Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Book X

Next, it would seem, follows a discussion respecting Pleasure, for it is thought to be most closely bound up with our kind: and so men train the young, guiding them on their course by the rudders of Pleasure and Pain. And to like and dislike what one ought is judged to be most important for the formation of good moral character: because these feelings extend all one's life through, giving a bias towards and exerting an influence on the side of Virtue and Happiness, since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful.

Subjects such as these then, it would seem, we ought by no means to pass by, and specially since they involve much difference of opinion. There are those who call Pleasure the Chief Good; there are others who on the contrary maintain that it is exceedingly bad; some perhaps from a real conviction that such is the case, others from a notion that it is better, in reference to our life and conduct, to show up Pleasure as bad, even if it is not so really; arguing that, as the mass of men have a bias towards it and are the slaves of their pleasures, it is right to draw them to the contrary, for that so they may possibly arrive at the mean.

I confess I suspect the soundness of this policy; in matters respecting men's feelings and actions theories are less convincing than facts: whenever, therefore, they are found conflicting with actual experience, they not only are despised but involve the truth in their fall: he, for instance, who deprecates Pleasure, if once seen to aim at it, gets the credit of backsliding to it as being universally such as he said it was, the mass of men being incapable of nice distinctions.

Real accounts, therefore, of such matters seem to be most expedient, not with a view to knowledge merely but to life and conduct: for they are believed as being in harm with facts, and so they prevail with the wise to live in accordance with them.

But of such considerations enough: let us now proceed to the current maxims respecting Pleasure.

II Now Eudoxus thought Pleasure to be the Chief Good because he saw all, rational and irrational alike, aiming at it: and he argued that, since in all what was the object of choice must be good and what most so the best, the fact of all being drawn to the same thing proved this thing to be the best for all: "For each," he said, "finds what is good for itself just as it does its proper nourishment, and so that which is good for all, and the object of the aim of all, is their Chief Good."

(And his theories were received, not so much for their own sake, as because of his excellent moral character; for he was thought to be eminently possessed of perfect self-mastery, and therefore it was not thought that he said these things because he was a lover of Pleasure but that he really was so convinced.)

And he thought his position was not less proved by the argument from the contrary: that is, since Pain was in itself an object of avoidance to all the contrary must be in like manner an object of choice.

Again he urged that that is most choiceworthy which we choose, not by reason of, or with a view to, anything further; and that Pleasure is confessedly of this kind because no one ever goes on to ask to what purpose he is pleased, feeling that Pleasure is in itself choiceworthy.

Again, that when added to any other good it makes it more choiceworthy; as, for instance, to actions of justice, or perfected self-mastery; and good can only be increased by itself.

However, this argument at least seems to prove only that it belongs to the class of goods, and not that it does so more than anything else: for every good is more choicewortby in combination with some other than when taken quite alone. In fact, it is by just such an argument that Plato proves that Pleasure is not the Chief Good: "For," says he, "the life of Pleasure is more choiceworthy in combination with Practical Wisdom than apart from it; but, if the compound better then simple Pleasure cannot be the Chief Good; because the very Chief Good cannot by any addition become choiceworthy than it is already:" and it is obvious that nothing else can be the Chief Good, which by combination with any of the things in themselves good comes to be more choiceworthy.

What is there then of such a nature? (meaning, of course, whereof we can partake; because that which we are in search of must be such).

As for those who object that "what all aim at is not necessarily good," I confess I cannot see much in what they say, because what all 'think' we say 'is'. And he who would cut away this ground from under us will not bring forward things more dependable: because if the argument had rested on the desires of irrational creatures there might have been something in what he says, but, since the rational also desire Pleasure, how can his objection be allowed any weight? and it may be that, even in the lower animals, there is some natural good principle above themselves which aims at the good peculiar to them.

Nor does that seem to be sound which is urged respecting the argument from the contrary: I mean, some people say "it does not follow that Pleasure must be good because Pain is evil, since evil may be opposed to evil, and both evil and good to what is indifferent:" now what they say is right enough in itself but does not hold in the present instance. If both Pleasure and Pain were bad both would have been objects of avoidance; or if neither then neither would have been, at all events they must have fared alike: but now men do plainly avoid the one as bad and choose the other as good, and so there is a complete opposition. III Nor again is Pleasure therefore excluded from being good because it does not belong to the class of qualities: the acts of virtue are not qualities, neither is Happiness [yet surely both are goods].

Again, they say the Chief Good is limited but Pleasure unlimited, in that it admits of degrees.

Now if they judge this from the act of feeling Pleasure then the same thing will apply to justice and all the other virtues, in respect of which clearly it is said that men are more or less of such and such characters (according to the different virtues), they are more just or more brave, or one may practise justice and self-mastery more or less.

If, on the other hand, they judge in respect of the Pleasures themselves then it may be they miss the true cause, namely that some are unmixed and others mixed: for just as health being in itself limited, admits of degrees, why should not Pleasure do so and yet be limited? in the former case we account for it by the fact that there is not the same adjustment of parts in all men, nor one and the same always in the same individual: but health, though relaxed, remains up to a certain point, and differs in degrees; and of course the same may be the case with Pleasure.

