Produced by Ted Garvin, David Widger and the DP Team
THE ETHICS OF ARISTOTLE
The _Ethics_ of Aristotle is one half of a single treatise of which his _Politics_ is the other half. Both deal with one and the same subject. This subject is what Aristotle calls in one place the “philosophy of human affairs;” but more frequently Political or Social Science. In the two works taken together we have their author’s whole theory of human conduct or practical activity, that is, of all human activity which is not directed merely to knowledge or truth. The two parts of this treatise are mutually complementary, but in a literary sense each is independent and self-contained. The proem to the _Ethics_ is an introduction to the whole subject, not merely to the first part; the last chapter of the _Ethics_ points forward to the _Politics_, and sketches for that part of the treatise the order of enquiry to be pursued (an order which in the actual treatise is not adhered to).
The principle of distribution of the subject-matter between the two works is far from obvious, and has been much debated. Not much can be gathered from their titles, which in any case were not given to them by their author. Nor do these titles suggest any very compact unity in the works to which they are applied: the plural forms, which survive so oddly in English (Ethic_s_, Politic_s_), were intended to indicate the treatment within a single work of a _group_ of connected questions. The unity of the first group arises from their centring round the topic of character, that of the second from their connection with the existence and life of the city or state. We have thus to regard the _Ethics_ as dealing with one group of problems and the _Politics_ with a second, both falling within the wide compass of Political Science. Each of these groups falls into sub-groups which roughly correspond to the several books in each work. The tendency to take up one by one the various problems which had suggested themselves in the wide field obscures both the unity of the subject-matter and its proper articulation. But it is to be remembered that what is offered us is avowedly rather an enquiry than an exposition of hard and fast doctrine.
Nevertheless each work aims at a relative completeness, and it is important to observe the relation of each to the other. The distinction is not that the one treats of Moral and the other of Political Philosophy, nor again that the one deals with the moral activity of the individual and the other with that of the State, nor once more that the one gives us the theory of human conduct, while the other discusses its application in practice, though not all of these misinterpretations are equally erroneous. The clue to the right interpretation is given by Aristotle himself, where in the last chapter of the _Ethics_ he is paving the way for the _Politics_. In the _Ethics_ he has not confined himself to the abstract or isolated individual, but has always thought of him, or we might say, in his social and political context, with a given nature due to race and heredity and in certain surroundings. So viewing him he has studied the nature and formation of his character–all that he can make himself or be made by others to be. Especially he has investigated the various admirable forms of human character and the mode of their production. But all this, though it brings more clearly before us what goodness or virtue is, and how it is to be reached, remains mere theory or talk. By itself it does not enable us to become, or to help others to become, good. For this it is necessary to bring into play the great force of the Political Community or State, of which the main instrument is Law. Hence arises the demand for the necessary complement to the _Ethics, i.e._, a treatise devoted to the questions which centre round the enquiry; by what organisation of social or political forces, by what laws or institutions can we best secure the greatest amount of good character?
We must, however, remember that the production of good character is not the end of either individual or state action: that is the aim of the one and the other because good character is the indispensable condition and chief determinant of happiness, itself the goal of all human doing. The end of all action, individual or collective, is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. There is, Aristotle insists, no difference of kind between the good of one and the good of many or all. The sole difference is one of amount or scale. This does not mean simply that the State exists to secure in larger measure the objects of degree which the isolated individual attempts, but is too feeble, to secure without it. On the contrary, it rather insists that whatever goods society alone enables a man to secure have always had to the individual–whether he realised it or not–the value which, when so secured, he recognises them to possess. The best and happiest life for the individual is that which the State renders possible, and this it does mainly by revealing to him the value of new objects of desire and educating him to appreciate them. To Aristotle or to Plato the State is, above all, a large and powerful educative agency which gives the individual increased opportunities of self-development and greater capacities for the enjoyment of life.
Looking forward, then, to the life of the State as that which aids support, and combines the efforts of the individual to obtain happiness, Aristotle draws no hard and fast distinction between the spheres of action of Man as individual and Man as citizen. Nor does the division of his discussion into the _Ethics_ and the _Politics_ rest upon any such distinction. The distinction implied is rather between two stages in the life of the civilised man–the stage of preparation for the full life of the adult citizen, and the stage of the actual exercise or enjoyment of citizenship. Hence the _Ethics_, where his attention is directed upon the formation of character, is largely and centrally a treatise on Moral Education. It discusses especially those admirable human qualities which fit a man for life in an organised civic community, which makes him “a good citizen,” and considers how they can be fostered or created and their opposites prevented.
This is the kernel of the _Ethics_, and all the rest is subordinate to this main interest and purpose. Yet “the rest” is not irrelevant; the whole situation in which character grows and operates is concretely conceived. There is a basis of what we should call Psychology, sketched in firm outlines, the deeper presuppositions and the wider issues of human character and conduct are not ignored, and there is no little of what we should call Metaphysics. But neither the Psychology nor the Metaphysics is elaborated, and only so much is brought forward as appears necessary to put the main facts in their proper perspective and setting. It is this combination of width of outlook with close observation of the concrete facts of conduct which gives its abiding value to the work, and justifies the view of it as containing Aristotle’s Moral Philosophy. Nor is it important merely as summing up the moral judgments and speculations of an age now long past. It seizes and dwells upon those elements and features in human practice which are most essential and permanent, and it is small wonder that so much in it survives in our own ways of regarding conduct and speaking of it. Thus it still remains one of the classics of Moral Philosophy, nor is its value likely soon to be exhausted.
As was pointed out above, the proem (Book I., cc. i-iii.) is a prelude to the treatment of the whole subject covered by the _Ethics_ and the _Politics_ together. It sets forth the purpose of the enquiry, describes the spirit in which it is to be undertaken and what ought to be the expectation of the reader, and lastly states the necessary conditions of studying it with profit. The aim of it is the acquisition and propagation of a certain kind of knowledge (science), but this knowledge and the thinking which brings it about are subsidiary to a practical end. The knowledge aimed at is of what is best for man and of the conditions of its realisation. Such knowledge is that which in its consumate form we find in great statesmen, enabling them to organise and administer their states and regulate by law the life of the citizens to their advantage and happiness, but it is the same kind of knowledge which on a smaller scale secures success in the management of the family or of private life.
It is characteristic of such knowledge that it should be deficient in “exactness,” in precision of statement, and closeness of logical concatenation. We must not look for a mathematics of conduct. The subject-matter of Human Conduct is not governed by necessary and uniform laws. But this does not mean that it is subject to no laws. There are general principles at work in it, and these can be formulated in “rules,” which rules can be systematised or unified. It is all-important to remember that practical or moral rules are only general and always admit of exceptions, and that they arise not from the mere complexity of the facts, but from the liability of the facts to a certain unpredictable variation. At their very best, practical rules state probabilities, not certainties; a relative constancy of connection is all that exists, but it is enough to serve as a guide in life. Aristotle here holds the balance between a misleading hope of reducing the subject-matter of conduct to a few simple rigorous abstract principles, with conclusions necessarily issuing from them, and the view that it is the field of operation of inscrutable forces acting without predictable regularity. He does not pretend to find in it absolute uniformities, or to deduce the details from his principles. Hence, too, he insists on the necessity of experience as the source or test of all that he has to say. Moral experience–the actual possession and exercise of good character–is necessary truly to understand moral principles and profitably to apply them. The mere intellectual apprehension of them is not possible, or if possible, profitless.
The _Ethics_ is addressed to students who are presumed both to have enough general education to appreciate these points, and also to have a solid foundation of good habits. More than that is not required for the profitable study of it.
If the discussion of the nature and formation of character be regarded as the central topic of the _Ethics_, the contents of Book I., cc. iv.-xii. may be considered as still belonging to the introduction and setting, but these chapters contain matter of profound importance and have exercised an enormous influence upon subsequent thought. They lay down a principle which governs all Greek thought about human life, viz. that it is only intelligible when viewed as directed towards some end or good. This is the Greek way of expressing that all human life involves an ideal element–something which it is not yet and which under certain conditions it is to be. In that sense Greek Moral Philosophy is essentially idealistic. Further it is always assumed that all human practical activity is directed or “oriented” to a _single_ end, and that that end is knowable or definable in advance of its realisation. To know it is not merely a matter of speculative interest, it is of the highest practical moment for only in the light of it can life be duly guided, and particularly only so can the state be properly organised and administered. This explains the stress laid throughout by Greek Moral Philosophy upon the necessity of knowledge as a condition of the best life. This knowledge is not, though it includes knowledge of the nature of man and his circumstances, it is knowledge of what is best–of man’s supreme end or good.
But this end is not conceived as presented to him by a superior power nor even as something which _ought_ to be. The presentation of the Moral Ideal as Duty is almost absent. From the outset it is identified with the object of desire, of what we not merely judge desirable but actually do desire, or that which would, if realised, satisfy human desire. In fact it is what we all, wise and simple, agree in naming “Happiness” (Welfare or Well-being)
In what then does happiness consist? Aristotle summarily sets aside the more or less popular identifications of it with abundance of physical pleasures, with political power and honour, with the mere possession of such superior gifts or attainments as normally entitle men to these, with wealth. None of these can constitute the end or good of man as such. On the other hand, he rejects his master Plato’s conception of a good which is the end of the whole universe, or at least dismisses it as irrelevant to his present enquiry. The good towards which all human desires and practical activities are directed must be one conformable to man’s special nature and circumstances and attainable by his efforts. There is in Aristotle’s theory of human conduct no trace of Plato’s “other worldliness”, he brings the moral ideal in Bacon’s phrase down to “right earth”–and so closer to the facts and problems of actual human living. Turning from criticism of others he states his own positive view of Happiness, and, though he avowedly states it merely in outline his account is pregnant with significance. Human Happiness lies in activity or energising, and that in a way peculiar to man with his given nature and his given circumstances, it is not theoretical, but practical: it is the activity not of reason but still of a being who possesses reason and applies it, and it presupposes in that being the development, and not merely the natural possession, of certain relevant powers and capacities. The last is the prime condition of successful living and therefore of satisfaction, but Aristotle does not ignore other conditions, such as length of life, wealth and good luck, the absence or diminution of which render happiness not impossible, but difficult of attainment.
It is interesting to compare this account of Happiness with Mill’s in _Utilitarianism_. Mill’s is much the less consistent: at times he distinguishes and at times he identifies, happiness, pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction. He wavers between belief in its general attainability and an absence of hopefulness. He mixes up in an arbitrary way such ingredients as “not expecting more from life than it is capable of bestowing,” “mental cultivation,” “improved laws,” etc., and in fact leaves the whole conception vague, blurred, and uncertain. Aristotle draws the outline with a firmer hand and presents a more definite ideal. He allows for the influence on happiness of conditions only partly, if at all, within the control of man, but he clearly makes the man positive determinant of man’s happiness he in himself, and more particularly in what he makes directly of his own nature, and so indirectly of his circumstances. “‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus” But once more this does not involve an artificial or abstract isolation of the individual moral agent from his relation to other persons or things from his context in society and nature, nor ignore the relative dependence of his life upon a favourable environment.
