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Editor’s Notepg 95Editor’s NoteBOOK I

  • 1094aEditor’s Note Link 1(I. 1) Every sort of expert knowledge and every inquiry, and similarly every
  • Editor’s Note Link 2action and undertaking, seems to seek some good. Because of that, people are
  • Editor’s Note Link 3right to affirm that the good is 'that which all things seek'. But there appears
  • Link 4to be a certain difference among ends: some are activities, while others are
  • Editor’s Note Link 5products of some kind, over and above the activities themselves. Where there
  • Link 6are ends over and above the activities, in these cases the products are by their
  • 7nature better than the activities. Since there are many sorts of action, and of
  • Link 8expertise and knowledge, their ends turn out to be many too: thus health is
  • Link 9the end of medicine, a ship of shipbuilding, victory of generalship, wealth of
  • 10household management. But in every case where such activities fall under
  • 11some single capacity, just as bridle-making falls under horsemanship, along
  • 12with all the others that produce the equipment for horsemanship, and horse-
  • 13manship along with every action that has to do with expertise in warfare falls
  • Editor’s Note14under generalship—so in the same way others fall under a separate one; and
  • 15in all activities the ends of the controlling ones are more desirable than the
  • Editor’s Note Link 16ends under them, because it is for the sake of the former that the latter too are
  • 17pursued. It makes no difference—as in the case of the sorts of knowledge
  • Editor’s Note Link 18mentioned—whether the ends of the actions are the activities themselves, or
  • 19some other thing over and above these.
  • (I. 2) If then there is some end in our practical projects that we wish for
  • because of itself, while wishing for the other things we wish for because of it,
  • Editor’s Note20and we do not choose everything because of something else (for if that is the
  • Link 21case, the sequence will go on to infinity, making our desire empty and vain), it
  • Link 22is clear that this will be the good, i.e. the chief good. So in relation to life, too,
  • Link 23will knowing it have great weight, and like archers with a target would we be
  • Link 24more successful in hitting the point we need to hit if we had this knowledge?
  • 25If so, then one must try to grasp it at least in outline, that is, what it might be,
  • Link 26and to which sort of expertise or productive capacity it belongs. It would seem
  • Link 27to belong to the most sovereign, i.e. the most 'architectonic'. Political expert-
  • Link 28ise appears to be like this, for it is this expertise that sets out which of
  • 1094b1the expertises there needs to be in cities, and what sorts of expertise each
  • Link 2group of people should learn, and up to what point; and we see even the
  • 3most prestigious of the productive capacities falling under it, for example
  • pg 964generalship, household management, rhetoric; and since it makes use of the
  • Link 5practical1 expertises that remain, and furthermore legislates about what one
  • Editor’s Note6must do and what things one must abstain from doing, the end of this expert-
  • Editor’s Note Link 7ise will contain those of the rest; so that this end will be the human good. For
  • 8even if the good is the same for a single person and for a city, the good of the
  • Link 9city is a greater and more complete thing both to achieve and to preserve; for
  • Editor’s Note Link 10while to do so for one person on his own is satisfactory enough, to do it for a
  • Editor’s Note Link nation or for cities is finer and more godlike. So our inquiry seeks these things,
  • Link being a political inquiry in a way.
  • Editor’s Note(I. 3) But our account would be adequate, if we achieved a degree of
  • Link precision appropriate to the underlying material; for precision must not be
  • sought to the same degree in all accounts of things, any more than it is by
  • Link 15craftsmen in the things they are producing. Fine things and just things, which
  • Editor’s Note Link are what political expertise inquires about, involve great variation and
  • irregularity, so that they come to seem fine and just by convention alone, and
  • not by nature. Something like this lack of regularity is found also in good
  • Link things, because of the fact that they turn out to be a source of damage to
  • many people: some in fact have perished because of wealth, others because of
  • 20courage. We must be content, then, when talking about things of this sort and
  • Link 21starting from them, to show what is true about them roughly and in outline,
  • 22and when talking about things that are for the most part, and starting from
  • Link 23these, to reach conclusions too of the same sort. It is in this same way, then,
  • Link 24that one must also receive each sort of account; for it is a mark of an educated
  • 25person to look for precision in each kind of inquiry just to the extent that the
  • Link 26nature of the subject allows it; it looks like the same kind of mistake to accept
  • 27a merely persuasive account from a mathematician and to demand demon-
  • 28strations from an expert in oratory. Each person judges well what he knows,
  • 1095a Link 1and is a good judge of these things (so the person who is educated in a given
  • Link thing is a good judge of that, and the person who is educated in everything is a
  • good judge without qualification). This is why the young are not an appropri-
  • Link ate audience for the political expert; for they are inexperienced in the actions
  • that constitute life, and what is said will start from these and will be about
  • these. What is more, because they have a tendency to be led by the emotions,
  • 5it will be without point or use for them to listen, since the end is not knowing
  • Link 6things but doing them. Nor does it make any difference whether a person is
  • Link 7young in years or immature in character, for the deficiency is not a matter of
  • 8time, but the result of living by emotion and going after things in that way.
  • 9For having knowledge turns out to be without benefit to such people, as it is
  • Link 10to those who lack self-control; whereas for those who arrange their desires,
  • 11and act, in accordance with reason, it will be of great use to know about these
  • pg 9712things. Let this stand as our preamble: about audience, about how the present
  • 13inquiry is to be received, and about what we are proposing.
  • Editor’s Note Link 14(I. 4) Let us then resume the argument: since every sort of knowledge, and
  • 15every undertaking, seeks after some good, let us say what it is that we say
  • Link political expertise seeks, and what the topmost of all achievable goods is.
  • Editor’s Note Link Pretty well most people are agreed about what to call it: both ordinary people
  • Link and people of quality say 'happiness', and suppose that living well and doing
  • Link 20well are the same thing as being happy. But they are in dispute about what
  • 21happiness actually is, and ordinary people do not give the same answer as
  • Link 22intellectuals. The first group identifies it with one of the obvious things that
  • Link 23anyone would recognize, like pleasure or wealth or honour, while some pick
  • Link 24some other thing and others another (often, too, the same person picks a
  • Editor’s Note25different thing: when he falls ill, it's health, and if he is poor, it's wealth); but
  • Editor’s Note Link out of consciousness of their own ignorance they are in awe of those who say
  • something impressive and over their heads. Some people used to think that
  • Link besides these many goods there is another one, existing by itself, which is
  • Link cause for all of these too of their being good. Now it is presumably rather
  • otiose to examine all these opinions, and enough to examine those that are
  • Editor’s Note Link 30most widely held, or seem to have some justification. However we must keep
  • Link 31in mind that there is a difference between arguments that begin from first
  • Editor’s Note Link 32principles and arguments that work to first principles. Plato too used to raise
  • 33difficulties here, and rightly: he would inquire whether the movement of the
  • 1095b Link 1discussion was from first principles or to them, just as in the stadium the
  • Editor’s Note Link runners might be moving away from the race stewards towards the turn or in
  • Link the reverse direction. For one must begin from what is knowable, but there
  • Editor’s Note Link are two senses of 'knowable': there is what is knowable in relation to us, and
  • what is knowable without qualification. Presumably, then, in our case, we must
  • start from what is knowable to us. Consequently, in order to listen appropri-
  • Link 5ately to discussion about what is fine and just, i.e. about the objects of political
  • Editor’s Note Link expertise in general, one must have been well brought up. For the starting
  • point is that it is so, and if this were sufficiently clear to us—well, in that case
  • there will be no need to know in addition why. But such a person either has
  • Editor’s Note Link the relevant first principles, or might easily grasp them. As for anyone who has
  • neither of the things in question, he should listen to what Hesiod says:

  • Link 10              Best out of everyone he who himself sees all that concerns him;
  • 11              Excellent too is that man who listens to others' good counsel.
  • 12              But the one who neither sees for himself, nor, hearing another,
  • 13              Takes the words to his heart—now that is a useless man.

