The Nicomachean Ethics
Category: Ideas
Genres: Philosophy
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The Nicomachean Ethics is the collection of Aristotle's lectures and work on ethics collected into ten books. Aristotle dedicated the book to his father or son, who were both named Nicomachus. Read the great philosophers' lectures on one of his most powerful topics for yourself. Experience the teachings of Aristotle as students and philosophers did so many years ago.

Nicomachean Ethics

Thomas Taylor

The Nicomachean Ethics

Book I

Chapter I

Every art and every method, and in like manner every action and deliberate choice, appear to aspire after a certain good. Hence, it is well said, that the good is that which all things desire. Of ends, however, there appears to be a certain difference; for some of them are energies; but others of them besides these are certain works. But in those things in which there are certain ends besides the actions, in these the works are naturally adapted to be better than the energies. Since, however, there are many actions and arts, and sciences, there will also be many ends. For the end of medicine is health; of the ship-building art, a ship; of the military art, victory; and of the economic art, wealth. But such arts as are of this kind are [arranged] under one certain power; just as the bridle-making art is arranged under the equestrian art, and such other arts as pertain to equestrian instruments. Both this art, however, and every warlike action are arranged under the military art. And after the same manner other arts are arranged under other powers. But in all these, the ends of those arts which are architectonic, or master arts, are more eligible than all the ends of the arts which are subordinate to the master arts. For the latter are pursued for the sake of the former. It makes, however, no difference, whether the energies themselves are the ends of actions, or something else besides these; in the same manner as in the above-mentioned sciences.

Chapter II

If, therefore, there is a certain end of actions, which we wish [to obtain] for its own sake, but we desire other things on account of this, and our choice is not directed to all things for the sake of something else (for thus there would be a progression to infinity, so that appetite would be empty and vain) — if this be the case, it is evident that this end will be the good, and that which is the most excellent. Will not, therefore, the knowledge of this end be of great importance with respect to life? For by having, like archers, at mark at which we may aim, we shall obtain what is fit in a greater degree, if this, however, be the case, we must endeavour to adumbrate what it is, and show to what science or power it belongs. But it would seem that it belongs to that power which is the most principal; and is especially architectonic. And the political power [or science] appears to be a thing of this kind. For this ordains what sciences ought to be instituted in cities, and which of them ought to be learnt by the several individuals, and to what extent. We likewise see that the most honourable of the powers or faculties, are arranged under this power; as, for instance, the military, the economical, and the rhetorical powers. Since, however, the remaining practical sciences use this political science, and since it also legally establishes what ought to be done, and from what it is requisite to abstain, the end of this science will comprehend in itself the ends of the other sciences; so that this will be human good itself. For though the good of an individual and a city is the same, yet to obtain and preserve the good of a city, appears to be something greater and more perfect. For we must be satisfied, indeed, if we can effect the good of an individual alone; but it is more beautiful and divine to effect the good of a nation and cities. These are the things, therefore, which political requires.

Chapter III

It will, however, be discussed sufficiently, if it is rendered perspicuous according to its subject matter. For accuracy must not be similarly investigated in all discussions, as neither in all the works of art. Things beautiful, however, and just, with which the political science is conversant, possess so great a difference, and are involved in so much ambiguity, that [to some persons] their subsistence appears to be from law only, and not from nature. What is good, likewise, possesses a certain ambiguity of this kind, because it happens that many persons are injured by it. For some have perished through wealth, but others through fortitude. We must be satisfied, therefore, in speaking about and from such things, if we can indicate the truth by a rude adumbration and if our conclusions in discussing things which have a frequency of subsistence, are similar in accuracy of the things themselves. After the same manner, likewise, it is requisite to admit everything that has been said. For it is the province of an erudite man so far to investigate the accurate in each genus of things, as the nature of the thing will admit; since it appears to be a similar thing to assent to a mathematician, when speaking probably, and to require demonstrations from a rhetorician. Every one, however, judges well of those things which he knows, and of these is a good judge. Hence, the man who is learned in any thing judges well of that thing; but he in short forms a proper judgment about every thing who is learned in every thing. Hence, a youth is not a proper auditor of the political science, for he is unskilled in the actions pertaining to life. But reasonings are from and about these. And besides this, if he yields to his passions, he will in vain, and without any advantage, be an auditor [of ethical doctrines;] since the end here is not knowledge, but action. It makes, however, no difference whether a person is a youth as to his age, or has juvenile manners. For the defect is not from time, but from living, and engaging in every pursuit from passion; since the knowledge of such persons, in the same manner as that of the intemperate is useless. But a knowledge of these things will be very advantageous to those whose appetites and actions are conformable to reason. And thus much by way of preface concerning the auditor [of ethics] how he ought to admit [discussions of this kind,] and what we propose [to consider in this treatise].

Chapter IV

Repeating, therefore, what we have said, since all knowledge and deliberate choice aspires after a certain good, let us show what that is which we say the political science desires, and what the supreme good is of all actions. By name, therefore, it is nearly acknowledged by most men; for both the vulgar and the learned call it felicity. But they conceive that to live well — and to act well, are the same thing as to be happy. Concerning felicity, however, what it is, they are dubious; and the multitude do not form the same opinion of it as the wise. For some of them indeed conceive it to rank among the number of things which are clear and evident, such as pleasure, or wealth, or honour; but others assert it to be something else. Frequently, likewise, the same person forms a different opinion of it; for when diseased he conceives it to be health, but when poor, riches. And those who are conscious of their ignorance, admire those who assert something grand, and above their comprehension. Some too, besides these many goods, are of opinion that there is another good subsisting by itself, which is the cause to all these of their being good. To examine, therefore, all the opinions, would perhaps be a vain undertaking; but it will be sufficient to consider those that are most eminent, or which appear to be in some respect reasonable. We must not, however, be ignorant that arguments from principles and to principles differ from each other. For Plato well doubts about and investigates this, whether the way is from principles or to principles; as in a race from the president of the games to the goal, or the contrary. For we must begin from things that are known. But these subsist in a twofold respect. For some things are known to us, but others are simply known. Perhaps, therefore, we should begin from things known to us. Hence, it is necessary that the auditor of discussions about and things beautiful and just, and in short about political concerns, if he is to be benefited, should be adorned with worthy manners. For the principle is this, that the thing is so [viz. that certain actions are worthy, and others are unworthy;] and if this is sufficiently apparent it is not at all requisite to know why it is so. But such a one either possesses, or will easily acquire [ethical] principles. Let him, however, who has neither of these, hear what Hesiod says:

