These questions being settled, let us consider whether happiness is one of the things we
praise or rather one of those that we honor1
; for it is at all events clear that it is not a mere
Now it appears that a thing which we praise is always praised because it has a certain
quality and stands in a certain relation to something. For we praise just men and brave
men, in fact good men and virtue generally, because of their actions and the results they
produce; and also we praise those who are strong of body, swift of foot and the like on
account of their possessing certain natural qualities, and standing in a certain relation
to something good and excellent.
The point is also
illustrated by our feeling about praises addressed to the gods: it strikes us as absurd
that the gods should be referred to our standards,
and this is what praising them amounts to, since praise, as we said, involves a reference
of its object to something else.
But if praise belongs to
what is relative, it is clear that the best things do not merit praise, but something
greater and better: as indeed is generally recognized, since we speak of the gods as
blessed and happy,3
and also ‘blessed’ is the term that we apply to the most godlike men;
and similarly with good things—no one praises happiness as one praises justice,
but we call it a ‘blessing,’ deeming it something higher and more
divine than things we praise.
Indeed it seems that Eudoxus4
took a good line in
advocating the claims of pleasure to the prize of highest excellence, when he held that
the fact that pleasure, though a good, is not praised, is an indication that it is
superior to the things we praise, as God and the Good are, because they are the standards
to which everything else is referred.
For praise belongs to goodness, since it is this that makes men capable of accomplishing
noble deeds, while encomia5
are for deeds accomplished, whether
bodily feats or achievements of the mind.
develop this subject is perhaps rather the business of those who have made a study of
encomia. For our purpose we may draw the conclusion from the foregoing remarks, that happiness is a
thing honored and perfect.
This seems to be borne out by
the fact that it is a first principle or starting-point, since all other things that all
men do are done for its sake; and that which is the first principle and cause of things
good we agree to be something honorable and divine.