  • Editor’s Note Link 14(I. 5) But let us return to the point from which we digressed. On the good
  • Link 15and happiness: to judge from their lives, most people, i.e. the most vulgar,
  • Editor’s Note16seem—not unreasonably—to suppose it to be pleasure; that is just why they
  • pg 9817favour the life of consumption. The kinds of lives that stand out here are
  • Editor’s Note Link 18especially three: the one just mentioned; the political life; and the life of
  • Link 20reflection. Now most of the utterly slavish sort of people obviously decide in
  • Editor’s Note Link 21favour of a life that belongs to grazing cattle, and not without reason, given
  • Link 22that many of those in high places behave like Sardanapallus. People of quality,
  • Link 23for their part, those who tend towards a life of action, go for honour; for
  • Link 24pretty much this is the end of the political life. But it appears more superficial
  • 25than what we are looking for, as it seems to be located in those doing the
  • Link honouring rather than in the person receiving it, and our hunch is that the
  • Link good is something that belongs to a person and is difficult to take away from
  • him. Again, people seem to pursue honour in order to be convinced that they
  • themselves are good: at any rate they seek to be honoured by people of
  • discernment, and among those who know them, and to be honoured for
  • Link 30excellence. So it is clear, at any rate according to them, that excellence is of
  • Link 31greater value. In fact, perhaps one might suppose that this is even more the
  • Link 32end of the political life than honour is. But excellence too appears somewhat
  • Link 33incomplete: for it seems to be possible actually to be asleep while having one's
  • 1096a1excellence, or to spend one's life in inactivity, and furthermore to suffer, and to
  • Link meet with the greatest misfortunes; and no one would call the person who
  • Editor’s Notelived this kind of life happy, unless to defend a debating position. That will
  • Editor’s Note Link suffice on these questions, since they have also been adequately discussed in
  • the books that have circulated. Third of the three lives in question, then, is the
  • life of reflection, about which we shall make our investigation in what follows.
  • Link 5The life of the money maker is of a sort that is chosen under compulsion of
  • 6need, and wealth is clearly not the good we are looking for, since it is useful,
  • Editor’s Note Link 7and for the sake of something else. Hence one might be more inclined to take
  • Link 8as ends the things mentioned before, because they are valued for themselves.
  • Editor’s Note9But it appears that they are not what we are looking for either; and yet there
  • 10are many established arguments that focus on them.
  • Editor’s Note Link Let these things, then, be set aside;
  • (I. 6) but perhaps we had better discuss the universal good, and raise difficul-
  • Link ties about how 'good' is predicated—although such an investigation goes
  • Link against the grain because it was friends of ours who introduced the forms. But
  • it would seem perhaps better, even imperative, certainly when it is a matter of
  • Editor’s Note15saving the truth, to destroy even what is one's own, especially if one is a
  • Editor’s Note Link 16philosopher; for while both friends and the truth are dear, the right thing is to
  • Editor’s Note Link 17honour the truth first. Well then, those who introduced this view used not to
  • 18set up forms for things to which they applied the notions of prior and pos-
  • Link 19terior, which is why they also did not construct a form of numbers; but 'good'
  • Link 20is said in the categories of 'what it is', quality, and relative to something: and
  • 21what is in its own right, i.e. substance, is by nature prior to what is relative to
  • 22something (for the latter resembles an offshoot or accident of what is); it
  • pg 99Editor’s Note Link 23follows that there will not be some common form over these. Again, since
  • Link 24'good' is said in as many ways as 'being' (since it is said in the category of
  • Link 25'what', e.g. god and intelligence, in that of quality, e.g. the excellences, in that
  • 26of quantity, e.g. the moderate amount, in that of relative to something, e.g.
  • 27the useful, in that of time, e.g. the right moment, in that of place, e.g. habitat,
  • 28and other things like this), it is clear that there will not be some common and
  • Editor’s Note Link 29unitary universal in this case; for otherwise good would not be said in all the
  • 30categories, but only in one. Again, since in relation to the things correspond
  • ing to a single form there is also a single kind of knowledge, there would also
  • be some single knowledge of all goods; but as it is there are many even of
  • Link goods falling under a single category, as for example there are many kinds of
  • Editor’s Note Link knowledge of the right moment, since in war there is generalship, and medi-
  • cine in the case of disease, while for the moderate amount there is medicine in
  • diet and athletic training in physical exertion. One might raise difficulties, too,
  • Link 35about what it might be that they mean by talking about the (whatever it may
  • 1096b1be in each case) 'itself', if in fact there is one and the same definition both in
  • the case of 'man-itself' and in that of man, namely the definition of man. For
  • Link in so far as both are man, they will not differ at all; and if that is so, neither will
  • there be a difference in the other case, in so far as both 'good-itself' and good
  • are good. Nor will 'good-itself' be more good by virtue of being eternal,
  • unless it is also true that what is white and long-lasting is whiter than what is
  • Editor’s Note5white and short-lived. The Pythagoreans seem to have something more per-
  • Link 6suasive to say about the matter, when they place the One in the column of
  • Editor’s Note7goods; and apparently Speusippus followed their lead. But let us leave these
  • Editor’s Note Link 8people for another occasion. As for those others we referred to, we may detect
  • 9something of a dilemma arising for them, from their not having said the same
  • 10things about every good: rather, those that are pursued and valued for them-
  • Link selves are called good by reference to a single form, while those that tend to
  • bring these about or somehow preserve them or prevent their opposites are
  • called good because of them, and in another way. It is clear, then, that goods
  • will be called good in two ways, i.e. some will be good in themselves, while
  • the other sort will be good because of them. Well then, let us separate off
  • 15those good in themselves from those that are useful, and consider whether
  • Link they are called good by reference to a single form. These goods in
  • Link themselves—what sort of goods would one suppose these to be? Or are they
  • those that are pursued even on their own, like understanding, or seeing, or
  • certain pleasures or honours? For even if we do pursue these because of
  • something else, still one might suppose them to belong among things good in
  • 20themselves. Or is there nothing that is good in itself at all apart from the form?
  • 21In which case, the form will have no point. If on the other hand the things
  • 22mentioned also belong among things good in themselves, the same definition
  • Link 23of the good will need to show up in all of them, just as the definition of
  • 24whiteness shows up in snow and white lead. But in fact the definitions of
  • pg 100honour, understanding, and pleasure are distinct and different according to the
  • Link 25way in which they are goods. In that case the good is not something in
  • Editor’s Note Link common and relating to a single form. But then on what principle is it predi-
  • Link cated? For it does not look like a case of mere chance homonymy. Or is it on
  • Editor’s Note Link the principle that other goods derive from a single one, or that they all con-
  • verge on it; or is it rather a matter of analogy: as sight is in the case of body,
  • intelligence is in the case of soul, and so on with other goods, other contexts?
  • Editor’s Note30But perhaps for now we should leave these questions aside; for to get precision
  • Editor’s Note31on them would belong to a different sort of inquiry. Similarly in relation to the
  • 32form; for even if the good that is predicated in common of things is some one
  • Link 33thing, something separate 'itself by itself', it is clear that it will not be anything
  • 34doable or capable of being acquired by a human being, whereas, as things
  • Editor’s Note Link 35stand, it is something like this that we are looking for. But perhaps someone
  • 1097a1might think it better to get to know it with a view to getting those goods that
  • are capable of being acquired and doable; they might think that by having this
  • as a kind of model we shall also be better able to identify those things that are
  • good for us, and in that case to attain them. Well, the idea has a certain
  • plausibility, but seems not to be in accord with what we find with the various
  • 5sorts of expert knowledge; for all of them seek some particular good, and
  • 6though they look for whatever is lacking, they leave out knowledge of the
  • Link 7form of the good. And yet it is hardly likely that all the experts should be
  • Link 8unaware of so great a resource, and should fail even to go looking for it. But it
  • 9is also difficult to see how a weaver or a carpenter will be helped in relation to
  • 10his craft by knowing this good 'itself'; or how someone who has seen the form
  • Link itself will be a better doctor or a better general. For the doctor appears not
  • even to look into health in this way; what he looks into is human health, or
  • perhaps rather the health of this individual, for he deals with his patients one
  • by one.
  • So much for these subjects:
  • Editor’s Note Link 15(I. 7) let us go back to the good we are looking for—what might it be? For it
  • appears to be one thing in one activity or sphere of expertise, another in
  • Link another: it is different in medicine and in generalship, and likewise in the rest.
  • Link What then is the good that belongs to each? Or is it that for which everything
  • 20else is done? In medicine this is health, in generalship victory, in housebuilding
  • a house, in some other sphere some other thing, but in every activity and
  • Link undertaking it is the end; for it is for the sake of this that they all do the rest.
  • Editor’s Note Link The consequence is that if there is some one end of all practical undertakings,
  • Editor’s Note Link this will be the practicable good, and if there are more than one, it will be
  • these. Thus as the argument turns in its course, it has arrived at the same point;
  • Editor’s Note Link 25but we must try even more to achieve precision in this matter. Since, then,2
  • pg 10126the ends are evidently more than one, and of these we choose some because
  • 27of something else, as we do wealth, flutes, and instruments in general, it is
  • Link 28clear that not all are complete; and the best is evidently something complete.
  • 29So that if there is some one thing alone that is complete, this will be what we
  • Editor’s Note Link 30are looking for, and if there are more such things than one, the most complete
  • 31of these. Now we say that what is worth pursuing for itself is more complete
  • 32than what is worth pursuing because of something else, and what is never
  • Editor’s Note Link 33desirable because of something else is more complete than those things that
  • Editor’s Note Link 34are desirable both for themselves and because of it; while what is complete
  • 35without qualification is what is always desirable in itself and never because of
  • 1097b Link 1something else. Happiness seems most of all to be like this; for this we do
  • Link always choose because of itself and never because of something else, while as
  • Link for honour, and pleasure, and intelligence, and every excellence, we do choose
  • Link them because of themselves (since if nothing resulted from them, we would
  • still choose each of them), but we also choose them for the sake of happiness,
  • 5supposing that we shall be happy through them. But happiness no one
  • Link 6chooses for the sake of these things, nor in general because of something else.
  • Editor’s Note Link 7The same appears also to follow from considerations of self-sufficiency; for
  • Link 8the complete good seems to be self-sufficient. By 'self-sufficient', we do not
  • Link 9mean sufficient for oneself alone, for the person living a life of isolation, but
  • Link 10also for one's parents, children, wife, and generally those one loves, and one's
  • Editor’s Note Link 11fellow citizens, since man is by nature a civic being. But there must be some
  • 12limit found here: if the point is extended to ancestors and descendants and
  • Editor’s Note13loved ones' loved ones, an infinite series will result. But this we must look at
  • Editor’s Note Link 14on another occasion: the 'self-sufficient' we posit as being what in isolation
  • 15makes life desirable and lacking in nothing, and we think happiness is like
  • Editor’s Note Link this—and moreover most desirable of all things, it not being counted with
  • Link other goods: clearly, if it were so counted in with the least of other goods, we
  • Link would think it more desirable, for what is added becomes an extra quantity of
  • 20goods, and the larger total amount of goods is always more desirable. So
  • Link 21happiness is clearly something complete and self-sufficient, being the end of
  • Editor’s Note Link 22our practical undertakings.
  • Editor’s Note23But perhaps it appears somewhat uncontroversial to say that happiness is the
  • Link 24chief good, and a more distinct statement of what it is is still required. Well,
  • Link 25perhaps this would come about if one established the function of human
  • Link beings. For just as for a flute-player, or a sculptor, or any expert, and generally
  • Link for all those who have some characteristic function or activity, the good—their
  • Editor’s Note Link doing well—seems to reside in their function, so too it would seem to be for
  • Link the human being, if indeed there is some function that belongs to him. So
  • does a carpenter or a shoemaker have certain functions and activities, while a
  • Link 30human being has none, and is by nature a do-nothing? Or just as an eye, a
  • 31hand, a foot, and generally each and every part of the body appears as having
  • 32some function, in the same way would one posit a characteristic function for a
  • pg 102Editor’s Note Link 33human being too, alongside all of these? What, then, should we suppose this
  • Link 34to be? For being alive is obviously shared by plants too, and we are looking for
  • 1098a Link 1what is peculiar to human beings. In that case we must divide off the kind of
  • Link life that consists in taking in nutriment and growing.3 Next to consider would
  • Link be some sort of life of perception, but this too is evidently shared, by horses,
  • Editor’s Note Link oxen, and every other animal. There remains a practical sort of life of what
  • possesses reason; and of this, one element 'possesses reason' in so far as it is
  • Link 5obedient to reason, while the other possesses it in so far as it actually has it,
  • Editor’s Note Link and itself thinks. Since this life, too, is spoken of in two ways, we must posit
  • Editor’s Note Link the active life; for this seems to be called a practical life in the more proper
  • Link sense. If the function of a human being is activity of soul in accordance with
  • Link reason, or not apart from reason, and the function, we say, of a given sort of
  • practitioner and a good practitioner of that sort is generically the same, as for
  • 10example in the case of a cithara-player and a good cithara-player, and this is so
  • Link without qualification in all cases, when a difference in respect of excellence is
  • Link added to the function (for what belongs to the citharist is to play the cithara,
  • Link to the good citharist to play it well)—if all this is so, and4 a human being's
  • Link function we posit as being a kind of life, and this life as being activity of soul
  • and actions accompanied by reason, and it belongs to a good man to perform
  • Link 15these well and finely, and each thing is completed well when it possesses its
  • Link 16proper excellence: if all this is so, the human good turns out to be activity of
  • Editor’s Note Link 17soul in accordance with excellence (and if there are more excellences than
  • Editor’s Note Link 18one, in accordance with the best and the most complete). But furthermore it
  • 19will be this in a complete life. For a single swallow does not make spring, nor
  • Editor’s Note Link 20does a single day; in the same way, neither does a single day, or a short time,
  • make a man blessed and happy.
  • Let the good, then, be sketched in this way; for perhaps we need to give an
  • Editor’s Noteoutline first, and fill in the detail later. To develop and articulate those elem-
  • ents in the sketch that are as they should be would seem to be something
  • anyone can do, and time seems to be good at discovering such things, or
  • 25helping us to discover them; this is also the source of advances in the product-
  • Editor’s Note Link 26ive skills—it is for anyone to add what is lacking. But one must also bear in
  • 27mind what was said before, and not look for precision in the same way in
  • 28everything, but in accordance with the underlying material in each sphere,
  • Link 29and to the extent that is appropriate to the inquiry. For a carpenter and a
  • 30geometer look for the right angle in different ways: the one looks for it to the
  • Link 31extent to which it is useful towards his product, while the other looks for what
  • Editor’s Note Link 32it is, or what sort of thing it is; for his gaze is on the truth. We should proceed
  • 1098b Link 1in just the same way in other areas too, so that the side issues do not over-
  • Link whelm the main ones. One should not demand to know the reason why,
  • pg 103Editor’s Note Link either, in the same way in all matters: in some cases, it will suffice if that
  • Link something is so has been well shown, as indeed is true of starting points; and
  • that something is so is primary and a starting point. Of starting points, some
  • are grasped by induction, some by perception, some by a sort of habituation,
  • Link 5and others in other ways: one must try to get hold of each sort in the
  • Link 6appropriate way, and take care that they are well marked out, since they have
  • 7great importance in relation to what comes later. For the start of something
  • 8seems to be more than half of the whole, and through it many of the things
  • Editor’s Note Link 9being looked for seem to become evident.
  • Link 10(I. 8) But we must inquire into it not only on the basis of our conclusion and
  • Link the premisses of our argument, but also on the basis of the things people say
  • Editor’s Note Link about it: for a true view will have all the available evidence in harmony with it,
  • while a false one quickly finds itself in discord with what is true. Well then,
  • Link given the division of goods into three, with some said to be external, and
  • others said to relate to soul and body respectively, we commonly say that
  • 15those relating to soul are goods in the most proper sense and good to the
  • Link highest degree, and we count actions, and soul-related activities, as 'relating to
  • soul'. So what we have said will be right at any rate according to this view,
  • Editor’s Note Link which is an old one, and has the agreement of those who reflect philosophic-
  • ally. Our account will be right too in so far as certain actions and activities are
  • being identified as the end; for in this way the end turns out to belong among
  • Link 20goods of the soul and not among external goods. In harmony with our
  • Editor’s Note Link 21account, too, is the idea that the happy man both lives well and does well; for
  • Link 22happiness has virtually been defined as a sort of living well and doing well.
  • Editor’s Note23Also all the things that are looked for in relation to happiness appear to belong
  • 24to what we have said it is. For some people think it is excellence, others that it
  • 25is wisdom, others a kind of intellectual accomplishment; others think that it is
  • Link these, or one of these, together with pleasure or not without pleasure, while
  • Link others include external prosperity as well. Some of these views have been held
  • Link by many people from ancient times, while some belong to a few people of
  • high reputation; and it is not reasonable to suppose that either set of people
  • are wholly wrong, but rather that they are getting it right at least in some one
  • Link 30respect, or else in most respects. Well, our account is in harmony with those
  • Link 31who say that happiness is excellence, or some form of excellence; for 'activity
  • 32in accordance with excellence' belongs to excellence. But perhaps it makes no
  • Link 33little difference whether we suppose the chief good to be located in the
  • 34possession of excellence, or in its use, i.e. in a disposition or in a form of
  • 1099a Link 1activity. For it is possible for the disposition to be present and yet to produce
  • nothing good, as for example in the case of the person who is asleep, or in
  • some other way rendered inactive, but the same will not hold of the activity:
  • the person will necessarily be doing something, and will do (it) well. Just as at
  • the Olympic Games it is not the finest and the strongest that are crowned but
  • pg 1041099a5those who compete (for the winners come from among these), so too in life it
  • 6is the doers that become achievers of fine and good things—and rightly so.
  • Link 7Their life, too, is in itself pleasant. For enjoying pleasure is something that
  • Link 8belongs to the soul, and to each person that thing is pleasant in relation to
  • 9which he is called 'lover of' that sort of thing, as for example a horse is to the
  • Link 10horse-lover, a spectacle to the theatre-lover; and in the same way what is just is
  • Editor’s Note Link also pleasant to the lover of justice, and generally the things in accordance
  • Link with excellence to the lover of excellence. Now for most people the things
  • Link that are pleasant are in conflict, because they are not such by nature, whereas
  • to lovers of the fine what is pleasant is what is pleasant by nature; and actions
  • in accordance with excellence are like this, so that they are pleasant both to
  • Link 15these people and in themselves. So their life has no need of pleasure in
  • 16addition, like a piece of jewellery fastened on, but contains pleasure within
  • Link 17itself. For to add to what we have said, the sort of person who does not delight
  • 18in fine actions does not even qualify as a person of excellence: no one would
  • 19call a person just if he failed to delight in acting justly, nor open-handed if he
  • 20failed to delight in open-handed actions; and similarly in other cases. If that is
  • Link so, actions in accordance with excellence will be pleasant in themselves. But
  • they will be good, too, and fine, and will be each of these to the highest degree,
  • Editor’s Note Link if the person of excellence is a good judge here—which he is, and he judges in
  • Link 25the way we have said. So happiness is what is best, and finest, and pleasantest,
  • and these qualities are not divided as the inscription at Delos says:

  •                What's finest—perfect justice; what's best—not that, but health.
  •                What's most pleasant—none of those, but getting the thing one adores.