The main factor which determines success or failure in human life is the acquisition of certain powers, for Happiness is just the exercise or putting forth of these in actual living, everything else is secondary and subordinate. These powers arise from the due development of certain natural aptitudes which belong (in various degrees) to human nature as such and therefore to all normal human beings. In their developed form they are known as virtues (the Greek means simply “goodnesses,” “perfections,” “excellences,” or “fitnesses”), some of them are physical, but others are psychical, and among the latter some, and these distinctively or peculiarly human, are “rational,” _i e_, presuppose the possession and exercise of mind or intelligence. These last fall into two groups, which Aristotle distinguishes as Goodnesses of Intellect and Goodnesses of Character. They have in common that they all excite in us admiration and praise of their possessors, and that they are not natural endowments, but acquired characteristics But they differ in important ways. (1) the former are excellences or developed powers of the reason as such–of that in us which sees and formulates laws, rules, regularities systems, and is content in the vision of them, while the latter involve a submission or obedience to such rules of something in us which is in itself capricious and irregular, but capable of regulation, viz our instincts and feelings, (2) the former are acquired by study and instruction, the latter by discipline. The latter constitute “character,” each of them as a “moral virtue” (literally “a goodness of character”), and upon them primarily depends the realisation of happiness. This is the case at least for the great majority of men, and for all men their possession is an indispensable basis of the best, _i e_, the most desirable life. They form the chief or central subject-matter of the _Ethics_.
Perhaps the truest way of conceiving Aristotle’s meaning here is to regard a moral virtue as a form of obedience to a maxim or rule of conduct accepted by the agent as valid for a class of recurrent situations in human life. Such obedience requires knowledge of the rule and acceptance of it _as the rule_ of the agent’s own actions, but not necessarily knowledge of its ground or of its systematic connexion with other similarly known and similarly accepted rules (It may be remarked that the Greek word usually translated “reason,” means in almost all cases in the _Ethics_ such a rule, and not the faculty which apprehends, formulates, considers them).
The “moral virtues and vices” make up what we call character, and the important questions arise: (1) What is character? and (2) How is it formed? (for character in this sense is not a natural endowment; it is formed or produced). Aristotle deals with these questions in the reverse order. His answers are peculiar and distinctive–not that they are absolutely novel (for they are anticipated in Plato), but that by him they are for the first time distinctly and clearly formulated.
(1.) Character, good or bad, is produced by what Aristotle calls “habituation,” that is, it is the result of the repeated doing of acts which have a similar or common quality. Such repetition acting upon natural aptitudes or propensities gradually fixes them in one or other of two opposite directions, giving them a bias towards good or evil. Hence the several acts which determine goodness or badness of character must be done in a certain way, and thus the formation of good character requires discipline and direction from without. Not that the agent himself contributes nothing to the formation of his character, but that at first he needs guidance. The point is not so much that the process cannot be safely left to Nature, but that it cannot be entrusted to merely intellectual instruction. The process is one of assimilation, largely by imitation and under direction and control. The result is a growing understanding of what is done, a choice of it for its own sake, a fixity and steadiness of purpose. Right acts and feelings become, through habit, easier and more pleasant, and the doing of them a “second nature.” The agent acquires the power of doing them freely, willingly, more and more “of himself.”
But what are “right” acts? In the first place, they are those that conform to a rule–to the right rule, and ultimately to reason. The Greeks never waver from the conviction that in the end moral conduct is essentially reasonable conduct. But there is a more significant way of describing their “rightness,” and here for the first time Aristotle introduces his famous “Doctrine of the Mean.” Reasoning from the analogy of “right” physical acts, he pronounces that rightness always means adaptation or adjustment to the special requirements of a situation. To this adjustment he gives a quantitative interpretation. To do (or to feel) what is right in a given situation is to do or to feel just the amount required–neither more nor less: to do wrong is to do or to feel too much or too little–to fall short of or over-shoot, “a mean” determined by the situation. The repetition of acts which lie in the mean is the cause of the formation of each and every “goodness of character,” and for this “rules” can be given.
(2) What then is a “moral virtue,” the result of such a process duly directed? It is no mere mood of feeling, no mere liability to emotion, no mere natural aptitude or endowment, it is a permanent _state_ of the agent’s self, or, as we might in modern phrase put it, of his will, it consists in a steady self-imposed obedience to a rule of action in certain situations which frequently recur in human life. The rule prescribes the control and regulation within limits of the agent’s natural impulses to act and feel thus and thus. The situations fall into groups which constitute the “fields” of the several “moral virtues”, for each there is a rule, conformity to which secures rightness in the individual acts. Thus the moral ideal appears as a code of rules, accepted by the agent, but as yet _to him_ without rational justification and without system or unity. But the rules prescribe no mechanical uniformity: each within its limits permits variety, and the exactly right amount adopted to the requirements of the individual situation (and every actual situation is individual) must be determined by the intuition of the moment. There is no attempt to reduce the rich possibilities of right action to a single monotonous type. On the contrary, there are acknowledged to be many forms of moral virtue, and there is a long list of them, with their correlative vices enumerated.
The Doctrine of the Mean here takes a form in which it has impressed subsequent thinkers, but which has less importance than is usually ascribed to it. In the “Table of the Virtues and Vices,” each of the virtues is flanked by two opposite vices, which are respectively the excess and defect of that which in due measure constitutes the virtue. Aristotle tries to show that this is the case in regard to every virtue named and recognised as such, but his treatment is often forced and the endeavour is not very successful. Except as a convenient principle of arrangement of the various forms of praiseworthy or blameworthy characters, generally acknowledged as such by Greek opinion, this form of the doctrine is of no great significance.
Books III-V are occupied with a survey of the moral virtues and vices. These seem to have been undertaken in order to verify in detail the general account, but this aim is not kept steadily in view. Nor is there any well-considered principle of classification. What we find is a sort of portrait-gallery of the various types of moral excellence which the Greeks of the author’s age admired and strove to encourage. The discussion is full of acute, interesting and sometimes profound observations. Some of the types are those which are and will be admired at all times, but others are connected with peculiar features of Greek life which have now passed away. The most important is that of Justice or the Just Man, to which we may later return. But the discussion is preceded by an attempt to elucidate some difficult and obscure points in the general account of moral virtue and action (Book III, cc i-v). This section is concerned with the notion of Responsibility. The discussion designedly excludes what we may call the metaphysical issues of the problem, which here present themselves, it moves on the level of thought of the practical man, the statesman, and the legislator. Coercion and ignorance of relevant circumstances render acts involuntary and exempt their doer from responsibility, otherwise the act is voluntary and the agent responsible, choice or preference of what is done, and inner consent to the deed, are to be presumed. Neither passion nor ignorance of the right rule can extenuate responsibility. But there is a difference between acts done voluntarily and acts done of _set_ choice or purpose. The latter imply Deliberation. Deliberation involves thinking, thinking out means to ends: in deliberate acts the whole nature of the agent consents to and enters into the act, and in a peculiar sense they are his, they _are_ him in action, and the most significant evidence of what he is. Aristotle is unable wholly to avoid allusion to the metaphysical difficulties and what he does here say upon them is obscure and unsatisfactory. But he insists upon the importance in moral action of the agent’s inner consent, and on the reality of his individual responsibility. For his present purpose the metaphysical difficulties are irrelevant.
The treatment of Justice in Book V has always been a source of great difficulty to students of the _Ethics_. Almost more than any other part of the work it has exercised influence upon mediaeval and modern thought upon the subject. The distinctions and divisions have become part of the stock-in-trade of would be philosophic jurists. And yet, oddly enough, most of these distinctions have been misunderstood and the whole purport of the discussion misconceived. Aristotle is here dealing with justice in a restricted sense viz as that special goodness of character which is required of every adult citizen and which can be produced by early discipline or habituation. It is the temper or habitual attitude demanded of the citizen for the due exercise of his functions as taking part in the administration of the civic community–as a member of the judicature and executive. The Greek citizen was only exceptionally, and at rare intervals if ever, a law-maker while at any moment he might be called upon to act as a judge (juryman or arbitrator) or as an administrator. For the work of a legislator far more than the moral virtue of justice or fairmindedness was necessary, these were requisite to the rarer and higher “intellectual virtue” of practical wisdom. Then here, too, the discussion moves on a low level, and the raising of fundamental problems is excluded. Hence “distributive justice” is concerned not with the large question of the distribution of political power and privileges among the constituent members or classes of the state but with the smaller questions of the distribution among those of casual gains and even with the division among private claimants of a common fund or inheritance, while “corrective justice” is concerned solely with the management of legal redress. The whole treatment is confused by the unhappy attempt to give a precise mathematical form to the principles of justice in the various fields distinguished. Still it remains an interesting first endeavour to give greater exactness to some of the leading conceptions of jurisprudence.
Book VI appears to have in view two aims: (1) to describe goodness of intellect and discover its highest form or forms; (2) to show how this is related to goodness of character, and so to conduct generally. As all thinking is either theoretical or practical, goodness of intellect has _two_ supreme forms–Theoretical and Practical Wisdom. The first, which apprehends the eternal laws of the universe, has no direct relation to human conduct: the second is identical with that master science of human life of which the whole treatise, consisting of the _Ethics_ and the _Politics_, is an exposition. It is this science which supplies the right rules of conduct Taking them as they emerge in and from practical experience, it formulates them more precisely and organises them into a system where they are all seen to converge upon happiness. The mode in which such knowledge manifests itself is in the power to show that such and such rules of action follow from the very nature of the end or good for man. It presupposes and starts from a clear conception of the end and the wish for it as conceived, and it proceeds by a deduction which is dehberation writ large. In the man of practical wisdom this process has reached its perfect result, and the code of right rules is apprehended as a system with a single principle and so as something wholly rational or reasonable He has not on each occasion to seek and find the right rule applicable to the situation, he produces it at once from within himself, and can at need justify it by exhibiting its rationale, _i.e._ , its connection with the end. This is the consummate form of reason applied to conduct, but there are minor forms of it, less independent or original, but nevertheless of great value, such as the power to think out the proper cause of policy in novel circumstances or the power to see the proper line of treatment to follow in a court of law.
The form of the thinking which enters into conduct is that which terminates in the production of a rule which declares some means to the end of life. The process presupposes _(a)_ a clear and just apprehension of the nature of that end–such as the _Ethics_ itself endeavours to supply; _(b)_ a correct perception of the conditions of action, _(a)_ at least is impossible except to a man whose character has been duly formed by discipline; it arises only in a man who has acquired moral virtue. For such action and feeling as forms bad character, blinds the eye of the soul and corrupts the moral principle, and the place of practical wisdom is taken by that parody of itself which Aristotle calls “cleverness”–the “wisdom” of the unscrupulous man of the world. Thus true practical wisdom and true goodness of character are interdependent; neither is genuinely possible or “completely” present without the other. This is Aristotle’s contribution to the discussion of the question, so central in Greek Moral Philosophy, of the relation of the intellectual and the passionate factors in conduct.