“He the first rank of excellence maintains
Who from himself in ev’ry thing is wise,
And what ev’n to the end is best foresees:
He too is good who yields to wise advice.
But he who neither from himself is wise,
Nor to assent to others can endure,
Is but a useless, despicable man.”

Chapter V

Let us, however, return from whence we have digressed. For it seems that men do not unreasonably form an opinion of good and felicity from [the different kinds of] lives. The vulgar, indeed, and the most worthless part of mankind, place felicity in pleasure; and on this account they embrace the life which consists in the enjoyment of pleasure. For there are three kinds of lives which especially take the lead, the one we have just mentioned, the political life, and the third is the contemplative life. The multitude, therefore, appear to be perfectly servile, deliberately choosing the life of cattle; and they support their opinion by the example of many persons in power, who have preferred a voluptuous life, and have lived like Sardanapalus. But men of elegant minds, and those who are addicted to practical concerns, place felicity in honour; for this is nearly the end of the political life. This, however, appears to be more superficial than the good which is the object of our investigation. For honour seems to be rather in the persons that honour, than in him who is honoured. But we prophesy that good is something appropriate, and of which it is difficult to deprive its possessor. Farther still, it seems that men pursue honour in order that they may believe themselves to be worthy persons. They seek, therefore, to be honoured by wise men, and by those to whom they are known, and with a view to virtue. It is evident, therefore, that according to these men virtue is more excellent than honour. Perhaps, however, some one may apprehend that this [viz. virtue] is rather the end of the political life. But even this appears to be more imperfect [than the chief good ought to be]. For it appears to be possible that he who possesses virtue may sleep, or be unemployed through the whole of his life, and besides this may be afflicted with evils, and experience the greatest misfortunes. But no one would proclaim a man thus living to be happy, unless for the purpose of defending his position. And concerning these things indeed enough; for we have spoken sufficiently about them in our miscellaneous writings. But the third life is the contemplative, which we shall make the object of our consideration hereafter. The life, however, which is engaged in the acquisition of riches, is a certain violent life, and it is evident that wealth is not the good which we investigate; for wealth is useful, and for the sake of something else. Hence, the things which have been before mentioned may be considered as ends rather than wealth; for they are loved on their own account. It appears, however, that neither does felicity consist in these; though many arguments are adduced to prove that it does. These things, therefore, we shall dismiss.

Chapter VI

Perhaps, however, it is better to consider universal good, and enquire how it is said to subsist, though such an enquiry as this will be arduous, because the men who have introduced ideas are our friends. But it may perhaps seem to be better, and indeed necessary to the salvation of truth, to subvert the opinions even of our friends. For both being our friends [i.e. Plato and truth,] it is holy to give the preference to truth. Those, however, who have introduced this opinion, do not make ideas of things in which they admit there are the prior and the posterior. Hence, neither do they establish an idea of numbers. But good is predicated of essence, of quality, and of relation. That, however, which has a subsistence per se, and essence, are naturally prior to that which subsists as a relative. For this [i.e. a relative] resembles the branch of a tree, and an accident of being; so that them will not be a common idea in these. Again, good is predicated in as many ways as being; for it is predicated in essence, as god and intellect, [which are essences and are said to be good;] and in quality, as the virtues; in quantity, as the moderate; in relation, as utility; in time, as occasion, and in place, as a habitation, and after the same manner in the other predicaments. It is evident, therefore, that there will not be a certain common universal and one good; for it would not be predicated in all the categories, but in one alone. Farther still, since of things which subsist according to one idea, there is also one science, of all goods there would be one certain science; but now there are many sciences of things which are under one category. Thus, for instance, with occasion the art of commanding an army is conversant in war, but the medical art in disease. And with the moderate indeed, the medical art is conversant in food, but the gymnastic art in labour. It may, however, be doubted what their intention is in denominating every idea itself, since in man itself, and in man, there is one and the same definition of man; for so far as man there is no difference between them. But if this be the case, neither so far as good [will good itself and goods differ;] nor will it be in a greater degree good, from being eternal; since neither is that which is white for a long time, more white than that which is white only for one day. The Pythagoreans, however, appear to speak more probably concerning the good; for they place the one in the co-ordination of things good; whom Speusippus also seems to have followed. But the discussion of these things pertains to another treatise. A certain doubt, however, presents itself concerning the particulars we have just mentioned, because reasons are not assigned concerning every good; but things which are of themselves the objects of pursuit and love, are predicated according to one species; and those things which are effective of these, or in a certain respect preserve them, or impede their contraries, are predicated on account of these, and after another manner. It is evident, therefore, that goods may be predicated in two ways; and that some things, indeed, are good per se, but others are good on account of these. Separating, therefore, goods per se from things useful, let us consider whether they are predicated according to one idea. But what kind of goods can be said to be good per se? Are they such as are pursued alone, apart from other things, such as to be wise, to see, and some pleasures and honours? For these, though we pursue them on account of something else, yet at the same time may be ranked by some one among goods which are good per se. Or is the good per se nothing else except idea? Form, therefore, or idea, will be vain. But if these” also rank among goods which are good per se, it will be requisite that the same definition of the good should be conspicuous in all of them, just as there is the same definition of whiteness in snow and ceruse; but of honour, and prudence, and pleasure, there will be other and different definitions, so far as they are goods. The good, therefore, is not something common according to one idea. In what manner, however, is it said that there is one idea of the good? For it does not resemble things which are fortuitously homonymous. Is it because all gods are from one and are referred to one good? Or is it rather according to analogy? For as sight is in the body, so is intellect in the soul, and another thing in another. Perhaps, however, these things must be omitted at present; for the accurate discussion of them will be better adapted to another philosophy. And in a similar manner concerning idea. For even if there is some one good which is predicated in common, or which is something itself separate by itself, it is evident that it can neither be practicable, nor acquired by man. But now that which is practicable by man, and which he may obtain, is the object of investigation. Perhaps, however, the knowledge of this separate good may to some one appear to be better with respect to those goods which may be acquired, and which are practicable. For having this as an examplar, we may in a greater degree know those things which are good for us, and by knowing may more easily obtain them. This assertion, therefore, has indeed a certain probability, but it seems to be dissonant to the sciences. For all the sciences aspire after a certain good, and investigate that which is wanting, omitting the knowledge of it; though it is not reasonable to suppose that all artists are ignorant of and do not search for an aid of such great importance. It is likewise dubious what advantage a weaver or a carpenter would derive to their arts from the knowledge of the good itself; or how he who surveys the idea itself of the good, will become more skilled in medicine, or in commanding an army. For it appears. that the physician does not in this way consider health, but that he considers the health of man, and perhaps rather the health of this particular man. For he restores to health an individual. And thus much concerning these things.

