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Nicomachean Ethics   

others by a few eminent persons; and it is not probable that either of
these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should be
right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.
With those who identify happiness with virtue or some one virtue our
account is in harmony; for to virtue belongs virtuous activity. But it
makes, perhaps, no small difference whether we place the chief good in
possession or in use, in state of mind or in activity. For the state
of mind may exist without producing any good result, as in a man who
is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the activity
cannot; for one who has the activity will of necessity be acting, and
acting well. And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful
and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete (for it is
some of these that are victorious), so those who act win, and rightly
win, the noble and good things in life.
Their life is also in itself pleasant. For pleasure is a state of
soul, and to each man that which he is said to be a lover of is
pleasant; e.g. not only is a horse pleasant to the lover of horses,
and a spectacle to the lover of sights, but also in the same way just
acts are pleasant to the lover of justice and in general virtuous acts
to the lover of virtue. Now for most men their pleasures are in
conflict with one another because these are not by nature pleasant,
but the lovers of what is noble find pleasant the things that are by
nature pleasant; and virtuous actions are such, so that these are
pleasant for such men as well as in their own nature. Their life,
therefore, has no further need of pleasure as a sort of adventitious
charm, but has its pleasure in itself. For, besides what we have said,
the man who does not rejoice in noble actions is not even good; since
no one would call a man just who did not enjoy acting justly, nor any
man liberal who did not enjoy liberal actions; and similarly in all
other cases. If this is so, virtuous actions must be in themselves
pleasant. But they are also good and noble, and have each of these
attributes in the highest degree, since the good man judges well about
these attributes; his judgement is such as we have described.
Happiness then is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the
world, and these attributes are not severed as in the inscription at
Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health;
But pleasantest is it to win what we love.
For all these properties belong to the best activities; and these, or
one- the best- of these, we identify with happiness.
Yet evidently, as we said, it needs the external goods as well; for it
is impossible, or not easy, to do noble acts without the proper
equipment. In many actions we use friends and riches and political
power as instruments; and there are some things the lack of which
takes the lustre from happiness, as good birth, goodly children,
beauty; for the man who is very ugly in appearance or ill-born or
solitary and childless is not very likely to be happy, and perhaps a
man would be still less likely if he had thoroughly bad children or
friends or had lost good children or friends by death. As we said,
then, happiness seems to need this sort of prosperity in addition; for
which reason some identify happiness with good fortune, though others
identify it with virtue.
For this reason also the question is asked, whether happiness is to be
acquired by learning or by habituation or some other sort of training,
or comes in virtue of some divine providence or again by chance. Now
if there is any gift of the gods to men, it is reasonable that
happiness should be god-given, and most surely god-given of all human
things inasmuch as it is the best. But this question would perhaps be
more appropriate to another inquiry; happiness seems, however, even if
it is not god-sent but comes as a result of virtue and some process of
learning or training, to be among the most godlike things; for that
which is the prize and end of virtue seems to be the best thing in the
world, and something godlike and blessed.

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