Aristotle is not an intuitionist, but he recognises the implication in conduct of a direct and immediate apprehension both of the end and of the character of his circumstances under which it is from moment to moment realised. The directness of such apprehension makes it analogous to sensation or sense-perception; but it is on his view in the end due to the existence or activity in man of that power in him which is the highest thing in his nature, and akin to or identical with the divine nature–mind, or intelligence. It is this which reveals to us what is best for us–the ideal of a happiness which is the object of our real wish and the goal of all our efforts. But beyond and above the practical ideal of what is best _for man_ begins to show itself another and still higher ideal–that of a life not distinctively human or in a narrow sense practical, yet capable of being participated in by man even under the actual circumstances of this world. For a time, however, this further and higher ideal is ignored.
The next book (Book VII.), is concerned partly with moral conditions, in which the agent seems to rise above the level of moral virtue or fall below that of moral vice, but partly and more largely with conditions in which the agent occupies a middle position between the two. Aristotle’s attention is here directed chiefly towards the phenomena of “Incontinence,” weakness of will or imperfect self-control. This condition was to the Greeks a matter of only too frequent experience, but it appeared to them peculiarly difficult to understand. How can a man know what is good or best for him, and yet chronically fail to act upon his knowledge? Socrates was driven to the paradox of denying the possibility, but the facts are too strong for him. Knowledge of the right rule may be present, nay the rightfulness of its authority may be acknowledged, and yet time after time it may be disobeyed; the will may be good and yet overmastered by the force of desire, so that the act done is contrary to the agent’s will. Nevertheless the act may be the agent’s, and the will therefore divided against itself. Aristotle is aware of the seriousness and difficulty of the problem, but in spite of the vividness with which he pictures, and the acuteness with which he analyses, the situation in which such action occurs, it cannot be said that he solves the problem. It is time that he rises above the abstract view of it as a conflict between reason and passion, recognising that passion is involved in the knowledge which in conduct prevails or is overborne, and that the force which leads to the wrong act is not blind or ignorant passion, but always has some reason in it. But he tends to lapse back into the abstraction, and his final account is perplexed and obscure. He finds the source of the phenomenon in the nature of the desire for bodily pleasures, which is not irrational but has something rational in it. Such pleasures are not necessarily or inherently bad, as has sometimes been maintained; on the contrary, they are good, but only in certain amounts or under certain conditions, so that the will is often misled, hesitates, and is lost.
Books VIII. and IX. (on Friendship) are almost an interruption of the argument. The subject-matter of them was a favourite topic of ancient writers, and the treatment is smoother and more orderly than elsewhere in the _Ethics_. The argument is clear, and may be left without comment to the readers. These books contain a necessary and attractive complement to the somewhat dry account of Greek morality in the preceding books, and there are in them profound reflections on what may be called the metaphysics of friendship or love.
At the beginning of Book X. we return to the topic of Pleasure, which is now regarded from a different point of view. In Book VII. the antagonists were those who over-emphasised the irrationality or badness of Pleasure: here it is rather those who so exaggerate its value as to confuse or identify it with the good or Happiness. But there is offered us in this section much more than criticism of the errors of others. Answers are given both to the psychological question, “What is Pleasure?” and to the ethical question, “What is its value?” Pleasure, we are told, is the natural concomitant and index of perfect activity, distinguishable but inseparable from it–“the activity of a subject at its best acting upon an object at its best.” It is therefore always and in itself a good, but its value rises and falls with that of the activity with which it is conjoined, and which it intensifies and perfects. Hence it follows that the highest and best pleasures are those which accompany the highest and best activity.
Pleasure is, therefore, a necessary element in the best life, but it is not the whole of it nor the principal ingredient. The value of a life depends upon the nature and worth of the activity which it involves; given the maximum of full free action, the maximum of pleasure necessary follows. But on what sort of life is such activity possible? This leads us back to the question, What is happiness? In what life can man find the fullest satisfaction for his desires? To this question Aristotle gives an answer which cannot but surprise us after what has preceded. True Happiness, great satisfaction, cannot be found by man in any form of “practical” life, no, not in the fullest and freest exercise possible of the “moral virtues,” not in the life of the citizen or of the great soldier or statesman. To seek it there is to court failure and disappointment. It is to be found in the life of the onlooker, the disinterested spectator; or, to put it more distinctly, “in the life of the philosopher, the life of scientific and philosophic contemplation.” The highest and most satisfying form of life possible to man is “the contemplative life”; it is only in a secondary sense and for those incapable of their life, that the practical or moral ideal is the best. It is time that such a life is not distinctively human, but it is the privilege of man to partake in it, and such participation, at however rare intervals and for however short a period, is the highest Happiness which human life can offer. All other activities have value only because and in so far as they render _this_ life possible.
But it must not be forgotten that Aristotle conceives of this life as one of intense activity or energising: it is just this which gives it its supremacy. In spite of the almost religious fervour with which he speaks of it (“the most orthodox of his disciples” paraphrases his meaning by describing its content as “the service and vision of God”), it is clear that he identified it with the life of the philosopher, as he understood it, a life of ceaseless intellectual activity in which at least at times all the distractions and disturbances inseparable from practical life seemed to disappear and become as nothing. This ideal was partly an inheritance from the more ardent idealism of his master Plato, but partly it was the expression of personal experience.
The nobility of this ideal cannot be questioned; the conception of the end of man or a life lived for truth–of a life blissfully absorbed in the vision of truth–is a lofty and inspiring one. But we cannot resist certain criticisms upon its presentation by Aristotle: (1) the relation of it to the lower ideal of practice is left somewhat obscure; (2) it is described in such a way as renders its realisation possible only to a gifted few, and under exceptional circumstances; (3) it seems in various ways, as regards its content, to be unnecessarily and unjustifiably limited. But it must be borne in mind that this is a first endeavour to determine its principle, and that similar failures have attended the attempts to describe the “religious” or the “spiritual” ideals of life, which have continually been suggested by the apparently inherent limitations of the “practical” or “moral” life, which is the subject of Moral Philosophy.
The Moral Ideal to those who have most deeply reflected on it leads to the thought of an Ideal beyond and above it, which alone gives it meaning, but which seems to escape from definite conception by man. The richness and variety of this Ideal ceaselessly invite, but as ceaselessly defy, our attempts to imprison it in a definite formula or portray it in detailed imagination. Yet the thought of it is and remains inexpungable from our minds.
This conception of the best life is not forgotten in the _Politics_ The end of life in the state is itself well-living and well-doing–a life which helps to produce the best life The great agency in the production of such life is the State operating through Law, which is Reason backed by Force. For its greatest efficiency there is required the development of a science of legislation. The main drift of what he says here is that the most desirable thing would be that the best reason of the community should be embodied in its laws. But so far as that is not possible, it still is true that anyone who would make himself and others better must become a miniature legislator–must study the general principles of law, morality, and education. The conception of [Grek: politikae] with which he opened the _Ethics_ would serve as a guide to a father educating his children as well as to the legislator legislating for the state. Finding in his predecessors no developed doctrine on this subject, Aristotle proposes himself to undertake the construction of it, and sketches in advance the programme of the _Politics_ in the concluding sentence of the _Ethics_ His ultimate object is to answer the questions, What is the best form of Polity, how should each be constituted, and what laws and customs should it adopt and employ? Not till this answer is given will “the philosophy of human affairs” be complete.
On looking back it will be seen that the discussion of the central topic of the nature and formation of character has expanded into a Philosophy of Human Conduct, merging at its beginning and end into metaphysics The result is a Moral Philosophy set against a background of Political Theory and general Philosophy. The most characteristic features of this Moral Philosophy are due to the fact of its essentially teleological view of human life and action: (1) Every human activity, but especially every human practical activity, is directed towards a simple End discoverable by reflection, and this End is conceived of as the object of universal human desire, as something to be enjoyed, not as something which ought to be done or enacted. Anstotle’s Moral Philosophy is not hedonistic but it is eudaemomstic, the end is the enjoyment of Happiness, not the fulfilment of Duty. (2) Every human practical activity derives its value from its efficiency as a means to that end, it is good or bad, right or wrong, as it conduces or fails to conduce to Happiness Thus his Moral Philosophy is essentially utilitarian or prudential Right action presupposes Thought or Thinking, partly on the development of a clearer and distincter conception of the end of desire, partly as the deduction from that of rules which state the normally effective conditions of its realisation. The thinking involved in right conduct is calculation–calculation of means to an end fixed by nature and foreknowable Action itself is at its best just the realisation of a scheme preconceived and thought out beforehand, commending itself by its inherent attractiveness or promise of enjoyment.
This view has the great advantage of exhibiting morality as essentially reasonable, but the accompanying disadvantage of lowering it into a somewhat prosaic and unideal Prudentialism, nor is it saved from this by the tacking on to it, by a sort of after-thought, of the second and higher Ideal–an addition which ruins the coherence of the account without really transmuting its substance The source of our dissatisfaction with the whole theory lies deeper than in its tendency to identify the end with the maximum of enjoyment or satisfaction, or to regard the goodness or badness of acts and feelings as lying solely in their efficacy to produce such a result It arises from the application to morality of the distinction of means and end For this distinction, for all its plausibility and usefulness in ordinary thought and speech, cannot finally be maintained In morality–and this is vital to its character–everything is both means and end, and so neither in distinction or separation, and all thinking about it which presupposes the finality of this distinction wanders into misconception and error. The thinking which really matters in conduct is not a thinking which imaginatively forecasts ideals which promise to fulfil desire, or calculates means to their attainment–that is sometimes useful, sometimes harmful, and always subordinate, but thinking which reveals to the agent the situation in which he is to act, both, that is, the universal situation on which as man he always and everywhere stands, and the ever-varying and ever-novel situation in which he as this individual, here and now, finds himself. In such knowledge of given or historic fact lie the natural determinants of his conduct, in such knowledge alone lies the condition of his freedom and his good.
But this does not mean that Moral Philosophy has not still much to learn from Aristotle’s _Ethics_. The work still remains one of the best introductions to a study of its important subject-matter, it spreads before us a view of the relevant facts, it reduces them to manageable compass and order, it raises some of the central problems, and makes acute and valuable suggestions towards their solution. Above all, it perpetually incites to renewed and independent reflection upon them.
