake of which the other things are done?” and this in the healing art is health, and in the art military victory, and in that of house-building a house, and in any other thing something else; in short, in every action and moral choice the End, because in all cases men do everything else with a view to this. So that if there is some one End of all things which are and may be done, this must be the Good proposed by doing, or if more than one, then these.
Thus our discussion after some traversing about has come to the same point which we reached before. And this we must try yet more to clear up.
Now since the ends are plainly many, and of these we choose some with a view to others (wealth, for instance, musical instruments, and, in general, all instruments), it is clear that all are not final: but the Chief Good is manifestly something final; and so, if there is some one only which is final, this must be the object of our search: but if several, then the most final of them will be it.
Now that which is an object of pursuit in itself we call more final than that which is so with a view to something else; that again which is never an object of choice with a view to something else than those which are so both in themselves and with a view to this ulterior object: and so by the term “absolutely final,” we denote that which is an object of choice always in itself, and never with a view to any other.
And of this nature Happiness is mostly thought to be,1097b for this we choose always for its own sake, and never with a view to anything further: whereas honour, pleasure, intellect, in fact every excellence we choose for their own sakes, it is true (because we would choose each of these even if no result were to follow), but we choose them also with a view to happiness, conceiving that through their instrumentality we shall be happy: but no man chooses happiness with a view to them, nor in fact with a view to any other thing whatsoever.
The same result is seen to follow also from the notion of self-sufficiency, a quality thought to belong to the final good. Now by sufficient for Self, we mean not for a single individual living a solitary life, but for his parents also and children and wife, and, in general, friends and countrymen; for man is by nature adapted to a social existence. But of these, of course, some limit must be fixed: for if one extends it to parents and descendants and friends’ friends, there is no end to it. This point, however, must be left for future investigation: for the present we define that to be self-sufficient “which taken alone makes life choice-worthy, and to be in want of nothing;” now of such kind we think Happiness to be: and further, to be most choice-worthy of all things; not being reckoned with any other thing, for if it were so reckoned, it is plain we must then allow it, with the addition of ever so small a good, to be more choice-worthy than it was before: because what is put to it becomes an addition of so much more good, and of goods the greater is ever the more choice-worthy.
So then Happiness is manifestly something final and self-sufficient, being the end of all things which are and may be done.
But, it may be, to call Happiness the Chief Good is a mere truism, and what is wanted is some clearer account of its real nature. Now this object may be easily attained, when we have discovered what is the work of man; for as in the case of flute-player, statuary, or artisan of any kind, or, more generally, all who have any work or course of action, their Chief Good and Excellence is thought to reside in their work, so it would seem to be with man, if there is any work belonging to him.
Are we then to suppose, that while carpenter and cobbler have certain works and courses of action, Man as Man has none, but is left by Nature without a work? or would not one rather hold, that as eye, hand, and foot, and generally each of his members, has manifestly some special work; so too the whole Man, as distinct from all these, has some work of his own?
What then can this be? not mere life, because that plainly is shared with him even by vegetables, and we want what is peculiar to him.1098a We must separate off then the life of mere nourishment and growth, and next will come the life of sensation: but this again manifestly is common to horses, oxen, and every animal. There remains then a kind of life of the Rational Nature apt to act: and of this Nature there are two parts denominated Rational, the one as being obedient to Reason, the other as having and exerting it. Again, as this life is also spoken of in two ways, we must take that which is in the way of actual working, because this is thought to be most properly entitled to the name. If then the work of Man is a working of the soul in accordance with reason, or at least not independently of reason, and we say that the work of any given subject, and of that subject good of its kind, are the same in kind (as, for instance, of a harp-player and a good harp-player, and so on in every case, adding to the work eminence in the way of excellence; I mean, the work of a harp-player is to play the harp, and of a good harp-player to play it well); if, I say, this is so, and we assume the work of Man to be life of a certain kind, that is to say a working of the soul, and actions with reason, and of a good man to do these things well and nobly, and in fact everything is finished off well in the way of the excellence which peculiarly belongs to it: if all this is so, then the Good of Man comes to be "a working of the Soul in the way of Excellence," or, if Excellence admits of degrees, in the way of the best and most perfect Excellence.
And we must add, in a complete life; for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.
Let this then be taken for a rough sketch of the Chief Good: since it is probably the right way to give first the outline, and fill it in afterwards. And it would seem that any man may improve and connect what is good in the sketch, and that time is a good discoverer and co-operator in such matters: it is thus in fact that all improvements in the various arts have been brought about, for any man may fill up a deficiency.
You must remember also what has been already stated, and not seek for exactness in all matters alike, but in each according to the subject-matter, and so far as properly belongs to the system. The carpenter and geometrician, for instance, inquire into the right line in different fashion: the former so far as he wants it for his work, the latter inquires into its nature and properties, because he is concerned with the truth.
So then should one do in other matters, that the incidental matters may not exceed the direct ones.
And again, you must not demand the reason either in all things alike, because in some it is sufficient that the fact has been well demonstrated,1098b which is the case with first principles; and the fact is the first step, i.e. starting-point or principle.
And of these first principles some are obtained by induction, some by perception, some by a course of habituation, others in other different ways. And we must try to trace up each in their own nature, and take pains to secure their being well defined, because they have great influence on what follows: it is thought, I mean, that the starting-point or principle is more than half the whole matter, and that many of the points of inquiry come simultaneously into view thereby.
We must now inquire concerning Happiness, not only from our conclusion and the data on which our reasoning proceeds, but likewise from what is commonly said about it: because with what is true all things which really are are in harmony, but with that which is false the true very soon jars.
Now there is a common division of goods into three classes; one being called external, the other two those of the soul and body respectively, and those belonging to the soul we call most properly and specially good. Well, in our definition we assume that the actions and workings of the soul constitute Happiness, and these of course belong to the soul. And so our account is a good one, at least according to this opinion, which is of ancient date, and accepted by those who profess philosophy. Rightly too are certain actions and workings said to be the end, for thus it is brought into the number of the goods of the soul instead of the external. Agreeing also with our definition is the common notion, that the happy man lives well and does well, for it has been stated by us to be pretty much a kind of living well and doing well.
But further, the points required in Happiness are found in combination in our account of it.
For some think it is virtue, others practical wisdom, others a kind of scientific philosophy; others that it is these, or else some one of them, in combination with pleasure, or at least not independently of it; while others again take in external prosperity.
Of these opinions, some rest on the authority of numbers or antiquity, others on that of few, and those men of note: and it is not likely that either of these classes should be wrong in all points, but be right at least in some one, or even in most.
Now with those who assert it to be Virtue (Excellence), or some kind of Virtue, our account agrees: for working in the way of Excellence surely belongs to Excellence.
And there is perhaps no unimportant difference between conceiving of the Chief Good as in possession or as in use, in other words, as a mere state or as a working. For the state or habit may possibly exist in a subject without effecting any good,1099a as, for instance, in him who is asleep, or in any other way inactive; but the working cannot so, for it will of necessity act, and act well. And as at the Olympic games it is not the finest and strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists, for out of these the prize-men are selected; so too in life, of the honourable and the good, it is they who act who rightly win the prizes.
Their life too is in itself pleasant: for the feeling of pleasure is a mental sensation, and that is to each pleasant of which he is said to be fond: a horse, for instance, to him who is fond of horses, and a sight to him who is fond of sights: and so in like manner just acts to him who is fond of justice, and more generally the things in accordance with virtue to him who is fond of virtue. Now in the case of the multitude of men the things which they individually esteem pleasant clash, because they are not such by nature, whereas to the lovers of nobleness those things are pleasant which are such by nature: but the actions in accordance with virtue are of this kind, so that they are pleasant both to the individuals and also in themselves.
So then their life has no need of pleasure as a kind of additional appendage, but involves pleasure in itself. For, besides what I have just mentioned, a man is not a good man at all who feels no pleasure in noble actions, just as no one would call that man just who does not feel pleasure in acting justly, or liberal who does not in liberal actions, and similarly in the case of the other virtues which might be enumerated: and if this be so, then the actions in accordance with virtue must be in themselves pleasurable. Then again they are certainly good and noble, and each of these in the highest degree; if we are to take as right the judgment of the good man, for he judges as we have said.
Thus then Happiness is most excellent, most noble, and most pleasant, and these attributes are not separated as in the well-known Delian inscription—
“Most noble is that which is most just, but best is health;
And naturally most pleasant is the obtaining one's desires.”
For all these co-exist in the best acts of working: and we say that Happiness is these, or one, that is, the best of them.
Still it is quite plain that it does require the addition of external goods, as we have said: because without appliances it is impossible, or at all events not easy, to do noble actions: for friends, money, and political influence are in a manner instruments whereby many things are done:1099b some things there are again a deficiency in which mars blessedness; good birth, for instance, or fine offspring, or even personal beauty: for he is not at all capable of Happiness who is very ugly, or is ill-born, or solitary and childless; and still less perhaps supposing him to have very bad children or friends, or to have lost good ones by death. As we have said already, the addition of prosperity of this kind does seem necessary to complete the idea of Happiness; hence some rank good fortune, and others virtue, with Happiness.
