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[1216a] [1] which they reverence as Apis, has a greater abundance of such indulgences than many monarchs. Nor likewise would anyone desire life for the pleasure of sleep either; for what is the difference between slumbering without being awakened from the first day till the last of a thousand or any number of years, and living a vegetable existence? any way plants seem to participate in life of that kind; and so do children too, inasmuch as at their first procreation in the mother, although alive, they stay asleep all the time. So that it is clear from considerations of this sort that the precise nature of well-being and of the good in life escapes our investigation.

Now it is said that when somebody persisted in putting various difficulties of this sort to Anaxagoras1 and went on asking for what object one should choose to come into existence rather than not, he replied by saying, 'For the sake of contemplating the heavens and the whole order of the universe.' Anaxagoras therefore thought that the alternative of being alive was valuable for the sake of some kind of knowledge; but those who ascribe bliss to Sardanapallus2 or Smindyrides of Sybaris3 or some of the others living the life of enjoyment, all appear for their part to place happiness in delight; [20] while a different set would not choose either wisdom of any kind or the bodily pleasures in preference to the actions that spring from goodness: at all events, some people choose those actions not only for the sake of reputation but even when they are not going to get any credit. But the majority of those engaged in politics are not correctly designated 'politicians,' for they are not truly political, since the political man is one who purposely chooses noble actions for their own sake, whereas the majority embrace that mode of life for the sake of money and gain.

What has been said, therefore, demonstrates that all men ascribe happiness to three modes of life—the political, the philosophic, and the life of enjoyment.4 Among these, the nature and quality of the pleasure connected with the body and with enjoyment, and the means that procure it, are not hard to see; so that it is not necessary for us to inquire what these pleasures are, but whether they conduce at all to happiness or not, and how they so conduce, and, if it be the case that the noble life ought to have some pleasures attached to it, whether these are the pleasures that ought to be attached, or whether these must be enjoyed in some other way, whereas the pleasures which people reasonably believe to make the happy man's life pleasant and not merely painless are different ones.

But these matters must be examined later.5 Let us first consider Goodness and Wisdom6—what the nature of each is, and also whether they themselves or the actions that spring from them are parts of the good life,

1 See Aristot. Eud. Eth. 1215b 6 n.

2 A mythical king of Assyria, proverbial for luxury, cf. Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1295b 22.

3 Greek colony in S. Italy. For Smindyrides, who travelled with 1000 slaves in attendance, see Hdt. 6.127, Athenaeus 5 p. 273.

4 The Greek word is specially associated with sensual pleasures.

5 The promised discussion does not occur, but see Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1153b 7-25.

6 See Aristot. Eud. Eth. 1214a 33n.; but practical wisdom is specially implied here.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (4):
    • Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 1.1214a
    • Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 1.1215b
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1153b
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.127
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