To criticize a particular subject, therefore, a man must have
been trained in that subject: to be a good critic generally, he must have had an all-round
education. Hence the young are not fit to be students of Political Science.1
have no experience of life and conduct, and it is these that supply the premises and
subject matter of this branch of philosophy.
they are led by their feelings; so that they will study the subject to no purpose or
advantage, since the end of this science is not knowledge but action.
And it makes no difference whether they are young in years or immature
in character: the defect is not a question of time, it is because their life and its
various aims are guided by feeling; for to such persons their knowledge is of no use, any
more than it is to persons of defective self-restraint.2
Moral Science may be of great value to those who guide their desires and actions by
Let so much suffice by way of introduction as to the student of the subject, the spirit
in which our conclusions are to be received, and the object that we set before
To resume, inasmuch as all studies and undertakings are directed to the attainment of
some good, let us discuss what it is that we pronounce to be the aim of Politics, that is,
what is the highest of all the goods that action can achieve.
As far as the name goes, we may almost say that the great majority of
mankind are agreed about this; for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of
it as Happiness,3
‘the good life’ or ‘doing well’4
to be the same thing as
‘being happy.’ But what constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute;
and the popular account of it is not the same as that given by the philosophers.
Ordinary people identify it with some obvious and
visible good, such as pleasure or wealth or honor—some say one thing and some
another, indeed very often the same man says different things at different times: when he
falls sick he thinks health is happiness, when he is poor, wealth. At other times, feeling
conscious of their own ignorance, men admire those who propound something grand and above
their heads; and it has been held by some thinkers5
that beside the many good things we have
mentioned, there exists another Good, that is good in itself, and stands to all those
goods as the cause of their being good.
Now perhaps it would be a somewhat fruitless task to review all the different opinions
that are held. It will suffice to examine those that are most widely prevalent, or that
seem to have some argument in their favour.
And we must not overlook the distinction between arguments that start from first
principles and those that lead to first principles. It was a good practice of Plato to
raise this question, and to enquire whether the true procedure is to start from or to lead
up to one's first principles,