Chapter VII

Now, however, let us return to the investigated good, and show what it is. For it appears that there is a different good in a different action and art; since there is one good in the medical art, another in the art of commanding an army, and in a similar manner in the remaining arts. What therefore is the good in each? Is it not that for the sake of which other things are effected by that art? But this in the medical art indeed is health, in the art of commanding an army is victory, in the art of building a house, is a house, and something else in another art. And in every action and deliberate choice it is the end; since all of them perform other things for the sake of this. Hence, if there is one certain end of all actions, this will be the practical good; but if there are many ends, these will be practical goods. The reasoning, however, in its transition arrives at the same thing [as was asserted by us in the beginning]. But we must endeavour to render this still more clear. Because, therefore, it appears that there are many ends, and of these we choose some on account of others, such as wealth, flutes, and, in short, instruments; it is evident that all ends are not perfect. That however which is most excellent, appears to be something perfect; so that if there is only one certain perfect end, this will be what we investigate; but if — there are many, it will be the most perfect of these. We denominate, however, that which is pursuable for its own sake; more perfect than that which is pursuable for the sake of something else; and that which is never eligible on account of another thing, than things which are eligible both on their own account, and for the sake of something else. In short, the completely perfect is that which is always eligible on its own account, and never on account of something else. Felicity, however, especially appeals to be a thing of this kind; for we always choose this on its own account, and never on account of any thing else. But we choose honor, and pleasure, and intellect, and every virtue, on their own account, indeed, (for though we should derive no farther advantage than what the possession of them affords, yet each of them would be the object of our choice) yet we also choose them for the sake of felicity. No one, however, chooses felicity for the sake of these, nor, in short, for the sake of any thing else. The same thing also appears to happen from that which enables a man to be sufficient to himself; for perfect good appears to be self-sufficient. But we call the self-sufficient that which is not only sufficient to him who lives a solitary life, but which is also sufficient to parents, and children, to a wife, and, in short, to friends and fellow-citizens; since man is naturally a political animal. A certain boundary, however, must be assumed of these things; for if good is to be extended to parents and their offspring, and to the friends of friends, there will be a procession to infinity. But this, indeed, we shall consider hereafter. We call, however, the self-sufficient that which subsisting by itself alone makes life eligible, and in want of nothing. But we think that felicity is a thing of this kind. And besides this, we think that it is the most eligible of all things, and is not connumerated [with any other good;] for if it were connumerated with even the smallest good, it is evident that it would be more eligible; since that which is added would become an excess of good. But a greater good is always more eligible. Felicity, therefore, appears to be something perfect and sufficient to itself, being the end of actions.