Again, assuming the Chief Good to be perfect and all Movements and Generations imperfect, they try to shew that Pleasure is a Movement and a Generation.

Yet they do not seem warranted in saying even that it is a Movement: for to every Movement are thought to belong swiftness and slowness, and if not in itself, as to that of the universe, yet relatively: but to Pleasure neither of these belongs: for though one may have got quickly into the state Pleasure, as into that of anger, one cannot be in the state quickly, nor relatively to the state of any other person; but we can walk or grow, and so on, quickly or slowly.

Of course it is possible to change into the state of Pleasure quickly or slowly, but to act in the state (by which, I mean, have the perception of Pleasure) quickly, is not possible. And how can it be a Generation? because, according to notions generally held, not 'any'thing is generated from 'any'thing, but a thing resolves itself into that out of which it was generated: whereas of that of which Pleasure is a Generation Pain is a Destruction.

Again, they say that Pain is a lack of something suitable to nature and Pleasure a supply of it.

But these are affections of the body: now if Pleasure really is a supplying of somewhat suitable to nature, that must feel the Pleasure in which the supply takes place, therefore the body of course: yet this is not thought to be so: neither then is Pleasure a supplying, only a person of course will be pleased when a supply takes place just as he will be pained when he is cut.

This notion would seem to have arisen out of the Pains and Pleasures connected with natural nourishment; because, when people have felt a lack and so have had Pain first, they, of course, are pleased with the supply of their lack.

But this is not the case with all Pleasures: those attendant on mathematical studies, for instance, are unconnected with any Pain; and of such as attend on the senses those which arise through the sense of Smell; and again, many sounds, and sights, and memories, and hopes: now of what can these be Generations? because there has been here no lack of anything to be afterwards supplied.

And to those who bring forward disgraceful Pleasures we may reply that these are not really pleasant things; for it does not follow because they are pleasant to the ill-disposed that we are to admit that they are pleasant except to them; just as we should not say that those things are really wholesome, or sweet, or bitter, which are so to the sick, or those objects really white which give that impression to people labouring under ophthalmia.

Or we might say thus, that the Pleasures are choiceworthy but not as derived from these sources: just as wealth is, but not as the price of treason; or health, but not on the terms of eating anything however loathsome. Or again, may we not say that Pleasures differ in kind? those derived from honourable objects, for instance are different from those arising from disgraceful ones; and it is not possible to experience the Pleasure of the just man without being just, or of the musical man without being musical; and so on of others.

The distinction commonly drawn between the friend and the flatterer would seem to show clearly either that Pleasure is not a good, or that there are different kinds of Pleasure: for the former is thought to have good as the object of his intercourse, the latter Pleasure only; and this last is reproached, but the former men praise as having different objects in his intercourse.

[Sidenote: 1174a]

Again, no one would choose to live with a child's intellect all his life through, though receiving the highest possible Pleasure from such objects as children receive it from; or to take Pleasure in doing any of the most disgraceful things, though sure never to be pained.

There are many things also about which we should be diligent even though they brought no Pleasure; as seeing, remembering, knowing, possessing the various Excellences; and the fact that Pleasures do follow on these naturally makes no difference, because we should certainly choose them even though no Pleasure resulted from them.

It seems then to be plain that Pleasure is not the Chief Good, nor is every kind of it choiceworthy: and that there are some choiceworthy in themselves, differing in kind, 'i.e.' in the sources from which they are derived. Let this then suffice by way of an account of the current maxims respecting Pleasure and Pain.

[Sidenote: IV]

Now what it is, and how characterised, will be more plain if we take up the subject afresh.

An act of Sight is thought to be complete at any moment; that is to say, it lacks nothing the accession of which subsequently will complete its whole nature.

Well, Pleasure resembles this: because it is a whole, as one may say; and one could not at any moment of time take a Pleasure whose whole nature would be completed by its lasting for a longer time. And for this reason it is not a Movement: for all Movement takes place in time of certain duration and has a certain End to accomplish; for instance, the Movement of house-building is then only complete when the builder has produced what he intended, that is, either in the whole time [necessary to complete the whole design], or in a given portion. But all the subordinate Movements are incomplete in the parts of the time, and are different in kind from the whole movement and from one another (I mean, for instance, that the fitting the stones together is a Movement different from that of fluting the column, and both again from the construction of the Temple as a whole: but this last is complete as lacking nothing to the result proposed; whereas that of the basement, or of the triglyph, is incomplete, because each is a Movement of a part merely).

As I said then, they differ in kind, and you cannot at any time you choose find a Movement complete in its whole nature, but, if at all, in the whole time requisite.

[Sidenote: 1174'b']

And so it is with the Movement of walking and all others: for, if motion be a Movement from one place to another place, then of it too there are different kinds, flying, walking, leaping, and such-like. And not only so, but there are different kinds even in walking: the where-from and where-to are not the same in the whole Course as in a portion of it; nor in one portion as in another; nor is crossing this line the same as crossing that: because a man is not merely crossing a line but a line in a given place, and this is in a different place from that.

Of Movement I have discoursed exactly in another treatise. I will now therefore only say that it seems not to be complete at any given moment; and that most movements are incomplete and specifically different, since the whence and whither constitute different species.