And hence too a question is raised, whether it is a thing that can be learned, or acquired by habituation or discipline of some other kind, or whether it comes in the way of divine dispensation, or even in the way of chance.
Now to be sure, if anything else is a gift of the Gods to men, it is probable that Happiness is a gift of theirs too, and specially because of all human goods it is the highest. But this, it may be, is a question belonging more properly to an investigation different from ours: and it is quite clear, that on the supposition of its not being sent from the Gods direct, but coming to us by reason of virtue and learning of a certain kind, or discipline, it is yet one of the most Godlike things; because the prize and End of virtue is manifestly somewhat most excellent, nay divine and blessed.
It will also on this supposition be widely participated, for it may through learning and diligence of a certain kind exist in all who have not been maimed for virtue.
And if it is better we should be happy thus than as a result of chance, this is in itself an argument that the case is so; because those things which are in the way of nature, and in like manner of art, and of every cause, and specially the best cause, are by nature in the best way possible: to leave them to chance what is greatest and most noble would be very much out of harmony with all these facts.
The question may be determined also by a reference to our definition of Happiness, that it is a working of the soul in the way of excellence or virtue of a certain kind: and of the other goods, some we must have to begin with, and those which are co-operative and useful are given by nature as instruments.
These considerations will harmonise also with what we said at the commencement: for we assumed the End of πολιτικὴ to be most excellent: now this bestows most care on making the members of the community of a certain character; good that is and apt to do what is honourable.
With good reason then neither ox nor horse nor any other brute animal do we call happy,1100a for none of them can partake in such working: and for this same reason a child is not happy either, because by reason of his tender age he cannot yet perform such actions: if the term is applied, it is by way of anticipation.
For to constitute Happiness, there must be, as we have said, complete virtue and a complete life: for many changes and chances of all kinds arise during a life, and he who is most prosperous may become involved in great misfortunes in his old age, as in the heroic poems the tale is told of Priam: but the man who has experienced such fortune and died in wretchedness, no man calls happy.
Are we then to call no man happy while he lives, and, as Solon would have us, look to the end? And again, if we are to maintain this position, is a man then happy when he is dead? or is not this a complete absurdity, specially in us who say Happiness is a working of a certain kind?
If on the other hand we do not assert that the dead man is happy, and Solon does not mean this, but only that one would then be safe in pronouncing a man happy, as being thenceforward out of the reach of evils and misfortunes, this too admits of some dispute, since it is thought that the dead has somewhat both of good and evil (if, as we must allow, a man may have when alive but not aware of the circumstances), as honour and dishonour, and good and bad fortune of children and descendants generally.
Nor is this view again without its difficulties: for, after a man has lived in blessedness to old age and died accordingly, many changes may befall him in right of his descendants; some of them may be good and obtain positions in life accordant to their merits, others again quite the contrary: it is plain too that the descendants may at different intervals or grades stand in all manner of relations to the ancestors. Absurd indeed would be the position that even the dead man is to change about with them and become at one time happy and at another miserable. Absurd however it is on the other hand that the affairs of the descendants should in no degree and during no time affect the ancestors.
But we must revert to the point first raised, since the present question will be easily determined from that.
If then we are to look to the end and then pronounce the man blessed, not as being so but as having been so at some previous time, surely it is absurd that when he is happy the truth is not to be asserted of him,1100b because we are unwilling to pronounce the living happy by reason of their liability to changes, and because, whereas we have conceived of happiness as something stable and no way easily changeable, the fact is that good and bad fortune are constantly circling about the same people: for it is quite plain, that if we are to depend upon the fortunes of men, we shall often have to call the same man happy, and a little while after miserable, thus representing our happy man
- “Chameleon-like, and based on rottenness.”
Is not this the solution? that to make our sentence dependent on the changes of fortune, is no way right: for not in them stands the well, or the ill, but though human life needs these as accessories (which we have allowed already), the workings in the way of virtue are what determine Happiness, and the contrary the contrary.
And, by the way, the question which has been here discussed, testifies incidentally to the truth of our account of Happiness. For to nothing does a stability of human results attach so much as it does to the workings in the way of virtue, since these are held to be more abiding even than the sciences: and of these last again the most precious are the most abiding, because the blessed live in them most and most continuously, which seems to be the reason why they are not forgotten. So then this stability which is sought will be in the happy man, and he will be such through life, since always, or most of all, he will be doing and contemplating the things which are in the way of virtue: and the various chances of life he will bear most nobly, and at all times and in all ways harmoniously, since he is the truly good man, or in the terms of our proverb “a faultless cube.”
