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Nicomachean Ethics   


pleasant, but that of useful things is not likely to be pleasant, or
is less so; though the reverse seems true of expectation.
Further, love is like activity, being loved like passivity; and loving
and its concomitants are attributes of those who are the more active.
Again, all men love more what they have won by labour; e.g. those who
have made their money love it more than those who have inherited it;
and to be well treated seems to involve no labour, while to treat
others well is a laborious task. These are the reasons, too, why
mothers are fonder of their children than fathers; bringing them into
the world costs them more pains, and they know better that the
children are their own. This last point, too, would seem to apply to
benefactors.
8
The question is also debated, whether a man should love himself most,
or some one else. People criticize those who love themselves most, and
call them self-lovers, using this as an epithet of disgrace, and a bad
man seems to do everything for his own sake, and the more so the more
wicked he is-and so men reproach him, for instance, with doing nothing
of his own accord-while the good man acts for honour's sake, and the
more so the better he is, and acts for his friend's sake, and
sacrifices his own interest.
But the facts clash with these arguments, and this is not surprising.
For men say that one ought to love best one's best friend, and man's
best friend is one who wishes well to the object of his wish for his
sake, even if no one is to know of it; and these attributes are found
most of all in a man's attitude towards himself, and so are all the
other attributes by which a friend is defined; for, as we have said,
it is from this relation that all the characteristics of friendship
have extended to our neighbours. All the proverbs, too, agree with
this, e.g. 'a single soul', and 'what friends have is common
property', and 'friendship is equality', and 'charity begins at home';
for all these marks will be found most in a man's relation to himself;
he is his own best friend and therefore ought to love himself best. It
is therefore a reasonable question, which of the two views we should
follow; for both are plausible.
Perhaps we ought to mark off such arguments from each other and
determine how far and in what respects each view is right. Now if we
grasp the sense in which each school uses the phrase 'lover of self',
the truth may become evident. Those who use the term as one of
reproach ascribe self-love to people who assign to themselves the
greater share of wealth, honours, and bodily pleasures; for these are
what most people desire, and busy themselves about as though they were
the best of all things, which is the reason, too, why they become
objects of competition. So those who are grasping with regard to these
things gratify their appetites and in general their feelings and the
irrational element of the soul; and most men are of this nature (which
is the reason why the epithet has come to be used as it is-it takes
its meaning from the prevailing type of self-love, which is a bad
one); it is just, therefore, that men who are lovers of self in this
way are reproached for being so. That it is those who give themselves
the preference in regard to objects of this sort that most people
usually call lovers of self is plain; for if a man were always anxious
that he himself, above all things, should act justly, temperately, or
in accordance with any other of the virtues, and in general were
always to try to secure for himself the honourable course, no one will
call such a man a lover of self or blame him.
But such a man would seem more than the other a lover of self; at all
events he assigns to himself the things that are noblest and best, and
gratifies the most authoritative element in and in all things obeys
this; and just as a city or any other systematic whole is most
properly identified with the most authoritative element in it, so is a
man; and therefore the man who loves this and gratifies it is most of
all a lover of self. Besides, a man is said to have or not to have
self-control according as his reason has or has not the control, on

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