Perhaps, however, to say that felicity is the best of things, is to assert that which is acknowledged by all men; but it is requisite that we should yet more clearly say what it is. Perhaps, therefore, this will be effected, if the work of man is assumed. For as to the player on the flute, to the statuary, and to every artist, and in short to those who have a certain work and action, the good and the excellent appear to be in the work; this also may appear to be the case with man, if he has a certain work. Whether, therefore, are there certain works and actions indeed of a carpenter and a shoe-maker; but of man is there no work, and is he naturally indolent? Or shall we say, that as of the eye, the hand and the foot, and in short of each of the parts of the body, there appears to be a certain work, so likewise of man, shall we admit that besides all these there is a certain work? What then will this work be? For to live appears to be common also to plants [as well as to men]. But the peculiar work of man is now investigated. The nutritive and augmentative life, therefore, must be rejected. And a certain sensitive life will be consequent to this. It appears, however, that this also is common to a horse and an ox. And to every animal. A certain practic life, therefore, accompanied with reason remains. But of this, one kind is obedient to reason, but the other possesses reason, and energizes discursively. Since this life, however, is predicated in a twofold respect [i.e. according to energy and according to habit,] it must be admitted to subsist according to energy; for this appears to be predicated according to a more principal mode of subsistence. But if the work of man is the energy of soul according to reason, or not without reason; and we say that the same thing is the work of the human species and of a worthy man, just as the same thing is the work of a harper and of a good harper, and in short, this is the case in all things, excellence according to virtue being added to the work; for the work of a harper is to play on the harp, and of a good harper to play well on it; — if this be the case, and we admit the work of man to be a certain life, and this to be the energy of the soul, and actions in conjunction with reason, but by a worthy man, these things are well and beautifully performed, and every thing is well accomplished according to its proper virtue; — if this be the case, humzan good will be the energy of soul according to virtue. But if there are many virtues, it will be the energy of soul according to the best and most perfect virtue; and besides this, in a perfect life. For as one swallow does not make spring, nor one day; so neither does one day, nor a little time, make a man blessed and happy. Let this, therefore, be a description of the good; for it is necessary, perhaps, [as in a picture,] first to delineate; and afterwards add the colours. But it would seem, that any one may be able to educe, and distinctly arrange things which are well delineated, and that time is the inventor of, or a good co-operator with, things of this kind; whence, also, accessions are made to the arts; for any one may add to what is wanting. It is also requisite to call to mind what has been before said, and not to search for accuracy similarly in all things, but investigate it in each according to the subject matter, and so far as is appropriate to the method [pertaining to the enquiry]. For a carpenter and a geometrician investigate a right angle differently; the former, indeed, so far as is useful to his work; but the latter explores what it is, or what the quality is which it possesses; for he is a contemplator of truth. After the same manner, therefore, we must proceed in other things, lest what is superfluous should become more abundant than the works themselves. Neither must the cause be required similarly in all things, but in some, as, for instance, concerning principles, it is sufficient to have shown properly that they are. But the subsistence of a thing (το οτι) is the first thing and the principle. Of principles, however, some are surveyed by induction, others by sense, others from a certain custom, and others in a different way. But we should endeavour to discuss every thing, so far as its nature permits, and should earnestly apply ourselves to define well; for this is of great importance with respect to what is consequent. The principle, therefore, appears to be more than half of the whole, and many of the things which are objects of enquiry become manifest through it.

Chapter VIII

Felicity, therefore, must be considered by us, not only from the conclusion, and the particulars from which its definition consists, but also from the assertions of others concerning it. For every thing which is inherent in a thing accords with the truth; but what is true is rapidly dissonant with what is false. Since goods, therefore, have a twofold distribution, and some of them are said to be external, but others pertain to the soul and the body, we call those pertaining to the soul, the most proper and principal goods; but we place the psychical actions and energies about the soul. Hence, it is well said, according to this opinion, which is ancient, and assented to by those who philosophize [that felicity is the energy of the soul according to virtue]. It is also rightly said, that certain actions and energies constitute the end [i.e. felicity;] for thus felicity will consist in the goods pertaining to the soul, and not in external goods. With this reasoning, likewise, the assertions accord, that the happy man lives well, and acts well; for nearly felicity will be a certain living well and acting well. It appears, moreover, that every thing which is sought for in felicity is inherent in the definition we have given of it. For to some, indeed, felicity appears to be virtue, to others prudence, and to others a certain wisdom; but to others it appears to be these things, or some one of these, accompanied with pleasure, or not without pleasure. Others, also, comprehend [in the definition of felicity,] external affluence. But of these opinions, some are supported by the authority of many and ancient men, and others by a few and renowned men. It is not, however, reasonable to suppose that either of these have wholly erred, but that they have erred in some one particular, and are right in most things. With those, therefore, who say that felicity is every virtue, or a certain virtue, our assertion accords; for it is the energy of the soul according to virtue. Perhaps, however, it differs in no small degree to conceive that what is most excellent consists in possession, or to conceive that it consists in use, and that it consists in habit, or in energy. For it is possible that habit when inherent, may be effective of no good, as in him who is asleep, or who in some other way is inactive; but this cannot be the case with energy. For he [who possesses virtue in energy] necessarily acts, and acts well. But as in the Olympic games, not the most beautiful and the strongest are crowned, but those who contend; for some of these are victorious; so those who act rightly obtain those things in life which are beautiful and good. The life also of these is in itself delectable [independent of external pleasure]. For to be delighted, is among the number of things pertaining to the soul. But to every one that is delightful of which he is said to be a lover; as a horse, to a lover of horses, and a spectacle, to a lover of spectacles, After the same manner, also, just things are delightful to a lover of justice, and in short what pertains to virtue to a lover of virtue. Things, therefore, delectable to the multitude are hostile to each other, because they are not naturally delightful; but to the lovers of what is beautiful in conduct, those things are delectable which are delectable by nature; and such are the actions according to virtue; so that they are delectable to these, and are so per se. The life also of these, is not at all in want of pleasure, as a certain appendage, but contains pleasure in itself. For in addition to what has been said, he is not a good man who does not rejoice in beautiful actions; for neither would any one call him just who does not rejoice in acting justly, nor him liberal, who does not rejoice in liberal actions; and in a similar manner in the other virtues. If this, however, be the case, actions according to virtue will be of themselves delectable, but they are also good and beautiful, and especially each of these, if the worthy man judges well concerning them; but he judges in the way we have said. Felicity, therefore, is a thing most excellent, most beautiful, and most delectable. Nor are these to be separated from each other according to the Delian inscription: “That which is most just is most beautiful; but to be well is the best of things: and for a man to obtain the object of his love, is the most delectable of things.” For all these are inherent in the best energies; but we say that felicity is all these, or one of them, and that the most excellent. At the same time, however, it appears, as we have said, that external goods are requisite to felicity; for it is impossible, or not easy to perform beautiful actions without the assistance of externals; since many things are indeed performed as it were through instruments, by means of friends, and wealth, and political power. The privation also, of some things, such as nobility, a good offspring, and beauty, defile a blessed condition of being; for he cannot be entirely happy who is very deformed in his body, or of ignoble birth, or who leads a solitary life, and is deprived of children. And perhaps he can in a still less degree be entirely happy, if his children are very vicious, or, being good, die. As we have said, therefore, [a completely happy life,] requires such a prosperity as this; whence also some arrange prosperity, but others virtue, in the same place with felicity.