And whereas the incidents of chance are many, and differ in greatness and smallness, the small pieces of good or ill fortune evidently do not affect the balance of life, but the great and numerous, if happening for good, will make life more blessed (for it is their nature to contribute to ornament, and the using of them comes to be noble and excellent), but if for ill, they bruise as it were and maim the blessedness: for they bring in positive pain, and hinder many acts of working. But still, even in these, nobleness shines through when a man bears contentedly many and great mischances not from insensibility to pain but because he is noble and high-spirited.
And if, as we have said, the acts of working are what determine the character of the life, no one of the blessed can ever become wretched, because he will never do those things which are hateful and mean.1101a For the man who is truly good and sensible bears all fortunes, we presume, becomingly, and always does what is noblest under the circumstances, just as a good general employs to the best advantage the force he has with him; or a good shoemaker makes the handsomest shoe he can out of the leather which has been given him; and all other good artisans likewise. And if this be so, wretched never can the happy man come to be: I do not mean to say he will be blessed should he fall into fortunes like those of Priam.
Nor, in truth, is he shifting and easily changeable, for on the one hand from his happiness he will not be shaken easily nor by ordinary mischances, but, if at all, by those which are great and numerous; and, on the other, after such mischances he cannot regain his happiness in a little time; but, if at all, in a long and complete period, during which he has made himself master of great and noble things.
Why then should we not call happy the man who works in the way of perfect virtue, and is furnished with external goods sufficient for acting his part in the drama of life: and this during no ordinary period but such as constitutes a complete life as we have been describing it.
Or we must add, that not only is he to live so, but his death must be in keeping with such life, since the future is dark to us, and Happiness we assume to be in every way an end and complete. And, if this be so, we shall call them among the living blessed who have and will have the things specified, but blessed as Men.
On these points then let it suffice to have defined thus much.
Now that the fortunes of their descendants, and friends generally, contribute nothing towards forming the condition of the dead, is plainly a very heartless notion, and contrary to the current opinions.
But since things which befall are many, and differ in all kinds of ways, and some touch more nearly, others less, to go into minute particular distinctions would evidently be a long and endless task: and so it may suffice to speak generally and in outline.
If then, as of the misfortunes which happen to one's self, some have a certain weight and turn the balance of life, while others are, so to speak, lighter; so it is likewise with those which befall all our friends alike; if further, whether they whom each suffering befalls be alive or dead makes much more difference than in a tragedy the presupposing or actual perpetration of the various crimes and horrors, we must take into our account this difference also, and still more perhaps the doubt concerning the dead whether they really partake of any good or evil;1101b it seems to result from all these considerations, that if anything does pierce the veil and reach them, be the same good or bad, it must be something trivial and small, either in itself or to them; or at least of such a magnitude or such a kind as neither to make happy them that are not so otherwise, nor to deprive of their blessedness them that are.
It is plain then that the good or ill fortunes of their friends do affect the dead somewhat: but in such kind and degree as neither to make the happy unhappy nor produce any other such effect.
Having determined these points, let us examine with respect to Happiness, whether it belongs to the class of things praiseworthy or things precious; for to that of faculties it evidently does not.
Now it is plain that everything which is a subject of praise is praised for being of a certain kind and bearing a certain relation to something else: for instance, the just, and the valiant, and generally the good man, and virtue itself, we praise because of the actions and the results: and the strong man, and the quick runner, and so forth, we praise for being of a certain nature and bearing a certain relation to something good and excellent (and this is illustrated by attempts to praise the gods; for they are presented in a ludicrous aspect by being referred to our standard, and this results from the fact, that all praise does, as we have said, imply reference to a standard). Now if it is to such objects that praise belongs, it is evident that what is applicable to the best objects is not praise, but something higher and better: which is plain matter of fact, for not only do we call the gods blessed and happy, but of men also we pronounce those blessed who most nearly resemble the gods. And in like manner in respect of goods; no man thinks of praising Happiness as he does the principle of justice, but calls it blessed, as being somewhat more godlike and more excellent.
Eudoxustoo is thought to have advanced a sound argument in support of the claim of pleasure to the highest prize: for the fact that, though it is one of the good things, it is not praised, he took for an indication of its superiority to those which are subjects of praise: a superiority he attributed also to a god and the Chief Good, on the ground that they form the standard to which everything besides is referred. For praise applies to virtue, because it makes men apt to do what is noble; but encomia to definite works of body or mind.
However, it is perhaps more suitable to a regular treatise on encomia to pursue this topic with exactness: it is enough for our purpose that from what has been said it is evident that1102a Happiness belongs to the class of things precious and final. And it seems to be so also because of its being a starting-point; which it is, in that with a view to it we all do everything else that is done; now the starting-point and cause of good things we assume to be something precious and divine.
Moreover, since Happiness is a kind of working of the soul in the way of perfect Excellence, we must inquire concerning Excellence: for so probably shall we have a clearer view concerning Happiness; and again, he who is really a statesman is generally thought to have spent most pains on this, for he wishes to make the citizens good and obedient to the laws. (For examples of this class we have the lawgivers of the Cretans and Lacedæmonians and whatever other such there have been.) But if this investigation belongs properly to πολιτικὴ, then clearly the inquiry will be in accordance with our original design.
Well, we are to inquire concerning Excellence, i.e. Human Excellence of course, because it was the Chief Good of Man and the Happiness of Man that we were inquiring of just now.
By Human Excellence we mean not that of man’s body but that of his soul; for we call Happiness a working of the Soul.
And if this is so, it is plain that some knowledge of the nature of the Soul is necessary for the statesman, just as for the Oculist a knowledge of the whole body, and the more so in proportion as πολιτικὴ is more precious and higher than the healing art: and in fact physicians of the higher class do busy themselves much with the knowledge of the body.
So then the statesman is to consider the nature of the Soul: but he must do so with these objects in view, and so far only as may suffice for the objects of his special inquiry: for to carry his speculations to a greater exactness is perhaps a task more laborious than falls within his province.
In fact, the few statements made on the subject in my popular treatises are quite enough, and accordingly we will adopt them here: as, that the Soul consists of two parts, the Irrational and the Rational (as to whether these are actually divided, as are the parts of the body, and everything that is capable of division; or are only metaphysically speaking two, being by nature inseparable, as are convex and concave circumferences, matters not in respect of our present purpose). And of the Irrational, the one part seems common to other objects, and in fact vegetative; I mean the cause of nourishment and growth (for such a faculty of the Soul one would assume to exist in all things that receive nourishment, even in embryos,1102b and this the same as in the perfect creatures; for this is more likely than that it should be a different one).
Now the Excellence of this manifestly is not peculiar to the human species but common to others: for this part and this faculty is thought to work most in time of sleep, and the good and bad man are least distinguishable while asleep; whence it is a common saying that during one half of life there is no difference between the happy and the wretched; and this accords with our anticipations, for sleep is an inactivity of the soul, in so far as it is denominated good or bad, except that in some wise some of its movements find their way through the veil and so the good come to have better dreams than ordinary men. But enough of this: we must forego any further mention of the nutritive part, since it is not naturally capable of the Excellence which is peculiarly human.
And there seems to be another Irrational Nature of the Soul, which yet in a way partakes of Reason. For in the man who controls his appetites, and in him who resolves to do so and fails, we praise the Reason or Rational part of the Soul, because it exhorts aright and to the best course: but clearly there is in them, beside the Reason, some other natural principle which fights with and strains against the Reason. (For in plain terms, just as paralysed limbs of the body when their owners would move them to the right are borne aside in a contrary direction to the left, so is it in the case of the Soul, for the impulses of men who cannot control their appetites are to contrary points: the difference is that in the case of the body we do see what is borne aside but in the case of the soul we do not. But, it may be, not the less on that account are we to suppose that there is in the Soul also somewhat besides the Reason, which is opposed to this and goes against it; as to how it is different, that is irrelevant.)
But of Reason this too does evidently partake, as we have said: for instance, in the man of self-control it obeys Reason: and perhaps in the man of perfected self-mastery,or the brave man, it is yet more obedient; in them it agrees entirely with the Reason.
So then the Irrational is plainly twofold: the one part, the merely vegetative, has no share of Reason, but that of desire, or appetition generally, does partake of it in a sense, in so far as it is obedient to it and capable of submitting to its rule. (So too in common phrase we say we have λόγος of our father or friends, and this in a different sense from that in which we say we have λόγος of mathematics.)
Now that the Irrational is in some way persuaded by the Reason, admonition, and every act of rebuke and exhortation indicate.1103a If then we are to say that this also has Reason, then the Rational, as well as the Irrational, will be twofold, the one supremely and in itself, the other paying it a kind of filial regard.
The Excellence of Man then is divided in accordance with this difference: we make two classes, calling the one Intellectual, and the other Moral; pure science, intelligence, and practical wisdom—Intellectual: liberality, and perfected self-mastery—Moral: in speaking of a man’s Moral character, we do not say he is a scientific or intelligent but a meek man, or one of perfected self-mastery: and we praise the man of science in right of his mental state; and of these such as are praiseworthy we call Excellences.
