Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Nicomachean Ethics

Previous | Next

Nicomachean Ethics   

digressed. To judge from the lives that men lead, most men, and men of
the most vulgar type, seem (not without some ground) to identify the
good, or happiness, with pleasure; which is the reason why they love
the life of enjoyment. For there are, we may say, three prominent
types of life- that just mentioned, the political, and thirdly the
contemplative life. Now the mass of mankind are evidently quite
slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts, but
they get some ground for their view from the fact that many of those
in high places share the tastes of Sardanapallus. A consideration of
the prominent types of life shows that people of superior refinement
and of active disposition identify happiness with honour; for this is,
roughly speaking, the end of the political life. But it seems too
superficial to be what we are looking for, since it is thought to
depend on those who bestow honour rather than on him who receives it,
but the good we divine to be something proper to a man and not easily
taken from him. Further, men seem to pursue honour in order that they
may be assured of their goodness; at least it is by men of practical
wisdom that they seek to be honoured, and among those who know them,
and on the ground of their virtue; clearly, then, according to them,
at any rate, virtue is better. And perhaps one might even suppose this
to be, rather than honour, the end of the political life. But even
this appears somewhat incomplete; for possession of virtue seems
actually compatible with being asleep, or with lifelong inactivity,
and, further, with the greatest sufferings and misfortunes; but a man
who was living so no one would call happy, unless he were maintaining
a thesis at all costs. But enough of this; for the subject has been
sufficiently treated even in the current discussions. Third comes the
contemplative life, which we shall consider later.
The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and
wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely
useful and for the sake of something else. And so one might rather
take the aforenamed objects to be ends; for they are loved for
themselves. But it is evident that not even these are ends; yet many
arguments have been thrown away in support of them. Let us leave this
subject, then.
We had perhaps better consider the universal good and discuss
thoroughly what is meant by it, although such an inquiry is made an
uphill one by the fact that the Forms have been introduced by friends
of our own. Yet it would perhaps be thought to be better, indeed to be
our duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to destroy what
touches us closely, especially as we are philosophers or lovers of
wisdom; for, while both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth
above our friends.
The men who introduced this doctrine did not posit Ideas of classes
within which they recognized priority and posteriority (which is the
reason why they did not maintain the existence of an Idea embracing
all numbers); but the term 'good' is used both in the category of
substance and in that of quality and in that of relation, and that
which is per se, i.e. substance, is prior in nature to the relative
(for the latter is like an off shoot and accident of being); so that
there could not be a common Idea set over all these goods. Further,
since 'good' has as many senses as 'being' (for it is predicated both
in the category of substance, as of God and of reason, and in quality,
i.e. of the virtues, and in quantity, i.e. of that which is moderate,
and in relation, i.e. of the useful, and in time, i.e. of the right
opportunity, and in place, i.e. of the right locality and the like),
clearly it cannot be something universally present in all cases and
single; for then it could not have been predicated in all the
categories but in one only. Further, since of the things answering to
one Idea there is one science, there would have been one science of
all the goods; but as it is there are many sciences even of the things
that fall under one category, e.g. of opportunity, for opportunity in
war is studied by strategics and in disease by medicine, and the

Previous | Next
Site Search