But of Pleasure the whole nature is complete at any given moment: it is plain then that Pleasure and Movement must be different from one another, and that Pleasure belongs to the class of things whole and complete. And this might appear also from the impossibility of moving except in a definite time, whereas there is none with respect to the sensation of Pleasure, for what exists at the very present moment is a kind of "whole."

From these considerations then it is plain that people are not warranted in saying that Pleasure is a Movement or a Generation: because these terms are not applicable to all things, only to such as are divisible and not "wholes:" I mean that of an act of Sight there is no Generation, nor is there of a point, nor of a monad, nor is any one of these a Movement or a Generation: neither then of Pleasure is there Movement or Generation, because it is, as one may say, "a whole."

Now since every Percipient Faculty works upon the Object answering to it, and perfectly the Faculty in a good state upon the most excellent of the Objects within its range (for Perfect Working is thought to be much what I have described; and we will not raise any question about saying "the Faculty" works, instead of, "that subject wherein the Faculty resides"), in each case the best Working is that of the Faculty in its best state upon the best of the Objects answering to it. And this will be, further, most perfect and most pleasant: for Pleasure is attendant upon every Percipient Faculty, and in like manner on every intellectual operation and speculation; and that is most pleasant which is most perfect, and that most perfect which is the Working of the best Faculty upon the most excellent of the Objects within its range.

And Pleasure perfects the Working. But Pleasure does not perfect it in the same way as the Faculty and Object of Perception do, being good; just as health and the physician are not in similar senses causes of a healthy state.

And that Pleasure does arise upon the exercise of every Percipient Faculty is evident, for we commonly say that sights and sounds are pleasant; it is plain also that this is especially the case when the Faculty is most excellent and works upon a similar Object: and when both the Object and Faculty of Perception are such, Pleasure will always exist, supposing of course an agent and a patient.

[Sidenote: 1175'a']

Furthermore, Pleasure perfects the act of Working not in the way of an inherent state but as a supervening finish, such as is bloom in people at their prime. Therefore so long as the Object of intellectual or sensitive Perception is such as it should be and also the Faculty which discerns or realises the Object, there will be Pleasure in the Working: because when that which has the capacity of being acted on and that which is apt to act are alike and similarly related, the same result follows naturally.

How is it then that no one feels Pleasure continuously? is it not that he wearies, because all human faculties are incapable of unintermitting exertion; and so, of course, Pleasure does not arise either, because that follows upon the act of Working. But there are some things which please when new, but afterwards not in the like way, for exactly the same reason: that at first the mind is roused and works on these Objects with its powers at full tension; just as they who are gazing stedfastly at anything; but afterwards the act of Working is not of the kind it was at first, but careless, and so the Pleasure too is dulled.

Again, a person may conclude that all men grasp at Pleasure, because all aim likewise at Life and Life is an act of Working, and every man works at and with those things which also he best likes; the musical man, for instance, works with his hearing at music; the studious man with his intellect at speculative questions, and so forth. And Pleasure perfects the acts of Working, and so Life after which men grasp. No wonder then that they aim also at Pleasure, because to each it perfects Life, which is itself choiceworthy. (We will take leave to omit the question whether we choose Life for Pleasure's sake of Pleasure for Life's sake; because these two plainly are closely connected and admit not of separation; since Pleasure comes not into being without Working, and again, every Working Pleasure perfects.)

And this is one reason why Pleasures are thought to differ in kind, because we suppose that things which differ in kind must be perfected by things so differing: it plainly being the case with the productions of Nature and Art; as animals, and trees, and pictures, and statues, and houses, and furniture; and so we suppose that in like manner acts of Working which are different in kind are perfected by things differing in kind. Now Intellectual Workings differ specifically from those of the Senses, and these last from one another; therefore so do the Pleasures which perfect them.

This may be shown also from the intimate connection subsisting between each Pleasure and the Working which it perfects: I mean, that the Pleasure proper to any Working increases that Working; for they who work with Pleasure sift all things more closely and carry them out to a greater degree of nicety; for instance, those men become geometricians who take Pleasure in geometry, and they apprehend particular points more completely: in like manner men who are fond of music, or architecture, or anything else, improve each on his own pursuit, because they feel Pleasure in them. Thus the Pleasures aid in increasing the Workings, and things which do so aid are proper and peculiar: but the things which are proper and peculiar to others specifically different are themselves also specifically different.

Yet even more clearly may this be shown from the fact that the Pleasures arising from one kind of Workings hinder other Workings; for instance, people who are fond of flute-music cannot keep their attention to conversation or discourse when they catch the sound of a flute; because they take more Pleasure in flute-playing than in the Working they are at the time engaged on; in other words, the Pleasure attendant on flute-playing destroys the Working of conversation or discourse. Much the same kind of thing takes place in other cases, when a person is engaged in two different Workings at the same time: that is, the pleasanter of the two keeps pushing out the other, and, if the disparity in pleasantness be great, then more and more till a man even ceases altogether to work at the other.

This is the reason why, when we are very much pleased with anything whatever, we do nothing else, and it is only when we are but moderately pleased with one occupation that we vary it with another: people, for instance, who eat sweetmeats in the theatre do so most when the performance is indifferent.