  • Editor’s Note Link 30All these accolades in fact belong to the best kinds of activity; and it is these,
  • Editor’s Note Link 31or the one of them that is best, that we say happiness is. Nevertheless it clearly
  • Link 32also requires external goods in addition, as we have said; for it is impossible, or
  • Editor’s Note Link 33not easy, to perform fine actions if one is without resources. For in the first
  • 1099b Link 1place many things are done by means of friends, or wealth, or political power,
  • Link as if by means of tools; and then again, there are some things the lack of
  • Editor’s Note Link which is like a stain on happiness, things like good birth, being blessed in one's
  • children, beauty: for the person who is extremely ugly, or of low birth, or on
  • his own without children is someone we would be not altogether inclined to
  • 5call happy, and even less inclined, presumably, if someone had totally depraved
  • children or friends, or ones who were good but dead. As we have said, then,
  • Link one seems to need this sort of well-being too; and this is the reason why some
  • Editor’s Notepeople identify good fortune with happiness, others excellence.
  • 10(I. 9) This is the reason too why people debate whether happiness is some-
  • Link thing learned, or the product of habituation, or the product of training in
  • some other way, or whether it comes by some sort of divine dispensation, or
  • even through chance. Well, if anything is a gift of the gods to mankind, it is
  • pg 105reasonable to suppose that happiness is god-given—more than any other
  • human possession, by the same degree that it is best. But, while this subject
  • will perhaps belong more to a different investigation, it appears nevertheless
  • 15that, even if happiness is not sent by gods but comes through excellence and
  • Editor’s Note Link 16some process of learning or training, it is one of the most godlike things; for
  • 17the prize and fulfilment of excellence appears to be to the highest degree
  • Link 18good, and to be something godlike and blessed. It will also be something
  • Editor’s Note Link 19available to many; for it will be possible for it to belong, through some kind of
  • Editor’s Note20learning or practice, to anyone not handicapped in relation to excellence. And
  • Link 21if it is better like this than that we should be happy through chance, it is
  • 22reasonable to suppose that it is like this, if in fact things in the natural world
  • 23are as fine as it is possible for them to be, and similarly things in the realm of
  • 24artifice, or causation generally, and most of all in relation to the best cause.5 To
  • Link 25hand over the greatest and finest of things to chance would be too much out
  • 26of tune. But the answer we are looking for is evident from our account too:
  • Link 27for we have said that happiness is a certain sort of activity in accordance with
  • Editor’s Note28excellence; and of the remaining goods, some are necessary to happiness,
  • Link 29while others contribute to it by being useful tools. This will agree, too, with
  • 30our opening remarks; for we were there positing that the end of political
  • 31expertise is best, and this expertise is dedicated above all to making the
  • Editor’s Note32citizens be of a certain quality, i.e. good, and doers of fine things. So it makes
  • 33sense that we do not call either an ox, or a horse, or any other animal 'happy',
  • 1100a Link 1because none of them is capable of sharing in this sort of activity. For this
  • 2reason a child is not 'happy', either; for he is not yet a doer of the sorts of
  • 3things in question, because of his age; those children that are said to be happy
  • Link 4are being called blessed because of their prospects. This is because, as we have
  • Link 5said, happiness requires both complete excellence and a complete life. For
  • Link 6many changes occur in life, and all sorts of things happen: it is possible for a
  • 7person who flourishes to the highest degree to encounter great disasters in old
  • Editor’s Note Link 8age, as happened to Priam in the story of events at Troy; and no one who has
  • Editor’s Note9had a fate like that, and died miserably, is counted happy by anyone.
  • Editor’s Note Link 10(I. 10) Is it the case, then, that we should not count anyone else happy, either,
  • Editor’s Note Link 11so long as he is alive? Must we agree with Solon, and look to a man's end? And
  • 12if we should posit that view, is it then that one is really happy—when one is
  • Link 13dead? Or is that a completely strange notion, especially in our case, when we
  • Link 14are saying that happiness is a kind of activity? But if we do not call the dead
  • 15happy, and if this is not what Solon means, either—only that that is the time
  • when it will be safe to call a human being blessed, on the grounds that he is
  • now beyond the reach of evils and misfortunes: even this one might dispute,
  • Editor’s Notefor someone who is dead seems in a way to be affected by both good and bad,
  • pg 1061100a20as much as someone who is alive but not perceiving what is happening to him;
  • so for example the dead seem to be affected when their children are honoured
  • Link or disgraced, and generally by whether their descendants do well or
  • encounter misfortune. But this too raises a difficulty. Take someone who has
  • Link lived a blessed life up until old age, and died in a manner that accords with
  • that: the way his descendants turn out is something that will be liable to great
  • 25variation, and some of them may be good and enjoy the life they deserve,
  • 26while for others the opposite happens; and it is clearly possible for them to be
  • Link 27separated by all sorts of different intervals from their dead ancestors. It would
  • 28then be a strange result if the dead person were to change along with his
  • Link 29descendants, and were to be happy at one time and miserable at another; and
  • 30it would be odd too if the fortunes of descendants did not touch their ances-
  • Link tors to any degree, or over any period of time. But we should go back to the
  • Link first problem, for perhaps from that we shall also be able to observe the
  • Link answer to the question we are now considering. If, then, one must look to a
  • man's end, and call a man blessed at that point, not on the grounds that he is
  • then blessed, but because he was so before, is it not plainly strange if, when he
  • 35is happy, what actually belongs to him will not be truly predicated of him, as a
  • 1100b1result of our not wanting to call the living happy because of the changes that
  • Link 2can occur, and because of our assumption that happiness is something firm-
  • 3rooted and not in any way easily subject to change, while often the same
  • Link 4people find their fortunes circling back on themselves? For clearly if we were
  • 5to track a person's fortunes, we shall find ourselves often calling the same
  • person happy, and then miserable, thus revealing the happy man as a kind of
  • Editor’s Note Link 'chameleon, and infirmly based'. Or is it completely wrong to track a person's
  • Editor’s Note Link fortunes like this? For they are not where living well or badly is located, but
  • 10rather human life needs them in addition, as we have said, and it is activities in
  • Editor’s Note Link accordance with excellence that are responsible for our happiness, and the
  • Link opposite sort of activities for the opposite state. The present difficulty itself
  • bears witness to our account. For in no aspect of what human beings do is
  • Editor’s Notethere such stability as there is in activities in accordance with excellence: they
  • seem to be more firm-rooted even than the various kinds of knowledge we
  • 15possess; and of these very kinds of knowledge the most honourable are more
  • 16firm-rooted because of the fact that those who are blessed spend their lives in
  • 17them more than in anything, and most continuously, for this is likely to be
  • 18why forgetfulness does not occur in relation to them. What we are looking
  • Link 19for, then, will belong to the happy man, and throughout life he will be such as
  • Link 20we say; for he will always, or most of all people, do and reflect on what is in
  • Editor’s Note21accordance with excellence, and as for what fortune brings, 'the man who is
  • Link 22truly good and four-square beyond reproach' will bear it in the finest way,
  • 23without any note of discord of any kind. Given that many things happen by
  • 24chance, things that differ in magnitude and smallness, small instances of good
  • Link 25fortune, and similarly of the opposite, clearly do not alter the balance of a
  • pg 10726man's life, whereas turns of fortune that are great and repeated will if good
  • 27make one's life more blessed (since they are themselves such as to add lustre
  • Link 28to life, and the use of them is fine and worth while), and if they turn out in the
  • Editor’s Note Link 29opposite way, they crush and maim one's blessedness; for they bring on pains,
  • Link 30and obstruct many sorts of activities. Nevertheless, even in these circum-
  • 31stances the quality of fineness shines through, when someone bears repeated
  • 32and great misfortunes calmly, not because he is insensitive to them but
  • Editor’s Note Link 33because he is a person of nobility and greatness of soul. If one's activities
  • 34are what determines the quality of one's life, as we have said, no one who is
  • Link 35blessed will become miserable; for he will never do what is hateful and vile.
  • 1101a Link 1For we consider that the truly good and sensible person bears what fortune
  • 2brings him with good grace, and acts on each occasion in the finest way
  • 3possible given the resources at the time, just as we think that a good general
  • 4uses the army he has to the best strategic advantage, and a shoemaker makes
  • 5a shoe as finely as it can be made out of the hides he has been given; and
  • Link 6similarly with all the other sorts of craftsmen. If so, then the happy man will
  • Editor’s Note7never become miserable, though neither will he be blessed if he meets with
  • Link 8fortunes like Priam's. Nor indeed will he take on many colours, or be subject
  • Link 9to easy change; for on the one hand he will not be readily dislodged from his
  • Link 10happy state, and not by any misfortune that happens along, but only by great
  • Link 11and repeated ones, and on the other hand he will not recover his happiness
  • Link 12from such misfortunes in a short time, but if at all in some extended and
  • 13complete passage of life in which he achieves great and fine things. What then
  • Link 14stops us from calling happy the one who is active in accordance with complete
  • Link 15excellence, sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some random
  • Editor’s Note Link period of time but over a complete life? Or must we add that he will also
  • Link continue to live like that, and die accordingly, since his future is not apparent
  • to us, and we posit happiness as an end, and complete in every way and every
  • 20respect? If so, we shall call blessed those living people who have and will have
  • 21the things we have mentioned, but blessed as human beings.
  • Editor’s Note Link On these issues, let us draw the line at this point:
  • (I. 11) as for the question we left behind, the idea that the fortunes of one's
  • descendants and all one's loved ones should make not the slightest contribu-
  • tion to one's state seems too devoid of fellow feeling, and contrary to what
  • people think; however since the things that come about are many and exhibit
  • 25all sorts of variety, and some penetrate to us more and some less, to make
  • distinctions in each and every case appears a long, even endless task, and it will
  • perhaps be enough if we deal with the matter in general terms and in outline.
  • If, then, there is a similarity between the misfortunes that affect oneself and
  • 30those affecting all one's loved ones, with some possessing weight and influ-
  • Editor’s Note31encing the quality of life, and others looking like lighter occurrences, and if,
  • 32for any given incident, whether it involves the living or the dead makes much
  • pg 10833more difference than whether in tragedies lawless, terrible deeds have hap-
  • 34pened beforehand or are presently being enacted, we must then take this
  • Editor’s Note35difference too into account in our argument, or rather perhaps we must bring
  • 1101b Link 1in the difficulty, in relation to the dead, whether they share in any good or in the
  • things opposite to that. For it seems likely from these considerations that even
  • if anything at all does penetrate through to them, whether good or the
  • opposite, it is something feeble and small, either small generally or small to
  • them, or if not, at any rate of such a size and such a sort as not to make happy
  • those who are not already, nor to take blessedness away from those who are.
  • 5Thus the dead do seem to be somehow affected when their loved ones do
  • well, and similarly when they do badly, but in such a way and to such an extent
  • as neither to render the happy unhappy nor do anything else of the sort.
  • Editor’s Note Link 10(I. 12) With this clarified, let us consider whether happiness comes under the
  • Editor’s Note11heading of what is to be praised or rather of what is to be honoured; for
  • Editor’s Note12obviously it is not found among the potentialities. Everything praised appears
  • 13to be praised for being of a certain quality and being disposed in a certain way
  • Editor’s Note14towards something; for we praise the just man, the courageous man, and in
  • 15general the good man, and excellence, because of his actions, i.e. what he
  • 16does, and we praise the strong man, too, and the one who is good at running,
  • 17and so on in other cases, because they are of a certain quality and disposed in
  • Editor’s Note18a certain way towards something good and worth doing. This is also clear if
  • 19we consider praises offered to the gods; for they appear laughable if they are
  • 20offered by reference to our case, and this actually occurs, because of the fact
  • 21that we have mentioned, that praise is always with reference to something.
  • 22But if praise is of things like this, it is clear that it is not praise that is
  • Editor’s Note23appropriate to things that are good to the highest possible degree, but some-
  • 24thing greater and better, as in fact accords with our practice, for we call both
  • 25gods and the most godlike men 'blessed' and 'happy'. Similarly in the case of
  • Editor’s Note26good things: for no one praises happiness as one does justice, but ranks it
  • Link 27blessed, as being something more godlike and superior. It seems, in fact, that
  • Editor’s Note28Eudoxus put well the claims of pleasure to first place in the competition of
  • 29goods: he thought that the fact that it is not praised, even though it is a good,
  • Editor’s Note30indicated that it was superior to the things that are praised, as he thought god
  • Editor’s Note Link 31and the good are superior, because it is to these that the other things are
  • 32referred. For praise is appropriate to excellence, since excellence is what
  • Editor’s Note33makes people disposed to fine actions; whereas encomia belong to things
  • 34done, whether in the sphere of the body or in that of the soul. However to
  • Link 35achieve precision in these things perhaps belongs more to those who have
  • 36worked on the subject of encomia; for our purposes it is clear, from what we
  • 1102a1have said, that happiness is one of the things that are honourable and com-
  • Editor’s Note Link plete. This also seems to be so because of the fact that it is a principle; for it is
  • Editor’s Note Link for the sake of happiness that we all do everything else we do, and we lay it
  • pg 109down that the principle and cause of goods is something honourable and
  • godlike.
  • Editor’s Note Link 5(I. 13) Since happiness is some activity of soul in accordance with complete
  • Link excellence, we should discuss the subject of excellence; for perhaps in this way
  • Link we shall get a better view of happiness too. In fact it seems that the true
  • Link political expert will have worked at excellence more than anything; for what
  • Editor’s Note10he wants is to make the members of the citizen-body good, and obedient to
  • 11the laws. A model in this case is provided by the lawgivers of the Cretans and
  • 12the Spartans, and any others there have been like them. If the present inquiry
  • Editor’s Note13belongs to the sphere of political expertise, the investigation into excellence
  • 14will be in accordance with our original purpose. But clearly it is human
  • Link 15excellence we should inquire about, because it was the human good that we
  • Editor’s Notewere looking for, and human happiness. By 'human excellence' we mean
  • excellence of soul, not of body; happiness, too, we say, is activity of soul. If all
  • Editor’s Note Link this is so, clearly the political expert should know, in a way, about soul, just as
  • 20the person who is going to treat people's eyes should know about the entire
  • Link body, too; and more so, by the same degree that political expertise is more
  • honourable than and superior to the doctor's; and the better sort of doctor is
  • Link in fact much occupied with knowing about the body. It is for the political
  • expert too, then, to reflect about the soul, but he should do so for the sake of
  • the things in question, and to the extent that will suffice in relation to what is
  • Link 25being looked for; to go into greater detail is perhaps a task too laborious for
  • Editor’s Note Link 26our present enterprise. There are some things said on the subject of soul in
  • Link 27our published works too that are quite adequate, and we should make use of
  • Editor’s Note Link 28them: for example, that one aspect of soul is non-rational, while another
  • 29possesses reason. It makes no difference for present purposes whether these
  • Link 30are delimited like the parts of the body, and like everything that is divisible
  • 31into parts, or whether they are two things by definition but by nature insepar-
  • Link 32able, like the convex and the concave in the case of a curved surface. Of the
  • Editor’s Note33non-rational, one grade looks likely to be shared, and to have to do with
  • 34growth—by which I mean what is responsible for the taking in of food and for
  • 1102bEditor’s Note Link 1increase in size; for this sort of capacity of soul one would posit as being in all
  • Editor’s Notethings that take in food, and in embryos, and this same one too as being in
  • Link them when they are full-grown, for it is more reasonable to suppose the
  • Link presence of this one than of any other. Excellence in the exercise of this
  • capacity, then, appears to be something shared and not distinctively human:
  • 5this part, and this capacity, seem to be most active when things are asleep, and
  • it is most difficult to tell the good and the bad man apart when they are asleep
  • (which is why people say that there is no difference at all between the happy
  • and the miserable for half of their lives—but this is a perfectly reasonable
  • Link consequence, because sleep is inactivity of soul in that respect in which it
  • is said to be excellent or worthless), unless to some small degree some
  • pg 1101102b10movements really do penetrate us in sleep, and in this way the dream-
  • Link appearances of reasonable people are better than what appears to any random
  • Link person. But on these subjects that will suffice, and we should leave the nutri-
  • Editor’s Note Link tive aspect of soul to one side, since it appears by nature devoid of any share
  • Editor’s Note Link in human excellence. But another kind of soul also seems to be non-rational,
  • although participating in a way in reason. Take those with and without self-
  • Link 15control: we praise their reason, and the aspect of their soul that possesses
  • reason; it gives the right encouragement, in the direction of what is best, but
  • there appears to be something else besides reason that is naturally in them,
  • Link which fights against reason and resists it. For exactly as with paralysed limbs,
  • 20which when their owners decide to move them to the right take off in
  • Link the wrong direction, moving to the left, so it is in the case of the soul: the
  • impulses of the person lacking self-control are contrary to each other. The
  • difference is that in the case of the body we actually see the part that is
  • moving wrongly, which we do not in the case of the soul. But perhaps we
  • should not be any less inclined to think that in the soul too there is something
  • Editor’s Note Link 25besides reason, opposing and going against it. How it is different is of no
  • Link 26importance. But this part too seems to participate in reason, as we have said:
  • Link 27at any rate, in the self-controlled person it is obedient to reason—and in the
  • Link 28moderate and courageous person it is presumably still readier to listen; for in
  • Link 29him it always chimes with reason. The non-rational, then, too, appears to be
  • Editor’s Note Link 30double in nature. For the plant-like aspect of soul does not share in reason in
  • Link 31any way, while the appetitive and generally desiring part does participate in it
  • Editor’s Note32in a way, i.e. in so far as it is capable of listening to it and obeying it: it is the
  • Link 33way one is reasonable when one takes account of advice from one's father
  • 34or loved ones, not when one has an account of things, as for example in
  • 35mathematics. That the non-rational is in a way persuaded by reason is indi-
  • 36cated by our practice of admonishing people, and all the different forms in
  • 1103a Link 1which we reprimand and encourage them. If one should call this too 'possess-
  • Link 2ing reason', then the aspect of soul that possesses reason will also be double in
  • Link 3nature: one element of it will have it in the proper sense and in itself, another
  • Editor’s Note4as something capable of listening as if to one's father. Excellence too is
  • 5divided according to this difference; for we call some of them intellectual
  • excellences, others excellences of character—intellectual accomplishment,
  • good sense, wisdom on the one hand counting on the side of the intellectual
  • Editor’s Note Link excellences, open-handedness and moderation counting among those of
  • character. For when we talk about character, we do not say that someone is
  • accomplished in a subject, or has a good sense of things, but rather that he
  • is mild or moderate; but we do also praise someone accomplished in
  • something for his disposition, and the dispositions we praise are the ones we
  • 10call 'excellences'.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
Ar. begins by arguing that there is a chief good for human beings (chapters 1–2, 1094a1–b11). After some methodological remarks (3–4, 1094b11–1095b13), he turns to the problem of identifying that good which everyone calls 'happiness' (4, 1095a14–18). Having examined some existing views, popular and philosophical (5–6, 1095b14–1097a14), he constructs his own account (7, 1097a15–1098b8) and shows how it diverges from and coincides with received opinions (8–9, 1098b9–1100a9). Some questions about happiness: the main one arises from the fact that human happiness is that of a mortal, subject to chance (10–11, 1100a11–1101b9). Another question: is happiness to be praised or honoured? (12, 1101b10–1102a4). Since he has defined the good for man in terms of excellent activity of the soul (7, 1098a16–17), the next task is to examine excellence, beginning with an anatomy of the soul (13, 1102a5–1103a10).
Editor’s Note
I 1, 1094a1–18
Different things aim at different goods; the good as that at which everything aims (1094a1–3); some ends are activities, others are products, but either way some are subordinate to others (1094a3–18).
Editor’s Note
1094a1 every action [praxis] 'Praxis', often a weightier word than our 'action', indicates a doing in light of which a person's life is seen as going well or not. Only rational animals are capable of it (vi. 2, 1139a20). (But there is not much reason for following those interpreters who claim to find here a special and even weightier sense of 'praxis' that applies only to actions that are backed by the rationality of a 'decision' (on which see next note). The basis of the claim is that although non-rational or downright irrational action can be said to aim at some good (for it aims at, for example, pleasure, which is a good or anyway good 'for' the agent (see Introduction, pp. 66 and 72–3), it is hard to see how such action belongs among the 'all things' that aim at the chief good (1094a3). Probably, however, Ar. is speaking broadly here and simply not thinking of deviant or imperfect cases. The present emphasis on universality is more about kinds of endeavour that in some sense aim for the chief good, rather than instances.)
Editor’s Note
1094a2 undertaking The term is prohairesis: Ar. will give it a stricter meaning ('decision', on which see Introduction, pp. 42ff.) in the context of his theory of deliberate action; iii. 2–3 (1111b4–1113a14), vi. 2 (1139a17–b13).
Editor’s Note
1094a2 seems to seek some good (a) Ar. invokes received views. The 'seems to' does not indicate doubt on his part. (b) To say, for example, that medical expertise 'seeks' the good which is health is not to make a psychological claim about physicians' motives for doing their work. It means, rather, that as physicians they are judged successful or not by their success in promoting the good which is health.
Editor’s Note
1094a2–3 Because of that, people are right to affirm that the good is 'that which all things seek [ephiesthai]' (a) The argument turns on a logical contrast between some good and the good. This is an example of a general distinction, familiar in Ar.'s scholastic circle, between what is F in a way, or with some qualification, and what is F without qualification, or simpliciter. Some good is the specific good sought by some given kind of project, one among others. Since there are as many kinds of good as there are kinds of project, the good in each case must be marked by a qualifying expression, as in 'the good of the body' or 'the good which is health'. 'The good', by contrast, means 'the good simpliciter, or without qualification'. The argument is: since specific projects each seek some specific good, the good without qualification must be what is sought by any project whatsoever. The premiss is uncontroversial, but it supports, at most, the hypothetical conclusion: if there is some end such that any project whatsoever seeks it, then this is the good without qualification. The good (without qualification) is the topic of practical philosophy or ethics. (b) people are right to affirm Ar. may be thinking of Eudoxus (Eudoxus of Cnidus, c.390–340, was a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and a member of Plato's Academy). At x. 2, 1172b9–10 Ar. says 'Eudoxus used to think that pleasure was the good because he saw every sort of creature seeking (ephiesthai) it'. Note that Eudoxus understands 'seeks' psychologically, as = 'desires'. (Cf. Plato, Philebus 20d8–10.)
Editor’s Note
1094a3 But there appears to be a certain difference among ends i.e. among objectives. 'Ends' here is virtually synonymous with 'goods'. The difference between the two kinds of ends is most easily made out in relation to kinds of expert knowledge (technē): in some, the end is the activity that constitutes exercise of the expertise (so riding stands to horsemanship); in others, the end is a product which survives the activity (so bridles to the bridle-making skill). The distinction prepares us for a point made later: the good is an activity (see 5, 1095b31–3; 7, 1098a5–6; 8, 1098b31–1099a7).
Editor’s Note
1094a5–6 Where there are ends over and above the activities … the products are by their nature better than the activities e.g. it is better to have harvest without ploughing than the other way round.
Editor’s Note
1094a14–15 the ends of the controlling ones are more desirable than the ends under them So far he has spoken only of subordination of expertise etc. to expertise, but this is grounded on the subordination mentioned here, of the end of one expertise to that of another.
Editor’s Note
1094a16 It makes no difference … over and above these One end can be subordinate to another regardless of kind (e.g. bridles (i.e. the product-end of bridle-making) are subordinate to riding (i.e. the activity-end of horsemanship), and riding is in turn subordinate to military victory (i.e. the product-end of generalship) ). Ar. is seeking to establish the general point that if expertise E1 is subordinate to expertise E2, this is because the former's end is subordinate to the latter's. This will enable him to argue that the existence of an expertise to which all others are subordinate proves that there is a chief end (2, 1094a26–b7).
Editor’s Note
I 2, 1094a18–b11
If there is an end wished for because of itself and other things because of it, it is the chief good (1094a18–22); knowing about it is of practical importance (1094a22–5); it is the object of the most sovereign type of expertise, i.e. the political kind, since this is in charge of the others (1094a26–b7); the inquiry about the chief good is the same, whether one aims to benefit one individual or a city-state or a nation (1094b7–11).
Editor’s Note
1094a18–22 If then there is some end … chief good The antecedent of this conditional consists of three clauses together with a parenthetical argument in support of the third:
  • (C1) There is an end, T, which we wish for (boulesthai) because of itself;