Chapter IX

Hence, also, it is doubted whether felicity is a thing which may be acquired by discipline, or custom, or in some other way by exercise; or whether it accedes by a certain divine allotment, or from fortune. If, therefore, any other thing is the gift of the gods to men, it is reasonable to suppose that felicity also is the gift of divinity, and especially because it is the best of human concerns. This, however, will perhaps be more adapted to another discussion. But it appears, that though it should not be sent by divinity [to men,] but is procured through virtue, and a certain discipline, or exercise, it belongs to the most divine of things; for the reward and end of virtue appears to be most excellent, and something divine and blessed. Felicity also will be a thing very common; for it is able to be present, through a certain discipline and attention, to all men who are not mutilated with respect to virtue. But if it is better that felicity should be acquired after this manner, rather than from fortune, it is reasonable that it should be so acquired; since natural productions subsist in such a way as it is most beautiful for them to subsist; and in a similar manner things which are produced by art, or by any other cause, and especially such as are produced by the most excellent cause. To commit, however, the greatest and most beautiful of things to fortune, would be very lawless and reprehensible. The object of investigation, likewise, is apparent from the definition of felicity; for we have said that it is a certain energy of the soul according to virtue. But of the remaining goods, some indeed are present from necessity, but others co-operate, and are naturally adapted to be useful organically. These things, also, will accord with what we have said in the beginning. For we established the end of the political science as the best end; but this pays the greatest attention to the citizens, in order to render them characters of a certain description, and that they may be good men, and practisers of beautiful actions. Reasonably, therefore, do we neither call an ox, nor a horse, nor any other [irrational] animal happy; for it is not possible that any one of them, can partake of such an energy as this. Through this cause, likewise, neither is a child happy; for he is not yet, on account of his age, a practiser of things of this kind. But those children who are said to be happy, are proclaimed to be blessed through hope, [that when they become men they will obtain the rational energy in perfection]. For felicity, as we have said, requires perfect virtue, and a perfect life. For many mutations and all-various fortunes happen in life; and it is possible that he whose affairs are in the most prosperous condition, may in old age fall into the greatest calamities, as in heroic poems it is fabled concerning Priam. But no one would call him happy who experiences such misfortunes, and who dies miserably.

Chapter X

Shall we say, therefore, that no other man is to be proclaimed happy as long as he lives, but that according to Solon it is requisite to look to the end of life? If, however, we admit this, is a man, therefore, then happy when he dies? Or is this perfectly absurd, especially to those who say as we do, that felicity is a certain energy? But if neither we call him who is dead happy, nor this was the intention of Solon, but his meaning is, that a man may then be securely proclaimed blessed, as being now out of the reach of evils and misfortunes; — even this also is attended with a certain doubt. For there appears to be a certain good and evil to him who is dead, if there is also to him who is alive, but without sensation, such as honour and ignominy, and in short, the prosperity and adversity of his descendants. This, however, also presents us with a difficulty. For it is possible that to the offspring of him who has lived to old age blessedly, and has died rationally, many mutations may happen, and that some of them may be good, and may obtain a life according to their desert, but that the contrary may take place with others. It is likewise evident that there may be an all-various apostacy in them from the manners of their parents. It would, therefore, be absurd, if he who is dead should also be changed together with them, and should at one time become happy, and again be miserable. It is likewise absurd, that the affairs of descendants should not for a certain time be of any consequence whatever to parents.

Let us, however, return to the former subject of doubt; for perhaps that which is now investigated may be surveyed from it. If, therefore, it is necessary to look to the end of life, and then to proclaim each man blessed, not as being now blessed, but because he was so before; is it not absurd when he is happy [i.e. while he is living,] that what is present with him [i.e. felicity] should not be asserted of him with truth, because we are unwilling to proclaim the living happy, on account of the mutations of life, and because we apprehend felicity to be something stable, and by no means easily to be changed; but fortunes frequently circulate about the same persons. For it is evident if we should follow fortune, we must frequently call the same man happy and again miserable, thus evincing the happy man to be like the chamæleon, and possessing an infirm stability. Or shall we say that it is indeed by no means right to follow fortune? For living well or ill is not among the gifts of fortune, but human life, as we have said, requires the goods of fortune. The energies, however, according to virtue, are the mistresses of felicity, but the contrary energies are the mistresses of the contrary. That also which is now the subject of doubt, bears testimony to our assertion. For in no human affairs is there so much stability, as in the energies according to virtue; since they appear to be more stable than even the sciences themselves, and of these very energies those that are most honourable, are also most stable, because blessed men principally and most assiduously live in these. For this appears to be the cause that oblivion does not happen concerning them. The object of investigation, therefore, is present with the happy man, and he will be such through life. For always, or the most of all men, he will perform and contemplate things pertaining to virtue, will bear the changes of fortune most beautifully, and in the most perfectly elegant manner, as being truly good, and a square without blame. Since, however, many things happen from fortune, and which differ in magnitude and parvitude, it is evident that prosperous, and in a similar manner, adverse circumstances when they are small, are of no consequence to the life of man; but that such as are great and numerous, if they are indeed prosperous, render life more blessed; for they are also naturally adapted to adorn life, and the use of them is beautiful and good; and that, on the contrary, if they are adverse, they oppress and injure beatitude. For they bring with them molestation, and are an impediment to many energies. At the same time, however, even in these the beauty of good conduct shines forth, when a man bears many and great misfortunes easily, not through an insensibility of pain, but in consequence of being generous and magnanimous. But if energies are the mistresses of life, as we have said, no one who is blessed will become miserable; since he will never do any thing that is odious and base. For we are of opinion, that the man who is truly good and wise, will bear all fortunes in a becoming manner, and from existing circumstances will always perform the most beautiful deeds; just; as a good general will use the army under his command in the most warlike manner, and a shoemaker from the leather with which he is supplied will make the most beautiful shoe; and the same thing will take place with all other artists. If this, however, be the case, the happy man will never become miserable; nor yet if he should fall into the calamities of Priam, will he be blessed. Nor again, is he various and easily changed; for he is not easily moved from felicity, nor by any casual misfortunes, but by such as are great and numerous. And after such calamities as these, he will not again, become happy in a short time, but if he does recover his felicity, its will be in a certain long and perfect time, in which he will become a partaker of things of a great and beautiful nature. What then prevents us from calling the man happy who energizes according to perfect virtue, and who is sufficiently supplied with external goods, not for any casual time, but through a perfect life? Or ought we to add, that he must also thus live and die conformably to nature? Since the future is unapparent to us, and we admit that felicity is an end, and entirely and in every respect perfect. But if this be the case, we must call those among the living blessed to whom the particulars we have mentioned are and have been present; but we must denominate them blessed as men. And thus much concerning these things.

