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Nicomachean Ethics   


happy if he is good, are, whether they mean to or not, talking
nonsense. Now because we need fortune as well as other things, some
people think good fortune the same thing as happiness; but it is not
that, for even good fortune itself when in excess is an impediment,
and perhaps should then be no longer called good fortune; for its
limit is fixed by reference to happiness.
And indeed the fact that all things, both brutes and men, pursue
pleasure is an indication of its being somehow the chief good:
No voice is wholly lost that many peoples... But since no one nature
or state either is or is thought the best for all, neither do all
pursue the same pleasure; yet all pursue pleasure. And perhaps they
actually pursue not the pleasure they think they pursue nor that which
they would say they pursue, but the same pleasure; for all things have
by nature something divine in them. But the bodily pleasures have
appropriated the name both because we oftenest steer our course for
them and because all men share in them; thus because they alone are
familiar, men think there are no others.
It is evident also that if pleasure, i.e. the activity of our
faculties, is not a good, it will not be the case that the happy man
lives a pleasant life; for to what end should he need pleasure, if it
is not a good but the happy man may even live a painful life? For pain
is neither an evil nor a good, if pleasure is not; why then should he
avoid it? Therefore, too, the life of the good man will not be
pleasanter than that of any one else, if his activities are not more
pleasant.
14
(G) With regard to the bodily pleasures, those who say that some
pleasures are very much to be chosen, viz. the noble pleasures, but
not the bodily pleasures, i.e. those with which the self-indulgent man
is concerned, must consider why, then, the contrary pains are bad. For
the contrary of bad is good. Are the necessary pleasures good in the
sense in which even that which is not bad is good? Or are they good up
to a point? Is it that where you have states and processes of which
there cannot be too much, there cannot be too much of the
corresponding pleasure, and that where there can be too much of the
one there can be too much of the other also? Now there can be too much
of bodily goods, and the bad man is bad by virtue of pursuing the
excess, not by virtue of pursuing the necessary pleasures (for all men
enjoy in some way or other both dainty foods and wines and sexual
intercourse, but not all men do so as they ought). The contrary is the
case with pain; for he does not avoid the excess of it, he avoids it
altogether; and this is peculiar to him, for the alternative to excess
of pleasure is not pain, except to the man who pursues this excess.
Since we should state not only the truth, but also the cause of
error-for this contributes towards producing conviction, since when a
reasonable explanation is given of why the false view appears true,
this tends to produce belief in the true view-therefore we must state
why the bodily pleasures appear the more worthy of choice. (a)
Firstly, then, it is because they expel pain; owing to the excesses of
pain that men experience, they pursue excessive and in general bodily
pleasure as being a cure for the pain. Now curative agencies produce
intense feeling-which is the reason why they are pursued-because they
show up against the contrary pain. (Indeed pleasure is thought not to
be good for these two reasons, as has been said, viz. that (a) some of
them are activities belonging to a bad nature-either congenital, as in
the case of a brute, or due to habit, i.e. those of bad men; while (b)
others are meant to cure a defective nature, and it is better to be in
a healthy state than to be getting into it, but these arise during the
process of being made perfect and are therefore only incidentally
good.) (b) Further, they are pursued because of their violence by
those who cannot enjoy other pleasures. (At all events they go out of
their way to manufacture thirsts somehow for themselves. When these
are harmless, the practice is irreproachable; when they are hurtful,
it is bad.) For they have nothing else to enjoy, and, besides, a

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