- P. 2, l. 16. For this term, as here employed, our language contains no equivalent expression except an inconvenient paraphrase.
There are three senses which it bears in this treatise: the first (in which it is here employed) is its strict etymological signification, “The science of Society;” and this includes everything which can bear at all upon the well-being of Man in his social capacity. “Quicquid agunt homines nostri est farrago libelli.” It is in this view that it is fairly denominated most commanding and inclusive.
The second sense (in which it occurs next, just below) is “Moral Philosophy.” Aristotle explains the term in this sense in the Rhetoric (i. 2) ἡ περὶ τὰ ἤθη πραγματεία ἢν δίκαιόν ἐστι προσαγορεύειν πολιτικήν. He has principally in view in this treatise the moral training of the Individual, the branch of the Science of Society which we call Ethics Proper, bearing the same relation to the larger Science as the hewing and squaring of the stones to the building of the Temple, or the drill of the Recruit to the manœuvres of the field. Greek Philosophy viewed men principally as constituent parts of a πόλις, considering this function to be the real End of each, and this state as that in which the Individual attained highest and most complete development.
The third sense is “The detail of Civil Government,” which Aristotle expressly states (vi. 8) was the most common acceptation of the term.
- P. 3, l. 23. Matters of which a man is to judge either belong to some definite art or science, or they do not. In the former case he is the best judge who has thorough acquaintance with that art or science, in the latter, the man whose powers have been developed and matured by education. A lame horse one would show to a farrier, not to the best and wisest man of one's acquaintance: to the latter one would apply in a difficult case of conduct.
Experience answers to the first, a state of self-control to the latter.
- P. 3, l. 35. In the last chapter of the third book of this treatise it is said of the fool, that his desire of pleasure is not only insatiable, but indiscriminate in its objects, πανταχόθεν.
- P. 4, l. 30. Ἀρχὴ is a word used in this treatise in various significations.
The primary one is “beginning or first cause,” and this runs through all its various uses.
“Rule,” and sometimes “Rulers,” are denoted by this term; the initiative being a property of Rule.
“Principle” is a very usual signification of it, and in fact the most characteristic of the Ethics. The word Principle means “starting—point.” Every action has two beginnings, that of Resolve (οὔ ἕνεκα), and that of Action (ὄθεν ἡ κινήσις). I desire praise of men: this then is the beginning of Resolve. Having considered how it is to be attained, I resolve upon some course, and this Resolve is the beginning of Action. The beginnings of Resolve, Ἀρχαὶ or Motives, when formally stated, are the major premisses of what Aristotle calls the συλλογίσμοι τῶν πρακτῶν i.e. the reasoning into which actions may be analysed.
Thus we say that the desire of human praise was the motive of the Pharisees, or the principle on which they acted.
Their practical syllogism then would stand thus:
Whatever gains human praise is to be done;
Public praying and almsgiving gain human praise;
∴Public praying and almsgiving are to be done.
The major premisses may be stored up in the mind as rules of action, and this is what is commonly meant by having principles good or bad.
- P. 5, l. 1. The difficulty of this passage consists in determining the signification of the terms γνῶριμα ἡμῖν and γνῶριμα ἁπλῶς.
I have translated them without reference to their use elsewhere, as denoting respectively what is and what may be known. All truth is γνῶριμον ἁπλῶς, but that alone ἡμῖν which we individually realise, therefore those principles alone are γνώριμα ἡμῖν which we have received as true. From this appears immediately the necessity of good training as preparatory to the study of Moral Philosophy: for good training in habits will either work principles into our nature, or make us capable of accepting them as soon as they are put before us; which no mere intellectual training can do. The child who has been used to obey his parents may never have heard the fifth Commandment: but it is in the very texture of his nature, and the first time he hears it he will recognise it as morally true and right: the principle is in his case a fact, the reason for which he is as little inclined to ask as any one would be able to prove its truth if he should ask.
But these terms are employed elsewhere (Analytica Post. I. cap. ii. sect. 10) to denote respectively particulars and universals. The latter are so denominated, because principles or laws must be supposed to have existed before the instances of their operation. Justice must have existed before just actions, Redness before red things: but since what we meet with are the concrete instances (from which we gather the principles and laws), the particulars are said to be γνωριμώτερα ἡμῖν.