J. A. SMITH
The following is a list of the works of Aristotle:–
First edition of works (with omission of Rhetorica, Poetica, and second book of Economica), 5 vols by Aldus Manutius, Venice, 1495 8, re impression supervised by Erasmus and with certain corrections by Grynaeus (including Rhetorica and Poetica), 1531, 1539, revised 1550, later editions were followed by that of Immanuel Bekker and Brandis (Greek and Latin), 5 vols. The 5th vol contains the Index by Bomtz, 1831-70, Didot edition (Greek and Latin), 5 vols 1848 74
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS Edited by T Taylor, with Porphyry’s Introduction, 9 vols, 1812, under editorship of J A Smith and W D Ross, II vols, 1908-31, Loeb editions Ethica, Rhetorica, Poetica, Physica, Politica, Metaphysica, 1926-33
Later editions of separate works
_De Anima_ Torstrik, 1862, Trendelenburg, 2nd edition, 1877, with English translation, L Wallace, 1882, Biehl, 1884, 1896, with English, R D Hicks, 1907
_Ethica_ J S Brewer (Nicomachean), 1836, W E Jelf, 1856, J F T Rogers, 1865, A Grant, 1857 8, 1866, 1874, 1885, E Moore, 1871, 1878, 4th edition, 1890, Ramsauer (Nicomachean), 1878, Susemihl, 1878, 1880, revised by O Apelt, 1903, A Grant, 1885, I Bywater (Nicomachean), 1890, J Burnet, 1900
_Historia Animalium_ Schneider, 1812, Aubert and Wimmer, 1860; Dittmeyer, 1907
_Metaphysica_ Schwegler, 1848, W Christ, 1899
_Organon_ Waitz, 1844 6
_Poetica_ Vahlen, 1867, 1874, with Notes by E Moore, 1875, with English translation by E R Wharton, 1883, 1885, Uberweg, 1870, 1875, with German translation, Susemihl, 1874, Schmidt, 1875, Christ, 1878, I Bywater, 1898, T G Tucker, 1899
_De Republica Athenientium_ Text and facsimile of Papyrus, F G Kenyon, 1891, 3rd edition, 1892, Kaibel and Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, 1891, 3rd edition, 1898, Van Herwerden and Leeuwen (from Kenyon’s text), 1891, Blass, 1892, 1895, 1898, 1903, J E Sandys, 1893
_Politica_ Susemihl, 1872, with German, 1878, 3rd edition, 1882, Susemihl and Hicks, 1894, etc, O Immisch, 1909
_Physica_ C Prantl, 1879
_Rhetorica_ Stahr, 1862, Sprengel (with Latin text), 1867, Cope and Sandys, 1877, Roemer, 1885, 1898
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF ONE OR MORE WORKS De Anima (with Parva Naturalia), by W A Hammond, 1902 Ethica Of Morals to Nicomachus, by E Pargiter, 1745, with Politica by J Gillies, 1797, 1804, 1813, with Rhetorica and Poetica, by T Taylor, 1818, and later editions Nicomachean Ethics, 1819, mainly from text of Bekker by D P Chase, 1847, revised 1861, and later editions, with an introductory essay by G H Lewes (Camelot Classics) 1890, re-edited by J M Mitchell (New Universal Library), 1906, 1910, by R W Browne (Bohn’s Classical Library), 1848, etc, by R Williams, 1869, 1876, by W M Hatch and others (with translation of paraphrase attributed to Andronicus of Rhodes), edited by E Hatch, 1879 by F H Peters, 1881, J E C Welldon, 1892, J Gillies (Lubbock’s Hundred Books) 1893 Historia Animalium, by R Creswell (Bonn’s Classical Library) 1848, with Treatise on Physiognomy, by T Taylor, 1809 Metaphysica, by T Taylor, 1801, by J H M Mahon (Bohn’s Classical Library), 1848 Organon, with Porphyry’s Introduction, by O F Owen (Bohn’s Classical Library), 1848 Posterior Analytics, E Poste, 1850, E S Bourchier, 1901, On Fallacies, E Poste, 1866 Parva Naturaha (Greek and English), by G R T Ross, 1906, with De Anima, by W A Hammond, 1902 Youth and Old Age, Life and Death and Respiration, W Ogle 1897 Poetica, with Notes from the French of D Acier, 1705, by H J Pye, 1788, 1792, T Twining, 1789, 1812, with Preface and Notes by H Hamilton, 1851, Treatise on Rhetorica and Poetica, by T Hobbes (Bohn’s Classical Library), 1850, by Wharton, 1883 (see Greek version), S H Butcher, 1895, 1898, 3rd edition, 1902, E S Bourchier, 1907, by Ingram Bywater, 1909 De Partibus Animalium, W Ogle, 1882 De Republica Athenientium, by E Poste, 1891, F G Kenyon, 1891, T J Dymes, 1891 De Virtutibus et Vitus, by W Bridgman, 1804 Politica, from the French of Regius, 1598, by W Ellis, 1776, 1778, 1888 (Morley’s Universal Library), 1893 (Lubbock’s Hundred Books) by E Walford (with AEconomics, and Life by Dr Gillies), (Bohn’s Classical Library), 1848, J E. C. Welldon, 1883, B Jowett, 1885, with Introduction and Index by H W C Davis, 1905, Books i iii iv (vii) from Bekker’s text by W E Bolland, with Introduction by A Lang, 1877. Problemata (with writings of other philosophers), 1597, 1607, 1680, 1684, etc. Rhetorica, A summary by T Hobbes, 1655 (?), new edition, 1759, by the translators of the Art of Thinking, 1686, 1816, by D M Crimmin, 1812, J Gillies, 1823, Anon 1847, J E C Welldon, 1886, R C Jebb, with Introduction and Supplementary Notes by J E Sandys, 1909 (see under Poetica and Ethica). Secreta Secretorum (supposititious work), Anon 1702, from the Hebrew version by M Gaster, 1907, 1908. Version by Lydgate and Burgh, edited by R Steele (E E T S), 1894, 1898.
LIFE, ETC J W Blakesley, 1839, A Crichton (Jardine’s Naturalist’s Library), 1843, JS Blackie, Four Phases of Morals, Socrates, Aristotle, etc, 1871, G Grote, Aristotle, edited by A Bain and G C Robertson, 1872, 1880, E Wallace, Outlines of the Philosophy of Aristotle, 1875, 1880, A Grant (Ancient Classics for English readers), 1877, T Davidson, Aristotle and Ancient Educational Ideals (Great Educators), 1892, F Sewall, Swedenborg and Aristotle, 1895, W A Heidel, The Necessary and the Contingent of the Aristotelian System (University of Chicago Contributions to Philosophy), 1896, F W Bain, On the Realisation of the Possible, and the Spirit of Aristotle, 1899, J H Hyslop, The Ethics of the Greek Philosophers, etc (Evolution of Ethics), 1903, M V Williams, Six Essays on the Platonic Theory of Knowledge as expounded in the later dialogues and reviewed by Aristotle, 1908, J M Watson, Aristotle’s Criticism of Plato, 1909 A E Taylor, Aristotle, 1919, W D Ross, Aristotle, 1923.
Every art, and every science reduced to a teachable form, and in like manner every action and moral choice, aims, it is thought, at some good: for which reason a common and by no means a bad description of the Chief Good is, “that which all things aim at.”
Now there plainly is a difference in the Ends proposed: for in some cases they are acts of working, and in others certain works or tangible results beyond and beside the acts of working: and where there are certain Ends beyond and beside the actions, the works are in their nature better than the acts of working. Again, since actions and arts and sciences are many, the Ends likewise come to be many: of the healing art, for instance, health; of the ship-building art, a vessel; of the military art, victory; and of domestic management, wealth; are respectively the Ends.
And whatever of such actions, arts, or sciences range under some one faculty (as under that of horsemanship the art of making bridles, and all that are connected with the manufacture of horse-furniture in general; this itself again, and every action connected with war, under the military art; and in the same way others under others), in all such, the Ends of the master-arts are more choice-worthy than those ranging under them, because it is with a view to the former that the latter are pursued.
(And in this comparison it makes no difference whether the acts of working are themselves the Ends of the actions, or something further beside them, as is the case in the arts and sciences we have been just speaking of.)
[Sidenote: II] Since then of all things which may be done there is some one End which we desire for its own sake, and with a view to which we desire everything else; and since we do not choose in all instances with a further End in view (for then men would go on without limit, and so the desire would be unsatisfied and fruitless), this plainly must be the Chief Good, _i.e._ the best thing of all.
Surely then, even with reference to actual life and conduct, the knowledge of it must have great weight; and like archers, with a mark in view, we shall be more likely to hit upon what is right: and if so, we ought to try to describe, in outline at least, what it is and of which of the sciences and faculties it is the End.
[Sidenote: 1094b] Now one would naturally suppose it to be the End of that which is most commanding and most inclusive: and to this description, [Greek: _politikae_] plainly answers: for this it is that determines which of the sciences should be in the communities, and which kind individuals are to learn, and what degree of proficiency is to be required. Again; we see also ranging under this the most highly esteemed faculties, such as the art military, and that of domestic management, and Rhetoric. Well then, since this uses all the other practical sciences, and moreover lays down rules as to what men are to do, and from what to abstain, the End of this must include the Ends of the rest, and so must be _The Good_ of Man. And grant that this is the same to the individual and to the community, yet surely that of the latter is plainly greater and more perfect to discover and preserve: for to do this even for a single individual were a matter for contentment; but to do it for a whole nation, and for communities generally, were more noble and godlike.
[Sidenote: III] Such then are the objects proposed by our treatise, which is of the nature of [Greek: _politikae_]: and I conceive I shall have spoken on them satisfactorily, if they be made as distinctly clear as the nature of the subject-matter will admit: for exactness must not be looked for in all discussions alike, any more than in all works of handicraft. Now the notions of nobleness and justice, with the examination of which _politikea_ is concerned, admit of variation and error to such a degree, that they are supposed by some to exist conventionally only, and not in the nature of things: but then, again, the things which are allowed to be goods admit of a similar error, because harm cornes to many from them: for before now some have perished through wealth, and others through valour.
We must be content then, in speaking of such things and from such data, to set forth the truth roughly and in outline; in other words, since we are speaking of general matter and from general data, to draw also conclusions merely general. And in the same spirit should each person receive what we say: for the man of education will seek exactness so far in each subject as the nature of the thing admits, it being plainly much the same absurdity to put up with a mathematician who tries to persuade instead of proving, and to demand strict demonstrative reasoning of a Rhetorician.
[Sidenote: 1095a] Now each man judges well what he knows, and of these things he is a good judge: on each particular matter then he is a good judge who has been instructed in _it_, and in a general way the man of general mental cultivation.
Hence the young man is not a fit student of Moral Philosophy, for he has no experience in the actions of life, while all that is said presupposes and is concerned with these: and in the next place, since he is apt to follow the impulses of his passions, he will hear as though he heard not, and to no profit, the end in view being practice and not mere knowledge.
And I draw no distinction between young in years, and youthful in temper and disposition: the defect to which I allude being no direct result of the time, but of living at the beck and call of passion, and following each object as it rises. For to them that are such the knowledge comes to be unprofitable, as to those of imperfect self-control: but, to those who form their desires and act in accordance with reason, to have knowledge on these points must be very profitable.
Let thus much suffice by way of preface on these three points, the student, the spirit in which our observations should be received, and the object which we propose.
[Sidenote: IV] And now, resuming the statement with which we commenced, since all knowledge and moral choice grasps at good of some kind or another, what good is that which we say [Greek: _politikai_] aims at? or, in other words, what is the highest of all the goods which are the objects of action?
