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[1323a] [14]

1The student who is going to make a suitable investigation of the best form of constitution must necessarily decide first of all what is the most desirable mode of life. For while this is uncertain it is also bound to be uncertain what is the best constitution, since it is to be expected that the people that have the best form of government available under their given conditions will fare the best, exceptional circumstances apart. Hence we must first [20] agree what life is most desirable for almost all men, and after that whether the same life is most desirable both for the community and for the individual, or a different one. Believing therefore in the adequacy of much of what is said even in extraneous discourses2 on the subject of the best life, let us make use of these pronouncements now. For as regards at all events one classification of things good, putting them in three groups, external goods, goods of the soul and goods of the body, assuredly nobody would deny that the ideally happy are bound to possess all three. For nobody would call a man ideally happy that has not got a particle of courage nor of temperance nor of justice nor of wisdom, but is afraid of the flies that flutter by him, cannot refrain from any of the most outrageous actions in order to gratify a desire to eat or to drink, ruins his dearest friends for the sake of a farthing, and similarly in matters of the intellect also is as senseless and mistaken as any child or lunatic. But although these are propositions which when uttered everybody would agree to, yet men differ about amount and degrees of value. They think it is enough to possess however small a quantity of virtue, but of wealth, riches, power, glory and everything of that kind they seek a larger and larger amount without limit. We on the other hand shall tell them that it is easy to arrive at conviction on these matters in the light of the actual facts, when one sees that men do not acquire and preserve the virtues by means of these external goods, but external goods by means of the virtues,

1 Book 4 in some editions.

2 Cf. 3.6. It is debated whether the phrase refers to Aristotle's own popular writings, or to those of other philosophers, or to discussions of the subject in ordinary intercourse.

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