Our next business after this is doubtless to discuss Pleasure. For pleasure is thought to be especially congenial to mankind; and
this is why pleasure and pain are employed in the education of the young, as means whereby
to steer their course. Moreover, to like and to dislike the right things is thought to be
a most important element in the formation of a virtuous character. For pleasure and pain
extend throughout the whole of life, and are of great moment and influence for virtue and
happiness; since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful.
It would therefore seem by no means proper to omit so important a subject, especially as
there is much difference of opinion about it. Some people maintain that pleasure is the
Good. Others on the contrary say that it is altogether bad: some of them perhaps from a
conviction that it is really so, but others because they think it to be in the interests
of morality to make out that pleasure is bad, even if it is not, since most men
（they argue） have a bias towards it, and are the slaves of their
pleasures, so that they have to be driven in the opposite direction in order to arrive at
the due mean.
Possibly however this view is mistaken. In matters of emotion and of action, words are
less convincing than deeds; when therefore our theories are at variance with palpable
facts, they provoke contempt, and involve the truth in their own discredit. 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
on the other hand who deny that that which all
creatures seek to obtain is good, are surely talking nonsense. For what all think to be good,
that, we assert, is good; and he that subverts our belief in the opinion of all mankind,
will hardly persuade us to believe his own either. If only the irrational creatures strove
to obtain what is pleasant, there would have been some sense in this contention; but
inasmuch as beings endowed with intelligence do so too, how can it be right? And perhaps
even the lower animals possess an instinct superior to their own natures, which seeks to
obtain the good appropriate to their kind.
Again, these thinkers' refutation of the argument from the converse appears equally
unsound. They pain say, if pain is bad, it does not follow therefore that pleasure is
good: for an evil can also be opposed to an evil and to a thing that is neither good nor
evil: a statement which is indeed sound enough, but which does not apply to the things in
question. If both pleasure and pain were in the class of evils, both would be also of
necessity things to be avoided, and if in the class of things neutral, neither ought to be
avoided, or they ought to be avoided alike; but as it is we see men avoid pain as evil and
choose pleasure as good; it is therefore as good and evil that they are opposed.
Nor yet does it follow that if pleasure is not a quality, therefore it is not a good.
Virtuous activities are not qualities either, nor is happiness.
Again they argue5
good is definite, but that pleasure is indefinite, because it admits of degrees. Now
（a） if they base this judgement on the fact that one can be more or less
pleased, the same argument will apply to Justice and the other virtues, the possessors of
which are clearly spoken of as being more or less
virtuous; for example, A may be more just or brave, and may act more, or less, justly or
temperately, than B. If on the other hand （b） they judge by the nature
of the pleasures themselves, I am afraid they do not state the right ground for their
conclusion, if it be true that there are two kinds of pleasures, unmixed as well as
Again, （c） why should not pleasure be like health, which is definite
although it admits of degrees? For health is not constituted by the same proportion of
elements in all persons; nor yet by one particular proportion in the same person always,
but when it is in process of dissolution it still lasts for a certain time, and therefore
it varies in degree. It is possible therefore that the same may be the case with pleasure.
Again, they postulate7
that the Good is perfect, whereas a motion or
process of generation is imperfect, and then they attempt to prove that pleasure is a
motion or process. This appears to be a mistake. （a） It would seem that
pleasure is not a motion; for we hold it to be a property of all motion to be quick or
slow—if （as with the motion8
of the firmament） not absolutely, then relatively to some other moving body. But
pleasure possesses neither absolute nor relative velocity. You can become pleased quickly,
just as you can get angry quickly: but you cannot be pleased quickly, nor yet more quickly than
somebody else, as you can walk, grow, etc., more quickly than somebody else. It is
possible to pass into a pleasurable state quickly or slowly, but not to function in that
state—i.e. to feel pleasure—quickly.
And （b） in what sense can pleasure
be a process of generation? We do not think that any chance thing can be generated from
any other chance thing, but that a thing at its dissolution is resolved into that from
which it is generated; and if pleasure is the generation of something, pain is the
destruction of that thing.
Also （c） they say9
that pain is a deficiency of
the natural state and pleasure is its replenishment. But these are bodily experiences. Now
if pleasure is a replenishment of the natural state, the pleasure will be felt by the
thing in which the replenishment takes place. Therefore it is the body that feels
pleasure. But this does not seem to be the case. Therefore pleasure is not a process of
replenishment, though while replenishment takes place, a feeling of pleasure may accompany
it, just as a feeling of pain may accompany a surgical operation.10
The belief that pleasure is a replenishment seems to have arisen from the
pains and pleasures connected with food: here the pleasure does arise from a
replenishment, and is preceded by the pain of a want.
But this is not the case with all pleasures: the
pleasures of knowledge, for example, have no antecedent pain; nor have certain of the
pleasures of sense, namely those whose medium is the sense of smell, as well as many
sounds and sights; and also memories and hopes. If these are processes of generation,
generation of what? No lack of anything has
occurred that may be replenished.
In reply to those who bring forward the disreputable pleasures, one may
（a） deny that these are really pleasant: for granted they are pleasant
to ill-conditioned people, it cannot therefore be assumed that they are actually pleasant,
except to them, any more than things healthy or sweet or bitter to invalids are really so,
or any more than things that seem white to people with a disease of the eyes are really
（b） one may take the line that, though the pleasures themselves are
desirable, they are not desirable when derived from those sources; just as wealth is
desirable, but not if won by treachery, or health, but not at the cost of eating anything
（c） we may say that pleasures differ in specific quality; since
（a） those derived from noble sources are not the same as those derived
from base sources, and it is impossible to feel the pleasures of a just man without being
just, or the pleasures of a musician without being musical, and so on.
And also （ β
） the distinction between a friend and a flatterer
seems to show that pleasure is not a good, or else that pleasures are specifically
different; since a friend is thought to aim at doing good to his companion, a flatterer at
giving pleasure; to be a flatterer is a reproach, whereas a friend is praised because in
his intercourse he aims at other things.
And （ α
） no one
would choose to retain the mind of a child throughout his life, even though he continued
to enjoy the pleasures of childhood with undiminished zest; nor （ δ
） would anyone choose to find enjoyment in doing some
extremely shameful act, although it would entail no painful consequences. Also （
） there are many things which we should be
eager to possess even if they brought us no pleasure, for instance sight, memory,
knowledge, virtue. It may be the case that these things are necessarily attended by
pleasure, but that makes no difference; for we should desire them even if no pleasure
resulted from them.
It seems therefore that pleasure is not the Good, and that not every pleasure is
desirable, but also that there are certain pleasures, superior in respect of their
specific quality or their source, that are desirable in themselves.
Let this suffice for a discussion of the current views about pleasure and pain.
We may ascertain the nature and quality of pleasure more clearly if we start again from
Now the act of sight appears to be perfect at any moment of its duration; it does not
require anything to supervene later in order to perfect its specific quality. But pleasure
also appears to be a thing of this nature. For it is a whole, and one cannot at any moment
put one's hand on a pleasure which will only exhibit its specific quality perfectly if its
duration be prolonged.
It follows also that pleasure is not a form of motion.11
For every motion or process of change
involves duration, and is a means to an end, for
instance the process of building a house; and it is perfect when it has effected its end.
Hence a motion is perfect either when viewed over the whole time of its duration, or at
the moment when its end has been achieved. The several motions occupying portions of the
time of the whole are imperfect, and different in kind from the whole and from each other.
For instance, in building a temple the fitting together of the stones is a different
process from the fluting of a column, and both are different from the construction of the
temple as a whole; and whereas the building of the temple is a perfect process, for
nothing more is required to achieve the end proposed, laying the foundation and
constructing the triglyphs are imperfect processes, since each produces only a part of the
design; they are therefore specifically different from the construction of the whole, and
it is not possible to lay one's finger on a motion specifically perfect at any moment of
the process of building, but only, if at all, in the whole of its duration.
And the same is true of walking and the other forms of locomotion. For if locomotion is
motion from one point in space to another, and if this is of different kinds, flying,
walking, leaping and the like, and not only so, but if there are also differences in
walking itself （for the terminal points of a race course are not the same as
those of a portion of the course, nor are those of one portion the same as those of
another; nor is traversing this line the same as traversing that one,12
runner does not merely travel along a certain line but travels along a line that is in a
certain place, and this line is in a different place from
that）—however, for a full treatment of the subject of motion I must
refer to another work,13
but it appears that a motion is not perfect at every moment, but the many
movements which make up the whole are imperfect; and different from each other in kind,
inasmuch as the terminal points of a movement constitute a specific quality.
The specific quality of pleasure on the contrary is perfect at any
moment. It is clear therefore that pleasure is not the same as motion, and that it is a
whole and something perfect.
This may also be inferred from the fact that a movement necessarily occupies a space of
time, whereas a feeling of pleasure does not, for every moment of pleasurable
consciousness is a perfect whole.
These considerations also show that it is a mistake to speak of pleasure as the result of
a motion or of a process of generation. For we cannot so describe everything, but only
such things as are divided into parts and are not wholes. Thus an act of sight, a
geometrical point, an arithmetical unit are not the result of a process of generation
（nor is any of them a motion or process14
）. Pleasure therefore also is
not the result of a motion or process; for pleasure is a whole.
Again, inasmuch as each of the senses acts in relation to its object, and acts perfectly
when it is in good condition and directed to the finest of the and objects that belong to
it （for this seems to be the best description of perfect activity, it being
assumed to make no difference whether it be the sense itself that acts or the organ in
which the sense resides）, it follows that the activity of any of the senses is at
its best when the sense-organ being in the best condition is directed to the best of its
objects; and this activity will be the most perfect
and the pleasantest. For each sense has a corresponding pleasure, as also have thought and
speculation, and its activity is pleasantest when it is most perfect, and most perfect
when the organ is in good condition and when it is directed to the most excellent of its
objects; and the pleasure perfects the activity.
pleasure does not however perfect the activity in the same way as the object perceived and
the sensory faculty, if good, perfect it; just as health and the physician are not in the
same way the cause of being healthy.
（It is clear that each of the senses is accompanied by pleasure, since we apply
the term pleasant to sights and sounds15
; and it is also
clear that the pleasure is greatest when the sensory faculty is both in the best condition
and acting in relation to the best object; and given excellence in the perceived object
and the percipient organ, there will always be pleasure when an object to cause it and a
subject to feel it are both present.）
But the pleasure perfects the activity, not as the fixed disposition does, by being
already present in the agent, but as a supervening perfection, like the bloom of health in
the young and vigorous.
So long therefore as both object thought of or perceived, and subject discerning or
judging, are such as they should be, there will be pleasure in the activity; since while both the
passive and the active parties to a relationship remain the same in themselves and
unaltered in their relation to one another, the same result is naturally produced.
How is it then that no one can feel pleasure continuously? Perhaps it is due to fatigue,
since no human faculty is capable of uninterrupted activity, and therefore pleasure also
is not continuous, because it accompanies the activity of the faculties. It is for the
same reason that some things please us when new, but cease to give so much pleasure later;
this is because at first the mind is stimulated, and acts vigorously in regard to the
object, as in the case of sight when we look at something intently; but afterwards the
activity is less vigorous and our attention relaxes, and consequently the pleasure also
It might be held that all men seek to obtain pleasure, because all men desire life. Life
is a form of activity, and each man exercises his activity upon those objects and with
those faculties which he likes the most: for example, the musician exercises his sense of
hearing upon musical tunes, the student his intellect upon problems of philosophy, and so
on. And the pleasure of these activities perfects the activities, and therefore perfects
life, which all men seek.
Men have good reason therefore
to pursue pleasure, since it perfects for each his life, which is a desirable thing. The
question whether we desire life for the sake of pleasure or pleasure for the sake of life,
need not be raised for the present. In any case they appear to be inseparably united; for there is no pleasure without activity, and
also no perfect activity without its pleasure. 5.
This moreover is the ground for believing that pleasures vary in specific quality. For we
feel that different kinds of things must have a different sort of perfection. We see this
to be so with natural organisms and the productions of art, such as animals, trees, a
picture, a statue, a house, a piece of furniture. Similarly we think that that which
perfects one kind of activity must differ in kind from that which perfects another kind.
Now the activities of the intellect differ from those
of the senses, and from16
one another, in kind: so also therefore do the pleasures that
This may also be seen from the affinity which exists between the various pleasures and
the activities which they perfect. For an activity is augmented by the pleasure that
belongs to it; since those who work with pleasure always work with more discernment and
with greater accuracy—for instance, students who are fond of geometry become
proficient in it, and grasp its various problems better, and similarly lovers of music,
architecture or the other arts make progress in their favorite pursuit because they enjoy
it. An activity then is augmented by its pleasure; and that which augments a thing must be
akin to it. But things that are akin to things of different kinds must themselves differ in kind.
A still clearer proof may be drawn from the hindrance
that activities receive from the pleasure derived from other activities. For instance,
persons fond of the flute cannot give their attention to a philosophical discussion when
they overhear someone playing the flute, because they enjoy music more than the activity
in which they are engaged; therefore the pleasure afforded by the music of the flute
impairs the activity of study.
The same thing occurs in
other cases when a man tries to do two things at once; the pleasanter activity drives out
the other, the more so if it is much more pleasant, until the other activity ceases
altogether. Hence, when we enjoy something very much, we can hardly do anything else; and
when we find a thing only mildly agreeable, we turn to some other occupation; for
instance, people who eat sweets at the theater do so especially when the acting is bad.
And since our activities are sharpened, prolonged and
improved by their own pleasure, and impaired by the pleasures of other activities, it is
clear that pleasures differ widely from each other. In fact alien pleasures have almost
the same effect on the activities as their own pains17
; since, when an activity causes pain, this pain
destroys it, for instance, if a person finds writing or doing sums unpleasant and irksome;
for he stops writing or doing sums, because the activity is painful. Activities then are affected in opposite ways by the pleasures and
the pains that belong to them, that is to say, those that are intrinsically due to their
exercise. Alien pleasures, as has been said, have very much the same effect as pain, for
they destroy an activity, only not to the same degree.
Again, since activities differ in moral value, and some are to be adopted, others to be
avoided, and others again are neutral, the same is true also of their pleasures: for each
activity has a pleasure of its own. Thus the pleasure of a good activity is morally good,
that of a bad one morally bad; for even desires for noble things are praised and desires
for base things blamed; but the pleasures contained in our activities are more intimately
connected with them than the appetites which prompt them, for the appetite is both
separate in time and distinct in its nature from the activity, whereas the pleasure is
closely linked to the activity, indeed so inseparable from it as to raise a doubt whether
the activity is not the same thing as the pleasure.
However, we must not regard pleasure as really being a thought or a
sensation—indeed this is absurd, though because they are inseparable they seem
to some people to be the same.
As then activities are diverse, so also are their pleasures. Sight excels touch in purity,
and hearing and smell excel taste; and similarly the pleasures of the intellect excel in
purity the pleasures of sensation, while the pleasures of either class differ among
themselves in purity.
And it is thought that every animal has its own special pleasure, just as it has its own
special function: namely, the pleasure of exercising that function. This will also appear
if we consider the different animals one by one: the horse, the dog, man, have different
pleasures—as Heracleitus says, an ass would prefer chaff to gold, since to asses
food gives more pleasure than gold. Different species therefore have different kinds of
pleasures. On the other hand it might be supposed that there is no variety among the
pleasures of the same species.
But as a matter of fact in
the human species at all events there is a great diversity of pleasures. The same things
delight some men and annoy others, and things painful and disgusting to some are pleasant
and attractive to others. This also holds good of things sweet to the taste: the same
things do not taste sweet to a man in a fever as to one in good health; nor does the same
temperature feel warm to an invalid and to a person of robust constitution. The same holds
good of other things as well.
But we hold that in all such cases the thing really is what it appears to be to the good
man. And if this rule is sound, as it is generally held to be, and if the standard of
everything is goodness, or the good man, qua
good, then the
things that seem to him to be pleasures are pleasures, and the things he enjoys are
pleasant. Nor need it cause surprise that things
disagreeable to the good man should seem pleasant to some men; for mankind is liable to
many corruptions and diseases, and the things in question are not really pleasant, but
only pleasant to these particular persons, who are in a condition to think them so.
It is therefore clear that we must pronounce the admittedly disgraceful pleasures not to
be pleasures at all, except to the depraved.
But among the pleasures considered respectable, which class of pleasures or which
particular pleasure is to be deemed the distinctively human pleasure? Perhaps this will be
clear from a consideration of man's activities. For pleasures correspond to the activities
to which they belong; it is therefore that pleasure, or those pleasures, by which the
activity, or the activities, of the perfect and supremely happy man are perfected, that
must be pronounced human in the fullest sense. The other pleasures are so only in a
secondary or some lower degree, like the activities to which they belong. 6.
Having now discussed the various kinds of Virtue, of Friendship and of Pleasure, it
remains for us to treat in outline of Happiness, inasmuch as we count this to be the End
of human life. But it will shorten the discussion if we recapitulate what has been said
Now we stated18
that happiness is not
a certain disposition of character; since if it were it might be possessed by a man who
passed the whole of his chosen life asleep, living the life of a vegetable, or by one who
was plunged in the deepest misfortune. If then we reject this as unsatisfactory, and feel bound to
class happiness rather as some form of activity, as has been said in the earlier part of
this treatise, and if activities are of two kinds, some merely necessary means and
desirable only for the sake of something else, others desirable in themselves, it is clear
that happiness is to be classed among activities desirable in themselves, and not among
those desirable as a means to something else; since happiness lacks nothing, and is
But those activities are desirable in themselves which do not aim at any result beyond
the mere exercise of the activity. Now this is felt to be the nature of actions in
conformity with virtue; for to do noble and virtuous deeds is a thing desirable for its
But agreeable amusements also are desirable for not their own sake; we do not pursue them
as a means to something else, for as a matter of fact they are more often harmful than
beneficial, causing men to neglect their health and their estates. Yet persons whom the
world counts happy usually have recourse to such pastimes; and this is why adepts in such
pastimes stand in high favor with princes, because they make themselves agreeable in
supplying what their patrons desire, and what they want is amusement. So it is supposed
that amusements are a component part of happiness, because princes and potentates devote
their leisure to them.
But （i） perhaps princes and potentates are not good evidence. Virtue
and intelligence, which are the sources of man's higher activities, do not depend on the
possession of power; and if these persons, having no taste fo pure and liberal pleasure, have recourse to the pleasures of the
body, we must not on that account suppose that bodily pleasures are the more desirable.
Children imagine that the things they themselves value are actually the best; it is not
surprising therefore that, as children and grown men have different standards of value, so
also should the worthless and the virtuous. <
Therefore, as has repeatedly been said, those things are actually valuable and pleasant
which appear so to the good man; but each man thinks that activity most desirable which
suits his particular disposition, and there fore the good a man thinks virtuous activity
It follows therefore that happiness is
not to be found in amusements.
（ii）Indeed it would be strange that amusement should be our
End—that we should toil and moil all our life long in order that we may amuse
ourselves. For virtually every object we adopt is pursued as a means to something else,
excepting happiness, which is an end in itself; to make amusement the object of our
serious pursuits and our work seems foolish and childish to excess: Anacharsis's motto,
Play in order that you may work, is felt to be the right rule. For amusement is a form of
rest; but we need rest because we are not able to go on working without a break, and
therefore it is not an end, since we take it as a means to further activity.
（iii） And the life that conforms with virtue is thought to be a happy
life; but virtuous life involves serious purpose, and does not consist in amusement.
（iv） Also we pronounce serious things to be superior to things that are
funny and amusing; and the nobler a faculty or a person is, the more serious, we think,
are their activities; therefore, the activity of the nobler faculty or person is itself
superior, and therefore more productive of happiness.
（v） Also anybody can enjoy the pleasures of the body, a slave no less
than the noblest of mankind; but no one allows a slave any measure of happiness, any more
than a life of his own.19
Therefore happiness does not consist in pastimes
and amusements, but in activities in accordance with virtue, as has been said already.
But if happiness consists in activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it
should be activity in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be the virtue of
the best part of us. Whether then this be the intellect, or whatever else it be that is
thought to rule and lead us by nature, and to have cognizance of what is noble and divine,
either as being itself also actually divine, or as being relatively the divinest part of
us, it is the activity of this part of us in accordance with the virtue proper to it that
will constitute perfect happiness; and it has been stated already20
that this activity is the activity of contemplation.
And that happiness consists in contemplation may be accepted as agreeing both with the
results already reached and with the truth. For contemplation is at once the highest form
of activity （since the intellect is the
highest thing in us, and the objects with which the intellect deals are the highest things
that can be known） , and also it is the most continuous, for we can reflect more
continuously than we can carry on any form of action.
again we suppose that happiness must contain an element of pleasure; now activity in
accordance with wisdom is admittedly the most pleasant of the activities in accordance
with virtue: at all events it is held that philosophy or the pursuit of wisdom contains
pleasures of marvellous purity and permanence, and it is reasonable to suppose that the
enjoyment of knowledge is a still pleasanter occupation than the pursuit of it.
Also the activity of contemplation will be found to possess in the
highest degree the quality that is termed self-sufficiency; for while it is true that the
wise man equally with the just man and the rest requires the necessaries of life, yet,
these being adequately supplied, whereas the just man needs other persons towards whom or
with whose aid he may act justly, and so likewise do the temperate man and the brave man
and the others, the wise man on the contrary can also contemplate by himself, and the more
so the wiser he is; no doubt he will study better with the aid of fellow-workers, but
still he is the most self-sufficient of men.
activity of contemplation may be held to be the only activity that is loved for its own
sake: it produces no result beyond the actual act of contemplation, whereas from practical
pursuits we look to secure some advantage, greater or smaller, beyond the action itself.
Also happiness is thought to involve leisure; for we do
business in order that we may have leisure, and carry on war in order that we may have
peace. Now the practical virtues are exercised in politics or in warfare; but the pursuits
of politics and war seem to be unleisured—those of war indeed entirely so, for
no one desires to be at war for the sake of being at war, nor deliberately takes steps to
cause a war: a man would be thought an utterly bloodthirsty character if he declared war
on a friendly state for the sake of causing battles and massacres. But the activity of the
politician also is unleisured, and aims at securing something beyond the mere
participation in politics—positions of authority and honor, or, if the happiness
of the politician himself and of his fellow-citizens, this happiness conceived as
something distinct from political activity （indeed we are clearly investigating
it as so distinct）.21
If then among practical pursuits displaying the virtues,
politics and war stand out preeminent in nobility and grandeur, and yet they are
unleisured, and directed to some further end, not chosen for their own sakes: whereas the
activity of the intellect is felt to excel in serious worth,22
consisting as it does in contemplation, and to aim at no end beyond itself, and also to contain a
pleasure peculiar to itself, and therefore augmenting its activity23
: and if accordingly the attributes of this
activity are found to be self-sufficiency, leisuredness, such freedom from fatigue as is
possible for man, and all the other attributes of blessedness: it follows that it is the
activity of the intellect that constitutes complete human happiness—provided it
be granted a complete span of life, for nothing that belongs to happiness can be
Such a life as this however will be higher than the human level:24
not in virtue of his
humanity will a man achieve it, but in virtue of something within him that is divine; and
by as much as this something is superior to his composite nature, by so much is its
activity superior to the exercise of the other forms of virtue. If then the intellect is
something divine in comparison with man, so is the life of the intellect divine in
comparison with human life. Nor ought we to obey those who enjoin that a man should have
and a mortal
the thoughts of mortality,26
but we ought so far as possible to achieve immortality,
and do all that man may to live in accordance with the highest thing in him; for though
this be small in bulk, in power and value it far surpasses all the rest.
It may even be held that this is the true self of each,27
inasmuch as it is the dominant and better part;
and therefore it would be a strange thing if a man should choose to live not his own life
but the life of some other than himself.
Moreover what was said before will apply here also: that which is best and most pleasant
for each creature is that which is proper to the nature of each; accordingly the life of
the intellect is the best and the pleasantest life28
for man, inasmuch as the intellect more than anything else is man;
therefore this life will be the happiest. 8.
The life of moral virtue, on the other hand, is happy only in a secondary degree. For the
moral activities are purely human: Justice, I mean, Courage and the other virtues we
display in our intercourse with our fellows, when we observe what is due to each in
contracts and services and in our various actions, and in our emotions also; and all of
these things seem to be purely human affairs.
moral actions are thought to be the outcome of the physical constitution, and moral virtue
is thought to have a close affinity in many respects with the passions.
Moreover, Prudence is intimately connected with Moral Virtue, and this
with Prudence, inasmuch as the first Principles which Prudence employs are determined by
the Moral Virtues, and the right standard for the Moral Virtues is determined by Prudence.
But these being also connected with the passions
are related to our composite nature; now the virtues of our composite nature are purely
human; so therefore also is the life that manifests these virtues, and the happiness that
belongs to it. Whereas the happiness that belongs to the intellect is separate29
: so much may be said about it
here, for a full discussion of the matter is beyond the scope of our present purpose.
And such happiness would appear to need but little
external equipment, or less than the happiness based on moral virtue.30
Both, it may be granted, require
the mere necessaries of life, and that in an equal degree （though the politician
does as a matter of fact take more trouble about bodily requirements and so forth than the
philosopher） ; for in this respect there may be little difference between them.
But for the purpose of their special activities their requirements will differ widely. The
liberal man will need wealth in order to do liberal actions, and so indeed will the just
man in order to discharge his obligations （since mere intentions are invisible,
and even the unjust pretend to wish to act justly）; and the brave man will need
strength if he is to perform any action displaying his virtue; and the temperate man
opportunity for indulgence: otherwise how can he, or the possessor of any other virtue,
show that he is virtuous?
It is disputed also whether
purpose or performance is the more important factor in virtue, as it is alleged to depend
on both; now
the perfection of virtue will clearly consist in both; but the performance of virtuous
actions requires much outward equipment, and the more so the greater and more noble the
But the student, so far as the pursuit of
his activity is concerned, needs no external apparatus: on the contrary, worldly goods may
almost be said to be a hindrance to contemplation; though it is true that, being a man and
living in the society of others, he chooses to engage in virtuous action, and so will need
external goods to carry on his life as a human being.
The following considerations also will show that perfect happiness is some form of
contemplative activity. The gods, as we conceive them, enjoy supreme felicity and
happiness. But what sort of actions can we attribute to them? Just actions? but will it
not seem ridiculous to think of them as making contracts, restoring deposits and the like?
Then brave actions—enduring terrors and running risks for the nobility of so
doing? Or liberal actions? but to whom will they give? Besides, it would be absurd to
suppose that they actually have a coinage or currency of some sort! And temperate
actions—what will these mean in their case? surely it would be derogatory to
praise them for not having evil desires! If we go through the list we shall find that all
forms of virtuous conduct seem trifling and unworthy of the gods. Yet nevertheless they
have always been conceived as, at all events, living, and therefore living actively, for
we cannot suppose they are always asleep like
Endymion. But for a living being, if we eliminate action, and a
creative action, what remains save contemplation? It follows that the
activity of God, which is transcendent in blessedness, is the activity of contemplation;
and therefore among human activities that which is most akin to the divine activity of
contemplation will be the greatest source of happiness.
A further confirmation is that the lower animals cannot partake of happiness, because
they are completely devoid of the contemplative activity. The whole of the life of the
gods is blessed, and that of man is so in so far as it contains some likeness to the
divine activity; but none of the other animals possess happiness, because they are
entirely incapable of contemplation. Happiness therefore is co-extensive in its range with
contemplation: the more a class of beings possesses the faculty of contemplation, the more
it enjoys happiness, not as an accidental concomitant of contemplation but as inherent in
it, since contemplation is valuable in itself. It follows that happiness is some form of
But the philosopher being a man will also need external well—being, since man's
nature is not self—sufficient for the activity of contemplation, but he must
also have bodily health and a supply of food and other requirements. Yet if supreme blessedness is
not possible without external goods, it must not be supposed that happiness will demand
many or great possessions; for self-sufficiency does not depend on excessive abundance,
nor does moral conduct,
and it is possible to perform
noble deeds even without being ruler of land and sea: one can do virtuous acts with quite
moderate resources. This may be clearly observed in experience: private citizens do not
seem to be less but more given to doing virtuous actions than princes and potentates. It
is sufficient then if moderate resources are forthcoming; for a life of virtuous activity
will be essentially a happy life.
Solon also doubtless gave a good description of happiness,31
when he said that in his opinion those men were
happy who, being moderately equipped with external goods, had performed noble exploits and
had lived temperately; for it is possible for a man of but moderate possessions to do what
is right. Anaxagoras again does not seem to have conceived the happy man as rich or
powerful, since he says that he would not be surprised if he were to appear a strange sort
of person in the eyes of the many; for most men judge by externals, which are all that
they can perceive.
So our theories seem to be in
agreement with the opinions of the wise.
Such arguments then carry some degree of conviction; but it is by the practical
experience of life and conduct that the truth is really tested, since it is ther
that the final decision lies. We must therefore
examine the conclusions we have advanced by bringing them to the test of the facts of
life. If they are in harmony with the facts, we may accept them; if found to disagree, we
must deem them mere theories.32
And it seems likely that the man who pursues intellectual activity, and who cultivates
his intellect and keeps that in the best condition, is also the man most beloved of the
gods. For if, as is generally believed, the gods exercise some superintendence over human
affairs, then it will be reasonable to suppose that they take pleasure in that part of man
which is best and most akin to themselves, namely the intellect, and that they recompense
with their favors those men who esteem and honor this most, because these care for the
things dear to themselves, and act rightly and nobly. Now it is clear that all these
attributes belong most of all to the wise man. He therefore is most beloved by the gods;
and if so, he is naturally most happy. Here is another proof that the wise man is the
If then we have sufficiently discussed in their outlines the subjects of Happiness and of
Virtue in its various forms, and also Friendship and Pleasure, may we assume that the
investigation we proposed is now complete? Perhaps however, as we maintain, in the practical
sciences the end is not to attain a theoretic knowledge of the various subjects, but
rather to carry out our theories in action.
If so, to
know what virtue is is not enough; we must endeavor to possess and to practice it, or in
some other manner actually ourselves to become good.
Now if discourses on ethics were sufficient in themselves to make men virtuous,
‘large fees and many’ （as Theognis33
says） ‘would they
win,’ quite rightly, and to provide such discourses would be all that is wanted.
But as it is, we see that although theories have power to stimulate and encourage generous
youths, and, given an inborn nobility of character and a genuine love of what is noble,
can make them susceptible to the influence of virtue, yet they are powerless to stimulate
the mass of mankind to moral nobility.
For it is the
nature of the many to be amenable to fear but not to a sense of honor, and to abstain from
evil not because of its baseness but because of the penalties it entails; since, living as
they do by passion, they pursue the pleasures akin to their nature, and the things that
will procure those pleasures, and avoid the opposite pains, but have not even a notion of
what is noble and truly pleasant, having never tasted true pleasure.
What theory then can reform the natures of men like these? To dislodge
by argument habits long firmly rooted in their characters is difficult if not impossible.
We may doubtless think ourselves fortunate if we attain some measure of virtue when all
the things believed to make men virtuous are ours.
Now some thinkers hold that virtue is a gift of nature; others think we become good by
habit, others that we can be taught to be good. Natural endowment is obviously not under
our control; it is bestowed on those who are fortunate, in the true sense, by some divine
dispensation. Again, theory and teaching are not, I fear, equally efficacious in all
cases: the soil must have been previously tilled if it is to foster the seed, the mind of
the pupil must have been prepared by the cultivation of habits, so as to like and dislike
For he that lives at the dictates of passion will
not hear nor understand the reasoning of one who tries to dissuade him; but if so, how can
you change his mind by argument?
And, speaking generally, passion seems not to be amenable to reason, but only to force.
We must therefore by some means secure that the character shall have at the outset a
natural affinity for virtue, loving what is noble and hating what is base. And it is
difficult to obtain a right education in virtue from youth up without being brought up
under right laws; for to live temperately and hardily is not pleasant to most men,
especially when young; hence the nurture and exercises of the young should be regulated by
law, since temperance and hardiness will not be painful when they have become habitual.
But doubtless it is not enough for people to receive the right
nurture and discipline in youth; they must also practice the lessons they have learnt, and
confirm them by habit, when they are grown up. Accordingly we shall need laws to regulate
the discipline of adults as well, and in fact the whole life of the people generally; for
the many are more amenable to compulsion and punishment than to reason and to moral
Hence some persons hold,34
that while it is proper for the lawgiver to encourage and exhort men to virtue on
moral grounds, in the expectation that those who have had a virtuous moral upbringing will
respond, yet he is bound to impose chastisement and penalties on the disobedient and
ill-conditioned, and to banish the incorrigible out of the state altogether.35
For （they argue） although the virtuous man, who guides his life
by moral ideals, will be obedient to reason, the base, whose desires are fixed on
pleasure, must be chastised by pain, like a beast of burden. This indeed is the ground for
the view that the pains and penalties for transgressors should be such as are most opposed
to their favorite pleasures.
But to resume: if, as has been said, in order to be good a man must have been properly
educated and trained, and must subsequently continue to follow virtuous habits of life,
and to do nothing base whether voluntarily or involuntarily, then this will be secured if
men's lives are regulated by a certain intelligence, and by a right system, invested with
Now paternal authority has not the
power to compel obedience, nor indeed, speaking
generally, has the authority of any individual unless he be a king or the like; but law on
the other hand is a rule, emanating from a certain wisdom and intelligence, that has
compulsory force. Men are hated when they thwart people's inclinations, even though they
do so rightly, whereas law can enjoin virtuous conduct without being invidious.
