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Nicomachean Ethics   


Each animal is thought to have a proper pleasure, as it has a proper
function; viz. that which corresponds to its activity. If we survey
them species by species, too, this will be evident; horse, dog, and
man have different pleasures, as Heraclitus says 'asses would prefer
sweepings to gold'; for food is pleasanter than gold to asses. So the
pleasures of creatures different in kind differ in kind, and it is
plausible to suppose that those of a single species do not differ. But
they vary to no small extent, in the case of men at least; the same
things delight some people and pain others, and are painful and odious
to some, and pleasant to and liked by others. This happens, too, in
the case of sweet things; the same things do not seem sweet to a man
in a fever and a healthy man-nor hot to a weak man and one in good
condition. The same happens in other cases. But in all such matters
that which appears to the good man is thought to be really so. If this
is correct, as it seems to be, and virtue and the good man as such are
the measure of each thing, those also will be pleasures which appear
so to him, and those things pleasant which he enjoys. If the things he
finds tiresome seem pleasant to some one, that is nothing surprising;
for men may be ruined and spoilt in many ways; but the things are not
pleasant, but only pleasant to these people and to people in this
condition. Those which are admittedly disgraceful plainly should not
be said to be pleasures, except to a perverted taste; but of those
that are thought to be good what kind of pleasure or what pleasure
should be said to be that proper to man? Is it not plain from the
corresponding activities? The pleasures follow these. Whether, then,
the perfect and supremely happy man has one or more activities, the
pleasures that perfect these will be said in the strict sense to be
pleasures proper to man, and the rest will be so in a secondary and
fractional way, as are the activities.
6
Now that we have spoken of the virtues, the forms of friendship, and
the varieties of pleasure, what remains is to discuss in outline the
nature of happiness, since this is what we state the end of human
nature to be. Our discussion will be the more concise if we first sum
up what we have said already. We said, then, that it is not a
disposition; for if it were it might belong to some one who was asleep
throughout his life, living the life of a plant, or, again, to some
one who was suffering the greatest misfortunes. If these implications
are unacceptable, and we must rather class happiness as an activity,
as we have said before, and if some activities are necessary, and
desirable for the sake of something else, while others are so in
themselves, evidently happiness must be placed among those desirable
in themselves, not among those desirable for the sake of something
else; for happiness does not lack anything, but is self-sufficient.
Now those activities are desirable in themselves from which nothing is
sought beyond the activity. And of this nature virtuous actions are
thought to be; for to do noble and good deeds is a thing desirable for
its own sake.
Pleasant amusements also are thought to be of this nature; we choose
them not for the sake of other things; for we are injured rather than
benefited by them, since we are led to neglect our bodies and our
property. But most of the people who are deemed happy take refuge in
such pastimes, which is the reason why those who are ready-witted at
them are highly esteemed at the courts of tyrants; they make
themselves pleasant companions in the tyrants' favourite pursuits, and
that is the sort of man they want. Now these things are thought to be
of the nature of happiness because people in despotic positions spend
their leisure in them, but perhaps such people prove nothing; for
virtue and reason, from which good activities flow, do not depend on
despotic position; nor, if these people, who have never tasted pure
and generous pleasure, take refuge in the bodily pleasures, should
these for that reason be thought more desirable; for boys, too, think
the things that are valued among themselves are the best. It is to be
expected, then, that, as different things seem valuable to boys and to

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