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Nicomachean Ethics   



1
Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit,
is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has
rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a
certain difference is found among ends; some are activities, others
are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where there
are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of the products to
be better than the activities. Now, as there are many actions, arts,
and sciences, their ends also are many; the end of the medical art is
health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that
of economics wealth. But where such arts fall under a single capacity-
as bridle-making and the other arts concerned with the equipment of
horses fall under the art of riding, and this and every military
action under strategy, in the same way other arts fall under yet
others- in all of these the ends of the master arts are to be
preferred to all the subordinate ends; for it is for the sake of the
former that the latter are pursued. It makes no difference whether the
activities themselves are the ends of the actions, or something else
apart from the activities, as in the case of the sciences just
mentioned.

2

If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for
its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and
if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at
that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire
would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the chief
good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on
life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more
likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline at
least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or
capacities it is the object. It would seem to belong to the most
authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art. And
politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains
which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each
class of citizens should learn and up to what point they should learn
them; and we see even the most highly esteemed of capacities to fall
under this, e.g. strategy, economics, rhetoric; now, since politics
uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it legislates as to
what we are to do and what we are to abstain from, the end of this
science must include those of the others, so that this end must be the
good for man. For even if the end is the same for a single man and for
a state, that of the state seems at all events something greater and
more complete whether to attain or to preserve; though it is worth
while to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more
godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states. These, then, are
the ends at which our inquiry aims, since it is political science, in
one sense of that term.
3
Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the
subject-matter admits of, for precision is not to be sought for alike
in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the crafts.
Now fine and just actions, which political science investigates, admit
of much variety and fluctuation of opinion, so that they may be
thought to exist only by convention, and not by nature. And goods also
give rise to a similar fluctuation because they bring harm to many
people; for before now men have been undone by reason of their wealth,
and others by reason of their courage. We must be content, then, in
speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the
truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about things which are
only for the most part true and with premisses of the same kind to

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