  • (C2) We wish for everything else for the sake of T;

  • (C3) We do not choose (hairesthai) everything for the sake of something else; (for (P) if we did, the process would go on to infinity etc.).

C1 says much the same as C3; hence like C3 it is grounded in the argument in parentheses. But C2 is controversial and not supported by the parenthetical argument (or by anything else in the context). For the necessity of some stopping point for a chain of wishes (or choices: here Ar. seems to use the terms interchangeably; see also 'desire' (orexis) at 21) does not entail what C2 implies: that all chains lead to one and the same stopping point. The conditional's consequent is:
  • (C4) It is clear that this (sc. the unique ultimate end) is the chief good;

but this cannot be inferred without C2.
On one interpretation (Int1), the passage is meant to prove C4, and to establish:
  • (C5) There is a chief good.

Then comes an argument showing what the chief good is: it is the end of the political expertise (1094a24–b11). According to Int1, C3 or C1 (backed by P) is meant to support C2. (Some scholars believe that Ar. rests C2 on C3 or C1 through a fallacious inference from 'Every chain of desires ends at some point' to 'There is some point at which every chain of desires ends'.) So, in effect, Ar. affirms all three parts of the antecedent and therefore affirms C4 and C5.
Alternatively (Int2), C2 is unsupported and remains hypothetical, so that C4 is not affirmed. On this interpretation there is no separate argument for C5, which instead is implicitly proved when it is proved what the chief good is (i.e. since it is the objective of political expertise, which exists—being in fact practised however imperfectly—the chief good is a real objective).
Editor’s Note
1094a20–1 for if that is the case … empty and vain If we choose each thing only for the sake of something else, the chain of wishes which is our chain of reasons for choosing X would either come full circle or trail to infinity. (Ar. does not consider the former possibility, but cf. the arguments of Posterior Analytics i. 3 against infinite and circular demonstrative chains.) In either case desire would be 'empty' because if I desire A only for the sake of X and X for itself, we say that X is what I really desire in desiring A, and is what would satisfy me. If I desire A for the sake of B, B for the sake of C, etc., and nothing for its own sake, then I desire without its being the case that anything would satisfy me. (In the circular case, I could actually gain all the things I desire, but since I want none of them for its own sake, I gain nothing I really want.)
Critical Apparatus
1 Retaining πρακτικαῖς‎ (1094b4).
Editor’s Note
1094b6 the end of this expertise will contain [periechein] those of the rest Not: the other goods are in the chief one as parts in a whole; but: (pursuit of) the chief good should limit (pursuit of) the others.
Editor’s Note
1094b7–11 For even if the good is the same … a political inquiry in a way Ar. thinks that the good is the same for a single person and for a city (i.e. city-state, polis), not in the sense that the city, like the person, is an individual that can have a good, but in the sense that the question 'What is the chief human good?' concerns anyone organizing human life, whether at the private or communal level (cf. x. 9, 1180b1–2, and 24; see Introduction, pp. 10–11). The reason for the qualifier 'in a way' may be (1) that the usual paradigm of political expertise is administrative, rather than reflective about fundamental principles (cf. vi. 8, 1141b24–9); or (2) that the usual paradigm has to do only with public life.
Editor’s Note
1094b10 to do it for a nation or for cities is finer and more godlike (a) Ar.'s usual context in the Ethics and Politics is the politically autonomous city-state (polis). Many such states made up the Greek 'nation' (ethnos) on account of shared language and culture and (in many cases) ancestral ties. (b) 'godlike' = theios, also translated 'divine' (e.g. at vi. 7, 1141b4; x. 7, 1177a15–16 and 28).
Editor’s Note
I 3, 1094b11–1095a13
The subject matter sets limits to the degree of clarity and precision one should expect, because of its variability (1094b11–1095a2); a suitable student needs experience of life and to be self-disciplined (1095a2–13).
Having established the reality of his topic, Ar. considers what his audience should expect from, and what they should bring to, an inquiry into it.
1. They should not expect mathematical exactness, nor, failing that, conclude that there is no objective truth in ethics. Ethics is full of generalizations, such as 'lying is to be avoided', 'wealth is advantageous', which are not undermined by acknowledged counter-examples (1094b11–1095a2). The audience, therefore, should have had practical experience (since this is what enables one to decide, in a given case, whether an ethical generalization applies to it, and to see why not, if not).
2. They should be self-disciplined, since otherwise the practical lessons of the inquiry will be thrown away (1095a4–11).

Comment: The Ethics contains many formal statements which are not rough generalizations: e.g. the proposition that moral virtue is a median disposition, the definition of happiness, the classification of parts of the soul, the conclusion that pleasure is not a process. Why, then, does he characterize ethical truth wholesale as only 'for the most part' (1094b21)? Presumably because by themselves those exact statements have no practical bearing, and ethics is essentially practical. The roughness is an immediate consequence of the practicality.

Editor’s Note
1094b13 precision [to akribes] The more self-sufficient an account is, i.e. the less it depends on tacit assumptions, the more precise it is; cf. iii 3, 1112b1.
Editor’s Note
1094b16 so that they come to seem fine and just by convention alone, and not by nature For the view that moral values are man-made rules, see Plato, Republic i (Thrasymachus) and Gorgias (Callicles). Ar.'s point is that we need not resort to this theory to explain why 'the same' thing is right for one person and wrong for another, since the objective right or wrong of the action varies with circumstances. No one would argue that the value of health is 'only a matter of convention' on the ground that illness sometimes confers advantages.
Editor’s Note
I 4, 1095a14–1095b13
The chief good is generally called happiness, but there is no agreement on what this is (1095a17–22); a range of views briefly scanned (1095a22–30); we need to be clear about the difference between arguing from first principles (archai) and working towards them, and about the difference between what is knowable to us and knowable without qualification (1095a30–b3); since we must start from what is knowable to us, the student of political questions must be a well brought up person (1095b4–13).
Editor’s Note
1095a17–20 Pretty well most people … the same thing as being happy From now on Ar. will often refer to the chief human good as 'happiness' (eudaimonia); see Introduction, pp. 12 and 14–15.
Editor’s Note
1095a25–6 out of consciousness of their own ignorance they are in awe of those who say something impressive and over their heads. Ar. may be implying that these awestruck ones do not understand about inquiry. They are right to realize that popular views are inadequate, but fail to see that this is because the views are only starting points to be modified as inquiry proceeds, not rejected completely. They therefore think that 'the right answer' is something entirely removed from the popular views. (See 1095a30–b1, with comment.)
Editor’s Note
1095a26–8 Some people used to think … cause for all these too of their being good The reference is to the Platonists, whose views will be discussed in 6, 1096a11–1097a14. See Plato, Republic vi, 506d–509b, on the Form or 'idea' of the good. On the showing of the present passage, the Platonic theory does not disagree that the 'obvious things that anyone would recognize' (22) are good, but refuses to take their goodness as self-explanatory. Ar., too, thinks of the good as cause or ground of the values of other goods (cf. 12, 1102a3–4), although he rejects the Platonic conception of its metaphysical status. For Ar., being cause or ground of value covers a variety of relations; his chief good—or rather, its main ingredient—is excellent rational activity, and wealth is good when it is a means to such activity, pleasure when it is pleasure in such activity, friendship when friendly interaction consists of such activity. Various other desirables are good in so far as they adorn such activity, or their absence casts a shadow on it (8, 1099a33). See also 12, 1102a3–4 with note.
Editor’s Note
1095a30–b1 we must keep in mind … towards the turn or in the reverse direction To claim that so-and-so is the good for man in the above value-causal sense is to claim to have identified the theoretical first principle (archē) of ethics. (Archē also means 'starting point', 'beginning'.) But this would be the result, not the starting point (archē), of inquiry seeking to identify the chief good. Since the first principle becomes, in turn, a new starting point for tracing the goodness-'transmitting' relations in which the good stands to other goods, we must take care to distinguish these directions of thought. A person who thinks that one or other (or the collectivity) of the plain and obvious goods is the final answer to the question 'What is the chief good?' has shut himself off from inquiring. So has a person who sees that the chief good is not any of the above, but thinks that inquiry must start from identification of it.
Editor’s Note
1095a32 Plato too used to raise difficulties … he would inquire As Burnet points out, the wording suggests personal recollection of Plato's discussions.
Editor’s Note
1095b2–3 there is what is knowable in relation to us, and what is knowable without qualification See note on 1, 1094a2–3. 'Knowable in relation to us' applies to what we can know unsystematically on the basis of ordinary experience; 'knowable without qualification' to the first principle(s) of a field of inquiry. In general, 'X without qualification' signals what Ar. regards as the primary use of 'X'. The first principles are primarily knowable because knowledge of them makes one a more perfect knower of the rest of the field. Cf. Posterior Analytics i. 2, 71b9–72a8, on first principles of theoretical science.
Editor’s Note
1095b4–6 Consequently, in order to listen appropriately to discussion about what is fine and just … one must have been well brought up The pre-systematic knowledge relevant to the present inquiry is the decent person's ability to discriminate good and bad, right and wrong. These intuitions are the phenomena or obvious things (cf. 1095b6) from which we start (see Introduction, pp. 11–12, 13–14).
Editor’s Note
1095b6–7 For the starting point [archē] is that it is so, and if this were sufficiently clear to us … there will be no need to know in addition why Although good upbringing provides proper starting points for ethical inquiry, it may not ensure that we always make the best decisions (prohaireseis) in life. For this, we may sometimes need to understand the why, the principle that explains why the original intuitions were correct. Once philosophy shows the ground of the values of well brought up people, it can also make them aware, by logical extension, of otherwise neglected values (for an example, see Introduction, pp. 76 and 53–4). If these had always been 'sufficiently clear' from the beginning, there would have been no practical need to articulate the principle.
Editor’s Note
1095b9 Hesiod Works and Days 293–7.
Editor’s Note
I 5, 1095b14–1096a10
Views about the chief good are suggested by three ideal lives commonly proposed: the life of pleasure, the political life, the life of reflection (1095b14–19); the values implied by the first two ideals are criticized, discussion of the third is postponed; the moneymaking life is out of the question (1095b19–1096a10).
This critical discussion of three standard ideals brings out several criteria to be met by a satisfactory candidate for the title of 'happiness'. (Here the life of pleasure replaces that of moneymaking in the traditional trio. The latter is not a candidate, because its focus is not an end in itself; 1096a5–9.)
Editor’s Note
1095b14 from which we digressed i.e. at 4, 1095a30.
Editor’s Note
1095b16 pleasure Here Ar. goes along with the vulgar assumption that the paradigm pleasures are those of physical indulgence; this is usually behind the view that pleasure tends to conflict with other values. Cf. 8, 1099a24–9, on the Delian inscription.
Editor’s Note
1095b18 the political life i.e. that of an active citizen, participating in government.
Editor’s Note
1095b19 the life of reflection [bios theorētikos] often translated 'contemplative life'.
Editor’s Note
1095b19–20 most … decide in favour of a life that belongs to grazing cattle Ar. cannot realistically mean that most of them live such a life; rather, it is their ideal. Their lives manifest their ideal, according to line 15, but presumably without exemplifying it in most cases.
Editor’s Note
1095b21–2 in high places … Sardanapallus Ar. may be recalling his experience at the court of Macedon. Sardanapallus (Asshur-bani-pal), the 7th-century bce ruler of Assyria, was legendary for self-indulgence. Cf. x. 6, 1176b12–18.
Editor’s Note
1096a3 the books that have circulated For example, perhaps, his own early work Protrepticus, an exhortation to philosophize. Large fragments survive.
Editor’s Note
1096a4 in what follows In fact this discussion does not occur until x. 7–8 (1177a12–1179a32).
Editor’s Note
1096a7–8 one might be more inclined to take as ends the things mentioned before On some things qualifying as ends (telē) more than others, cf. 7, 1097a25–34, where some ends turn out to be more complete (teleios; lit. 'final', 'end-like') than others.
Editor’s Note
1096a9 But it appears that they are not what we are looking for either This remark does not include the thinker's activity, which has not been discussed.
Editor’s Note
1096a9–10 and yet there are many established arguments that focus on them Perhaps his point is that it is surprising that 'the things mentioned before' have been taken so seriously in discussion.
Editor’s Note
II 6, 1096a11–1097a14
Objections to the notion of the chief good as a Platonic universal: preamble (1096a11–17); seriality among goods (1096a17–23); 'good is said in many ways' (1096a23–9); the plurality of kinds of knowledge (1096a29–34); the 'itself' locution adds nothing, nor does 'eternal' (1096a34–b5); remark about the Pythagoreans and Speusippus (1096b5–8); a problem arising from the distinction between what are goods in themselves and what are goods in relation to the former (1096b8–26); alternative possible explanations of the non-homonymy of 'good' (1096b27–31); anyway, the Platonic Good is not practicable; nor does it help in achieving any practicable good (1096b32–1097a13).
Editor’s Note
1096a11–17 Preamble: Ar. is about to launch a series of technical objections to the Platonic doctrine that the proper referent of the title 'chief good' is a universal Form or 'Idea' (eidos or idea: Ar. uses these terms interchangeably when speaking of Platonic Forms) which exists apart from all particular good things, being the metaphysical cause of their goodness (see 4, 1095a26–8 with note). But: such an investigation goes against the grain because it was friends of ours who introduced the forms (12–13) Ar. spent the first twenty years of his adult life in Plato's Academy, leaving only upon Plato's death in 348/347 bce. Even so, the present expression of compunction is extraordinary. (Elsewhere Ar. argues against Platonist theories, not pulling punches any more than he will here, but without hint of apology.) The explanation may lie in the context. For Plato, the ideal life is that of the thinker. Plato's career and those of some of his associates in the Academy were star examples of such a life. Ar. is not yet ready to produce his own arguments in favour of this ideal (see 5, 1096a4–5), and he is about to argue against the Platonic doctrine of the chief good. Some in the audience might have taken the doctrinal difference to imply rejection of Plato's personal values. (Socrates sometimes argued as if knowing the true theory of the good were necessary and sufficient for living the good life (cf. EE i. 5, 1216b2–10): which suggests that fundamental theoretical differences about the nature of the good commit the theorists to fundamentally different lived values.) It was a commonplace that friends share values (e.g. viii. 9, 1159b31; but cf. ix. 6, 1167a22–8 for a careful circumscription of the areas relevant to the like-mindedness of friends). So by declaring his friendship with the Platonists, Aristotle clears the way for his own final position on the ideal life.
Editor’s Note
1096a15 to destroy even what is one's own This may indicate that (1) Ar. himself once accepted the Platonic doctrine which he is about to refute; or that (2) because of his intimacy with Plato he understands it as if from the inside. But (3) it may simply be a general remark.
Editor’s Note
1096a16 while both friends and the truth are dear, the right thing [hosion] is to honour the truth first For the sentiment, cf. Plato himself, Phaedo 91c; Republic x, 595b–c and 607c. 'hosion' implies that the contrary action would be sinful. Ar. may intend this religious overtone, since to him god is pure intellect, and human intellectual activity, conducted purely for the sake of truth, is a kind of worship; see 1096a24–5 and x. 8, 1179a22–32 with notes.
Editor’s Note
1096a17–23 Objection I. (1) Where particular Ks constitute a series ordered by priority–posteriority, there is no Form K which explains their common K-ness; (2) the categories of being, Substance (or: 'what it is', lines 20 and 24), Quality (20 and 25), Quantity (25), Relative (20–1 and 26), Time (26), Place (27), etc., form a series (or at any rate Relative is posterior to Substance); (3) the term 'good' is said in each of these categories (cf. 23–7); therefore (4) there is no common (i.e. universal) Form of good.
Comments: (a) Premiss (1) was a tenet of the Platonists themselves ('those who introduced this view', 17). The argument for it was that if there were a Form of K it would be prior to the particulars constituting the series; hence the first item of the series would not be first. (b) Although the doctrine of the categories of being in (2) is traditionally ascribed to Aristotle (see his treatise Categories), it was foreshadowed by Platonic distinctions, and seems to have been common ground for many in the Academy. (c) A 'relative' is not a relation in the modern sense, but a term whose definition requires reference to a specific other term: thus slave is of-a-master; useful is for-an-end. Being a slave, or any other relative, is inessential to the substantial individual to which it applies. (d) On the meaning of (3), see comments on objection II. (e) The inference to (4) depends on the assumption that since the categories form a series, a corresponding series of goods arises from the fact that 'good' is said in the different categories.
Editor’s Note
1096a23–9 Objection II. (1) 'Good' is said in each of the categories of being; (2) a genuine, unitary, universal would occur in just one category; hence (3) there is no universal corresponding to 'good'.
Comment: The argument is directed against the assumption that the one word 'good' conveys one universal. The exact interpretation of (1) is disputed, but the main point is that information carried by 'good' varies with the category signified. In the domain of how things are qualified, 'good' picks out excellent (or just or courageous etc.); in the domain of how much, it picks out moderate, i.e. neither too much nor too little; in the domains of time and place respectively it picks out the right moment (kairos), and suitable habitation; in the domain of relatives it picks out useful. In the domain of substance, it picks out god or intellect (since apart from these (if indeed they are different; the connective joining them may indicate alternative expressions) there is no substance such that to be it is eo ipso to be good).
Editor’s Note
1096a29–34 Objection III. (1) A single Form defines a single field of knowledge; hence (2) a single Form of good implies a single type of knowledge concerned with all goods. But (3) in reality, there are many kinds of practical knowledge, even for the same category.
Comment: Premiss (1) was accepted by the Platonists. But they could have replied that the different kinds of practical knowledge are all branches of a single science of the good.
Editor’s Note
1096a34–b5 Objection IV. Nothing is gained by talking of an 'X-itself ' (Platonic jargon for 'the Form of X'), if (as the Platonists also hold) the definition of X-itself is the same as the definition of X, which applies to particular Xs. For in so far as, for example, the good-itself and a particular good fit the definition of good, the former is not more truly called 'good' than the latter. (But in that case it is not the chief good.) That it is eternal does not affect the point.
Comments: (a) The assumption that there is a definition of good, as there is of man, is ad homines; for according to Ar., a definable term must belong in a single category. (b) This may seem a surprising argument if directed against Plato himself, since it is a commonplace of the Dialogues that particular Xs fall short of the Form of X in respect of deserving to be called 'X'. However, (c) perhaps objection IV is directed against a possible Platonist response to objection II, as follows: 'Good' as applied to particulars occurs in different categories, but the same is not true of 'good-itself'. This applies only to the Form. And since what is good-itself is obviously good (for it is the chief good), the term 'good' that is applied to the good-itself is not one that belongs to different categories. Thus it is a genuinely unitary term. If this is the position opposed in objection IV, the objection correctly notes its inconsistency with the assumption, attributed here to the Platonists, that what we say (i.e. what the definition conveys) of particulars, and what we say of the Form, in calling them (respectively) 'good' is the same. It is irrelevant that the particulars live up to the single definition less well than the Form. (d) It is debatable that an eternal good is not on that account better than a transient one. It surely would be, if it could be possessed; but see 1096b33–5.
Editor’s Note
1096b5–6 The Pythagoreans … in the column of goods The followers of Pythagoras (6th-century bce mathematician, philosopher, and ascetic) based their metaphysics on pairs of contraries forming two columns:

