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But let us continue from the point1 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,2 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.3 [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— though no one would pronounce a man living a life of misery to be happy, unless for the sake of maintaining a paradox. But we need not pursue this subject, since it has been sufficiently treated in the ordinary discussions.4 [7]

The third type of life is the Life of Contemplation, which we shall consider in the sequel. [8]

The Life of Money-making is a constrained5 kind of life, and clearly wealth is not the Good we are in search of, for it is only good as being useful, a means to something else. On this score indeed one might conceive the ends before mentioned to have a better claim, for they are approved for their own sakes. But even they do not really seem to be the Supreme Good; however, many arguments against them have been disseminated, so we may dismiss them.

1 a 30.

2 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).

3 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.’

4 It is not certain whether this phrase refers to written treatises (whether Aristotle's own dialogues and other popular works, now lost, or those of other philosophers), or to philosophical debates like those which Plato's dialogues purport to report (as did doubtless those of Aristotle). Cf. De caelo 279a 30 ἐν τοῖς ἐγκυκλίοις φιλοσοφήμασι, ‘in the ordinary philosophical discussions,’ and De anima 407b 29 τοῖς ἐν κοινῷ γινομένοις λόγοις, ‘the discussions that go on in public’; and see 13.9 note for similar references to ‘extraneous discussions.’

5 Literally ‘violent’; the adjective is applied to the strict diet and and laborious exercises of athletes, and to physical phenomena such as motion, in the sense of ‘constrained’, ‘not natural’. The text here has been suspected.

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