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8.

Accordingly we must examine our first principle1 not only as a logical conclusion deduced from certain premises but also in the light of the current opinions on the subject. For if a proposition be true, all the facts harmonize with it, but if it is false, it is quickly seen to be discordant with them. [2]

Now things good have been divided into three classes, external goods on the one hand, and goods of the soul and of the body on the other2; and of these three kinds of goods, those of the soul we commonly pronounce good in the fullest sense and the highest degree. But it is our actions and the soul's active exercise of its functions3 that we posit (as being Happiness); hence so far as this opinion goes—and it is of long standing, and generally accepted by students of philosophy—it supports the correctness of our definition of Happiness. [3]

It also shows it to be right in declaring the End to consist in certain actions or activities, for thus the End is included among goods of the soul, and not among external goods.4 [4]

Again, our definition accords with the description of the happy man as one who ‘lives well’ or ‘does well’; for it has virtually identified happiness with a form of good life or doing well.5 [5]

And moreover all the various characteristics that are looked for in happiness are found to belong to the Good as we define it. [6] Some people think happiness is goodness or virtue, others prudence, others a form of wisdom; others again say it is all of these things, or one of them, in combination with pleasure, or accompanied by pleasure as an indispensable adjunct; another school include external prosperity as a concomitant factor. [7] Some of these views have been held by many people and from ancient times, others by a few distinguished men, and neither class is likely to be altogether mistaken; the probability is that their beliefs are at least partly, or indeed mainly, correct. [8]

Now with those who pronounce happiness to be virtue, or some particular virtue, our definition is in agreement; for ‘activity in conformity with virtue’ involves virtue. [9] But no doubt it makes a great difference whether we conceive the Supreme Good to depend on possessing virtue or on displaying it—on disposition, or on the manifestation of a disposition in action. For a man may possess the disposition without its producing any good result, as for instance when he is asleep, or has ceased to function from some other cause; but virtue in active exercise cannot be inoperative—it will of necessity act, and act well. And just as at the Olympic games the wreaths of victory are not bestowed upon the handsomest and strongest persons present, but on men who enter for the competitions—since it is among these that the winners are found,—so it is those who act rightly who carry off the prizes and good things of life. [10]

And further, the life of active virtue is essentially pleasant. For the feeling of pleasure is an experience of the soul,6 and a thing gives a man pleasure in regard to which he is described as ‘fond of’ so-and-so: for instance a horse gives pleasure to one fond of horses, a play to one fond of the theater, and similarly just actions are pleasant to the lover of justice, and acts conforming with virtue generally to the lover of virtue. [11] But whereas the mass of mankind take pleasure in things that conflict with one another,7 because they are not pleasant of their own nature, things pleasant by nature are pleasant to lovers of what is noble, and so always are actions in conformity with virtue, so that they are pleasant essentially as well as pleasant to lovers of the noble. [12] Therefore their life has no need of pleasure as a sort of ornamental appendage,8 but contains its pleasure in itself. For there is the further consideration that the man who does not enjoy doing noble actions is not a good man at all: no one would call a man just if he did not like acting justly, nor liberal if he did not like doing liberal things, and similarly with the other virtues. [13] But if so, actions in conformity with virtue must be essentially pleasant.

But they are also of course both good and noble, and each in the highest degree, if the good man judges them rightly; and his judgement is as we have said. [14] It follows therefore that happiness is at once the best, the noblest, and the pleasantest of things: these qualities are not separated as the inscription at Delos makes out— “ Justice is noblest, and health is best,
But the heart's desire is the pleasantest—,

” for the best activities possess them all; and it is the best activities, or one activity which is the best of all, in which according to our definition happiness consists. [15]

Nevertheless it is manifest that happiness also requires external goods in addition, as we said; for it is impossible, or at least not easy, to play a noble part unless furnished with the necessary equipment.9 For many noble actions require instruments for their performance, in the shape of friends or wealth or political power; [16] also there are certain external advantages, the lack of which sullies supreme felicity, such as good birth, satisfactory children, and personal beauty: a man of very ugly appearance or low birth, or childless and alone in the world, is not our idea of a happy man, and still less so perhaps is one who has children or friends10 that are worthless, or who has had good ones but lost them by death. [17] As we said therefore, happiness does seem to require the addition of external prosperity, and this is why some people identify it with good fortune (though some identify it with virtue11).

1 i.e. our definition of the Good for man, or happiness.

2 The turn of phrase associates ‘bodily goods’ with ‘goods of the soul,’ both being personal, in contrast with the third class, ‘external goods.’ But it at once appears that the important distinction is between ‘goods of the soul’ on the one hand and all rest (‘the good in the body and those outside and of fortune,’ 7.13.2) on the other. Hence in 8.3 ‘external goods’ must include ‘bodily goods’ as also 8.15 f., where ‘external goods’ are subdivided into the instruments and the indispensable conditions of well-being (and so in more scientific language, 9.7), the latter subdivision including beauty, the only bodily good there specified.

3 See the definition, 7.15.

4 See 8.2, first note.

5 Cf. 4.2 note.

6 Not an experience of the body (cf. 10.3.6), even the case of ‘bodily pleasures.’ This brings pleasure within the definition of happiness as “an activity of the soul.”

7 Morally inferior people like things that are only pleasant ‘accidentally,’ i.e. owing not to some quality inherent in the thing but to something extraneous to it, viz. some depravity of taste or temporary affection in the person. Hence not only do different people think different things pleasant but the same person thinks the same thing pleasant at one time and unpleasant at another—and so repents today of his indulgence yesterday; or he desires two incompatible things at once, or desires a thing with one part of his nature that he dislikes with another, so that there is a conflict between his desires, or between his desire for pleasure and his wish for what he thinks good (see Bk. 9.4, esp. 4.8-10, and contrast 4.5.)

8 The word is especially used of an amulet hung round the neck or fastened round a limb

9 It was one of the public duties of rich citizens at Athens to equip the chorus and actors of a drama at their own expense. One so doing was called χορηγός (chorus-leader, as no doubt originally he was), and the dresses, etc., he supplied, χορηγία. The latter term is frequently used by Aristotle to denote the material equipment of life, and has almost or quite ceased to be felt as a metaphor.

10 Perhaps ‘or friends’ is slipped in because of ‘alone in the world’ just above, but friends should not be mentioned here among the indispensable conditions of happiness, as they were included just above among its instruments (see 8.2, first note).

11 This irrelevant addition looks like an interpolation.

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