So far as name goes, there is a pretty general agreement: for HAPPINESS both the multitude and the refined few call it, and “living well” and “doing well” they conceive to be the same with “being happy;” but about the Nature of this Happiness, men dispute, and the multitude do not in their account of it agree with the wise. For some say it is some one of those things which are palpable and apparent, as pleasure or wealth or honour; in fact, some one thing, some another; nay, oftentimes the same man gives a different account of it; for when ill, he calls it health; when poor, wealth: and conscious of their own ignorance, men admire those who talk grandly and above their comprehension. Some again held it to be something by itself, other than and beside these many good things, which is in fact to all these the cause of their being good.
Now to sift all the opinions would be perhaps rather a fruitless task; so it shall suffice to sift those which are most generally current, or are thought to have some reason in them.
[Sidenote: 1095b] And here we must not forget the difference between reasoning from principles, and reasoning to principles: for with good cause did Plato too doubt about this, and inquire whether the right road is from principles or to principles, just as in the racecourse from the judges to the further end, or _vice versa_.
Of course, we must begin with what is known; but then this is of two kinds, what we _do_ know, and what we _may_ know: perhaps then as individuals we must begin with what we _do_ know. Hence the necessity that he should have been well trained in habits, who is to study, with any tolerable chance of profit, the principles of nobleness and justice and moral philosophy generally. For a principle is a matter of fact, and if the fact is sufficiently clear to a man there will be no need in addition of the reason for the fact. And he that has been thus trained either has principles already, or can receive them easily: as for him who neither has nor can receive them, let him hear his sentence from Hesiod:
He is best of all who of himself conceiveth all things; Good again is he too who can adopt a good suggestion; But whoso neither of himself conceiveth nor hearing from another
Layeth it to heart;–he is a useless man.
[Sidenote: V] But to return from this digression.
Now of the Chief Good (_i.e._ of Happiness) men seem to form their notions from the different modes of life, as we might naturally expect: the many and most low conceive it to be pleasure, and hence they are content with the life of sensual enjoyment. For there are three lines of life which stand out prominently to view: that just mentioned, and the life in society, and, thirdly, the life of contemplation.
Now the many are plainly quite slavish, choosing a life like that of brute animals: yet they obtain some consideration, because many of the great share the tastes of Sardanapalus. The refined and active again conceive it to be honour: for this may be said to be the end of the life in society: yet it is plainly too superficial for the object of our search, because it is thought to rest with those who pay rather than with him who receives it, whereas the Chief Good we feel instinctively must be something which is our own, and not easily to be taken from us.
And besides, men seem to pursue honour, that they may *[Sidenote: 1096a] believe themselves to be good: for instance, they seek to be honoured by the wise, and by those among whom they are known, and for virtue: clearly then, in the opinion at least of these men, virtue is higher than honour. In truth, one would be much more inclined to think this to be the end of the life in society; yet this itself is plainly not sufficiently final: for it is conceived possible, that a man possessed of virtue might sleep or be inactive all through his life, or, as a third case, suffer the greatest evils and misfortunes: and the man who should live thus no one would call happy, except for mere disputation’s sake.
And for these let thus much suffice, for they have been treated of at sufficient length in my Encyclia.
A third line of life is that of contemplation, concerning which we shall make our examination in the sequel.
As for the life of money-making, it is one of constraint, and wealth manifestly is not the good we are seeking, because it is for use, that is, for the sake of something further: and hence one would rather conceive the forementioned ends to be the right ones, for men rest content with them for their own sakes. Yet, clearly, they are not the objects of our search either, though many words have been wasted on them. So much then for these.
[Sidenote: VI] Again, the notion of one Universal Good (the same, that is, in all things), it is better perhaps we should examine, and discuss the meaning of it, though such an inquiry is unpleasant, because they are friends of ours who have introduced these [Greek: _eidae_]. Still perhaps it may appear better, nay to be our duty where the safety of the truth is concerned, to upset if need be even our own theories, specially as we are lovers of wisdom: for since both are dear to us, we are bound to prefer the truth. Now they who invented this doctrine of [Greek: _eidae_], did not apply it to those things in which they spoke of priority and posteriority, and so they never made any [Greek: _idea_] of numbers; but good is predicated in the categories of Substance, Quality, and Relation; now that which exists of itself, _i.e._ Substance, is prior in the nature of things to that which is relative, because this latter is an off-shoot, as it were, and result of that which is; on their own principle then there cannot be a common [Greek: _idea_] in the case of these.
In the next place, since good is predicated in as many ways as there are modes of existence [for it is predicated in the category of Substance, as God, Intellect–and in that of Quality, as The Virtues–and in that of Quantity, as The Mean–and in that of Relation, as The Useful–and in that of Time, as Opportunity–and in that of Place, as Abode; and other such like things], it manifestly cannot be something common and universal and one in all: else it would not have been predicated in all the categories, but in one only.
[Sidenote: 1096b] Thirdly, since those things which range under one [Greek: _idea_] are also under the cognisance of one science, there would have been, on their theory, only one science taking cognisance of all goods collectively: but in fact there are many even for those which range under one category: for instance, of Opportunity or Seasonableness (which I have before mentioned as being in the category of Time), the science is, in war, generalship; in disease, medical science; and of the Mean (which I quoted before as being in the category of Quantity), in food, the medical science; and in labour or exercise, the gymnastic science. A person might fairly doubt also what in the world they mean by very-this that or the other, since, as they would themselves allow, the account of the humanity is one and the same in the very-Man, and in any individual Man: for so far as the individual and the very-Man are both Man, they will not differ at all: and if so, then very-good and any particular good will not differ, in so far as both are good. Nor will it do to say, that the eternity of the very-good makes it to be more good; for what has lasted white ever so long, is no whiter than what lasts but for a day.
No. The Pythagoreans do seem to give a more credible account of the matter, who place “One” among the goods in their double list of goods and bads: which philosophers, in fact, Speusippus seems to have followed.
But of these matters let us speak at some other time. Now there is plainly a loophole to object to what has been advanced, on the plea that the theory I have attacked is not by its advocates applied to all good: but those goods only are spoken of as being under one [Greek: idea], which are pursued, and with which men rest content simply for their own sakes: whereas those things which have a tendency to produce or preserve them in any way, or to hinder their contraries, are called good because of these other goods, and after another fashion. It is manifest then that the goods may be so called in two senses, the one class for their own sakes, the other because of these.
Very well then, let us separate the independent goods from the instrumental, and see whether they are spoken of as under one [Greek: idea]. But the question next arises, what kind of goods are we to call independent? All such as are pursued even when separated from other goods, as, for instance, being wise, seeing, and certain pleasures and honours (for these, though we do pursue them with some further end in view, one would still place among the independent goods)? or does it come in fact to this, that we can call nothing independent good except the [Greek: idea], and so the concrete of it will be nought?
If, on the other hand, these are independent goods, then we shall require that the account of the goodness be the same clearly in all, just as that of the whiteness is in snow and white lead. But how stands the fact? Why of honour and wisdom and pleasure the accounts are distinct and different in so far as they are good. The Chief Good then is not something common, and after one [Greek: idea].
But then, how does the name come to be common (for it is not seemingly a case of fortuitous equivocation)? Are different individual things called good by virtue of being from one source, or all conducing to one end, or rather by way of analogy, for that intellect is to the soul as sight to the body, and so on? However, perhaps we ought to leave these questions now, for an accurate investigation of them is more properly the business of a different philosophy. And likewise respecting the [Greek: idea]: for even if there is some one good predicated in common of all things that are good, or separable and capable of existing independently, manifestly it cannot be the object of human action or attainable by Man; but we are in search now of something that is so.
It may readily occur to any one, that it would be better to attain a knowledge of it with a view to such concrete goods as are attainable and practical, because, with this as a kind of model in our hands, we shall the better know what things are good for us individually, and when we know them, we shall attain them.
Some plausibility, it is true, this argument possesses, but it is contradicted by the facts of the Arts and Sciences; for all these, though aiming at some good, and seeking that which is deficient, yet pretermit the knowledge of it: now it is not exactly probable that all artisans without exception should be ignorant of so great a help as this would be, and not even look after it; neither is it easy to see wherein a weaver or a carpenter will be profited in respect of his craft by knowing the very-good, or how a man will be the more apt to effect cures or to command an army for having seen the [Greek: idea] itself. For manifestly it is not health after this general and abstract fashion which is the subject of the physician’s investigation, but the health of Man, or rather perhaps of this or that man; for he has to heal individuals.–Thus much on these points.
And now let us revert to the Good of which we are in search: what can it be? for manifestly it is different in different actions and arts: for it is different in the healing art and in the art military, and similarly in the rest. What then is the Chief Good in each? Is it not “that for the sake of which the other things are done?” and this in the healing art is health, and in the art military victory, and in that of house-building a house, and in any other thing something else; in short, in every action and moral choice the End, because in all cases men do everything else with a view to this. So that if there is some one End of all things which are and may be done, this must be the Good proposed by doing, or if more than one, then these.
Thus our discussion after some traversing about has come to the same point which we reached before. And this we must try yet more to clear up.
Now since the ends are plainly many, and of these we choose some with a view to others (wealth, for instance, musical instruments, and, in general, all instruments), it is clear that all are not final: but the Chief Good is manifestly something final; and so, if there is some one only which is final, this must be the object of our search: but if several, then the most final of them will be it.
Now that which is an object of pursuit in itself we call more final than that which is so with a view to something else; that again which is never an object of choice with a view to something else than those which are so both in themselves and with a view to this ulterior object: and so by the term “absolutely final,” we denote that which is an object of choice always in itself, and never with a view to any other.
And of this nature Happiness is mostly thought to be, for this we choose always for its own sake, and never with a view to anything further: whereas honour, pleasure, intellect, in fact every excellence we choose for their own sakes, it is true (because we would choose each of these even if no result were to follow), but we choose them also with a view to happiness, conceiving that through their instrumentality we shall be happy: but no man chooses happiness with a view to them, nor in fact with a view to any other thing whatsoever.
The same result is seen to follow also from the notion of self-sufficiency, a quality thought to belong to the final good. Now by sufficient for Self, we mean not for a single individual living a solitary life, but for his parents also and children and wife, and, in general, friends and countrymen; for man is by nature adapted to a social existence. But of these, of course, some limit must be fixed: for if one extends it to parents and descendants and friends’ friends, there is no end to it. This point, however, must be left for future investigation: for the present we define that to be self-sufficient “which taken alone makes life choice-worthy, and to be in want of nothing;” now of such kind we think Happiness to be: and further, to be most choice-worthy of all things; not being reckoned with any other thing, for if it were so reckoned, it is plain we must then allow it, with the addition of ever so small a good, to be more choice-worthy than it was before: because what is put to it becomes an addition of so much more good, and of goods the greater is ever the more choice-worthy.
So then Happiness is manifestly something final and self-sufficient, being the end of all things which are and may be done.
But, it may be, to call Happiness the Chief Good is a mere truism, and what is wanted is some clearer account of its real nature. Now this object may be easily attained, when we have discovered what is the work of man; for as in the case of flute-player, statuary, or artisan of any kind, or, more generally, all who have any work or course of action, their Chief Good and Excellence is thought to reside in their work, so it would seem to be with man, if there is any work belonging to him.