Since then the proper and peculiar Pleasure gives accuracy to the Workings and makes them more enduring and better of their kind, while those Pleasures which are foreign to them mar them, it is plain there is a wide difference between them: in fact, Pleasures foreign to any Working have pretty much the same effect as the Pains proper to it, which, in fact, destroy the Workings; I mean, if one man dislikes writing, or another calculation, the one does not write, the other does not calculate; because, in each case, the Working is attended with some Pain: so then contrary effects are produced upon the Workings by the Pleasures and Pains proper to them, by which I mean those which arise upon the Working, in itself, independently of any other circumstances. As for the Pleasures foreign to a Working, we have said already that they produce a similar effect to the Pain proper to it; that is they destroy the Working, only not in like way.

Well then, as Workings differ from one another in goodness and badness, some being fit objects of choice, others of avoidance, and others in their nature indifferent, Pleasures are similarly related; since its own proper Pleasure attends or each Working: of course that proper to a good Working is good, that proper to a bad, bad: for even the desires for what is noble are praiseworthy, and for what is base blameworthy.

Furthermore, the Pleasures attendant on Workings are more closely connected with them even than the desires after them: for these last are separate both in time and nature, but the former are close to the Workings, and so indivisible from them as to raise a question whether the Working and the Pleasure are identical; but Pleasure does not seem to be an Intellectual Operation nor a Faculty of Perception, because that is absurd; but yet it gives some the impression of being the same from not being separated from these.

As then the Workings are different so are their Pleasures; now Sight differs from Touch in purity, and Hearing and Smelling from Taste; therefore, in like manner, do their Pleasures; and again, Intellectual Pleasures from these Sensual, and the different kinds both of Intellectual and Sensual from one another.

It is thought, moreover, that each animal has a Pleasure proper to itself, as it has a proper Work; that Pleasure of course which is attendant on the Working. And the soundness of this will appear upon particular inspection: for horse, dog, and man have different Pleasures; as Heraclitus says, an ass would sooner have hay than gold; in other words, provender is pleasanter to asses than gold. So then the Pleasures of animals specifically different are also specifically different, but those of the same, we may reasonably suppose, are without difference.

Yet in the case of human creatures they differ not a little: for the very same things please some and pain others: and what are painful and hateful to some are pleasant to and liked by others. The same is the case with sweet things: the same will not seem so to the man in a fever as to him who is in health: nor will the invalid and the person in robust health have the same notion of warmth. The same is the case with other things also.

Now in all such cases that is held to 'be' which impresses the good man with the notion of being such and such; and if this is a second maxim (as it is usually held to be), and Virtue, that is, the Good man, in that he is such, is the measure of everything, then those must be real Pleasures which gave him the impression of being so and those things pleasant in which he takes Pleasure. Nor is it at all astonishing that what are to him unpleasant should give another person the impression of being pleasant, for men are liable to many corruptions and marrings; and the things in question are not pleasant really, only to these particular persons, and to them only as being thus disposed.

Well of course, you may say, it is obvious that we must assert those which are confessedly disgraceful to be real Pleasures, except to depraved tastes: but of those which are thought to be good what kind, or which, must we say is 'The Pleasure of Man?' is not the answer plain from considering the Workings, because the Pleasures follow upon these?

Whether then there be one or several Workings which belong to the perfect and blessed man, the Pleasures which perfect these Workings must be said to be specially and properly 'The Pleasures of Man;' and all the rest in a secondary sense, and in various degrees according as the Workings are related to those highest and best ones.


Now that we have spoken about the Excellences of both kinds, and Friendship in its varieties, and Pleasures, it remains to sketch out Happiness, since we assume that to be the one End of all human things: and we shall save time and trouble by recapitulating what was stated before.

[Sidenote: 1176b] Well then, we said that it is not a State merely; because, if it were, it might belong to one who slept all his life through and merely vegetated, or to one who fell into very great calamities: and so, if these possibilities displease us and we would rather put it into the rank of some kind of Working (as was also said before), and Workings are of different kinds (some being necessary and choiceworthy with a view to other things, while others are so in themselves), it is plain we must rank Happiness among those choiceworthy for their own sakes and not among those which are so with a view to something further: because Happiness has no lack of anything but is self-sufficient.

By choiceworthy in themselves are meant those from which nothing is sought beyond the act of Working: and of this kind are thought to be the actions according to Virtue, because doing what is noble and excellent is one of those things which are choiceworthy for their own sake alone.

And again, such amusements as are pleasant; because people do not choose them with any further purpose: in fact they receive more harm than profit from them, neglecting their persons and their property. Still the common run of those who are judged happy take refuge in such pastimes, which is the reason why they who have varied talent in such are highly esteemed among despots; because they make themselves pleasant in those things which these aim at, and these accordingly want such men.

Now these things are thought to be appurtenances of Happiness because men in power spend their leisure herein: yet, it may be, we cannot argue from the example of such men: because there is neither Virtue nor Intellect necessarily involved in having power, and yet these are the only sources of good Workings: nor does it follow that because these men, never having tasted pure and generous Pleasure, take refuge in bodily ones, we are therefore to believe them to be more choiceworthy: for children too believe that those things are most excellent which are precious in their eyes.

We may well believe that as children and men have different ideas as to what is precious so too have the bad and the good: therefore, as we have many times said, those things are really precious and pleasant which seem so to the good man: and as to each individual that Working is most choiceworthy which is in accordance with his own state to the good man that is so which is in accordance with Virtue.

Happiness then stands not in amusement; in fact the very notion is absurd of the End being amusement, and of one's toiling and enduring hardness all one's life long with a view to amusement: for everything in the world, so to speak, we choose with some further End in view, except Happiness, for that is the End comprehending all others. Now to take pains and to labour with a view to amusement is plainly foolish and very childish: but to amuse one's self with a view to steady employment afterwards, as Anacharsis says, is thought to be right: for amusement is like rest, and men want rest because unable to labour continuously.

Rest, therefore, is not an End, because it is adopted with a view to Working afterwards.

[Sidenote: 1177a] Again, it is held that the Happy Life must be one in the way of Excellence, and this is accompanied by earnestness and stands not in amusement. Moreover those things which are done in earnest, we say, are better than things merely ludicrous and joined with amusement: and we say that the Working of the better part, or the better man, is more earnest; and the Working of the better is at once better and more capable of Happiness.

Then, again, as for bodily Pleasures, any ordinary person, or even a slave, might enjoy them, just as well as the best man living but Happiness no one supposes a slave to share except so far as it is implied in life: because Happiness stands not in such pastimes but in the Workings in the way of Excellence, as has also been stated before.


Now if Happiness is a Working in the way of Excellence of course that Excellence must be the highest, that is to say, the Excellence of the best Principle. Whether then this best Principle is Intellect or some other which is thought naturally to rule and to lead and to conceive of noble and divine things, whether being in its own nature divine or the most divine of all our internal Principles, the Working of this in accordance with its own proper Excellence must be the perfect Happiness.

That it is Contemplative has been already stated: and this would seem to be consistent with what we said before and with truth: for, in the first place, this Working is of the highest kind, since the Intellect is the highest of our internal Principles and the subjects with which it is conversant the highest of all which fall within the range of our knowledge.

Next, it is also most Continuous: for we are better able to contemplate than to do anything else whatever, continuously.

Again, we think Pleasure must be in some way an ingredient in Happiness, and of all Workings in accordance with Excellence that in the way of Science is confessedly most pleasant: at least the pursuit of Science is thought to contain Pleasures admirable for purity and permanence; and it is reasonable to suppose that the employment is more pleasant to those who have mastered, than to those who are yet seeking for, it.

And the Self-Sufficiency which people speak of will attach chiefly to the Contemplative Working: of course the actual necessaries of life are needed alike by the man of science, and the just man, and all the other characters; but, supposing all sufficiently supplied with these, the just man needs people towards whom, and in concert with whom, to practise his justice; and in like manner the man of perfected self-mastery, and the brave man, and so on of the rest; whereas the man of science can contemplate and speculate even when quite alone, and the more entirely he deserves the appellation the more able is he to do so: it may be he can do better for having fellow-workers but still he is certainly most Self-Sufficient.

[Sidenote: 1177b] Again, this alone would seem to be rested in for its own sake, since nothing results from it beyond the fact of having contemplated; whereas from all things which are objects of moral action we do mean to get something beside the doing them, be the same more or less.

Also, Happiness is thought to stand in perfect rest; for we toil that we may rest, and war that we may be at peace. Now all the Practical Virtues require either society or war for their Working, and the actions regarding these are thought to exclude rest; those of war entirely, because no one chooses war, nor prepares for war, for war's sake: he would indeed be thought a bloodthirsty villain who should make enemies of his friends to secure the existence of fighting and bloodshed. The Working also of the statesman excludes the idea of rest, and, beside the actual work of government, seeks for power and dignities or at least Happiness for the man himself and his fellow-citizens: a Happiness distinct the national Happiness which we evidently seek as being different and distinct.

If then of all the actions in accordance with the various virtues those of policy and war are pre-eminent in honour and greatness, and these are restless, and aim at some further End and are not choiceworthy for their own sakes, but the Working of the Intellect, being apt for contemplation, is thought to excel in earnestness, and to aim at no End beyond itself and to have Pleasure of its own which helps to increase the Working, and if the attributes of Self-Sufficiency, and capacity of rest, and unweariedness (as far as is compatible with the infirmity of human nature), and all other attributes of the highest Happiness, plainly belong to this Working, this must be perfect Happiness, if attaining a complete duration of life, which condition is added because none of the points of Happiness is incomplete.

But such a life will be higher than mere human nature, because a man will live thus, not in so far as he is man but in so far as there is in him a divine Principle: and in proportion as this Principle excels his composite nature so far does the Working thereof excel that in accordance with any other kind of Excellence: and therefore, if pure Intellect, as compared with human nature, is divine, so too will the life in accordance with it be divine compared with man's ordinary life. [Sidenote: 1178a] Yet must we not give ear to those who bid one as man to mind only man's affairs, or as mortal only mortal things; but, so far as we can, make ourselves like immortals and do all with a view to living in accordance with the highest Principle in us, for small as it may be in bulk yet in power and preciousness it far more excels all the others.

