previous next
If one who censures pleasure is seen sometimes to desire it himself, his swerving towards it is thought to show that he really believes that all pleasure is desirable; for the mass of mankind cannot discriminate. [4] Hence it appears that true theories are the most valuable for conduct as well as for science; harmonizing with the facts, they carry conviction, and so encourage those who understand them to guide their lives by them.

With so much by way of introduction, let us now review the theories about pleasure that have been advanced.

2. That pleasure is the Good was held by Eudoxus, on the following grounds. He saw that all creatures, rational and irrational alike, seek to obtain it; but in every case (he argued) that which is desirable is good, and that which is most desirable is the best; therefore the fact that all creatures ‘move in the direction of’1 the same thing indicates that this thing is the Supreme Good for all (since everything finds its own particular good, just as it finds its own proper food); but that which is good for all, and which all seek to obtain, is the Good.

His arguments owed their acceptance however more to the excellence of his character than to their own merit. He had the reputation of being a man of exceptional temperance, and hence he was not suspected of upholding this view because he was a lover of pleasure, but people thought it must really be true.

[2] He also held that the goodness of pleasure was equally manifest from the converse: pain is intrinsically an object of avoidance to all, therefore its opposite must be intrinsically an object of desire to all.

Again, he argued that that thing is most desirable which we choose not as a means to or for the sake of something else; but such admittedly is pleasure: we never ask a man for what purpose he indulges in pleasure—we assume it to be desirable in itself.

He also said that the addition of pleasure to any good—for instance, just or temperate conduct—makes that good more desirable; but only the good can enhance the good.

[3] Now as for the last argument, it seems only to prove that pleasure is a good, and not that it is in any way better than any other good; for every good is more desirable when combined with some other good than in isolation. In fact, a similar argument is employed by Plato2 to refute the view that pleasure is the Good: the life of pleasure, he urges, is more desirable in combination with intelligence than without it; but if pleasure combined with something else is better than pleasure alone, it is not the Good, for the Good is not rendered more desirable by the addition of anything to it. And it is clear that nothing else either will be the Good if it becomes more desirable when combined with something good in itself. [4] What thing is there then of this nature,3 which is attainable by us? for it is something of this nature that we are in search of.

Those4 on the other hand who deny that that which all creatures seek to obtain is good, are surely talking nonsense.

1 As we should say, ‘gravitate towards.’ Eudoxus, an unorthodox pupil of Plato, was a astronomer, and seems to have imported physical terminology into Ethics.

2 Plat. Phileb. 60d ff.

3 Viz., incapable of being improved by the addition of something else. But the sentence looks like an interpolation.

4 These are Speusippus and the Academics of Aristotle's day; see 7.11.3, note.

load focus Greek (J. Bywater)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter IV
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: