[1214a] [1]

The man1 who at Delos set forth in the precinct of the god his own opinion composed an inscription for the forecourt of the temple of Leto in which he distinguished goodness, beauty and pleasantness as not all being properties of the same thing. His verses are:

“ Justice2 is fairest, and Health is best,
But to win one's desire is the pleasantest.

Theog. 255f.
But for our part let us not allow that he is right; for Happiness3 is at once the pleasantest and the fairest and best of all things whatever.

About every thing and every natural species there are many views that involve difficulty and require examination; of these some relate only to our knowledge of the thing, others deal also with modes of acquiring it and of acting in relation to it. As to all those views therefore that involve only speculative philosophy, we must say whatever may be proper to the inquiry when the suitable occasion occurs. But we must consider first what the good life consists in and how it is to be obtained—whether all of those who receive the designation 'happy' acquire happiness by nature, as is the case with tallness and shortness of stature and differences of complexion, or by study, which would imply that there is a science of happiness, or by some form of training, [20] for there are many human attributes that are not bestowed by nature nor acquired by study but gained by habituation—bad attributes by those trained in bad habits and good attributes by those trained in good ones. Or does happiness come in none of these ways, but either by a sort of elevation of mind inspired by some divine power, as in the case of persons possessed by a nymph or a god, or, alternatively, by fortune? for many people identify happiness with good fortune.

Now it is pretty clear that the presence of happiness is bestowed upon men by all of these things, or by some or one of them; for almost all the modes in which it is produced fall under these principles, inasmuch as all the acts that spring from thought may be included with those that spring from knowledge. But to be happy and to five blissfully and finely may consist chiefly in three things deemed to be most desirable: some people say that Wisdom4 is the greatest good, others Goodness5 and others Pleasure. And certain persons debate about their importance in relation to happiness,

1 Theognis (255 f. with slight variation, quoted also inAristot. Nic. Eth. 1099a 27.

2 Or 'Righteousness'; the term includes more than justice.

3 Or 'Well-being'; the Greek word is entirely noncommittal and does not necessarily denote a state of feeling, consciousness of welfare.

4 The Greek term here still retains the general sense that it has in Plato. In the Nicomachean Ethics it is limited to Practical Wisdom, prudentia, 'prudence,' as distinct from θεωρία, sapientia, 'speculative wisdom.'

5 It must always be remembered that the Greek term is less limited in meaning than 'virtue,' and may denote excellence in any department, not only moral goodness.

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