Are we then to suppose, that while carpenter and cobbler have certain works and courses of action, Man as Man has none, but is left by Nature without a work? or would not one rather hold, that as eye, hand, and foot, and generally each of his members, has manifestly some special work; so too the whole Man, as distinct from all these, has some work of his own?
What then can this be? not mere life, because that plainly is shared with him even by vegetables, and we want what is peculiar to him. We must separate off then the life of mere nourishment and growth, and next will come the life of sensation: but this again manifestly is common to horses, oxen, and every animal. There remains then a kind of life of the Rational Nature apt to act: and of this Nature there are two parts denominated Rational, the one as being obedient to Reason, the other as having and exerting it. Again, as this life is also spoken of in two ways, we must take that which is in the way of actual working, because this is thought to be most properly entitled to the name. If then the work of Man is a working of the soul in accordance with reason, or at least not independently of reason, and we say that the work of any given subject, and of that subject good of its kind, are the same in kind (as, for instance, of a harp-player and a good harp-player, and so on in every case, adding to the work eminence in the way of excellence; I mean, the work of a harp-player is to play the harp, and of a good harp-player to play it well); if, I say, this is so, and we assume the work of Man to be life of a certain kind, that is to say a working of the soul, and actions with reason, and of a good man to do these things well and nobly, and in fact everything is finished off well in the way of the excellence which peculiarly belongs to it: if all this is so, then the Good of Man comes to be “a working of the Soul in the way of Excellence,” or, if Excellence admits of degrees, in the way of the best and most perfect Excellence.
And we must add, in a complete life; for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.
Let this then be taken for a rough sketch of the Chief Good: since it is probably the right way to give first the outline, and fill it in afterwards. And it would seem that any man may improve and connect what is good in the sketch, and that time is a good discoverer and co-operator in such matters: it is thus in fact that all improvements in the various arts have been brought about, for any man may fill up a deficiency.
You must remember also what has been already stated, and not seek for exactness in all matters alike, but in each according to the subject-matter, and so far as properly belongs to the system. The carpenter and geometrician, for instance, inquire into the right line in different fashion: the former so far as he wants it for his work, the latter inquires into its nature and properties, because he is concerned with the truth.
So then should one do in other matters, that the incidental matters may not exceed the direct ones.
And again, you must not demand the reason either in all things alike, because in some it is sufficient that the fact has been well demonstrated, which is the case with first principles; and the fact is the first step, _i.e._ starting-point or principle.
And of these first principles some are obtained by induction, some by perception, some by a course of habituation, others in other different ways. And we must try to trace up each in their own nature, and take pains to secure their being well defined, because they have great influence on what follows: it is thought, I mean, that the starting-point or principle is more than half the whole matter, and that many of the points of inquiry come simultaneously into view thereby.
We must now inquire concerning Happiness, not only from our conclusion and the data on which our reasoning proceeds, but likewise from what is commonly said about it: because with what is true all things which really are are in harmony, but with that which is false the true very soon jars.
Now there is a common division of goods into three classes; one being called external, the other two those of the soul and body respectively, and those belonging to the soul we call most properly and specially good. Well, in our definition we assume that the actions and workings of the soul constitute Happiness, and these of course belong to the soul. And so our account is a good one, at least according to this opinion, which is of ancient date, and accepted by those who profess philosophy. Rightly too are certain actions and workings said to be the end, for thus it is brought into the number of the goods of the soul instead of the external. Agreeing also with our definition is the common notion, that the happy man lives well and does well, for it has been stated by us to be pretty much a kind of living well and doing well.
But further, the points required in Happiness are found in combination in our account of it.
For some think it is virtue, others practical wisdom, others a kind of scientific philosophy; others that it is these, or else some one of them, in combination with pleasure, or at least not independently of it; while others again take in external prosperity.
Of these opinions, some rest on the authority of numbers or antiquity, others on that of few, and those men of note: and it is not likely that either of these classes should be wrong in all points, but be right at least in some one, or even in most.
Now with those who assert it to be Virtue (Excellence), or some kind of Virtue, our account agrees: for working in the way of Excellence surely belongs to Excellence.
And there is perhaps no unimportant difference between conceiving of the Chief Good as in possession or as in use, in other words, as a mere state or as a working. For the state or habit may possibly exist in a subject without effecting any good, as, for instance, in him who is asleep, or in any other way inactive; but the working cannot so, for it will of necessity act, and act well. And as at the Olympic games it is not the finest and strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists, for out of these the prize-men are selected; so too in life, of the honourable and the good, it is they who act who rightly win the prizes.
Their life too is in itself pleasant: for the feeling of pleasure is a mental sensation, and that is to each pleasant of which he is said to be fond: a horse, for instance, to him who is fond of horses, and a sight to him who is fond of sights: and so in like manner just acts to him who is fond of justice, and more generally the things in accordance with virtue to him who is fond of virtue. Now in the case of the multitude of men the things which they individually esteem pleasant clash, because they are not such by nature, whereas to the lovers of nobleness those things are pleasant which are such by nature: but the actions in accordance with virtue are of this kind, so that they are pleasant both to the individuals and also in themselves.
So then their life has no need of pleasure as a kind of additional appendage, but involves pleasure in itself. For, besides what I have just mentioned, a man is not a good man at all who feels no pleasure in noble actions, just as no one would call that man just who does not feel pleasure in acting justly, or liberal who does not in liberal actions, and similarly in the case of the other virtues which might be enumerated: and if this be so, then the actions in accordance with virtue must be in themselves pleasurable. Then again they are certainly good and noble, and each of these in the highest degree; if we are to take as right the judgment of the good man, for he judges as we have said.
Thus then Happiness is most excellent, most noble, and most pleasant, and these attributes are not separated as in the well-known Delian inscription–
“Most noble is that which is most just, but best is health; And naturally most pleasant is the obtaining one’s desires.”
For all these co-exist in the best acts of working: and we say that Happiness is these, or one, that is, the best of them.
Still it is quite plain that it does require the addition of external goods, as we have said: because without appliances it is impossible, or at all events not easy, to do noble actions: for friends, money, and political influence are in a manner instruments whereby many things are done: some things there are again a deficiency in which mars blessedness; good birth, for instance, or fine offspring, or even personal beauty: for he is not at all capable of Happiness who is very ugly, or is ill-born, or solitary and childless; and still less perhaps supposing him to have very bad children or friends, or to have lost good ones by death. As we have said already, the addition of prosperity of this kind does seem necessary to complete the idea of Happiness; hence some rank good fortune, and others virtue, with Happiness.
And hence too a question is raised, whether it is a thing that can be learned, or acquired by habituation or discipline of some other kind, or whether it comes in the way of divine dispensation, or even in the way of chance.
Now to be sure, if anything else is a gift of the Gods to men, it is probable that Happiness is a gift of theirs too, and specially because of all human goods it is the highest. But this, it may be, is a question belonging more properly to an investigation different from ours: and it is quite clear, that on the supposition of its not being sent from the Gods direct, but coming to us by reason of virtue and learning of a certain kind, or discipline, it is yet one of the most Godlike things; because the prize and End of virtue is manifestly somewhat most excellent, nay divine and blessed.
It will also on this supposition be widely participated, for it may through learning and diligence of a certain kind exist in all who have not been maimed for virtue.
And if it is better we should be happy thus than as a result of chance, this is in itself an argument that the case is so; because those things which are in the way of nature, and in like manner of art, and of every cause, and specially the best cause, are by nature in the best way possible: to leave them to chance what is greatest and most noble would be very much out of harmony with all these facts.
The question may be determined also by a reference to our definition of Happiness, that it is a working of the soul in the way of excellence or virtue of a certain kind: and of the other goods, some we must have to begin with, and those which are co-operative and useful are given by nature as instruments.
These considerations will harmonise also with what we said at the commencement: for we assumed the End of [Greek Text: poletikae] to be most excellent: now this bestows most care on making the members of the community of a certain character; good that is and apt to do what is honourable.
With good reason then neither ox nor horse nor any other brute animal do we call happy, for none of them can partake in such working: and for this same reason a child is not happy either, because by reason of his tender age he cannot yet perform such actions: if the term is applied, it is by way of anticipation.
For to constitute Happiness, there must be, as we have said, complete virtue and a complete life: for many changes and chances of all kinds arise during a life, and he who is most prosperous may become involved in great misfortunes in his old age, as in the heroic poems the tale is told of Priam: but the man who has experienced such fortune and died in wretchedness, no man calls happy.
Are we then to call no man happy while he lives, and, as Solon would have us, look to the end? And again, if we are to maintain this position, is a man then happy when he is dead? or is not this a complete absurdity, specially in us who say Happiness is a working of a certain kind?
If on the other hand we do not assert that the dead man is happy, and Solon does not mean this, but only that one would then be safe in pronouncing a man happy, as being thenceforward out of the reach of evils and misfortunes, this too admits of some dispute, since it is thought that the dead has somewhat both of good and evil (if, as we must allow, a man may have when alive but not aware of the circumstances), as honour and dishonour, and good and bad fortune of children and descendants generally.
Nor is this view again without its difficulties: for, after a man has lived in blessedness to old age and died accordingly, many changes may befall him in right of his descendants; some of them may be good and obtain positions in life accordant to their merits, others again quite the contrary: it is plain too that the descendants may at different intervals or grades stand in all manner of relations to the ancestors. Absurd indeed would be the position that even the dead man is to change about with them and become at one time happy and at another miserable. Absurd however it is on the other hand that the affairs of the descendants should in no degree and during no time affect the ancestors.
But we must revert to the point first raised, since the present question will be easily determined from that.
If then we are to look to the end and then pronounce the man blessed, not as being so but as having been so at some previous time, surely it is absurd that when he _is_ happy the truth is not to be asserted of him, because we are unwilling to pronounce the living happy by reason of their liability to changes, and because, whereas we have conceived of happiness as something stable and no way easily changeable, the fact is that good and bad fortune are constantly circling about the same people: for it is quite plain, that if we are to depend upon the fortunes of men, we shall often have to call the same man happy, and a little while after miserable, thus representing our happy man
“Chameleon-like, and based on rottenness.”
Is not this the solution? that to make our sentence dependent on the changes of fortune, is no way right: for not in them stands the well, or the ill, but though human life needs these as accessories (which we have allowed already), the workings in the way of virtue are what determine Happiness, and the contrary the contrary.
And, by the way, the question which has been here discussed, testifies incidentally to the truth of our account of Happiness. For to nothing does a stability of human results attach so much as it does to the workings in the way of virtue, since these are held to be more abiding even than the sciences: and of these last again the most precious are the most abiding, because the blessed live in them most and most continuously, which seems to be the reason why they are not forgotten. So then this stability which is sought will be in the happy man, and he will be such through life, since always, or most of all, he will be doing and contemplating the things which are in the way of virtue: and the various chances of life he will bear most nobly, and at all times and in all ways harmoniously, since he is the truly good man, or in the terms of our proverb “a faultless cube.”
