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as in a race-course one may run from the judges to the far end of the track or the reverse. Now no doubt it is proper to start from the known. But ‘the known’ has two meanings—‘what is known to us,’ which is one thing, and ‘what is knowable in itself,’ which is another. Perhaps then for us1 at all events it proper to start from what is known to us. [6] This is why in order to be a competent student of the Right and Just, and in short of the topics of Politics in general, the pupil is bound to have been well-trained in his habits. [7] For the starting-point or first principle is the fact that a thing is so; if this be satisfactorily ascertained, there will be no need also to know the reason why it is so. And the man of good moral training knows first principles already, or can easily acquire them. As for the person who neither knows nor can learn, let him hear the words of Hesiod2: “ Best is the man who can himself advise;
He too is good who hearkens to the wise;
But who, himself being witless, will not heed
Another's wisdom, is a fool indeed.


But let us continue from the point3 where we digressed. To judge from men's lives, the more or less reasoned conceptions of the Good or Happiness that seem to prevail are the following. On the one hand the generality of men and the most vulgar identify the Good with pleasure, [2] and accordingly are content with the Life of Enjoyment—for there are three specially prominent Lives,4 the one just mentioned, the Life of Politics, and thirdly, the Life of Contemplation. [3] The generality of mankind then show themselves to be utterly slavish, by preferring what is only a life for cattle; but they get a hearing for their view as reasonable because many persons of high position share the feelings of Sardanapallus.5 [4]

Men of refinement, on the other hand, and men of action think that the Good is honor—for this may be said to be the end of the Life of Politics. But honor after all seems too superficial to be the Good for which we are seeking; since it appears to depend on those who confer it more than on him upon whom it is conferred, whereas we instinctively feel that the Good must be something proper to its possessor and not easy to be taken away from him. [5] Moreover men's motive in pursuing honor seems to be to assure themselves of their own merit; at least they seek to be honored by men of judgement and by people who know them, that is, they desire to be honored on the ground of virtue. It is clear therefore that in the opinion at all events of men of action, virtue is a greater good than honor; [6] and one might perhaps accordingly suppose that virtue rather than honor is the end of the Political Life. But even virtue proves on examination to be too incomplete to be the End; since it appears possible to possess it while you are asleep, or without putting it into practice throughout the whole of your life; and also for the virtuous man to suffer the greatest misery and misfortune—

1 In contrast apparently with the school of Plato.

2 Hes. WD 293 ff.

3 a 30.

4 The doctrine of the three Lives goes back to Pythagoras, who compared the three kinds of men to the three classes of strangers who went to the Games, traders, competitors, and spectators (Iamblichus, Vit. Pythag. 58). This apologue brings out the metaphor underlying the phrase θεωρητικὸς βίος, lit. ‘the life of the spectator’ ( Burnet).

5 The last two words of the Greek look like a verse passage loosely quoted. Sardanapallus was a mythical Assyrian king; two versions of his epitaph are recorded by Athenaeus (336, 530), one containing the words ἔσθιε, πῖνε, παῖζε: ὡς τἆλλα τούτου οὐκ ἄξια τοῦ ἀποκροτήματος, ‘Eat, drink, play, since all else is not worth that snap of the fingers’; the other ends κεῖν᾽ ἔχω ὅσσ᾽ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐφύβρισα καὶ μετ᾽ ἔρωτος τέρπν᾽ ἔπαθον: τὰ δὲ καὶ ὄλβια πάντα λέλυνται, ‘I have what I ate; and the delightful deeds of wantonness and love which I did and suffered; whereas all my wealth is vanished.’

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