In fact this Principle would seem to constitute each man's "Self," since it is supreme and above all others in goodness it 'would' be absurd then for a man not to choose his own life but that of some other.

And here will apply an observation made before, that whatever is proper to each is naturally best and pleasantest to him: such then is to Man the life in accordance with pure Intellect (since this Principle is most truly Man), and if so, then it is also the happiest.


And second in degree of Happiness will be that Life which is in accordance with the other kind of Excellence, for the Workings in accordance with this are proper to Man: I mean, we do actions of justice, courage, and the other virtues, towards one another, in contracts, services of different kinds, and in all kinds of actions and feelings too, by observing what is befitting for each: and all these plainly are proper to man. Further, the Excellence of the Moral character is thought to result in some points from physical circumstances, and to be, in many, very closely connected with the passions.

Again, Practical Wisdom and Excellence of the Moral character are very closely united; since the Principles of Practical Wisdom are in accordance with the Moral Virtues and these are right when they accord with Practical Wisdom.

These moreover, as bound up with the passions, must belong to the composite nature, and the Excellences or Virtues of the composite nature are proper to man: therefore so too will be the life and Happiness which is in accordance with them. But that of the Pure Intellect is separate and distinct: and let this suffice upon the subject, since great exactness is beyond our purpose,

It would seem, moreover, to require supply of external goods to a small degree, or certainly less than the Moral Happiness: for, as far as necessaries of life are concerned, we will suppose both characters to need them equally (though, in point of fact, the man who lives in society does take more pains about his person and all that kind of thing; there will really be some little difference), but when we come to consider their Workings there will be found a great difference.

I mean, the liberal man must have money to do his liberal actions with, and the just man to meet his engagements (for mere intentions are uncertain, and even those who are unjust make a pretence of 'wishing' to do justly), and the brave man must have power, if he is to perform any of the actions which appertain to his particular Virtue, and the man of perfected self-mastery must have opportunity of temptation, else how shall he or any of the others display his real character?

[Sidenote: 1178b]

(By the way, a question is sometimes raised, whether the moral choice or the actions have most to do with Virtue, since it consists in both: it is plain that the perfection of virtuous action requires both: but for the actions many things are required, and the greater and more numerous they are the more.) But as for the man engaged in Contemplative Speculation, not only are such things unnecessary for his Working, but, so to speak, they are even hindrances: as regards the Contemplation at least; because of course in so far as he is Man and lives in society he chooses to do what Virtue requires, and so he will need such things for maintaining his character as Man though not as a speculative philosopher.

And that the perfect Happiness must be a kind of Contemplative Working may appear also from the following consideration: our conception of the gods is that they are above all blessed and happy: now what kind of Moral actions are we to attribute to them? those of justice? nay, will they not be set in a ridiculous light if represented as forming contracts, and restoring deposits, and so on? well then, shall we picture them performing brave actions, withstanding objects of fear and meeting dangers, because it is noble to do so? or liberal ones? but to whom shall they be giving? and further, it is absurd to think they have money or anything of the kind. And as for actions of perfected self-mastery, what can theirs be? would it not be a degrading praise that they have no bad desires? In short, if one followed the subject into all details all the circumstances connected with Moral actions would appear trivial and unworthy of gods.

Still, every one believes that they live, and therefore that they Work because it is not supposed that they sleep their time away like Endymion: now if from a living being you take away Action, still more if Creation, what remains but Contemplation? So then the Working of the Gods, eminent in blessedness, will be one apt for Contemplative Speculation; and of all human Workings that will have the greatest capacity for Happiness which is nearest akin to this.

A corroboration of which position is the fact that the other animals do not partake of Happiness, being completely shut out from any such Working.

To the gods then all their life is blessed; and to men in so far as there is in it some copy of such Working, but of the other animals none is happy because it in no way shares in Contemplative Speculation.

Happiness then is co-extensive with this Contemplative Speculation, and in proportion as people have the act of Contemplation so far have they also the being happy, not incidentally, but in the way of Contemplative Speculation because it is in itself precious.

So Happiness must be a kind of Contemplative Speculation; but since it is Man we are speaking of he will need likewise External Prosperity, because his Nature is not by itself sufficient for Speculation, but there must be health of body, and nourishment, and tendance of all kinds.

[Sidenote: 1179a] However, it must not be thought, because without external goods a man cannot enjoy high Happiness, that therefore he will require many and great goods in order to be happy: for neither Self-sufficiency, nor Action, stand in Excess, and it is quite possible to act nobly without being ruler of sea and land, since even with moderate means a man may act in accordance with Virtue.

And this may be clearly seen in that men in private stations are thought to act justly, not merely no less than men in power but even more: it will be quite enough that just so much should belong to a man as is necessary, for his life will be happy who works in accordance with Virtue.

Solon perhaps drew a fair picture of the Happy, when he said that they are men moderately supplied with external goods, and who have achieved the most noble deeds, as he thought, and who have lived with perfect self-mastery: for it is quite possible for men of moderate means to act as they ought.

Anaxagoras also seems to have conceived of the Happy man not as either rich or powerful, saying that he should not wonder if he were accounted a strange man in the judgment of the multitude: for they judge by outward circumstances of which alone they have any perception.

And thus the opinions of the Wise seem to be accordant with our account of the matter: of course such things carry some weight, but truth, in matters of moral action, is judged from facts and from actual life, for herein rests the decision. So what we should do is to examine the preceding statements by referring them to facts and to actual life, and when they harmonise with facts we may accept them, when they are at variance with them conceive of them as mere theories.

Now he that works in accordance with, and pays observance to, Pure Intellect, and tends this, seems likely to be both in the best frame of mind and dearest to the Gods: because if, as is thought, any care is bestowed on human things by the Gods then it must be reasonable to think that they take pleasure in what is best and most akin to themselves (and this must be the Pure Intellect); and that they requite with kindness those who love and honour this most, as paying observance to what is dear to them, and as acting rightly and nobly. And it is quite obvious that the man of Science chiefly combines all these: he is therefore dearest to the Gods, and it is probable that he is at the same time most Happy.

Thus then on this view also the man of Science will be most Happy.


Now then that we have said enough in our sketchy kind of way on these subjects; I mean, on the Virtues, and also on Friendship and Pleasure; are we to suppose that our original purpose is completed? Must we not rather acknowledge, what is commonly said, that in matters of moral action mere Speculation and Knowledge is not the real End but rather Practice: and if so, then neither in respect of Virtue is Knowledge enough; we must further strive to have and exert it, and take whatever other means there are of becoming good.

Now if talking and writing were of themselves sufficient to make men good, they would justly, as Theognis observes have reaped numerous and great rewards, and the thing to do would be to provide them: but in point of fact, while they plainly have the power to guide and stimulate the generous among the young and to base upon true virtuous principle any noble and truly high-minded disposition, they as plainly are powerless to guide the mass of men to Virtue and goodness; because it is not their nature to be amenable to a sense of shame but only to fear; nor to abstain from what is low and mean because it is disgraceful to do it but because of the punishment attached to it: in fact, as they live at the beck and call of passion, they pursue their own proper pleasures and the means of securing them, and they avoid the contrary pains; but as for what is noble and truly pleasurable they have not an idea of it, inasmuch as they have never tasted of it.

Men such as these then what mere words can transform? No, indeed! it is either actually impossible, or a task of no mean difficulty, to alter by words what has been of old taken into men's very dispositions: and, it may be, it is a ground for contentment if with all the means and appliances for goodness in our hands we can attain to Virtue.

The formation of a virtuous character some ascribe to Nature, some to Custom, and some to Teaching. Now Nature's part, be it what it may, obviously does not rest with us, but belongs to those who in the truest sense are fortunate, by reason of certain divine agency,

Then, as for Words and Precept, they, it is to be feared, will not avail with all; but it may be necessary for the mind of the disciple to have been previously prepared for liking and disliking as he ought; just as the soil must, to nourish the seed sown. For he that lives in obedience to passion cannot hear any advice that would dissuade him, nor, if he heard, understand: now him that is thus how can one reform? in fact, generally, passion is not thought to yield to Reason but to brute force. So then there must be, to begin with, a kind of affinity to Virtue in the disposition; which must cleave to what is honourable and loath what is disgraceful. But to get right guidance towards Virtue from the earliest youth is not easy unless one is brought up under laws of such kind; because living with self-mastery and endurance is not pleasant to the mass of men, and specially not to the young. For this reason the food, and manner of living generally, ought to be the subject of legal regulation, because things when become habitual will not be disagreeable.

[Sidenote: 1180'a'] Yet perhaps it is not sufficient that men while young should get right food and tendance, but, inasmuch as they will have to practise and become accustomed to certain things even after they have attained to man's estate, we shall want laws on these points as well, and, in fine, respecting one's whole life, since the mass of men are amenable to compulsion rather than Reason, and to punishment rather than to a sense of honour.

And therefore some men hold that while lawgivers should employ the sense of honour to exhort and guide men to Virtue, under the notion that they will then obey who have been well trained in habits; they should impose chastisement and penalties on those who disobey and are of less promising nature; and the incurable expel entirely: because the good man and he who lives under a sense of honour will be obedient to reason; and the baser sort, who grasp at pleasure, will be kept in check, like beasts of burthen by pain. Therefore also they say that the pains should be such as are most contrary to the pleasures which are liked.

As has been said already, he who is to be good must have been brought up and habituated well, and then live accordingly under good institutions, and never do what is low and mean, either against or with his will. Now these objects can be attained only by men living in accordance with some guiding Intellect and right order, with power to back them.

As for the Paternal Rule, it possesses neither strength nor compulsory power, nor in fact does the Rule of any one man, unless he is a king or some one in like case: but the Law has power to compel, since it is a declaration emanating from Practical Wisdom and Intellect. And people feel enmity towards their fellow-men who oppose their impulses, however rightly they may do so: the Law, on the contrary, is not the object of hatred, though enforcing right rules.

The Lacedæmonian is nearly the only State in which the framer of the Constitution has made any provision, it would seem, respecting the food and manner of living of the people: in most States these points are entirely neglected, and each man lives just as he likes, ruling his wife and children Cyclops-Fashion.