Chapter XI

That the good or bad fortune, however, of descendants, and of all friends, should contribute nothing [to the happy man,] appears to be a thing very unfriendly, and contrary to the opinions of mankind. But since many things happen, and which possess an all-various difference, and some of them pertain to us in a greater, but others in a less degree, to discuss them severally appears to be a long and an infinite undertaking. It will, therefore, perhaps be sufficient to speak of them universally, and to adumbrate what they are. As of the calamitous circumstances then which happen to the happy man, some have a certain weight, and are of importance in life, this is likewise the case with respect to all his friends. It makes a difference, however, whether each of the calamities happens to the living or the dead, and the difference is much greater than whether the illegal and dreadful deeds which are the subject of tragedy, have been formerly perpetrated, or are perpetrated now. In this way, therefore, the difference may also be collected. Perhaps, however, it ought rather to be doubted concerning the dead, whether they partake of any good or ill. For it appears from these things, that though something should arrive to them, whatever it may be, whether good, or the contrary, it is something debile and small, either in its own nature, or to them. But if it should possess a certain power, yet it cannot be so great, or of such a kind, as to make those happy who are not so, or to deprive those of blessedness who are. The prosperity, therefore, and in a similar manner the adversity of friends, appears to contribute something to the dead, yet with respect to them, they are of so little consequence, as neither to make those that are happy unhappy, nor effect any thing else of the like kind.

Chapter XII

These things being discussed, let us consider, with respect to felicity, whether it is among the number of things laudable, or rather of things honourable; for it is evident that it does not consist in power. It seems, therefore, that every thing which is laudable, is praised because it possesses a certain quality, and is in a certain respect referred to something. For we praise the just and the brave man, and in short the good man, and also virtue, on account of works and actions. We likewise praise the strong man, and the racer, etc. because they are naturally adapted to possess certain qualities, and have reference in a certain respect to something good and worthy. But this also is evident from the praises which pertain to the gods; for they appear to be ridiculous when referred to us. This, however, happens, as we have said, because, praise subsists from relation. But if praise is given to things of this kind, it is evident that no praise can be given to the most excellent things, hut something greater and better pertains to them, as also appears to be the case. For we proclaim the gods to be blessed and happy, and we also proclaim the most divine, of men to be blessed; and in a similar manner we celebrate what is good. For no one praises felicity, in the same way as he does justice, but he proclaims it to be blessed, as something more divine and excellent than justice. Eudoxus, likewise, in his defence of pleasure, appears to have given it the palm of victory in a proper manner; for in consequence of its not being praised, as being among the number of good things, he considered this as an indication that it was more excellent than things that are laudable. But god and the good are things of this kind; for other things also are referred to these. For praise, indeed, is given to virtue; since from this we are enabled to perform beautiful deeds. Encomiums, however, pertain to deeds, and in a similar manner to bodies and souls. The accurate discussion, however, of these things, is perhaps more adapted to a treatise on Encomiums; but to us it is evident, from what has been said, that felicity is among the number of things honourable and perfect. It seems, likewise, that it is so, because it is a principle; for we all of us do every thing else for the sake of this; but we admit that the principle and the cause of what is good, is something honourable and divine.

Chapter XIII

Since, however, felicity is a certain energy of the soul, according to perfect virtue, we must direct our attention to virtue; for perhaps we shall thus also speculate better concerning felicity. But it seems that he who is skilled in the administration of public affairs, labours especially about this; for he wishes to make the citizens worthy persons, and obedient to the laws; and as an example of these we have the legislators of the Cretans and Lacedæmonians, and any others there may have been of this kind. If, however, the speculation itself is of the political science, it is evident that the enquiry will be conformable to our intention from the beginning. But our discussion must be concerning virtue, viz. human virtue; for we investigate human good, and human felicity; and we call human virtue, not the virtue of the body, but of the soul; and we say that felicity is the energy of the soul. If, however, this be the case, it is evident that he who is skilled in the administration of public affairs, ought to know whatever pertains to the soul; just as he who intends to cure the eyes ought to have a knowledge of the whole body; and this in a greater degree, by how much more honourable, and excellent, the political is than the medicinal science. Of physicians, likewise, the more elegant are busily employed about the knowledge of the body. He, therefore, who is skilled in the administration of public affairs, must direct his attention to the soul; but he must direct his attention to it for the sake of these things, and so far as is sufficient to the objects of enquiry. For to consider the soul still more accurately, is perhaps more laborious and difficult than the present discussion requires. We have also said some things sufficiently concerning it in our popular writings, and those must be consulted; such as that one part of the soul is irrational, but another rational. But whether these parts are separated, in the same manner as the parts of the body, and every thing which is partible, or they are two parts in definition [alone,] and are naturally inseparable, as in the periphery of a circle the convex and the concave, is of no consequence in the present discussion. Of the irrational part, however, one part resembles the common and vegetative power; I mean the power which is the cause of nutrition and increase. For such at power as this may be admitted to exist in every thing that is nourished, in embryos, and also in perfect animals; since it is more reasonable that this power should exist in them than any other. The virtue, therefore, of this power appears to be common and not human. For this part seems especially to energize in sleep, but a good and a bad man can in the smallest degree be distinguished in sleep; whence it is said that the happy differ in no respect from the miserable during the half of life. But this happens reasonably; for sleep is an inactivity both of the worthy and the depraved soul; except so far as certain motions gradually arrive at the soul, and on this account the phantasms of worthy are better than those of worthless men. But of these things enough. The nutritive part, therefore, must be omitted, since it is naturally destitute of human virtue.