And whereas the incidents of chance are many, and differ in greatness and smallness, the small pieces of good or ill fortune evidently do not affect the balance of life, but the great and numerous, if happening for good, will make life more blessed (for it is their nature to contribute to ornament, and the using of them comes to be noble and excellent), but if for ill, they bruise as it were and maim the blessedness: for they bring in positive pain, and hinder many acts of working. But still, even in these, nobleness shines through when a man bears contentedly many and great mischances not from insensibility to pain but because he is noble and high-spirited.
And if, as we have said, the acts of working are what determine the character of the life, no one of the blessed can ever become wretched, because he will never do those things which are hateful and mean. For the man who is truly good and sensible bears all fortunes, we presume, becomingly, and always does what is noblest under the circumstances, just as a good general employs to the best advantage the force he has with him; or a good shoemaker makes the handsomest shoe he can out of the leather which has been given him; and all other good artisans likewise. And if this be so, wretched never can the happy man come to be: I do not mean to say he will be blessed should he fall into fortunes like those of Priam.
Nor, in truth, is he shifting and easily changeable, for on the one hand from his happiness he will not be shaken easily nor by ordinary mischances, but, if at all, by those which are great and numerous; and, on the other, after such mischances he cannot regain his happiness in a little time; but, if at all, in a long and complete period, during which he has made himself master of great and noble things.
Why then should we not call happy the man who works in the way of perfect virtue, and is furnished with external goods sufficient for acting his part in the drama of life: and this during no ordinary period but such as constitutes a complete life as we have been describing it.
Or we must add, that not only is he to live so, but his death must be in keeping with such life, since the future is dark to us, and Happiness we assume to be in every way an end and complete. And, if this be so, we shall call them among the living blessed who have and will have the things specified, but blessed _as Men_.
On these points then let it suffice to have denned thus much.
Now that the fortunes of their descendants, and friends generally, contribute nothing towards forming the condition of the dead, is plainly a very heartless notion, and contrary to the current opinions.
But since things which befall are many, and differ in all kinds of ways, and some touch more nearly, others less, to go into minute particular distinctions would evidently be a long and endless task: and so it may suffice to speak generally and in outline.
If then, as of the misfortunes which happen to one’s self, some have a certain weight and turn the balance of life, while others are, so to speak, lighter; so it is likewise with those which befall all our friends alike; if further, whether they whom each suffering befalls be alive or dead makes much more difference than in a tragedy the presupposing or actual perpetration of the various crimes and horrors, we must take into our account this difference also, and still more perhaps the doubt concerning the dead whether they really partake of any good or evil; it seems to result from all these considerations, that if anything does pierce the veil and reach them, be the same good or bad, it must be something trivial and small, either in itself or to them; or at least of such a magnitude or such a kind as neither to make happy them that are not so otherwise, nor to deprive of their blessedness them that are.
It is plain then that the good or ill fortunes of their friends do affect the dead somewhat: but in such kind and degree as neither to make the happy unhappy nor produce any other such effect.
Having determined these points, let us examine with respect to Happiness, whether it belongs to the class of things praiseworthy or things precious; for to that of faculties it evidently does not.
Now it is plain that everything which is a subject of praise is praised for being of a certain kind and bearing a certain relation to something else: for instance, the just, and the valiant, and generally the good man, and virtue itself, we praise because of the actions and the results: and the strong man, and the quick runner, and so forth, we praise for being of a certain nature and bearing a certain relation to something good and excellent (and this is illustrated by attempts to praise the gods; for they are presented in a ludicrous aspect by being referred to our standard, and this results from the fact, that all praise does, as we have said, imply reference to a standard). Now if it is to such objects that praise belongs, it is evident that what is applicable to the best objects is not praise, but something higher and better: which is plain matter of fact, for not only do we call the gods blessed and happy, but of men also we pronounce those blessed who most nearly resemble the gods. And in like manner in respect of goods; no man thinks of praising Happiness as he does the principle of justice, but calls it blessed, as being somewhat more godlike and more excellent.
Eudoxus too is thought to have advanced a sound argument in support of the claim of pleasure to the highest prize: for the fact that, though it is one of the good things, it is not praised, he took for an indication of its superiority to those which are subjects of praise: a superiority he attributed also to a god and the Chief Good, on the ground that they form the standard to which everything besides is referred. For praise applies to virtue, because it makes men apt to do what is noble; but encomia to definite works of body or mind.
However, it is perhaps more suitable to a regular treatise on encomia to pursue this topic with exactness: it is enough for our purpose that from what has been said it is evident that Happiness belongs to the class of things precious and final. And it seems to be so also because of its being a starting-point; which it is, in that with a view to it we all do everything else that is done; now the starting-point and cause of good things we assume to be something precious and divine.
Moreover, since Happiness is a kind of working of the soul in the way of perfect Excellence, we must inquire concerning Excellence: for so probably shall we have a clearer view concerning Happiness; and again, he who is really a statesman is generally thought to have spent most pains on this, for he wishes to make the citizens good and obedient to the laws. (For examples of this class we have the lawgivers of the Cretans and Lacedaemonians and whatever other such there have been.) But if this investigation belongs properly to [Greek: politikae], then clearly the inquiry will be in accordance with our original design.
Well, we are to inquire concerning Excellence, _i.e._ Human Excellence of course, because it was the Chief Good of Man and the Happiness of Man that we were inquiring of just now. By Human Excellence we mean not that of man’s body but that of his soul; for we call Happiness a working of the Soul.
And if this is so, it is plain that some knowledge of the nature of the Soul is necessary for the statesman, just as for the Oculist a knowledge of the whole body, and the more so in proportion as [Greek: politikae] is more precious and higher than the healing art: and in fact physicians of the higher class do busy themselves much with the knowledge of the body.
So then the statesman is to consider the nature of the Soul: but he must do so with these objects in view, and so far only as may suffice for the objects of his special inquiry: for to carry his speculations to a greater exactness is perhaps a task more laborious than falls within his province.
In fact, the few statements made on the subject in my popular treatises are quite enough, and accordingly we will adopt them here: as, that the Soul consists of two parts, the Irrational and the Rational (as to whether these are actually divided, as are the parts of the body, and everything that is capable of division; or are only metaphysically speaking two, being by nature inseparable, as are convex and concave circumferences, matters not in respect of our present purpose). And of the Irrational, the one part seems common to other objects, and in fact vegetative; I mean the cause of nourishment and growth (for such a faculty of the Soul one would assume to exist in all things that receive nourishment, even in embryos, and this the same as in the perfect creatures; for this is more likely than that it should be a different one).
Now the Excellence of this manifestly is not peculiar to the human species but common to others: for this part and this faculty is thought to work most in time of sleep, and the good and bad man are least distinguishable while asleep; whence it is a common saying that during one half of life there is no difference between the happy and the wretched; and this accords with our anticipations, for sleep is an inactivity of the soul, in so far as it is denominated good or bad, except that in some wise some of its movements find their way through the veil and so the good come to have better dreams than ordinary men. But enough of this: we must forego any further mention of the nutritive part, since it is not naturally capable of the Excellence which is peculiarly human.
And there seems to be another Irrational Nature of the Soul, which yet in a way partakes of Reason. For in the man who controls his appetites, and in him who resolves to do so and fails, we praise the Reason or Rational part of the Soul, because it exhorts aright and to the best course: but clearly there is in them, beside the Reason, some other natural principle which fights with and strains against the Reason. (For in plain terms, just as paralysed limbs of the body when their owners would move them to the right are borne aside in a contrary direction to the left, so is it in the case of the Soul, for the impulses of men who cannot control their appetites are to contrary points: the difference is that in the case of the body we do see what is borne aside but in the case of the soul we do not. But, it may be, not the less on that account are we to suppose that there is in the Soul also somewhat besides the Reason, which is opposed to this and goes against it; as to _how_ it is different, that is irrelevant.)
But of Reason this too does evidently partake, as we have said: for instance, in the man of self-control it obeys Reason: and perhaps in the man of perfected self-mastery, or the brave man, it is yet more obedient; in them it agrees entirely with the Reason.
So then the Irrational is plainly twofold: the one part, the merely vegetative, has no share of Reason, but that of desire, or appetition generally, does partake of it in a sense, in so far as it is obedient to it and capable of submitting to its rule. (So too in common phrase we say we have [Greek: _logos_] of our father or friends, and this in a different sense from that in which we say we have [Greek: logos] of mathematics.)
Now that the Irrational is in some way persuaded by the Reason, admonition, and every act of rebuke and exhortation indicate. If then we are to say that this also has Reason, then the Rational, as well as the Irrational, will be twofold, the one supremely and in itself, the other paying it a kind of filial regard.
The Excellence of Man then is divided in accordance with this difference: we make two classes, calling the one Intellectual, and the other Moral; pure science, intelligence, and practical wisdom–Intellectual: liberality, and perfected self-mastery–Moral: in speaking of a man’s Moral character, we do not say he is a scientific or intelligent but a meek man, or one of perfected self-mastery: and we praise the man of science in right of his mental state; and of these such as are praiseworthy we call Excellences.
Well: human Excellence is of two kinds, Intellectual and Moral: now the Intellectual springs originally, and is increased subsequently, from teaching (for the most part that is), and needs therefore experience and time; whereas the Moral comes from custom, and so the Greek term denoting it is but a slight deflection from the term denoting custom in that language.
From this fact it is plain that not one of the Moral Virtues comes to be in us merely by nature: because of such things as exist by nature, none can be changed by custom: a stone, for instance, by nature gravitating downwards, could never by custom be brought to ascend, not even if one were to try and accustom it by throwing it up ten thousand times; nor could file again be brought to descend, nor in fact could anything whose nature is in one way be brought by custom to be in another. The Virtues then come to be in us neither by nature, nor in despite of nature, but we are furnished by nature with a capacity for receiving themu and are perfected in them through custom.
Again, in whatever cases we get things by nature, we get the faculties first and perform the acts of working afterwards; an illustration of which is afforded by the case of our bodily senses, for it was not from having often seen or heard that we got these senses, but just the reverse: we had them and so exercised them, but did not have them because we had exercised them. But the Virtues we get by first performing single acts of working, which, again, is the case of other things, as the arts for instance; for what we have to make when we have learned how, these we learn how to make by making: men come to be builders, for instance, by building; harp-players, by playing on the harp: exactly so, by doing just actions we come to be just; by doing the actions of self-mastery we come to be perfected in self-mastery; and by doing brave actions brave.
And to the truth of this testimony is borne by what takes place in communities: because the law-givers make the individual members good men by habituation, and this is the intention certainly of every law-giver, and all who do not effect it well fail of their intent; and herein consists the difference between a good Constitution and a bad.
Again, every Virtue is either produced or destroyed from and by the very same circumstances: art too in like manner; I mean it is by playing the harp that both the good and the bad harp-players are formed: and similarly builders and all the rest; by building well men will become good builders; by doing it badly bad ones: in fact, if this had not been so, there would have been no need of instructors, but all men would have been at once good or bad in their several arts without them.