appears to be
the only or almost the only state in which the lawgiver has paid attention to the nurture
and exercises of the citizens; in most states such matters have been entirely neglected,
and every man lives as he likes, in Cyclops
fashion ‘laying down the law For children and for spouse.’36
The best thing is then that there should be a proper system of public regulation; but
when the matter is neglected by the community, it would seem to be the duty of the
individual to assist his own children and friends to attain virtue, or even if not able to
do so successfully,37
at all events to make
this his aim. But it would seem to follow from what has been said before, that he will be
more likely to be successful in this if he has acquired the science of legislation. Public
regulations in any case must clearly be established by law, and only good laws will
produce good regulations; but it would not seem to make any difference whether these laws are
written or unwritten, or whether they are to regulate the education of a single person or
of a number of people, any more than in the case of music or athletics or any other form
of training. Paternal exhortations and family habits have authority in the household, just
as legal enactments and national customs have authority in the state, and the more so on
account of the ties of relationship and of benefits conferred that unite the head of the
household to its other members: he can count on their natural affection and obedience at
Moreover individual treatment is better than
a common system, in education as in medicine. As a general rule rest and fasting are good
for a fever, but they may not be best for a particular case; and presumably a professor of
boxing does not impose the same style of fighting on all his pupils. It would appear then
that private attention gives more accurate results in particular cases, for the particular
subject is more likely to get the treatment that suits him. But a physician or trainer or
any other director can best treat a particular person if he has a general knowledge of
what is good for everybody, or for other people of the same kind: for the sciences deal
with what is universal, as their names38
Not but what
it is possible no doubt for a particular individual to be successfully treated by someone
who is not a scientific expert, but has an empirical knowledge based on careful
observation of the effects of various forms of treatment upon the person in question; just
as some people appear to be their own best doctors, though they could not do any good
to someone else. But nevertheless it would
doubtless be agreed that anyone who wishes to make himself a professional and a man of
science must advance to general principles, and acquaint himself with these by the proper
method: for science, as we said, deals with the universal.
So presumably a man who wishes to make other people better
（whether few or many） by discipline, must endeavor to acquire the
science of legislation—assuming that it is possible to make us good by laws. For
to mold aright the character of any and every person that presents himself is not a task
that can be done by anybody, but only （if at all） by the man with
scientific knowledge, just as is the case in medicine and the other professions involving
a system of treatment and the exercise of prudence.
Is not then the next question to consider from whom or how the science of legislation can
be learnt? Perhaps, like other subjects, from the experts, namely the politicians; for we
that legislation who is a
branch of political science. But possibly it may seem that political science is unlike the
other sciences and faculties. In these the persons who impart a knowledge of the faculty
are the same as those who practice it, for instance physicians and painters; but in
politics the sophists, who profess to teach the science, never practice it. It is
practiced by the politicians, who would appear to rely more upon a sort of empirical skill
than on the exercise of abstract intelligence; for we do not see them writing or lecturing
about political principles （though this might be a more honorable employment than
composing forensic and parliamentary speeches）, nor yet do we notice that they
have made their own sons or any others of their friends into statesmen.
Yet we should expect them to have done so had they been able, for they
could have bequeathed no more valuable legacy to their countries, nor is there any quality
they would choose for themselves, and therefore for those nearest to them, to possess, in
preference to political capacity. Not that experience does not seem to contribute
considerably to political success; otherwise men would never have become statesmen merely
through practical association with politics; so it would appear that those who aspire to a
scientific knowledge of politics require practical experience as well as study.
On the other hand those sophists who profess to teach politics
are found to be very far from doing so successfully. In fact they are absolutely ignorant
of the very nature of the science and of the subjects with which it deals; otherwise they
would not class it as identical with, or even inferior to, the art of rhetoric.40
Nor would they imagine that it is easy to frame a constitution by making a
collection of such existing laws as are reputed to be good ones, on the assumption that
one can then select the best among them; as if even this selection did not call for
understanding, and as if to judge correctly were not a very difficult task, just as much
as it is for instance in music. It is only the experts in an art who can judge correctly the productions of that art, and who
understand the means and the method by which perfection is attained, and know which
elements harmonize with which; amateurs may be content if they can discern whether the
general result produced is good or bad, for example in the art of painting. Laws are the
product, so to speak, of the art of politics; how then can a mere collection of laws teach a
man the science of legislation, or make him able to judge which of them are the best?
We do not see men becoming expert physicians from a
study of medical handbooks. Yet medical writers attempt to describe not only general
courses of treatment, but also methods of cure and modes of treatment for particular sorts
of patients, classified according to their various habits of body; and their treatises
appear to be of value for men who have had practical experience, though they are useless
for the novice. Very possibly therefore collections of laws and constitutions may be
serviceable to students capable of studying them critically, and judging what measures are
valuable or the reverse, and what kind of institutions are suited to what national
characteristics. But those who peruse such compilations without possessing a trained
faculty cannot be capable of judging them correctly, unless they do so by instinct, though
they may very likely sharpen their political intelligence.
As then the question of legislation has been left uninvestigated by previous thinkers, it
will perhaps be well if we consider it for ourselves, together with the whole question of
the constitution of the State, in order to complete as far as possible our philosophy of
will begin then by attempting
a review of any pronouncements of value contributed by our predecessors in this or that
branch of the subject; and then on the basis of our collection of constitutions42
consider what institutions are preservative and what destructive of states in general, and
of the different forms of constitution in particular, and what are the reasons which cause
some states to be well governed and others the
contrary. For after studying these questions we shall perhaps be in a better position to
discern what is the best constitution absolutely, and what are the best regulations, laws,
and customs for any given form of constitution. Let us then begin our discussion.