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Nicomachean Ethics   


else is either he or any of the others to be recognized? It is
debated, too, whether the will or the deed is more essential to
virtue, which is assumed to involve both; it is surely clear that its
perfection involves both; but for deeds many things are needed, and
more, the greater and nobler the deeds are. But the man who is
contemplating the truth needs no such thing, at least with a view to
the exercise of his activity; indeed they are, one may say, even
hindrances, at all events to his contemplation; but in so far as he is
a man and lives with a number of people, he chooses to do virtuous
acts; he will therefore need such aids to living a human life.
But that perfect happiness is a contemplative activity will appear
from the following consideration as well. We assume the gods to be
above all other beings blessed and happy; but what sort of actions
must we assign to them? Acts of justice? Will not the gods seem absurd
if they make contracts and return deposits, and so on? Acts of a brave
man, then, confronting dangers and running risks because it is noble
to do so? Or liberal acts? To whom will they give? It will be strange
if they are really to have money or anything of the kind. And what
would their temperate acts be? Is not such praise tasteless, since
they have no bad appetites? If we were to run through them all, the
circumstances of action would be found trivial and unworthy of gods.
Still, every one supposes that they live and therefore that they are
active; we cannot suppose them to sleep like Endymion. Now if you take
away from a living being action, and still more production, what is
left but contemplation? Therefore the activity of God, which surpasses
all others in blessedness, must be contemplative; and of human
activities, therefore, that which is most akin to this must be most of
the nature of happiness.
This is indicated, too, by the fact that the other animals have no
share in happiness, being completely deprived of such activity. For
while the whole life of the gods is blessed, and that of men too in so
far as some likeness of such activity belongs to them, none of the
other animals is happy, since they in no way share in contemplation.
Happiness extends, then, just so far as contemplation does, and those
to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy, not as
a mere concomitant but in virtue of the contemplation; for this is in
itself precious. Happiness, therefore, must be some form of
contemplation.
But, being a man, one will also need external prosperity; for our
nature is not self-sufficient for the purpose of contemplation, but
our body also must be healthy and must have food and other attention.
Still, we must not think that the man who is to be happy will need
many things or great things, merely because he cannot be supremely
happy without external goods; for self-sufficiency and action do not
involve excess, and we can do noble acts without ruling earth and sea;
for even with moderate advantages one can act virtuously (this is
manifest enough; for private persons are thought to do worthy acts no
less than despots-indeed even more); and it is enough that we should
have so much as that; for the life of the man who is active in
accordance with virtue will be happy. Solon, too, was perhaps
sketching well the happy man when he described him as moderately
furnished with externals but as having done (as Solon thought) the
noblest acts, and lived temperately; for one can with but moderate
possessions do what one ought. Anaxagoras also seems to have supposed
the happy man not to be rich nor a despot, when he said that he would
not be surprised if the happy man were to seem to most people a
strange person; for they judge by externals, since these are all they
perceive. The opinions of the wise seem, then, to harmonize with our
arguments. But while even such things carry some conviction, the truth
in practical matters is discerned from the facts of life; for these
are the decisive factor. We must therefore survey what we have already
said, bringing it to the test of the facts of life, and if it
harmonizes with the facts we must accept it, but if it clashes with
them we must suppose it to be mere theory. Now he who exercises his

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