So too then is it with the Virtues: for by acting in the various relations in which we are thrown with our fellow men, we come to be, some just, some unjust: and by acting in dangerous positions and being habituated to feel fear or confidence, we come to be, some brave, others cowards.
Similarly is it also with respect to the occasions of lust and anger: for some men come to be perfected in self-mastery and mild, others destitute of all self-control and passionate; the one class by behaving in one way under them, the other by behaving in another. Or, in one word, the habits are produced from the acts of working like to them: and so what we have to do is to give a certain character to these particular acts, because the habits formed correspond to the differences of these.
So then, whether we are accustomed this way or that straight from childhood, makes not a small but an important difference, or rather I would say it makes all the difference.
Since then the object of the present treatise is not mere speculation, as it is of some others (for we are inquiring not merely that we may know what virtue is but that we may become virtuous, else it would have been useless), we must consider as to the particular actions how we are to do them, because, as we have just said, the quality of the habits that shall be formed depends on these.
Now, that we are to act in accordance with Right Reason is a general maxim, and may for the present be taken for granted: we will speak of it hereafter, and say both what Right Reason is, and what are its relations to the other virtues.
But let this point be first thoroughly understood between us, that all which can be said on moral action must be said in outline, as it were, and not exactly: for as we remarked at the commencement, such reasoning only must be required as the nature of the subject-matter admits of, and matters of moral action and expediency have no fixedness any more than matters of health. And if the subject in its general maxims is such, still less in its application to particular cases is exactness attainable: because these fall not under any art or system of rules, but it must be left in each instance to the individual agents to look to the exigencies of the particular case, as it is in the art of healing, or that of navigating a ship. Still, though the present subject is confessedly such, we must try and do what we can for it.
First then this must be noted, that it is the nature of such things to be spoiled by defect and excess; as we see in the case of health and strength (since for the illustration of things which cannot be seen we must use those that can), for excessive training impairs the strength as well as deficient: meat and drink, in like manner, in too great or too small quantities, impair the health: while in due proportion they cause, increase, and preserve it.
Thus it is therefore with the habits of perfected Self-Mastery and Courage and the rest of the Virtues: for the man who flies from and fears all things, and never stands up against anything, comes to be a coward; and he who fears nothing, but goes at everything, comes to be rash. In like manner too, he that tastes of every pleasure and abstains from none comes to lose all self-control; while he who avoids all, as do the dull and clownish, comes as it were to lose his faculties of perception: that is to say, the habits of perfected Self-Mastery and Courage are spoiled by the excess and defect, but by the mean state are preserved.
Furthermore, not only do the origination, growth, and marring of the habits come from and by the same circumstances, but also the acts of working after the habits are formed will be exercised on the same: for so it is also with those other things which are more directly matters of sight, strength for instance: for this comes by taking plenty of food and doing plenty of work, and the man who has attained strength is best able to do these: and so it is with the Virtues, for not only do we by abstaining from pleasures come to be perfected in Self-Mastery, but when we have come to be so we can best abstain from them: similarly too with Courage: for it is by accustoming ourselves to despise objects of fear and stand up against them that we come to be brave; and [Sidenote(?): 1104_b_] after we have come to be so we shall be best able to stand up against such objects.
And for a test of the formation of the habits we must [Sidenote(?): III] take the pleasure or pain which succeeds the acts; for he is perfected in Self-Mastery who not only abstains from the bodily pleasures but is glad to do so; whereas he who abstains but is sorry to do it has not Self-Mastery: he again is brave who stands up against danger, either with positive pleasure or at least without any pain; whereas he who does it with pain is not brave.
For Moral Virtue has for its object-matter pleasures and pains, because by reason of pleasure we do what is bad, and by reason of pain decline doing what is right (for which cause, as Plato observes, men should have been trained straight from their childhood to receive pleasure and pain from proper objects, for this is the right education). Again: since Virtues have to do with actions and feelings, and on every feeling and every action pleasure and pain follow, here again is another proof that Virtue has for its object-matter pleasure and pain. The same is shown also by the fact that punishments are effected through the instrumentality of these; because they are of the nature of remedies, and it is the nature of remedies to be the contraries of the ills they cure. Again, to quote what we said before: every habit of the Soul by its very nature has relation to, and exerts itself upon, things of the same kind as those by which it is naturally deteriorated or improved: now such habits do come to be vicious by reason of pleasures and pains, that is, by men pursuing or avoiding respectively, either such as they ought not, or at wrong times, or in wrong manner, and so forth (for which reason, by the way, some people define the Virtues as certain states of impassibility and utter quietude, but they are wrong because they speak without modification, instead of adding “as they ought,” “as they ought not,” and “when,” and so on). Virtue then is assumed to be that habit which is such, in relation to pleasures and pains, as to effect the best results, and Vice the contrary.
The following considerations may also serve to set this in a clear light. There are principally three things moving us to choice and three to avoidance, the honourable, the expedient, the pleasant; and their three contraries, the dishonourable, the hurtful, and the painful: now the good man is apt to go right, and the bad man wrong, with respect to all these of course, but most specially with respect to pleasure: because not only is this common to him with all animals but also it is a concomitant of all those things which move to choice, since both the honourable and the expedient give an impression of pleasure.
[Sidenote: 1105a] Again, it grows up with us all from infancy, and so it is a hard matter to remove from ourselves this feeling, engrained as it is into our very life.
Again, we adopt pleasure and pain (some of us more, and some less) as the measure even of actions: for this cause then our whole business must be with them, since to receive right or wrong impressions of pleasure and pain is a thing of no little importance in respect of the actions. Once more; it is harder, as Heraclitus says, to fight against pleasure than against anger: now it is about that which is more than commonly difficult that art comes into being, and virtue too, because in that which is difficult the good is of a higher order: and so for this reason too both virtue and moral philosophy generally must wholly busy themselves respecting pleasures and pains, because he that uses these well will be good, he that does so ill will be bad.
Let us then be understood to have stated, that Virtue has for its object-matter pleasures and pains, and that it is either increased or marred by the same circumstances (differently used) by which it is originally generated, and that it exerts itself on the same circumstances out of which it was generated.
Now I can conceive a person perplexed as to the meaning of our statement, that men must do just actions to become just, and those of self-mastery to acquire the habit of self-mastery; “for,” he would say, “if men are doing the actions they have the respective virtues already, just as men are grammarians or musicians when they do the actions of either art.” May we not reply by saying that it is not so even in the case of the arts referred to: because a man may produce something grammatical either by chance or the suggestion of another; but then only will he be a grammarian when he not only produces something grammatical but does so grammarian-wise, _i.e._ in virtue of the grammatical knowledge he himself possesses.
Again, the cases of the arts and the virtues are not parallel: because those things which are produced by the arts have their excellence in themselves, and it is sufficient therefore [Sidenote: 1105b] that these when produced should be in a certain state: but those which are produced in the way of the virtues, are, strictly speaking, actions of a certain kind (say of Justice or perfected Self-Mastery), not merely if in themselves they are in a certain state but if also he who does them does them being himself in a certain state, first if knowing what he is doing, next if with deliberate preference, and with such preference for the things’ own sake; and thirdly if being himself stable and unapt to change. Now to constitute possession of the arts these requisites are not reckoned in, excepting the one point of knowledge: whereas for possession of the virtues knowledge avails little or nothing, but the other requisites avail not a little, but, in fact, are all in all, and these requisites as a matter of fact do come from oftentimes doing the actions of Justice and perfected Self-Mastery.
The facts, it is true, are called by the names of these habits when they are such as the just or perfectly self-mastering man would do; but he is not in possession of the virtues who merely does these facts, but he who also so does them as the just and self-mastering do them.
We are right then in saying, that these virtues are formed in a man by his doing the actions; but no one, if he should leave them undone, would be even in the way to become a good man. Yet people in general do not perform these actions, but taking refuge in talk they flatter themselves they are philosophising, and that they will so be good men: acting in truth very like those sick people who listen to the doctor with great attention but do nothing that he tells them: just as these then cannot be well bodily under such a course of treatment, so neither can those be mentally by such philosophising.
[Sidenote: V] Next, we must examine what Virtue is. Well, since the things which come to be in the mind are, in all, of three kinds, Feelings, Capacities, States, Virtue of course must belong to one of the three classes.
By Feelings, I mean such as lust, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, friendship, hatred, longing, emulation, compassion, in short all such as are followed by pleasure or pain: by Capacities, those in right of which we are said to be capable of these feelings; as by virtue of which we are able to have been made angry, or grieved, or to have compassionated; by States, those in right of which we are in a certain relation good or bad to the aforementioned feelings; to having been made angry, for instance, we are in a wrong relation if in our anger we were too violent or too slack, but if we were in the happy medium we are in a right relation to the feeling. And so on of the rest.
Now Feelings neither the virtues nor vices are, because in right of the Feelings we are not denominated either good or bad, but in right of the virtues and vices we are.
[Sidenote: 1106_a_] Again, in right of the Feelings we are neither praised nor blamed (for a man is not commended for being afraid or being angry, nor blamed for being angry merely but for being so in a particular way), but in right of the virtues and vices we are.
Again, both anger and fear we feel without moral choice, whereas the virtues are acts of moral choice, or at least certainly not independent of it.
Moreover, in right of the Feelings we are said to be moved, but in right of the virtues and vices not to be moved, but disposed, in a certain way.
And for these same reasons they are not Capacities, for we are not called good or bad merely because we are able to feel, nor are we praised or blamed.
And again, Capacities we have by nature, but we do not come to be good or bad by nature, as we have said before.
Since then the virtues are neither Feelings nor Capacities, it remains that they must be States.
[Sidenote: VI] Now what the genus of Virtue is has been said; but we must not merely speak of it thus, that it is a state but say also what kind of a state it is. We must observe then that all excellence makes that whereof it is the excellence both to be itself in a good state and to perform its work well. The excellence of the eye, for instance, makes both the eye good and its work also: for by the excellence of the eye we see well. So too the excellence of the horse makes a horse good, and good in speed, and in carrying his rider, and standing up against the enemy. If then this is universally the case, the excellence of Man, i.e. Virtue, must be a state whereby Man comes to be good and whereby he will perform well his proper work. Now how this shall be it is true we have said already, but still perhaps it may throw light on the subject to see what is its characteristic nature.
In all quantity then, whether continuous or discrete, one may take the greater part, the less, or the exactly equal, and these either with reference to the thing itself, or relatively to us: and the exactly equal is a mean between excess and defect. Now by the mean of the thing, _i.e._ absolute mean, I denote that which is equidistant from either extreme (which of course is one and the same to all), and by the mean relatively to ourselves, that which is neither too much nor too little for the particular individual. This of course is not one nor the same to all: for instance, suppose ten is too much and two too little, people take six for the absolute mean; because it exceeds the smaller sum by exactly as much as it is itself exceeded by the larger, and this mean is according to arithmetical proportion.
[Sidenote: 1106_b_] But the mean relatively to ourselves must not be so found ; for it does not follow, supposing ten minae is too large a quantity to eat and two too small, that the trainer will order his man