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Nicomachean Ethics   


the assumption that this is the man himself; and the things men have
done on a rational principle are thought most properly their own acts
and voluntary acts. That this is the man himself, then, or is so more
than anything else, is plain, and also that the good man loves most
this part of him. Whence it follows that he is most truly a lover of
self, of another type than that which is a matter of reproach, and as
different from that as living according to a rational principle is
from living as passion dictates, and desiring what is noble from
desiring what seems advantageous. Those, then, who busy themselves in
an exceptional degree with noble actions all men approve and praise;
and if all were to strive towards what is noble and strain every nerve
to do the noblest deeds, everything would be as it should be for the
common weal, and every one would secure for himself the goods that are
greatest, since virtue is the greatest of goods.
Therefore the good man should be a lover of self (for he will both
himself profit by doing noble acts, and will benefit his fellows), but
the wicked man should not; for he will hurt both himself and his
neighbours, following as he does evil passions. For the wicked man,
what he does clashes with what he ought to do, but what the good man
ought to do he does; for reason in each of its possessors chooses what
is best for itself, and the good man obeys his reason. It is true of
the good man too that he does many acts for the sake of his friends
and his country, and if necessary dies for them; for he will throw
away both wealth and honours and in general the goods that are objects
of competition, gaining for himself nobility; since he would prefer a
short period of intense pleasure to a long one of mild enjoyment, a
twelvemonth of noble life to many years of humdrum existence, and one
great and noble action to many trivial ones. Now those who die for
others doubtless attain this result; it is therefore a great prize
that they choose for themselves. They will throw away wealth too on
condition that their friends will gain more; for while a man's friend
gains wealth he himself achieves nobility; he is therefore assigning
the greater good to himself. The same too is true of honour and
office; all these things he will sacrifice to his friend; for this is
noble and laudable for himself. Rightly then is he thought to be good,
since he chooses nobility before all else. But he may even give up
actions to his friend; it may be nobler to become the cause of his
friend's acting than to act himself. In all the actions, therefore,
that men are praised for, the good man is seen to assign to himself
the greater share in what is noble. In this sense, then, as has been
said, a man should be a lover of self; but in the sense in which most
men are so, he ought not.
9
It is also disputed whether the happy man will need friends or not. It
is said that those who are supremely happy and self-sufficient have no
need of friends; for they have the things that are good, and therefore
being self-sufficient they need nothing further, while a friend, being
another self, furnishes what a man cannot provide by his own effort;
whence the saying 'when fortune is kind, what need of friends?' But it
seems strange, when one assigns all good things to the happy man, not
to assign friends, who are thought the greatest of external goods. And
if it is more characteristic of a friend to do well by another than to
be well done by, and to confer benefits is characteristic of the good
man and of virtue, and it is nobler to do well by friends than by
strangers, the good man will need people to do well by. This is why
the question is asked whether we need friends more in prosperity or in
adversity, on the assumption that not only does a man in adversity
need people to confer benefits on him, but also those who are
prospering need people to do well by. Surely it is strange, too, to
make the supremely happy man a solitary; for no one would choose the
whole world on condition of being alone, since man is a political
creature and one whose nature is to live with others. Therefore even
the happy man lives with others; for he has the things that are by
nature good. And plainly it is better to spend his days with friends

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