Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Ethics by Aristotle

Part 1 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Ted Garvin, David Widger and the DP Team



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

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

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.


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

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

(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

[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

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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus then Happiness is most excellent, most noble, and most pleasant,
and these attributes are not separated as in the well-known Delian

"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

[Sidenote: 1104a]

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

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

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

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest