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[1323b] [1] and that whether the life of happiness consists for man in enjoyment or in virtue or in both, it is found in larger measure with those who are of surpassingly high cultivation in character and intellect but only moderate as regards the external acquisition of goods, than with those who own more than they can use of the latter but are deficient in the former. Not but what the truth is also easily seen if we consider the matter in the light of reason. For external goods have a limit, as has any instrument (and everything useful is useful for something), so an excessive amount of them must necessarily do harm, or do no good, to its possessor; whereas with any of the goods of the soul, the more abundant it is, the more useful it must be—if even to goods of the soul not only the term ‘noble’ but also the term ‘useful’ can be properly applied. And broadly, it is clear that we shall declare that the best condition of each particular thing, comparing things with one another, corresponds in point of superiority to the distance that subsists between the things of which we declare these conditions themselves to be conditions.1 Hence inasmuch as our soul is a more valuable thing both absolutely and relatively to ourselves than either our property or our body, the best conditions of these things must necessarily stand in the same relation to one another as the things themselves do. Moreover it is for the sake of the soul that these goods are in their nature desirable, and that all wise men must [20] choose them, not the soul for the sake of those other things. Let us then take it as agreed between us that to each man there falls just so large a measure of happiness as he achieves of virtue and wisdom and of virtuous and wise action: in evidence of this we have the case of God, who is happy and blessed, but is so on account of no external goods, but on account of himself, and by being of a certain quality in his nature; since it is also for this reason that prosperity is necessarily different from happiness—for the cause of goods external to the soul is the spontaneous and fortune,2 but nobody is just or temperate as a result of or owing to the action of fortune. And connected is a truth requiring the same arguments to prove it, that it is also the best state, and the one that does well,3 that is happy. But to do well is impossible save for those who do good actions, and there is no good action either of a man or of a state without virtue and wisdom; and courage, justice and wisdom belonging to a state have the same meaning and form as have those virtues whose possession bestows the titles of just and wise and temperate on an individual human being.

These remarks however must suffice by way of preface to our discourse: for neither is it possible to abstain from touching on these subjects altogether, nor is it feasible to follow out all the arguments that are germane to them, for that is the business of another course of study. For the present let us take it as established that the best life, whether separately for an individual or collectively for states,

1 e.g. the finest man excels the finest monkey to the degree in which the species man excels the species monkey.

2 Aristotle taught that some events are the result of the undesigned interaction of two lines of causation in nature's design; he denoted this (1) in general, by ‘the automatic’ or self-acting (represented in Latin by sponte, spontaneous), (2) as concerning man, by ‘fortune.’

3 The common play on the ambiguity of ‘do well,’ meaning either ‘prosper’ or ‘act rightly.’

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