There appears, however, to be another certain irrational nature of the soul, which nevertheless participates in a certain respect of reason; for we praise the reason of the continent, and also of the incontinent man, and that part of the soul which possesses reason; for it rightly excites to the most excellent deeds. There appears, however, to be in them [i.e. both in the continent and incontinent] something else naturally contrary to reason, which wars against and resists reason. For, indeed, as the paralyzed parts of the body, if we wish to move them to the right hand, are on the contrary moved to the left, thus, also, it is in the soul. For the impulses of the incontinent are in a direction contrary [to the dictates of reason]. In bodies, however, we see that which is moved contrary [to the intention of the will], but in the soul we do not see [that which is moved contrary to reason;] though perhaps we ought nevertheless to think that in the soul, also, there is something opposite to reason, which is adverse and proceeds in a direction contrary to it; but it is of no consequence in what manner it is different from reason. This part, however, appears, as we have said, to participate of reason. It is obedient, therefore, to the reason of the continent man; and perhaps it is still more obedient to the reason of the temperate and brave man; for all things are in concord with his reason. It appears, therefore, that the irrational part is twofold; for the vegetable part in no respect participates of reason; but the part which desires, and, in short, the orectic part, participate in a certain respect of reason, so far as they are attentive and obedient to it. In this way, therefore, we say that a man has a regard for, or pays attention to (εχειν λογον) his father and his friends, and not after the same manner as he has a regard for the mathematical sciences. But that the irrational part is in a certain respect obedient to reason, admonition and all reproof and exhortation indicate. If, however, it be requisite to say that this part also possesses reason, that which possesses reason will be twofold; the one, indeed, properly, and in itself; but the other resembling a child attentive to his father. Virtue, likewise, is distributed according to this difference. For we say that of the virtues some are dianoëtic [or belong to the power which reasons scientifically,] but others ethical. And we denominate, indeed, wisdom, intelligence, and prudence, dianoetic virtues; but liberality and temperance ethical virtues. For when we speak concerning the manners of a man, we do not say that he is wise, or intelligent, but that he is mild or temperate. We likewise praise a wise man according to habit; but we call the laudable habits, virtues.

Book II

Chapter I

Since, however, virtue is twofold, one kind being dianoëtic, but the other ethic; the dianoëtic, indeed, for the most part receives both: its generation and increase from doctrine; on which account it requires experience and time; but the ethic is produced from custom, from whence, also, it derives its name, which declines but a little from εθος , ethos, custom. From which, likewise, it is evident, that no one of the ethical virtues is ingenerated in us by nature; for nothing that has a natural subsistence can by custom be brought to act differently from its natural tendency. Thus, a stone which naturally tends downward, cannot be accustomed to tend upward, though some one should hurl it upward ten thousand times; nor can fire be accustomed to tend downward, nor can any thing else among the things which, natural tendencies different from these, be accustomed to any other tendency than that which it has from nature. The virtues, therefore, are neither from nature, nor are ingenerated in us preternaturally, but they are produced in us in consequence of our being naturally adapted to receive them, and becoming perfect through habit. Again, with respect to such things as are ingenerated in us by nature, of these, we first receive the powers, but afterwards employ the energies of those powers; which is evident in the senses, For it is not from frequently seeing, or frequently hearing, that we receive these senses, but, on the contrary, having these senses we use them, and we do not have them by using them. With respect to the virtues, however, we receive them by first energizing according to them, in the same manner as in the other arts; for those things which it is necessary to do, in consequence of having learnt how to do them, these by doing we learn how to do. Thus, by building we become builders, and by playing on the harp we become harpers. Thus too, by acting justly we become just, prudent by acting prudently, and brave by acting bravely. But what happens in cities bears testimony to the truth of this. For the legislators by accustoming the citizens [to virtue] render them worthy characters; and this indeed is the intention of every legislator; but such as do not effect this well, err. And in this one polity differs from another, the good from the bad. Farther still, from the same things, and through the same things, every virtue is generated and corrupted; and in a similar manner every art. For from playing on the harp both good and bad harpers are produced; and analogously builders of houses, and all other artists. For from building well, they will be good builders, but bad from building ill; since if it were not so, there would be no occasion for a preceptor, but all men would be [naturally] good or bad artists. The like also takes place in the virtues. For by acting in our compacts with men, we become some of us indeed just, but others unjust; and by acting in things of a dreadful nature, and by being accustomed either to be terrified or to be confident in danger, some of us become brave, but others timid. The reasoning, likewise, is similar with respect to desire and anger; for some men, indeed, become temperate and mild, but others intemperate and irascible; these from being in this way conversant. with these things, but those from being conversant with them in that way. And in one word, habits are produced from similar energies. Hence, it is necessary to render energies endued with a certain quality; for habits follow from the differences of these. It is of no small consequence, therefore, to be thus or thus accustomed immediately from our youth, but it is of very great consequence; or rather, it is every thing.