Of course, the best thing would be that there should be a right Public System and that we should be able to carry it out: but, since as a public matter those points are neglected, the duty would seem to devolve upon each individual to contribute to the cause of Virtue with his own children and friends, or at least to make this his aim and purpose: and this, it would seem, from what has been said, he will be best able to do by making a Legislator of himself: since all public *[Sidenote: 1180'b'] systems, it is plain, are formed by the instrumentality of laws and those are good which are formed by that of good laws: whether they are written or unwritten, whether they are applied to the training of one or many, will not, it seems, make any difference, just as it does not in music, gymnastics, or any other such accomplishments, which are gained by practice.

For just as in Communities laws and customs prevail, so too in families the express commands of the Head, and customs also: and even more in the latter, because of blood-relationship and the benefits conferred: for there you have, to begin with, people who have affection and are naturally obedient to the authority which controls them.

Then, furthermore, Private training has advantages over Public, as in the case of the healing art: for instance, as a general rule, a man who is in a fever should keep quiet, and starve; but in a particular case, perhaps, this may not hold good; or, to take a different illustration, the boxer will not use the same way of fighting with all antagonists.

It would seem then that the individual will be most exactly attended to under Private care, because so each will be more likely to obtain what is expedient for him. Of course, whether in the art of healing, or gymnastics, or any other, a man will treat individual cases the better for being acquainted with general rules; as, "that so and so is good for all, or for men in such and such cases:" because general maxims are not only said to be but are the object-matter of sciences: still this is no reason against the possibility of a man's taking excellent care of some 'one' case, though he possesses no scientific knowledge but from experience is exactly acquainted with what happens in each point; just as some people are thought to doctor themselves best though they would be wholly unable to administer relief to others. Yet it may seem to be necessary nevertheless, for one who wishes to become a real artist and well acquainted with the theory of his profession, to have recourse to general principles and ascertain all their capacities: for we have already stated that these are the object-matter of sciences.

If then it appears that we may become good through the instrumentality of laws, of course whoso wishes to make men better by a system of care and training must try to make a Legislator of himself; for to treat skilfully just any one who may be put before you is not what any ordinary person can do, but, if any one, he who has knowledge; as in the healing art, and all others which involve careful practice and skill.

[Sidenote: 1181'a'] Will not then our next business be to inquire from what sources, or how one may acquire this faculty of Legislation; or shall we say, that, as in similar cases, Statesmen are the people to learn from, since this faculty was thought to be a part of the Social Science? Must we not admit that the Political Science plainly does not stand on a similar footing to that of other sciences and faculties? I mean, that while in all other cases those who impart the faculties and themselves exert them are identical (physicians and painters for instance) matters of Statesmanship the Sophists profess to teach, but not one of them practises it, that being left to those actually engaged in it: and these might really very well be thought to do it by some singular knack and by mere practice rather than by any intellectual process: for they neither write nor speak on these matters (though it might be more to their credit than composing speeches for the courts or the assembly), nor again have they made Statesmen of their own sons or their friends.

One can hardly suppose but that they would have done so if they could, seeing that they could have bequeathed no more precious legacy to their communities, nor would they have preferred, for themselves or their dearest friends, the possession of any faculty rather than this.

Practice, however, seems to contribute no little to its acquisition; merely breathing the atmosphere of politics would never have made Statesmen of them, and therefore we may conclude that they who would acquire a knowledge of Statesmanship must have in addition practice.

But of the Sophists they who profess to teach it are plainly a long way off from doing so: in fact, they have no knowledge at all of its nature and objects; if they had, they would never have put it on the same footing with Rhetoric or even on a lower: neither would they have conceived it to be "an easy matter to legislate by simply collecting such laws as are famous because of course one could select the best," as though the selection were not a matter of skill, and the judging aright a very great matter, as in Music: for they alone, who have practical knowledge of a thing, can judge the performances rightly or understand with what means and in what way they are accomplished, and what harmonises with what: the unlearned must be content with being able to discover whether the result is good or bad, as in painting.

[Sidenote: 1181'b'] Now laws may be called the performances or tangible results of Political Science; how then can a man acquire from these the faculty of Legislation, or choose the best? we do not see men made physicians by compilations: and yet in these treatises men endeavour to give not only the cases but also how they may be cured, and the proper treatment in each case, dividing the various bodily habits. Well, these are thought to be useful to professional men, but to the unprofessional useless. In like manner it may be that collections of laws and Constitutions would be exceedingly useful to such as are able to speculate on them, and judge what is well, and what ill, and what kind of things fit in with what others: but they who without this qualification should go through such matters cannot have right judgment, unless they have it by instinct, though they may become more intelligent in such matters.

Since then those who have preceded us have left uninvestigated the subject of Legislation, it will be better perhaps for us to investigate it ourselves, and, in fact, the whole subject of Polity, that thus what we may call Human Philosophy may be completed as far as in us lies.

First then, let us endeavour to get whatever fragments of good there may be in the statements of our predecessors, next, from the Polities we have collected, ascertain what kind of things preserve or destroy Communities, and what, particular Constitutions; and the cause why some are well and others ill managed, for after such inquiry, we shall be the better able to take a concentrated view as to what kind of Constitution is best, what kind of regulations are best for each, and what laws and customs.

To this let us now proceed.