Adopting this signification gives greater unity to the whole passage, which will then stand thus. The question being whether we are to assume principles, or obtain them by an analysis of facts, Aristotle says, “We must begin of course with what is known: but then this term denotes either particulars or universals: perhaps we then must begin with particulars: and hence the necessity of a previous good training in habits, etc. (which of course is beginning with particular facts), for a fact is a starting—point, and if this be sufficiently clear, there will be no want of the reason for the fact in addition.”
The objection to this method of translation is, that ἀρχαὶ occurs immediately afterwards in the sense of “principles.”
Utere tuo judicio nihil enim impedio.
- P. 6. l. 1. Or “prove themselves good,” as in the Prior Analytics, ii. 25, ἄπαντα πιστεύομεν κ. τ. λ.: but the other rendering is supported by a passage in Book VIII. chap. ix. ὁι δ’ὑπὸ τῶν ἐπιεικῶν καὶ εἰδότων ὀρεγόμενοι τιμῆς βεβαιῶσαι τὴν οἰκείαν δόξαν ἐφίενται περὶ αὐτῶν. χαίρουσι δὴ ὄτι εἰσὶν ἀγαθοί, πιστεύοντες τῆ τῶν λεγόντων κρίσει.
- P. 6, l. 11. θέσις meant originally some paradoxical statement by any philosopher of name enough to venture on one, but had come to mean any dialectical question. Topics, I. chap. ix.
- P. 6, l. 13. A lost work, supposed to have been so called, because containing miscellaneous questions.
- P. 6, l. 15. It is only quite at the close of the treatise that Aristotle refers to this, and allows that θεωρία constitutes the highest happiness because it is the exercise of the highest faculty in man: the reason of thus deferring the statement being that till the lower, that is the moral, nature has been reduced to perfect order, θεωρία cannot have place; though, had it been held out from the first, men would have been for making the experiment at once, without the trouble of self-discipline.
- P. 6, l. 22. Or, as some think, “many theories have been founded on them.”
- P. 8, l. 1. The list ran thus:—
τὸ πέρας τὸ ἄπειρον | τὸ εὐθὺ τὸ καμπύλον τὸ περισσὸν τὸ ἄρτιον | τὸ φῶς τὸ σκότος τὸ ἒν τὸ πλῆθος | τὸ τετράγωνον τὸ ἑτερόμηκες τὸ δεξιὸν τὸ ἀριστερὸν | τὸ ἠρεμοῦν τὸ κινούμενον τὸ ἄρρεν τὸ θῆλυ | τὸ ἀγαθόν τὸ κακόν
- P. 8, l. 2. Plato’s sister’s son.
- P. 9, l. 9. This is the capital defect in Aristotle’s eyes, who being eminently practical, could not like a theory which not only did not necessarily lead to action, but had a tendency to discourage it by enabling unreal men to talk finely. If true, the theory is merely a way of stating facts, and leads to no action.
- P. 10, l. 34. i.e. the identification of Happiness with the Chief Good.
- P. 11, l. 11. i.e. without the capability of addition.
- P. 11, l. 14. And then Happiness would at once be shown not to be the Chief Good. It is a contradiction in terms to speak of adding to the Chief Good. See Book X. chap. ii. δῆλον ὡς οὐδ’ἄλλο οὐδὲν τάγαθὸν ἂν εἴη ὃ μετά τινος τῶν καθ’ αὑτὸ ἀγαθῶν αἱρετώτερον γίνεται.
- P. 12, l. 9. i.e. as working or as quiescent.
- P. 13, l. 14. This principle is more fully stated, with illustrations, in the Topics, I. chap. ix.
- P. 13, l. 19. Either that of the bodily senses, or that of the moral senses. “Fire burns,” is an instance of the former; “Treason is odious,” of the latter.
- P. 14, l. 27. I have thought it worth while to vary the interpretation of this word, because though "habitus" may be equivalent to all the senses of ἕξις, “habit” is not, at least according to our colloquial usage: we commonly denote by “habit” a state formed by habituation.
- P. 14, l. 35. Another and perhaps more obvious method of rendering this passage is to apply καλῶν κἀγαθῶν to things, and let them depend grammatically on ἐπήβολοι. It is to be remembered, however, that καλός κἀγαθὸς bore a special and well—known meaning: also the comparison is in the text more complete, and the point of the passage seems more completely brought out.
- P. 15, l. 16. “Goodness always implies the love of itself, an affection to goodness.” (Bishop Butler, Sermon xiii.) Aristotle describes pleasure in the Tenth Book of this Treatise as the result of any faculty of perception meeting with the corresponding object, vicious pleasure being as truly pleasure as the most refined and exalted. If Goodness then implies the love of itself, the percipient will always have its object present, and pleasure continually result.