Chapter II

Since, therefore, the present treatise is not for the sake of theory, like other discussions; for our attention is not directed to this business, that we may know what virtue is, but that we may become good men, since otherwise no advantage would be derived from it; — this being the case, it is necessary to consider with respect to actions how they are to be performed; for as we have said, they are the mistresses of the qualities which habits possess. To act, therefore, according to right reason is common, and is now assumed to be so. We shall, however, hereafter speak concerning this, and show what right reason is, and how it subsists with reference to the other virtues. But this must be previously granted, that every treatise of practical affairs ought only to be an adumbration, and not an accurate discussion, as also we observed in the beginning, because reasonings are required conformable to the subject matter; and in practical affairs, and things contributing to them, there is nothing stable, as neither is there in things which are salubrious. Such, therefore, being the universal reason, in a still greater degree will the discussion of particulars be deficient in accuracy; for it neither falls under art, nor under any precept. It is, however, necessary that those who are engaged in practical affairs should always direct their attention to an opportune time, in the same manner as in medicine, and in the pilot’s art. But though the present discussion is of this nature, we must endeavour to give it assistance.

In the first place, therefore, this must be observed, that things of this kind [viz. actions which produce in us the habits of the virtues,] are naturally adapted to be corrupted by excess and defect, as we see in strength and health, [which are the virtues of the body]; (for it is necessary to use things apparent as testimonies, in things which are unapparent), since exercises which are excessive, and also those which are deficient, corrupt the strength of the body. In like manner meat and drink, when taken in too great or too small a quantity, corrupt the health; but these when commensurate, produce increase, and preserve it. This, therefore, is also the case in temperance and fortitude, and the other virtues. For he who flies from and is afraid of all things, and endures nothing, becomes timid; and he who in short is afraid of nothing, but marches up to all things, becomes audacious. In a similar manner, he indeed who gives himself up to the enjoyment of every pleasure, and abstains from none, is intemperate; but he who flies from all pleasures, like rustic men, is an insensate person. For temperance and fortitude are corrupted by excess and defect, but are preserved by mediocrity. Not only, however, generations, increments and corruptions, are produced from and by the same things, but the energies also [of the virtues] will subsist after the same manner; since this likewise is the case in other things which are more apparent; as, for instance, in strength. For strength is produced by taking much food, and enduring many labours, and the strong man is especially able to do both these. Thus, too, it is in the virtues; for by abstaining from pleasures we become temperate, and having become temperate we are especially able to abstain from them. The like also takes place in fortitude; for by being accustomed to despise things of a terrible nature, and to endure them, we become brave, and having become brave, we are especially able to endure terrible things.

Chapter III

It is necessary, however, to consider as an indication of habits the pleasure or pain which is attendant on actions. For he who abstains from corporeal pleasures, and is delighted in so doing, is a temperate man; but he who is grieved when he abstains from them is intemperate. And he, indeed, who endures dreadful things, and is delighted with his endurance, or feels no pain from it, is a brave man; but he who feels pain from the endurance of them, is a timid man. For ethical virtue is conversant with pleasures and pains. For we act basely through the influence of pleasure; but we abstain from beautiful conduct through the influence of pain. Hence, it is necessary, as Plato says, to be so educated in a certain respect immediately after our youth, that we may be delighted and pained with things from which it is requisite to feel pleasure or pain; for this is right education. Farther still, if the virtues are conversant with actions and passions, but pleasure and pain are consequent to every passion and action, on this account also virtue will be conversant with pleasures and pains. The punishments, likewise, which are inflicted through these, indicate the truth of this; for they are certain remedies; but remedies are naturally adapted to operate through contraries. Again, as we have also before observed, the nature of every habit of the soul is referred to and conversant with those things, by which it is adapted to become better and worse. But habits become depraved through pleasures and pains, by pursuing or avoiding these, either such as ought not to be pursued or avoided, or when it is not proper, or in such a way as is not proper, or in as many other modes as such things are distinguished by reason. Hence, some persons define the virtues to be certain apathies and tranquillities; but they do not define them well, because they speak simply, and do not add, in such a way as is proper, and when it is proper, and such other additions as are usually made. It is admitted, therefore, that virtue is a thing of this kind, which is conversant with pleasures and pains, and practises things of the most excellent nature; but vice is the contrary. From what has been said, likewise, we may obtain still greater evidence about these things. For as there are three things which pertain to choice, and also three which pertain to aversion, viz. the beautiful in conduct, the advantageous, and the delightful, and three the contraries to these, the base, the disadvantageous, and the painful; the good man, indeed, acts rightly in all these, but the bad man erroneously, and especially in what pertains to pleasure. For pleasure is common to all animals, and is consequent to every thing; which is the object of choice; for the beautiful and the advantageous appear to be delightful. Again, pleasure is co-nourished with all of us from our infancy; on which account also it is difficult to wipe away this passion with which our life is imbued. We likewise direct our actions by pleasure and pain, as by a rule, some of us in a greater, and others in a less degree. On this account, therefore, it is necessary that the whole of this discussion should be conversant with these things; for to rejoice or be pained properly or improperly, is of no small consequence in actions. Farther still, it is more difficult to fight with pleasure, than with anger, as Heraclitus says. But both art and virtue are always conversant with that which is more difficult; for that which is well done is better when it is effected with greater difficulty. Hence, on this account, also, the whole business both of ethics and politics, is conversant with pleasures and pains. For he who employs these well will be a good man, but he will be a bad man who employs them badly. We have shown, therefore, that virtue is conversant with pleasures and pains, and that it is increased and corrupted by the same things by which it is produced, when they do not exist after the same manner; and that it likewise energizes about the things from which it originated.

Chapter IV

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