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12.

These questions being settled, let us consider whether happiness is one of the things we praise or rather one of those that we honor1; for it is at all events clear that it is not a mere potentiality.2 [2]

Now it appears that a thing which we praise is always praised because it has a certain quality and stands in a certain relation to something. For we praise just men and brave men, in fact good men and virtue generally, because of their actions and the results they produce; and also we praise those who are strong of body, swift of foot and the like on account of their possessing certain natural qualities, and standing in a certain relation to something good and excellent. [3] The point is also illustrated by our feeling about praises addressed to the gods: it strikes us as absurd that the gods should be referred to our standards, and this is what praising them amounts to, since praise, as we said, involves a reference of its object to something else. [4] But if praise belongs to what is relative, it is clear that the best things do not merit praise, but something greater and better: as indeed is generally recognized, since we speak of the gods as blessed and happy,3 and also ‘blessed’ is the term that we apply to the most godlike men; and similarly with good things—no one praises happiness as one praises justice, but we call it a ‘blessing,’ deeming it something higher and more divine than things we praise. [5]

Indeed it seems that Eudoxus4 took a good line in advocating the claims of pleasure to the prize of highest excellence, when he held that the fact that pleasure, though a good, is not praised, is an indication that it is superior to the things we praise, as God and the Good are, because they are the standards to which everything else is referred. [6]

For praise belongs to goodness, since it is this that makes men capable of accomplishing noble deeds, while encomia5 are for deeds accomplished, whether bodily feats or achievements of the mind. [7] However, to develop this subject is perhaps rather the business of those who have made a study of encomia. For our purpose we may draw the conclusion from the foregoing remarks, that happiness is a thing honored and perfect. [8] This seems to be borne out by the fact that it is a first principle or starting-point, since all other things that all men do are done for its sake; and that which is the first principle and cause of things good we agree to be something honorable and divine.

1 The definition of happiness is now shown to be supported by the current terms of moral approbation; apparently ἐπαινετον, ‘praiseworthy’ or ‘commendable,’ was appropriate to means , or things having relative value, and τίμιον, ‘valued’ or ‘revered,’ to ends, or things of absolute value.

2 i.e., not merely a potentiality of good but an actual good, whether as means or end.

3 But we do not praise them.

4 For a criticism of the hedonism of this unorthodox pupil of Plato see Bk. 10.2, 3.

5 Encomia or laudatory orations are the chief constituent of Epideictic or Declamatory Oratory, one of the three branches (the others being Deliberative and Forensic) into which rhetoric is divided by Aristotle (Rhet. 1.3.). The topics of encomia are virtue and vice, the noble and disgraceful, which are analyzed from this point of view in Rhet. 1.9. That chapter contains a parenthesis (9.33,34) distinguishing praise, as proper to πράξεις, actions in operation, from encomia, which belong to ἔργα, the results achieved by action; but this distinction is not maintained in the context (9.35, and cf. 9.2 where God as well as man is given as an object of praise).

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