- P. 15, l. 32. In spite of theory, we know as a matter of fact, that external circumstances are necessary to complete the idea of Happiness: not that Happiness is capable of addition, but that when we assert it to be identical with virtuous action we must understand that it is to have a fair field; in fact, the other side of βίος τέλειος.
- P. 16, l. 18. It is remarkable how Aristotle here again shelves what he considers an unpractical question. If Happiness were really a direct gift from Heaven, independently of human conduct, all motive to self-discipline and moral improvement would vanish. He shows therefore that it is no depreciation of the value of Happiness to suppose it to come partly at least from ourselves, and he then goes on with other reasons why we should think with him.
- P. 16, l. 26. This term is important: what has been maimed was once perfect: he does not contemplate as possible the case of a man being born incapable of virtue, and so of happiness.
- P. 17, l. 3. But why give materials and instruments, if there is no work to do?
- P. 18, l. 6. The supposed pair of ancestors.
- P. 18, l. 12. Solon says, “Call no man happy till he is dead.”
He must mean
either, The man when dead is happy (a),
or, The man when dead may be said to have been happy (b).
If the former, does he mean positive happiness (α)?
or only freedom from unhappiness (β)?
We cannot allow (α),
Men’s opinions disallow (β),
We revert now to the consideration of (b).
- P. 18, l. 36. The difficulty was raised by the clashing of a notion commonly held, and a fact universally experienced. Most people conceive that Happiness should be abiding, every one knows that fortune is changeable. It is the notion which supports the definition, because we have therein based Happiness on the most abiding cause.
- P. 20, l. 12. The term seems to be employed advisedly. The Choragus, of course, dressed his actors for their parts; not according to their fancies or his own.
Hooker has (E. P. v. lxxvi. 5) a passage which seems to be an admirable paraphrase on this.
“Again, that the measure of our outward prosperity be taken by proportion with that which every man’s estate in this present life requireth. External abilities are instruments of action. It contenteth wise artificers to have their instruments proportionable to their work, rather fit for use than huge and goodly to please the eye. Seeing then the actions of a servant do not need that which may be necessary for men of calling and place in the world, neither men of inferior condition many things which greater personages can hardly want; surely they are blessed in worldly respects who have wherewith to perform what their station and place asketh, though they have no more.”
- P. 20, l. 18. Always bearing in mind that man “never continueth in one stay.”
- P. 21, l. 11. The meaning is this: personal fortunes, we have said, must be in certain weight and number to affect our own happiness; this will be true, of course, of those which are reflected on us from our friends: and these are the only ones to which the dead are supposed to be liable: add then the difference of sensibility which it is fair to presume, and there is a very small residuum of joy or sorrow.
- P. 21, l. 18. This is meant for an exhaustive division of goods, which are either so in esse or in posse.
If in esse, they are either above praise, or subjects of praise. Those in posse, here called faculties, are good only when rightly used. Thus Rhetoric is a faculty which may be used to promote justice or abused to support villainy. Money in like way.
- P. 22, l. 4. Eudoxus, a philosopher holding the doctrine afterwards adopted by Epicurus respecting pleasure, but (as Aristotle testifies in the Tenth Book) of irreproachable character.
- P. 22, l. 13. See the Rhetoric, Book I. chap. ix.
- P. 24, l. 23. The unseen is at least as real as the seen.
- P. 24, l. 29. The terms are borrowed from the Seventh Book, and are here used in their strict philosophical meaning. The ἐγκρατὴς is he who has bad or unruly appetites, but whose reason is strong enough to keep them under. The ἀκρατὴς is he whose appetites constantly prevail over his reason and previous good resolutions.
By the law of habits the former is constantly approximating to a state in which the appetites are wholly quelled. This state is called σωφροσύνη, and the man in it σώφρων. By the same law, the remonstrances of reason in the latter grow fainter and fainter till they are silenced for ever. This state is called ἀκολασία, and the man in it ἀκόλαστος.
- P. 25, l. 2. This is untranslateable. As the Greek phrase, ἔχειν λογόν τινος, really denotes substituting that person’s λόγος for one’s own, so the Irrational nature in a man of self-control or perfected self-mastery substitutes the orders of Reason for its own impulses. The other phrase means the actual possession of mathematical truths as part of the mental furniture, i.e. knowing them.
- P. 25, l. 16. ἔξιν may be taken as opposed to ἐνέργειαν, and the meaning will be, to show a difference between Moral and Intellectual Excellences, that men are commended for merely having the latter, but only for exerting and using the former.