Limit    Unlimited

Odd    Even

One    Many, etc. (Metaph. i. 5, 986a22–6)

Ar. refers to the left-hand one as 'the column of goods' even though Good itself appears as an item in it lower down. His comparison with Platonism presumably has to do with the relations in each theory between Good and One. Plato, Ar. tells us, identified them (Metaph. xiv. 4, 1091b13–15), whereas the Pythagoreans distinguished them. We can only guess why Ar. prefers the Pythagorean theory to Plato's.
Editor’s Note
1096b7 Speusippus Plato's nephew and successor as head of the Academy.
Editor’s Note
1096b8–26 Objection V. Ar. now concedes that the Platonic postulate of the universal Form of the good is not meant to explain the goodness of all non-metaphysical goods: the Platonists distinguished things that are good in themselves or per se (8–16) from ones that are good because they promote the former, and the Form was invoked only in connection with the per se ones. Ar. sets up a dilemma: either there are, or there are not, goods per se apart from the Form itself. If there are not, the Form 'has no point' (since it was postulated to account for the goodness of other goods per se). If there are, the explanation of why they are good should be the same for all of them (since the Platonist explanation is that they all participate in the same Form). But this is not so. For example, what wisdom is differs from what pleasure is (the definitions are different), and each is good because of what it is. Hence there is no single universal Form of good (16–26).
Comments: (a) It is a sufficient condition for something's being a good per se that it is desirable not merely as a means to or vehicle of something else. Thus pleasure and honour are examples, even though not all pleasure is good, and the value of honour is not self-explanatory (x. 5, 1175b24–8; i. 5, 1095b26–9). (b) Objection V brings out the fact that, on the Platonic theory, it is self-contradictory to assert that there are per se goods other than the Form of good. For if each is simply a vehicle for the one universal Form, then whoever has one of them, e.g. wisdom, is put in touch with the same good as if he had another, e.g. honour. But in that case they are not good per se since the distinctive nature of each is irrelevant to its value.
Editor’s Note
1096b26–9 But then on what principle is it predicated … other goods, other contexts? Having emphasized the diversity of kinds of goods in four out of five of the objections so far, Ar. now registers the need for an explanation of their all counting as 'good' even though the word gives different information in each case, yet is not just randomly equivocal. The first two possibilities (if indeed they are different) he suggests offer considerable latitude, since 'derives from' and 'converges on' (alternative expressions) cover a variety of relations. Thus if wisdom were the primary good, honour is good when wisdom is its object, or when it is accorded wisely; and pleasure is good when it is pleasure in the exercise of wisdom, or of some power that contributes to wisdom, etc. In this way, wisdom would be the principle of value, i.e. the cause of the goodness of other goods. See 4, 1095a26–8, and 12, 1102a3–4 with notes.
Editor’s Note
1096b28–9 as sight is in the case of the body, intelligence is in the case of the soul An analogy familiar to Platonists: see Republic vi. 506d ff. According to this, the second suggestion, although 'good' is not said univocally of sight and of intellect, it is applied in accordance with a single principle grounded in the analogy. Another relevant analogy would be: as intellect is to the category of Substance, so excellence is to that of Quality, the useful-for to that of Relative, etc.
Editor’s Note
1096b30–1 But perhaps for now we should leave these questions aside … a different sort of inquiry Not only would a discussion of the variety of uses of 'good' be logically technical, but it would have to take account of the non-practicable goodness of god and the universe (on which see Metaph. xii. 10, 1075a11–24; xiv. 4, 1091a30ff.). Perhaps analogy would play an important role in explaining the applicability of 'good' to eternal and also non-eternal things.
Editor’s Note
1096b31–5 Objection VI. Even if it exists, the Platonic Form of good is not the chief good we are seeking, because (being part of the eternal structure of reality) it is not doable or capable of being acquired.
Editor’s Note
1096b35–1097a13 Objection VII. (a) Nor does it function as an ideal model that helps experts such as physicians and carpenters to realize their ends. In fact (b), what is sought is never a generality at all: for the physician, it is this patient's health in each case.
Comment: both parts of this objection also apply to Ar.'s own account of the chief human good, and perhaps would apply to any account of it. To (a) the Platonist can reply that knowledge of the Form of the good should guide the political expert; this is the doctrine of the Republic. And later on Ar. applies (b) to his own results; see x. 9, 1180b7–13.
Editor’s Note
I 7, 1097a15–1098b8
This chapter contains two quite distinct lines of argument about the chief practicable good, the first (1097a15–b21) showing that it is happiness, the second (1097b22–1098b8) defining it and commenting on the definition.
Editor’s Note
1097a15–b21 The various goods are ends (telē) of specific activities, so the chief practicable good should be the end (or ends) of all of them (1097a15–24); But some ends are more complete (teleios) than others (1097a25–34); happiness more than any other good satisfies the requirements for being complete without qualification (1097a34–b6); it is also (as the chief good should be) self-sufficient (1097b6–16); and most desirable when not counted in with other goods (1097b20).
Completeness, self-sufficiency, and being most desirable when not counted in with other goods were recognized features of the chief good that were used in debate not so much to characterize it as to show that certain contenders are not the chief good. For the first two, see Plato, Philebus 20d–e; for a criterion rather like the third, see NE x. 2, 1172b28–34.
Editor’s Note
1097a23 this will be the practicable good i.e. the highest practicable good. The argument echoes i. 1, 1094a1–3.
Editor’s Note
1097a23–4 and if there are more than one, it will be these Some scholars take this to imply that if the chief good is not something unitary, it is a combination of different kinds of goods which meet the two criteria jointly, not severally. If so, the happy life is characterized by the combination. However, in x. 6–8 (1176b30–1179a32), a sketch that is reminiscent of Book I (cf. x. 6–7 with i. 5, 1095b14–19; x. 7, 1177a27–b22, with i. 7, 1097a3–b15; x. 7, 1177b25, with i. 7, 1098a18), Ar. recognizes a disjunction of kinds of happy life, each characterized by a unitary good that conforms to the two criteria, although one conforms more exactly than the other. The present passage points briefly to the possibility that the chief good is plural, leaving open whether conjunctive or disjunctive. See 1097a30 with notes.
Editor’s Note
1097a24 Thus as the argument turns … same point i.e. where we were at the outset of the NE; see i. 2, 1094a18–22.
Editor’s Note
1097a25–8 Since, then, the ends [telē] are evidently more than one … not all are complete An end is 'complete' (teleion) to the extent that attaining it is reaching complete satisfaction. Teleios also means 'perfect'.
Critical Apparatus
2 Reading ἐπεὶ δὴ‎ (1097a25).
Editor’s Note
1097a30 and if there are more such things than one, the most complete of these (a) The possibility of several complete things seems to be what Ar. had in mind in speaking of the possibility of the chief good as plural (22–4). But now it is assumed that one of these is most complete, and the reference of 'the highest good' ('the best', 28) shifts from the plurality to its most complete member. Cf. 8, 1099a29–31. (b) Note that it was after Ar. had characterized the chief good as 'the end of all practical undertakings' that he raised the possibility of its being plural (22). So if it is plural, it is the universal practical end (i.e. the end of political expertise) as a plurality. Hence if the chief good is plural, and if one member M of the plurality P now takes on the title 'highest good' as satisfying the criteria more completely than the other(s), we are not entitled to infer that M alone, after all, has the status of universal practical end, nor that it is the ultimate end of the other member(s) of P. (c) Since Ar.'s highest good does turn out to be plural, this is as good a place as any to consider whether its structure is conjunctive or disjunctive. The question is complex, since we must consider the highest good both as (1) an ideal for the political expertise, and as (2) realized in an individual life. As to (1): it is clear that Ar. holds that the task of public policy makers is to ensure conditions for the conjoint realization in society of the different forms of the highest good. As to (2): no doubt it is possible to live a life in which these forms of the highest good coexist, but on balance (the interpretation is disputed) Book X seems to present them as exclusive alternatives for an individual considering the personal question of how to live. Each of the forms is the logical centrepiece of one distinctive kind of life. So from this point of view the highest good is disjunctive. But since (in this interpreter's view) the alternatives have much in common, the path of realization is common too, much of the way (see Introduction, pp. 79–80).
Editor’s Note
1097a30–1 we say that what is worth pursuing for itself is more complete than what is worth pursuing because of something else Understand the less complete end here as worth pursuing only because of something else.
Editor’s Note
1097a33–4 what is complete without qualification is what is always desirable in itself and never because of something else (a) 'Complete without qualification' is by contrast with 'complete, but only by comparison with something else less complete'. (b) On this analysis, an end's being complete without qualification is consistent with its not being the end to which everything else is subordinate. Logically, there could be more than one end of unqualified completeness.
Editor’s Note
1097a34–b5 Happiness seems most of all to be like this … supposing that we shall be happy through them Ar.'s conclusion that happiness above all is complete without qualification is based on ordinary attitudes according to which (1) we should sooner have honour or pleasure etc. than not, even unaccompanied by other things necessary for happiness; and (2) if asked why we want one or another of them, we are as likely to say 'So as to be happy' as 'For itself '; whereas (3) we cannot make sense of wanting happiness because of something other than itself. Since observation of these attitudes precedes Ar.'s philosophical analysis of the chief good and of happiness, the reader is not justified in inferring that Ar. at this point endorses any particular interpretation the ordinary person might give to the words 'I want (say) honour for the sake of happiness' (1097b4). For example, it is possible that the ordinary person thinks that happiness is a collection of goods, of which honour is one, and that this is why it makes sense to 'want honour for the sake of happiness'. But there is no reason here to read this into Ar.'s thinking. If one asks 'How is happiness related to the other intrinsic goods?', the gist of the present passage is that 'happiness' constitutes a better answer than any of them to the question 'What is the chief good?' (For the point of establishing this, see Introduction, pp. 14–15.) This leaves open exactly how the highest good is related to other intrinsic goods.
Editor’s Note
1097b7–8 the complete good seems to be self-sufficient Since the highest good must render one self-sufficient, Ar. calls it 'self-sufficient' on the principle that the cause of something's being F has first claim to the predicate.
Editor’s Note
1097b11 since man is by nature a civic being [ politikon] Ar. holds that human nature comes to full development only in the context of the city-state (polis); cf. Politics i. 2, 1252a24–1253a29.
Editor’s Note
1097b13 an infinite series Absurd because we are concerned with a practicable ideal, and because infinite commitments exclude self-sufficiency.
Editor’s Note
1097b14 on another occasion Ar. does not return to this question.
Editor’s Note
1097b14–15 the 'self-sufficient' … and lacking in nothing This suggests a widely inclusive chief good. See 1098a18 with comment.
Editor’s Note
1097b16–20 and moreover [we also think of it as] most desirable of all things, it not being counted with other goods … always more desirable This appears to offer a third reason (additional to completeness and self-sufficiency) for accepting that happiness is the highest good. Different construals are possible, yielding opposite meanings: (1) The phrase 'it not being counted with other goods' (mē sunarithmoumenon) introduces a necessary condition for thinking happiness the most desirable thing. (2) The phrase introduces a ground for thinking this. On (1), happiness is the most desirable single good, but not the most desirable good, since the combination of it plus any of the others would be more desirable. So understood, the passage is inconsistent with the main purpose of the chapter so far, which is to show that the highest (i.e. best, most desirable) human good is rightly identified with happiness. On (2), the preferable interpretation, happiness can be seen to be the most desirable thing from the assumed fact that (pre-reflectively) it does not lend itself to being counted along with other goods. Since no other good can be added to it to make a more desirable combination, its status as maximally desirable is assured. Cf. x. 2, 1172b23–34, where a similar principle is used to rule out certain claimants for title of 'highest good'. On this interpretation, lines 17–20, which envisage happiness as being part of a more desirable combination were it 'counted in with the least of other goods', invoke a necessarily false hypothesis.
Editor’s Note
1097b22–1098b8 The chief good is defined by reference to the human function (1097b22–33); the function is practical rational activity of the soul in accordance with excellence or the best excellence (1097b33–1098a18); the human good is this activity in a complete life (1098a18–20); the above is only an outline (1098a20–6); do not expect too much precision (1098a26–33); and do not always seek reasons why, e.g. for starting points (1098a26–1098b3); ways of establishing starting points, and the importance of getting a good one (1098b3–8).
Editor’s Note
1097b23–4 a more distinct statement of what it is is still required 'It' refers to the chief good, not to happiness.
Editor’s Note
1097b28–33 So does a carpenter … a characteristic function for a human being too An inductive argument from these examples to the case of man would be weak, but perhaps the examples are meant rather to illustrate the concept of characteristic function (ergon). That the being or essential nature of an individual is expressed through a typifying activity is the central doctrine of Ar.'s metaphysics.
Editor’s Note
1097b33–1098a3 For being alive is obviously shared … a practical [praktikos] sort of life of what possesses reason (a) The last four words are logically redundant (they are there to introduce the division made in the next sentence), since practicality is essentially rational. Ar. regards thinking as a kind of living (zoē) or way of being alive; other ways are sense-perception, growth, and metabolism. (b) Some interpreters see a conflict between 'practical' here and the Book x position that the most complete happiness is theoretical reflection. However, at Politics vii. 3 Ar. defends the reflective ideal from the charge that it idealizes 'the doing (prattein, cognate to praktikos, praxis) of nothing' (1325a21–3); he maintains that theoretical thinking is properly termed 'a sort of praxis' (i.e. doing) (1325b16–21). His argument there (very compressed, and requiring a colon after telos in line 21) is that since theoretical activity is one of the fundamental ends of human life, it is a form of eupraxia (i.e. doing well: the word is synonymous with eudaimonia; cf. NE i. 4, 1095a19–20), and therefore is a form of praxis. A less verbal consideration, and one that does not depend on passages elsewhere, is that any human activity counts as praxis if it is serious and governed by standards of excellence, and if engaging in it is backed by the judgement that this is worth while; see note on 1, 1094a1.
Critical Apparatus
3 Reading τὴν θρεπτικὴν καὶ αὐξητικὴν ζωὴν‎ (1098a1).
Editor’s Note
1098a4–5 of this, one element … and itself thinks This distinction is explained in ch. 13.
Editor’s Note
1098a6 active life Active by contrast with quiescent. Even when we fail to engage actively in anything, we continue alive as practical beings (e.g. we can be held responsible for what happens through our inactivity).
Editor’s Note
1098a6–7 for this seems to be called a practical life in the more proper sense This is a logical or metaphysical point, not one about existing linguistic usage. (If it were, it would be as incorrect for the Greek of Ar.'s time as it is for the English of ours.) In general, the capacity for F is F in a sense posterior to that in which the activity is F, because the capacity is defined as being for that activity.
Editor’s Note
1098a7–17 If the function of a human being is activity of soul in accordance with reason, or not apart from reason … the human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with excellence (a) At lines 7, 12, and 16, 'if' has the force of 'since'. (b) That the function of man is activity of soul (psuchē) follows from its being a way of being actively alive (1097b33–1098a3), since the psuchē is the lifeprinciple of a living thing. (But not all activity manifests life. In Aristotelian physics a stone, which is inanimate, is active in accordance with its nature when it falls.) (c) It is not clear what the difference is between 'in accordance with reason' (kata logon) and 'not apart from reason' (mē aneu logou). If one implies a more intimate relation than the other, it may be that they refer respectively to the activity of the strictly rational part of the soul, and that of the part that merely 'participates in reason' (see 13, 1102b14–1103a3). 'accompanied by reason' (14) presumably covers both relations, if there is a difference. Cf. vi. 13, 1144b26–8 with note. (d) and the function, we say, of a given sort of practitioner and a good [spoudaios] practitioner of that sort is generically the same The basic meaning of 'spoudaios' is 'zealous', 'enthusiastic', 'serious', 'committed'. That the word is often synonymous with 'good' shows that, for its users, it was an analytic truth that excellence requires dedication. (e) when a difference in respect of excellence is added to the function i.e. a difference from other instances of the same kind of function. ( f ) In Plato's and Aristotle's philosophical usage (1) to say a quality of a given kind of thing is an 'excellence' (aretē, often translated 'virtue') is to say that in having it, the thing is good (agathon) of its kind; and (2) to say it is good of its kind is to say it is in a state or condition to perform its characteristic function well (eu). Cf. ii. 6, 1106a15–24 and Plato, Republic i, 352e–353d. The conclusion of the present passage depends on these connections together with the assumptions (3) that the good of a thing of a given kind is 'in its function' (1097b25–8), and (4) that the function-term primarily names an activity as distinct from a capability (1098a5–7). In this conceptual framework the human good is available only to a good human being. But this does not tell us which qualities are the excellences that make a human being good, nor that there is one correct answer to that question.
