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Nicomachean Ethics   


that at which all things aim is not necessarily good are, we may
surmise, talking nonsense. For we say that that which every one thinks
really is so; and the man who attacks this belief will hardly have
anything more credible to maintain instead. If it is senseless
creatures that desire the things in question, there might be something
in what they say; but if intelligent creatures do so as well, what
sense can there be in this view? But perhaps even in inferior
creatures there is some natural good stronger than themselves which
aims at their proper good.
Nor does the argument about the contrary of pleasure seem to be
correct. They say that if pain is an evil it does not follow that
pleasure is a good; for evil is opposed to evil and at the same time
both are opposed to the neutral state-which is correct enough but does
not apply to the things in question. For if both pleasure and pain
belonged to the class of evils they ought both to be objects of
aversion, while if they belonged to the class of neutrals neither
should be an object of aversion or they should both be equally so; but
in fact people evidently avoid the one as evil and choose the other as
good; that then must be the nature of the opposition between them.
3
Nor again, if pleasure is not a quality, does it follow that it is not
a good; for the activities of virtue are not qualities either, nor is
happiness. They say, however, that the good is determinate, while
pleasure is indeterminate, because it admits of degrees. Now if it is
from the feeling of pleasure that they judge thus, the same will be
true of justice and the other virtues, in respect of which we plainly
say that people of a certain character are so more or less, and act
more or less in accordance with these virtues; for people may be more
just or brave, and it is possible also to act justly or temperately
more or less. But if their judgement is based on the various
pleasures, surely they are not stating the real cause, if in fact some
pleasures are unmixed and others mixed. Again, just as health admits
of degrees without being indeterminate, why should not pleasure? The
same proportion is not found in all things, nor a single proportion
always in the same thing, but it may be relaxed and yet persist up to
a point, and it may differ in degree. The case of pleasure also may
therefore be of this kind.
Again, they assume that the good is perfect while movements and
comings into being are imperfect, and try to exhibit pleasure as being
a movement and a coming into being. But they do not seem to be right
even in saying that it is a movement. For speed and slowness are
thought to be proper to every movement, and if a movement, e.g. that
of the heavens, has not speed or slowness in itself, it has it in
relation to something else; but of pleasure neither of these things is
true. For while we may become pleased quickly as we may become angry
quickly, we cannot be pleased quickly, not even in relation to some
one else, while we can walk, or grow, or the like, quickly. While,
then, we can change quickly or slowly into a state of pleasure, we
cannot quickly exhibit the activity of pleasure, i.e. be pleased.
Again, how can it be a coming into being? It is not thought that any
chance thing can come out of any chance thing, but that a thing is
dissolved into that out of which it comes into being; and pain would
be the destruction of that of which pleasure is the coming into being.
They say, too, that pain is the lack of that which is according to
nature, and pleasure is replenishment. But these experiences are
bodily. If then pleasure is replenishment with that which is according
to nature, that which feels pleasure will be that in which the
replenishment takes place, i.e. the body; but that is not thought to
be the case; therefore the replenishment is not pleasure, though one
would be pleased when replenishment was taking place, just as one
would be pained if one was being operated on. This opinion seems to be
based on the pains and pleasures connected with nutrition; on the fact
that when people have been short of food and have felt pain beforehand
they are pleased by the replenishment. But this does not happen with

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