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Nicomachean Ethics   


moderate in food is studied by medicine and in exercise by the science
of gymnastics. And one might ask the question, what in the world they
mean by 'a thing itself', is (as is the case) in 'man himself' and in
a particular man the account of man is one and the same. For in so far
as they are man, they will in no respect differ; and if this is so,
neither will 'good itself' and particular goods, in so far as they are
good. But again it will not be good any the more for being eternal,
since that which lasts long is no whiter than that which perishes in a
day. The Pythagoreans seem to give a more plausible account of the
good, when they place the one in the column of goods; and it is they
that Speusippus seems to have followed.
But let us discuss these matters elsewhere; an objection to what we
have said, however, may be discerned in the fact that the Platonists
have not been speaking about all goods, and that the goods that are
pursued and loved for themselves are called good by reference to a
single Form, while those which tend to produce or to preserve these
somehow or to prevent their contraries are called so by reference to
these, and in a secondary sense. Clearly, then, goods must be spoken
of in two ways, and some must be good in themselves, the others by
reason of these. Let us separate, then, things good in themselves from
things useful, and consider whether the former are called good by
reference to a single Idea. What sort of goods would one call good in
themselves? Is it those that are pursued even when isolated from
others, such as intelligence, sight, and certain pleasures and
honours? Certainly, if we pursue these also for the sake of something
else, yet one would place them among things good in themselves. Or is
nothing other than the Idea of good good in itself? In that case the
Form will be empty. But if the things we have named are also things
good in themselves, the account of the good will have to appear as
something identical in them all, as that of whiteness is identical in
snow and in white lead. But of honour, wisdom, and pleasure, just in
respect of their goodness, the accounts are distinct and diverse. The
good, therefore, is not some common element answering to one Idea.
But what then do we mean by the good? It is surely not like the things
that only chance to have the same name. Are goods one, then, by being
derived from one good or by all contributing to one good, or are they
rather one by analogy? Certainly as sight is in the body, so is reason
in the soul, and so on in other cases. But perhaps these subjects had
better be dismissed for the present; for perfect precision about them
would be more appropriate to another branch of philosophy. And
similarly with regard to the Idea; even if there is some one good
which is universally predicable of goods or is capable of separate and
independent existence, clearly it could not be achieved or attained by
man; but we are now seeking something attainable. Perhaps, however,
some one might think it worth while to recognize this with a view to
the goods that are attainable and achievable; for having this as a
sort of pattern we shall know better the goods that are good for us,
and if we know them shall attain them. This argument has some
plausibility, but seems to clash with the procedure of the sciences;
for all of these, though they aim at some good and seek to supply the
deficiency of it, leave on one side the knowledge of the good. Yet
that all the exponents of the arts should be ignorant of, and should
not even seek, so great an aid is not probable. It is hard, too, to
see how a weaver or a carpenter will be benefited in regard to his own
craft by knowing this 'good itself', or how the man who has viewed the
Idea itself will be a better doctor or general thereby. For a doctor
seems not even to study health in this way, but the health of man, or
perhaps rather the health of a particular man; it is individuals that
he is healing. But enough of these topics.
7
Let us again return to the good we are seeking, and ask what it can
be. It seems different in different actions and arts; it is different
in medicine, in strategy, and in the other arts likewise. What then is
the good of each? Surely that for whose sake everything else is done.

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