Critical Apparatus
4 Retaining 1098a12 ἀνθρώπου δέ‎ … 16 εἰ δ᾽ οὕτω‎.
Editor’s Note
1098a17–18 and if there are more excellences than one, in accordance with the best and the most complete [teleios] (a) 'In accordance with' = kata (+ accusative). 'In accordance with excellence', ' … with justice', ' … with badness' are ubiquitous phrases in Ar.'s Ethics. Used of activities and actions, they indicate that the activity or action is qualified by the adjective corresponding to the noun 'excellence', 'justice', 'badness', etc. (b) On Ar.'s account so far, the human good turns out to be one very general kind of thing, i.e. rational activity in accordance with excellence, as distinct from a combination of diverse goods. But immediately Ar. shows readiness to shift the reference of 'the human good' to the best of the rational activities of excellence, should there turn out to be many (cf. 1097a30). The shift should not surprise those who see this passage as Ar.'s 'definition' of the chief good or happiness (cf. 11, 1101a14–16). For in a definitional context one would expect, if there are different forms of a definiendum O, that the term 'O' would attach in its strictest sense to whichever form (if any) satisfies the definiens most completely. The shift does not cancel the lesser forms' status as genuine forms of O.
Editor’s Note
1098a18 in a complete [teleios] life (a) The next two lines focus on length of life. This is not just a question of more time rather than less, but of the time required to develop rational maturity (which requires experience; cf. vi. 11, 1143b11–14 and i. 3, 1095a2–8) and exercise it to the full in a variety of situations. Hence a complete life includes abundance of opportunities for such excellent activities, as well as the wherewithal necessary for engaging in them; and elsewhere we learn that it also includes friends and loved ones, the respect of others, and pleasure. (b) Presumably, when Ar. put forward the completeness and self-sufficiency criteria for the chief good, he had in mind that an adequate account would include reference to a complete life. However, (c) there is a difference here. The ideal whole that is excellent-rational-activity-in-a-complete-life meets the self-sufficiency criterion because of the in-a-complete-life component; and of course without this component it would be incomplete in the ordinary sense of the word (cf. 11, 1101a14–19). But Ar.'s criterion of unqualified completeness is more technical; it is desirability always and only for its own sake, and the ideal whole meets this condition because of its excellent-rational-activity component. (d) Given that the happy life must contain some measure of these other goods, as well as excellent rational activity, should we say that happiness is essentially a complex whole to which they and the latter all contribute? A simple affirmative ignores the fact that for Ar. excellent rational activity is evidently the principal component of a happy human life: witness the synecdoche in his calling the chief good 'excellent activity' (e.g. 13, 1102a5–6; x. 7, 1177a12), whereas he never calls it after any other component. While fully recognizing that the happiest human life is a plexus of different goods (which is why it is at the mercy of chance), Ar. avoids words that would highlight the complexity, because the paradigm case of a happy life is that of god or the gods, and this consists of nothing but excellent rational activity (x. 8, 1178b18–27; cf. Metaph. xii. 7, 1072b14–30). Hence excellent rational activity is the happy-making ingredient of a happy human life, which has to include other goods only because, unlike a divine life, it is mortal and dependent on a physical and social environment.
Editor’s Note
1098a20 blessed [makarios] and happy [eudaimōn] Normally, the Greek words are synonyms except that makarios is more elevated.
Editor’s Note
1098a23–4 and time seems to be good at discovering such things The outline will develop into a richer picture as it is applied and interpreted at different times, whether these are stages of an individual's life or periods in the history of a culture. Ar. may be thinking in particular of the process of putting elements of his Ethics into practice through legislation. (This is discussed in the closing pages of the NE (x. 9 (1179a33–1181b23) ). Plato, Laws vi, 769a–770c, uses the simile of filling in an outline in connection with legislation.)
Editor’s Note
1098a26 what was said before i.e. at 3, 1094b11–27.
Editor’s Note
1098a33–b3 One should not demand to know the reason why [aitia], either, in the same way in all matters:in some cases it will suffice if that something is so has been well shown, as indeed is true of starting points; and that something is so is primary and a starting point Having reached his own definition of the chief good, Ar. now treats it as starting point for further inquiry (see next note). He probably does not mean the distinction 'that it is so'–'why it is so' to apply literally to the doctrine (D) that the chief good is excellent rational activity in a complete life. D itself is supposed to provide the why of pre-philosophical values (see 4, 1095b4–7 with notes), and it is difficult to see what space there could be for a yet more fundamental explanation of the why of D. Rather, he means an analogy between the inappropriateness of expecting the implications of D to be spelled out with absolute precision, and the inappropriateness of always asking 'Why?'
Editor’s Note
1098b3–4 Of starting points, some are grasped by induction … others in other ways Induction (drawing a universal conclusion from a set of specific or particular cases) plays a part in the discovery of scientific first principles (Posterior Analytics ii. 19, 100b3–4), but it also provides the unsystematized generalizations that are the explananda of an Aristotelian science. These are starting points for a search for first principles. Perception gives the starting points of induction (ibid. i. 18, 81a38–b9). Habituation is the source of pre-reflective values, which are the starting points of ethical inquiry (cf. 4, 1095b4–6 and ii. 1 (1103a14–b26) ). In the present passage Ar. particularly has in mind a starting point not grasped by sense-perception or habituation (though induction may play a part; see note on 1097b28–33), namely his own definition of happiness. Although this was reached in the course of inquiry, it launches new inquiries, particularly concerning the excellences.
Editor’s Note
I 8, 1098b9–1099b8
Our account of the chief good must be considered in the light of received opinions (1098b9–12); it fits in with the opinions that the best goods belong to the soul (1098b12–20), and that the happy person lives well and does well (1098b20–2); the features people expect of happiness belong to the chief good as defined above (1098b22–6); the opinions contain truth even though some are held by ordinary people, others by exceptional ones (1098b27–9); the account fits in with the view that the chief good is excellence or an excellence, but it matters whether one means the disposition or its activity (1098b30–1099a7); the life of excellent activity is pleasant in itself (1099a7–21); excellent actions are not only pleasant, but also good and fine, to the highest degree, so that one and the same good (contrary to the Delian proverb), namely happiness, is best, finest, and pleasantest (1099a22–31); happiness is held to require external goods too, which accords with our account (1099a31–b8).
Editor’s Note
1098b9–11 But we must inquire into it [ peri autēs] not only [A] on the basis of our conclusion and the premisses of our argument, but also [B] on the basis of the things people say about it [ peri autēs] Grammatically, 'it' should refer to the starting point, 1098b7, but this hardly makes sense. In fact, Ar. must mean to refer to happiness (last mentioned at 7, 1097b22). Inquiry A will spell out the main implications of the i. 7 definition, and inquiry B, which comes first, will compare it with received views.
Editor’s Note
1098b12–20 given the division of goods into three … in this way the end turns out to belong among goods of the soul and not among external goods (a) The threefold division occurs several times in Plato, and Ar. treats it as a commonplace. (b) 'External' means 'external to the person'. External goods include friends, political power, and honour, as well as material possessions (cf. 1099a31–b2; iv. 3, 1123b20–1). (c) Note that fine practical activities involving the body count squarely as goods of the soul. (d) On the contrast between soul and body, see 13, 1102a32–b12, with note on b2–3.
Editor’s Note
1098b18 those who reflect philosophically e.g. Heraclitus, Democritus, and Plato passim.
Editor’s Note
1098b18–19 Our account will be right too in so far as certain actions and activities are being identified as the end Ar. takes credit on two scores. (1) The respected opinion that goods of the soul are best confirms his account's explicit reliance on the notion activity of soul (16). And (2) it bears out his doctrine that certain practical activities are the supreme end, since a practical activity is a good of the soul, not an external good (18–20; here Ar. argues as if there were only these two divisions of goods). On the meaning of 'practical', see note on 7, 1097b33–1098a4. On the plural 'activities', see note on 7, 1097a23–4 and note (c) on 7, 1097a30.
Editor’s Note
1098b21–2 happiness has virtually been defined as a sort of living well and doing well It has been defined as a rational sort of living well—in a complete life. Thus the synonymy of 'happiness' with 'living well' is not quite perfect; see note on 10, 1100b8.
Editor’s Note
1098b23–5 some people think it is excellence, others that it is wisdom [ phronēsis], others a kind of intellectual accomplishment [sophia] (a) Ar. reflects ordinary opinion in writing here as if wisdom and intellectual mastery do not count as excellences in the same way as, for example, courage and justice. Cf. 13, 1103a8–10, with note ad loc. (b) The distinction and contrast between phronēsis and sophia as the excellences of, respectively, practical and theoretical reason, is Aristotelian (NE vi). Thus we should not assume that the original audience was expected to understand the terms in those precise senses here.
Editor’s Note
1099a11–12 for most people the things that are pleasant are in conflict, because they are not such by nature On one interpretation they conflict with each other, but it is better to understand a conflict between pleasant things and excellence. Ar. is explaining why his result, that pleasure is intrinsic to excellent activity, would surprise a great many people. It is because what is pleasant for them is incompatible with excellent activity. But what is pleasant for them is not the same as what is pleasant by nature or without qualification (see note on vii. 12, 1152b29–31, and Introduction, pp. 66 and 72–3), and Ar.'s result holds only for the latter.
Editor’s Note
1099a24–6 So happiness is what is best, and finest, and pleasantest, and these qualities are not divided as the inscription at Delos says (a) 'Best', when contrasted with 'finest' and 'pleasantest', means 'most beneficial'. 'Fine' in Aristotle's Ethics is often rendered by 'noble'. (b) 'Divided' means that pursuing any one of the three superlatives entails sacrificing the others. The inscription allows that mediocre levels of the values may be combined. In rejecting it, Ar. commits himself to showing that the pleasures involved in happiness are pleasantest; cf. x. 7, 1177a22–7, and Introduction, pp. 73–4. (c) Delos was a great centre for the worship of Apollo, rivalled in importance by Delphi alone; thus the pessimistic verses must have been credited with the same authority as the Delphic 'Know thyself' and 'Nothing in excess'. Variants occur in the poets Theognis, Simonides, and Sophocles.
Editor’s Note
1099a30–1 these, or the one of them that is best Cf. 7, 1097a30 and 1098a17–18.
Editor’s Note
1099a31–2 it clearly also requires external goods in addition, as we have said Implied at 7, 1098a18. 'clearly', introduces a received opinion that corroborates what 'we have said'.
Editor’s Note
1099a33–b3 For in the first place many things are done by means of friends … and then again, there are some things the lack of which is like a stain on happiness, things like good birth, being blessed in one's children [euteknia, lit. 'excellence of children'], beauty (a) The particles men and de (lit. 'on the one hand … on the other hand') at 1099a33 and b2 make clear that there are two reasons why lack of external goods conflicts with happiness: (1) such goods are enabling conditions for excellent activities; and (2) some are such that their absence is a blight even if the excellent activities can be carried on without them. See also the language at 10, 1100b25–9. Friends (philoi; the word covers all loved ones, see Introduction p. 57) come under both reasons. (b) It is not entirely clear whether Ar. really means to classify good birth, good children, and physical beauty as external goods. By the triple division at 1098b12–14, beauty is a good of body, and it is a puzzle where good birth should go. (c) It is very surprising that health is not mentioned among the ingredients of a happy life.
Editor’s Note
1099b3–4 Is the claim here that physical beauty is necessary for happiness, or that ugliness is an impediment?
Editor’s Note
I 9, 1099b9–1100a9
Consequently, there are conflicting views on how happiness comes about (1099b9–19); it cannot be by chance (tuchē) (1099b20–5); our account's emphasis on excellent practical activity fits in with the initial designation of the chief good as the political objective, since the aim of political expertise is to make the citizens excellent in that way (1099b25–32); and with the impossibility of applying 'happy' to brutes (1099b32–1100a1); it is applied to children only in hope (1100a1–5); life is subject to great turns of fortune (tuchē), and no one calls happy a figure who, like Priam, flourishes and then suffers a disastrous end (1100a5–9).
Editor’s Note
1099b9–11 This is the reason too why people debate whether happiness is something learned … or even through chance Because happiness depends on excellence but also on good fortune (eutuchia, 8, 1099b8), people identify it with one or with the other, and disagree correspondingly on how it comes about. (See Plato's Meno and Protagoras for debate on this.) For Ar., possible ways of its coming about seem at first to divide as follows: (1) we can achieve happiness by our own efforts, whether (1a) by habituation or (1b) by learning or (1c) in some other way; or, alternatively, (2) happiness has a source beyond our control, whether (2a) the gods or (2b) chance (tuchē). At line 15, (2a) 'Happiness is heaven-sent' and (1) 'Happiness results from excellence and training on our part' are treated as mutually exclusive. But although Ar. opts for (1), he continues to call happiness 'most divine' (16–18). This insinuates the thought, on which he will build in x. 7–8 (see especially 7, 1177a13–17), that our human nature contains something divine or godlike—how not so, if godlike happiness is in our human power? Thus (1) and (2a) are not pointing in opposite directions after all.
Editor’s Note
1099b16–18 for the prize and fulfilment [telos] of excellence appears to be to the highest degree good, and to be something godlike and blessed [makarios] The argument is: there is nothing finer than excellence in human life. So since happiness is the fulfilment of excellence, there must be something more than human about happiness.
Editor’s Note
1099b19 It will also be something available to many In principle the chief good is achievable by human beings in general; it does not presuppose any special biological endowment. But the necessary education is often lacking; and in so far as the chief good consists in the exercise of intellectual mastery (sophia), the necessary attitude is far from common (Introduction, pp. 53–4, 75–6). Ar. writes elsewhere as if most people never attain actual excellence and happiness (e.g. x. 9, 1179b10–18; iii. 11, 1118b23 ff.; ix. 8, 1168b15–25).
Editor’s Note
1099b20–3 if it is better like this than that we should be happy through chance [tuchē], it is reasonable to suppose that it is like this … in relation to the best cause The argument is: things of sorts that come about by nature or artifice, but can also come about by chance, are at their best and most themselves when in fact they come about by these genuine causes, and not by chance. Consequently, happiness is at its best if it comes about not by chance, but by the best of all causes, i.e. cultivation of excellence. (And since we are inquiring about happiness because we are inquiring about the highest human good, we should focus on the best happiness if some kinds are inferior to others.) (a) Having established this conclusion, Ar. does not in fact envisage an inferior form of happiness that comes about by chance. It would be of no interest as a practicable goal. (b) Strictly speaking, the conclusion is true only of the principal component of Aristotelian happiness. The components implied by 'a complete life' are not only vulnerable to chance, but sometimes come about by it.
Critical Apparatus
5 Reading μάλιστα κατὰ τὴν ἀρίστην‎ (1099b23).
Editor’s Note
1099b28–9 This will agree, too, with our opening remarks To the effect that the chief good is the political objective (2, 1094a24–b11). It is an already received opinion that the function of government is to make excellent citizens who are doers (praktikous) of fine things, and here it provides the middle term that equates the chief good as explained in i. 2 with the chief good as explained in i. 7.
Editor’s Note
1099b32–1100a4 So it makes sense that we do not call either an ox, or a horse, or any other animal 'happy' … because of their prospects The inference is from praktikous at 31–2. On brutes, Ar. is referring to existing usage. His account of happiness as 'practical' entails that brutes cannot be happy (see note (a) on 7, 1097b33–1098a3); thus existing usage confirms his account. As for children, it is not clear whether the remark about felicitating them reports a commonly felt nuance, or tells us what we ought to mean in calling a child 'eudaimōn'.
Editor’s Note
1100a8 Priam The Homeric king of Troy, who saw his city sacked and burned, his sons killed, his eldest son Hector's body desecrated, his womenfolk led captive, before being slaughtered himself at the altar of his palace.
Editor’s Note
1100a9 died miserably See preliminary comments on ch. 10.
Editor’s Note
I 10, 1100a10–1101a21
Should one then follow Solon, and refuse to call anyone happy who still has some life ahead of him? (1100a10–11); Solon meant that we should wait until the person is out of reach of misfortunes (dustuchēmata) (1100a11–17); but this may never be the case, since perhaps the dead are affected by what happens to their descendants (1100a17–26). (It would be strange if the dead switched back and forth between happiness and wretchedness because of how things go with descendants far removed in time, but strange too if there is no period in which they are affected to some extent (1100a26–30.) But this problem may be solved by solving the first one (1100a31–2) ). The strange unwillingness to call someone happy when he is so is because we think that happiness is firm-rooted, whereas people's fortunes go up and down frequently (1100a34–b4); it is right not to think that changes in fortune imply corresponding switches to and fro in a person's happiness-status, because the latter is principally determined by excellent activities, which are firm-rooted and endure through changes of fortune (1100b4–33); misfortune may destroy someone's happiness, but cannot make him miserable, since the true misery is doing hateful things (1100b33–1101a8); it takes major changes of fortune to dislodge someone from happiness or to return him to it (1101a8–13); to count someone happy, must one add to the terms of the existing definition the condition that his present state will continue for the rest of his life? That would be human blessedness (1101a14–21).
Editor’s Note
1100a11 Must we agree with Solon, and look to a man's end? Solon was a great political reformer of 6th-century Athens, and one of the legendary Seven Sages. The story surrounding the apophthegm is told by Herodotus, History i. 30–3. In the EE Ar. indicates agreement with Solon's dictum, without discussion (ii. 1, 1219b6). Here he takes issue with it. But first he interprets it charitably. Solon cannot mean 'A person (i.e. one who has lived and died well) is a happy being only when dead' (1100a13–17). Solon must mean that only when such a person is dead can we safely ascribe happiness to him, implying that he was happy when alive. In that case, Solon assumes (Solonic assumption 1) that happiness is irreversible: if you lose it, you never really had it. (Perhaps his idea is that a good passage of life does not count as happy if it will be succeeded by a disaster.) So, since we cannot foresee the future, 'happy' can be applied reasonably (rather than by guess) only once the person has died, when, Solon assumes (Solonic assumption 2), nothing more can happen to him or her.
Ar. holds: (A) Yes, no one calls 'happy' someone known to have met an end like Priam's (termed 'miserable' at 9, 1100a9; cf. 10, 1100a29, b5); but (B) it is absurd to refuse to call living persons 'happy' who fit the criteria, on the grounds (1) that we cannot foresee reversals of their fortune (tuchē) and (2) that happiness is understood to be something lasting and hard to change (1100a33–b3). So (C) grave misfortune can dislodge the happy from their happiness; however (D), just as happiness principally consists in activity of excellence, so its opposite, misery, principally consists in activity of badness. Since these are activities of firmly based dispositions (cf. ii. 4, 1105a33), the happy person will not become miserable, no matter what happens to him or her.
Comparing A and D, we see that Ar. begins by going along with the ordinary meaning of 'miserable' (athlios), but then replaces this with an ethically defined meaning corresponding to his ethical definition of the contrary term, 'happy'. It is in the ordinary, not the ethical, sense that Priam's end was miserable (9, 1100a9), since in the story he was a good or certainly not a bad man.
B implies that it was reasonable to call someone happy when he or she fitted the criteria, even if (as we now know) unforeseen misfortune struck later. (B taken with ground (1) suggests—what seems reasonable—that it would not be correct to call someone happy now if the misfortune is foreseeable now.) B, therefore, implies that the person was happy then, even if not later. But does this not contradict A? No, not if one considers what Ar. and his audience would have meant by 'calling someone happy' (or ' … blessed'). It was not simply a matter of applying the predicate 'happy' to a given subject. It was also to demonstrate what happiness is. It was to take the celebrated notion 'happy person' and to say of X or Y 'He/she is an example'. Priam, whose tragic end was legendary, is not an example anyone now would choose, even though it was equally legendary that he was happy (hence was a suitable example) earlier. His earlier happiness does not now exemplify the concept to those who cannot help seeing it as followed by irreversible disaster.
Ar. begins by challenging Solonic assumption 2. Surely the dead are affected well and adversely by the good and bad fortunes (tuchai) of their descendants (which, by the same token, will include the good and bad fortunes of their descendants) (1100a16–21)? (If so, and if the dead can be so badly affected as to warrant withholding the accolade 'happy' no matter how well they lived and ended their own lives, then by Solonic assumption 1, no one, alive or dead, can ever properly be called 'happy'.) On the other hand, it is rather absurd to think of someone who lived and died happy, as then, when dead, switching to and fro between happiness and misery (21–9). (But does this absurdity indicate the general absurdity of switching from happiness to misery? If so, it supports Solonic assumption 1. Or is it, rather, absurd only as applied to the dead? If so, is it because they are not after all affected, or not significantly affected, by how things go for their descendants?)
Ar. then (1100a31) sets aside for a while (until 11, 1101a22–b9) the question of descendants' fortunes getting through to the dead, and turns back to 'Call no man happy until he is dead'. He deals with it in two stages, rejection (32–5) and diagnosis (1100b2–16). The rejection takes off from Solon's willingness to call 'happy' or 'blessed' some of the deceased retrospectively (on this, see the story in Herodotus, reference above). Solon, then, is committed to 'They were happy'. But if they were happy, this, Ar. assumes, was because of how their lives were then. So it would have been reasonable for someone who knew them then to call them 'happy'. But if so, the same would have been reasonable, once, in the case of one whose life was like that (once) but then took an unforeseeable turn for the worse.
As it stands, this argument is ineffective against Solon, who insists that no part of a life, however good, counts as happy if the end is unforeseen disaster. But why insist this and deny oneself the possibility of pointing out live examples of happiness? (Perhaps because it seems that a good example of something should be timelessly so; thus to posit mutable X as a true example of 'happy' we must wait until X is in the past and out of reach of change. Perhaps Solon as one of the Seven Sages is expected to restrict his statements to timeless truths!) Ar. diagnoses truth beneath the insistence. The truth lies with the respected views (1) that happiness is something stable, and (2) that chance (fortune, luck) is volatile. Unqualified, these jointly imply that chance in the form of misfortune cannot take happiness away (suggesting that happiness can be ascribed only to those out of reach of chance). But Ar. explains that the truth of (1) holds, more precisely, of excellent activity, the principal component of happiness, though not of the other components (1100b4–1101a13). Since the activity depends on oneself, it is not vulnerable to chance. Moreover, true misery implies hateful and vile activity, which is alien to the excellent person. So again (1) is true if interpreted to mean: 'The happy person is safe from becoming truly miserable'.
Editor’s Note
1100a19 as much as someone who is alive but not perceiving what is happening to him The comparison leaves it unclear whether the belief is that (i) the dead exist as human presences, but are insensate; or (ii) they have dim awareness of what happens to their descendants; or (iii) they do not exist but are nonetheless affected by such events. We, too, feel that the departed can be wronged or betrayed without necessarily believing that they actually exist somewhere. Ar.'s psychological and logical theories imply difficulties for all these interpretations. Against (i): there can be no animal, including the human kind, that is not capable of sensation; against (ii): even dim awareness presupposes a living organism, since sense and thought so far as it involves imagination are physiologically based; against (iii): an affection (or being affected) presupposes an existing substance. So why does Ar. accept the belief for discussion at all? Presumably because it will not give way under merely conceptual probing, being an outgrowth of the believers' bond with the departed (11, 1101a22–4; however, at iii. 6, 1115a26–7 he says that for the dead, death is the end). So he must take it seriously because, in conjunction with Solon's principle that a person cannot safely be called happy as long as new things can happen to him or her, it threatens to imply that human happiness is never recognizably instantiated. For vulnerability through one's descendants will last as long as their generations (1100a26–7).
Editor’s Note
1100b7–8 Or is it completely wrong to track a person's fortunes like this? i.e. wrong to let changing fortunes determine the pattern of our applying 'happy' and its opposite ('miserable'), so that (a) minor misfortune automatically renders a person less happy, and (b) serious misfortune automatically renders him or her miserable. The ethical implication of 'miserable' is not yet revealed, but is about to become so through the connection with activities (10–11, and see next note).
Editor’s Note
1100b8 For they [sc. a person's fortunes] are not where living well or badly is located Quality, good or bad, of distinctively human life is quality of rational activity, since the activity is the life at highest intensity. Thus living well is not quite the same as happiness (cf. 8, 1098b21).
Editor’s Note
1100b11–12 The present difficulty itself bears witness to our account i.e. the problem of the relation of happiness (supposedly stable) to chance (volatile). The problem would not bother us if its components did not each contain truth. Thus it confirms that Ar. was right to define happiness as principally consisting of something constant, i.e. activity of excellence, although goods subject to chance are also needed.
Editor’s Note
1100b14 they seem to be more firm-rooted even than the various kinds of knowledge we possess Systematic knowledge is meant. Strictly, the comparison should be between such knowledge and the disposition for excellent activity (i.e. excellence). But whoever has this disposition will exercise it whenever possible, whereas exercise of mathematical knowledge is sometimes possible but not called for. Thus the activity of excellence is a firm feature of the excellent life. And the excellent person might for some good reason let his mathematics get rusty ('forgetfulness', 17) by ceasing to exercise the skill, but there cannot be a reason he would recognize as good for ceasing to exercise excellence.
Editor’s Note
1100b21–2 'the man who is truly good and four-square beyond reproach' Words of the 5th-century poet Simonides.
Editor’s Note
1100b29–30 for they bring on pains, and obstruct many sorts of activities This means that many activities natural to him become difficult or frustrating, not that he is rendered inactive. A person must be actively admirable for it to 'shine through' (1100b30–1; see also 1101a2–3: 'he does what is most admirable given his resources').
Editor’s Note
1100b33–4 as we have said At 1100b10.
Editor’s Note
1101a7–8 though neither will he be blessed if he meets with fortunes like Priam's So far, 'blessed' (makarios) has been used as an alternative for 'happy' (eudaimōn), e.g. at 1100a33–5; b16–18; 11, 1101b4–5. (Cf. 1100a10, 16, 33, b1, 12; 1101b24, where eudaimonizein ('call happy') and makarizein ('call blessed') are used interchangeably.) If this is the meaning here, then Ar. is saying what is obvious, that the happy fall from happiness if their lives end in catastrophe. Or he may be using 'blessed' in the different sense explained below in the note on 1101a16–21.
Editor’s Note
1101a16–21 Or must we add that he will also continue to live like that … but blessed as human beings (a) This shows that 'in a complete life' of the original definition does not mean 'to the end of one's life'. (b) Usually in Ar. this form of question is tantamount to an affirmation. But given the context, this can hardly be the sense here. He has just said that someone can achieve happiness but then be 'dislodged' from it by great misfortunes (1101a9–11), and he does not in fact add this further condition to his own account of happiness (see x. 7, 1177a25). But now he acknowledges the pull towards denying that X was ever happy if X's life ends badly, however good it was before. (One might say that the good part, given what followed, was only incomplete happiness; but happiness, it would seem, cannot be in any way incomplete.) Ar. compromises by declaring that the term we withhold in such a case is 'blessed'. This, unlike the previously synonymous 'happy', is now reserved for those who will live out their days and die in happiness. The point is not merely that Priam is not now an example of blessedness. (He is also not now an example of happiness, although no doubt he was one in his middle age.) It is that we cannot properly say of Priam that he was blessed during the good part of his life, given what we know lay ahead for him. So, reworded to 'Call no human being blessed while alive', Solon's adage is sound (unless, of course, the vicissitudes of their descendants can render the dead unhappy). Since 'blessed' is commonly used of the gods (they are invulnerable to fortune, as Solon thought the dead to be), Ar. points out that the blessedness of a life lived happily to the end is still only human. (Thus it is not so perfect that it would be senseless for humans to hope for it; and, being only humanly blessed, it may not be devoid of small misfortunes.)
Editor’s Note
I 11, 1101a22–b9
We do not deny that the fortunes of descendants and loved ones make some difference to the dead (1101a22–4); but to get a sense of whether this could dislodge a dead person from happiness (or the reverse), one has to consider that even the living are not much affected by everything that happens to their loved ones, and that a living person's being affected belongs to a different order of magnitude than a dead person's so being (1101a24–34), and that it is controversial whether the dead are affected at all (1101a34–b1); all of which suggests that if anything does get through to them, it is not of a nature to convert happiness to unhappiness or vice versa (1101b1–9).
At 10, 1100a31–2 Ar. said that whether the dead are affected by the actions and fortunes of their surviving relatives might be solved through his first addressing Solon's adage. He now returns to the former question, generalizing it to cover surviving loved ones, whether relatives or not (1101a22). The two issues are connected in the following ways: (1) Via the centrality to happiness of excellent activity, which was the basis of the response to Solon. While the excellent person is alive, the fates of his loved ones unfold for him as humanly active: it is only as a humanly active self that he can be made happy or unhappy by what they do or what happens to them (even though these vicissitudes do not weaken his own activity or its excellence). (2) In replying to Solon, Ar. was led to make it clear that the fact that human happiness is not independent of fortune is not to be interpreted as the fact that human happiness is fortune-sensitive. That is: the inference 'F, a stroke of fortune, happens to X; F is bad/good; therefore X's happiness is decreased/increased' is to be rejected. Such reasoning could only apply to the excellent, since only they can be happy; but it belongs to the excellent not to be moved by minor changes of fortune (10, 1101a9–13; cf. 11, 1101a28–30). There, Ar. was thinking of vicissitudes directly one's own; now he considers those suffered indirectly (by the living) because loved ones fare badly or well. We are now logically prepared for the thought that even if it is true to say, once X is dead, that a good or bad turn in the life of a loved one is a good or bad thing for X, still nothing follows about X's happiness.
Editor’s Note
1101a31–3 whether it involves the living or the dead makes much more difference than whether in tragedies lawless, terrible deeds have happened beforehand or are presently being enacted The dead are necessarily background, and don't (now) have a foreground; but anything significant enough to reverse happiness/unhappiness must occur in someone's foreground.
Editor’s Note
1101a35–1101b1 we must bring in the difficulty, in relation to the dead, whether they share in any good This does not logically support the conclusion that they cannot be made happy or unhappy, but it makes it sensible for us to judge them happy—or not—entirely on the basis of their own lives.
Editor’s Note
I 12, 1101b10–1102a4
Happiness—an object of praise or of honour? (1101b10–12); marks of things that are praised (1101b12–21); it follows that the highest goods, such as the gods, the most godlike men, and happiness, are not objects of praise (1101b21–31); praise contrasted with encomia (1101b31–5); clearly, happiness is an honourable and godlike thing, being the principle (archē) and cause of the other goods (1101b35–1102a4).
In i. 10–11 Ar. has argued for a conception of human happiness according to which it is just that: thoroughly human. It is supposed to be achievable by human beings; it can coexist with minor misfortunes; it can be destroyed by grave ones; and at its best it is rounded off by death. The object of i. 12, it seems, is to emphasize that human happiness is nevertheless a godlike thing (see note on 7, 1097b20). Ar. does this by arguing that it satisfies a further criterion for being the highest good, one suggested by an argument of Eudoxus. This concludes the examination of happiness in Book I; Ar. will return to the subject in the final pages of the NE.
Eudoxus had built an argument for hedonism on the doctrine that the chief good is a per se good beyond praise. According to Eudoxus, the chief good, and god, have this status, because it is to them that other goods (including the objects of praise, ta epaineta) 'are referred' (1101b27–31). Eudoxus must have gone on to claim that pleasure is a per se good, and to point out that we do not praise people for experiencing pleasure. Ar. accepts the Eudoxan rule, adds one further ingredient, and shows that the resulting criterion is satisfied by happiness as defined by himself. The further ingredient is the assumption that the category of things 'superior to the praiseworthy' is the category of the honourable. Ar.'s question, then, is whether happiness is an object of honour, rather than merely an object of praise. In proving the former, Ar. proves that human happiness is godlike, since (it is taken for granted) honouring is the appropriate attitude towards gods and godlike things. (He thereby corroborates the mystique that leads some people to stand in awe of those who speak of happiness as something 'impressive and over their heads' (4, 1095a25–6). And he also secures an advantage against Eudoxus' candidate for highest good, since it might be hard to show that pleasure as such is honourable. For more arguments against Eudoxan hedonism, see x. 2, 1172b9–35).
Editor’s Note
1101b11–12 whether happiness comes under the heading of what is to be praised or rather of what is to be honoured; for obviously it is not found among the potentialities For a fuller treatment of this division of goods (which includes a fourth, that of means for obtaining and preserving goods), see Magna Moralia i. 2, 1183b19–37. The author (if not Ar., then one of his students) says:

By what is to be honoured I mean this sort of thing: the divine, what is better (e.g. soul, intellect), what is more ancient, first principles—these sorts of things … The category of goods to be praised includes things like excellences; for praise comes about from actions done in accordance with these. Other goods are potentialities, such as power, wealth, strength, beauty; for these are things that can both be put to good use by the excellent person and be put to bad use by the bad—which is why such things are called potentially good. Goods, then, they are, for they are assessed by reference to the use the excellent person makes of them, not by the use the bad man makes of them … The fourth and last category of goods is that of what tends to preserve and produce what is good, in the way that training preserves and produces health, and anything else like this.

(For a similar division see also Fragment 113, Rose3.)
Editor’s Note
1101b12 Everything praised appears to be praised for being of a certain quality and being disposed in a certain way towards something The excellences predicated by adjectives such as 'just', 'courageous', and 'good' are in the category of Quality because they are defined as dispositions for activity of various kinds (see ii. 5 (1105b19–1106a13) ), and dispositions (hexeis) are a type of quality (Categories 8, 8b26–9a9). In applying a dispositional term we make reference (cf. 21) to something else, i.e. the activity; and in applying a quality-adjective we presuppose reference to something else, i.e. a substance. Thus when we apply, for example, 'good' as a term of praise, we make reference to something other than the feature in virtue of which we apply it.
Editor’s Note
1101b14–15 for we praise the just man … and excellence i.e. these are all terms of praise.
Editor’s Note
1101b18–21 This is also clear if we consider praises offered to the gods; for they appear laughable if they are offered by reference to our case, and this actually occurs, because of the fact that we have mentioned, that praise is always with reference to something (a) The last point was made by implication at 1101b12–18. (b) The Greek wording suggests that it is the praises, not the gods, that appear laughable. In any case, the exact meaning is unclear. Perhaps it is this: in god there is no distinction between disposition and activity, as the divine is pure activity (Metaph. xii. 7); and god is a substance such that to be it is eo ipso to be good (see 6, 1096a24 with note). So if god is correctly said to be good, 'good' applies to the divine activity and the divine substance. But if the term is used so as to praise, the application must refer to something else. In this case, what could that be but ourselves, perhaps imagined as connected with divine activity as its beneficiaries? (Thus in praising the gods, we cannot be celebrating them just as they are in virtue of their own nature.) Alternatively, and more simply, the thought may be that praise implies that the object satisfies our standards. But if so, the distinction between disposition and activity does not work in this argument.
Editor’s Note
1101b23–5 for we call both gods and the most godlike men 'blessed' and 'happy' (a) Here Ar. takes it as obvious that the speech-act of calling someone blessed or happy (i.e. felicitation) is not a speech-act of praise. (b) The one godlike human activity encountered so far is that of the large-scale (successful) political expert (2, 1094b10). In x. 7–8 Ar. will argue that this is not the highest.
Editor’s Note
1101b26–7 but ranks it blessed [makarizein], as being something more godlike and superior A moment ago (23–5) the happy, rather than happiness, were the targets of felicitation. As with praise (14–15), Ar. does not distinguish object from ground of felicitation. But in the case of god, this is a distinction without a difference, since god is nothing but god's activity of happiness.
Editor’s Note
1101b28 the competition of goods See Introduction, p. 76.
Editor’s Note
1101b30–1 it is to these that the other things are referred See note on 1102a3–4.
Editor’s Note
1101b31–2 praise is appropriate to excellence Not just excellence of soul; see the examples at line 16 above.
Editor’s Note
1101b33 encomia (a) An encomium was a celebration of a particular deed; see Rhetoric i. 9, 1367b26–35; EE ii. 1, 1219b8–16. (b) The implication is that of praise, encomium, and felicitation, the latter alone is restricted to things of the soul.
Editor’s Note
1102a2 This also seems to be so because of the fact that it is a principle See the Magna Moralia passage quoted in note on 1101b11–12.
Editor’s Note
1102a2–3 for it is for the sake of happiness that we all do everything else we do This is not an observation about human motivation, but a normative declaration that everything else be subordinated to happiness. This is the rule that should guide 'political' thinking and acting in the sense of 'political' introduced at the beginning (i. 2, 1094a24–b11, and Introduction, pp. 10–11).
Editor’s Note
1102a3–4 the principle and cause of goods (a) Here Ar. says that happiness is the principle and cause of the value of the other goods. However, happiness does not give value to excellent rational activity, for this owes its worth to nothing but itself, and is that in whose absence the other ingredients of the would-be happy life are valueless. It seems to follow that excellent rational activity is the true 'principle and cause of good things', and is therefore the chief practicable good, given that the chief is principle of value for the others. Then what about happiness? Excellent rational activity may be termed 'happiness' by synecdoche (see note (d) on 7, 1098a18), but it is not happiness in the sense of being sufficient to render human beings happy, as Ar. makes clear at 7, 1098a18–20; 8, 1099a31–b8; and 10, 1100b19–1101a11. And surely the chief good which is the goal of 'political' thought and action is not merely excellent rational activity, even if this is by far the most important part of the goal, but excellent rational activity in a complete life? Perhaps the solution is that someone's excellent rational activity cannot actually exercise its role as cause of the goodness of the other goods unless the latter are present in the person's life as the empirical entities they are—health, friends, social position, children, etc.—to be rendered good by their various relations to excellent rational activity. We must understand 'a complete life' as containing these elements for excellent rational activity to make worth while. 'Adding' any one of these other things, the Os, to excellent rational activity (or it to one of them) is sufficient and necessary for that O to count as good. When all Os are 'added', we have a combination in which all Os are rendered good, and this combination is the one otherwise known as 'excellent rational activity in a complete life'. (It is awkward for clarity that the empirical entities listed are commonly called 'goods' regardless of whether they occur in the context of excellent rational activity. It is also awkward that the 'adding' means different relations for different Os. Adding excellent rational activity to wealth would be using wealth in it or to support it. Adding the former to pleasure or to friendship would be, respectively, taking pleasure in it and having a friendship based on it. These last examples show that pleasure and friendship figure here in a logical and generic way. The 'intersection' of pleasure and excellent rational activity is a different kind of pleasure with a different concrete nature from the 'intersection' of pleasure with some kind of low-level activity, and similarly for friendship. It is not as if literally the same pleasure could now be away from, now be with, excellent rational activity in the way in which this is possible for the identical material resources if they pass from one sort of agent to another.) (b) In Platonism, the cause of the F-ness of other F things is also supposed to be the 'F-itself', i.e. the purest example of F (cf. EE i. 8, 1217b1–15). In Ar., by contrast, the purest case of happiness is that of the gods, and it is identical with their excellent rational activity tout court. On the divine level there is nothing but perfect activity and no space for anything else there that might be made good by association with it. On the human level it is our excellent rational activity, in a life necessarily involving more than just that, that gives other human goods their value. (On the relation of human happiness to divine activity, see Introduction pp. 14–15.)
Editor’s Note
I 13, 1102a5–1103a10
From inquiring about happiness we pass to inquiring about human excellence of soul, which is anyway a topic for political expertise (1102a5–18); therefore the political expert should know something about the soul (1102a18–27); for instance, that one part is non-rational, the other rational (1102a27–32); the nutritive part of the non-rational part is common to all living things, and is incapable of human excellence (1102a32–b12); another non-rational part participates in a way in reason: it can and should obey reason, but sometimes fights against it, as happens with self-control and the lack of it (1102b13–1103a3); the distinction between this non-rational part and the rational one implies a corresponding distinction between kinds of excellence: the intellectual excellences versus the excellences of character (1103a3–10).
This chapter marks the transition to the topic of human excellence, the main subject of the Ethics. Excellence must be studied (1) because it is part of the i. 7 definition of the chief good, i.e. happiness, and (2) it is the main objective of political expertise (cf. 9, 1099b28–32 with comment). The excellence in question is of soul, not body. Some account of the soul is therefore a necessary preliminary.
Editor’s Note
1102a10–11 the Cretans and the Spartans The city-states of Crete and Sparta were famous for their communal methods of moral training. At NE x. 9, 1180a24–9, Ar. laments the rarity of this sort of institution.
Editor’s Note
1102a13 in accordance with our original purpose i.e. to delineate the political expert's objective (2, 1094a18–b111).
Editor’s Note
1102a16–18 By 'human excellence' we mean excellence of soul, not of body; happiness, too, we say, is activity of soul Here are two reasons for studying excellence of soul. The second relies on Ar.'s analysis of happiness (7, 1098a7–17), and 'we' in it refers to himself. The first is based on (1) the fact that we, i.e. ordinary speakers call someone a good human being in light of qualities of mind and character rather than health and strength of body, together with (2) the principle that the excellence of an F as such is the quality that makes it a good F (ii. 6, 1106a15–24). Here, as at 8, 1098b12–201, Ar. echoes the popular contrast between soul and body, but see below, 1102a32–b12, with note on b2–3.
Editor’s Note
1102a18–20 If all this is so … the political expert should know, in a way, about soul, just as the person who is going to treat people's eyes should know about the entire body, too According to one ancient school of medicine, knowledgeable treatment of a given organ presupposes an understanding of the whole system. Ethics is concerned primarily with excellent rational activity, since this is the core of the chief good; but reason in man is only one part of the soul, and its nature and the challenges to its development depend on its place in the wider psychic context, including even the 'nutritive' part of the soul—which has no share in distinctively human excellence (1102b12), but is the basis of the physical appetites with which excellence (specifically, moderation) has to be concerned. The political expert should know about all this 'in a way', i.e. not as a natural scientist.
Editor’s Note
1102a26–7 in our published works The reference is uncertain.
Editor’s Note
1102a28–30 whether these are delimited like the parts of the body … or whether they are two things by definition but by nature inseparable (a) The first possibility considered here is the association of the rational and non-rational powers of the soul (psuchē) with different parts of the body, as in the psychology of Plato's Timaeus (69b–70e). This theory included the doctrine that the rational element is immortal (ibid. 41a–43e); thus Ar. may be indicating that the truth or falsity of this, too, is irrelevant to the present inquiry. (b) In what follows Ar. seems to lean towards the second of the above possibilities, since he relates the strictly rational and non-rational parts of the distinctively human soul as director to directed (1102b13–1103a3), which are correlatives like convex and concave. However, the strictly rational part is more than a mere director of the non-rational, since the theoretic excellence of intellectual accomplishment is also ascribed to it (see 1103a5–9, with note on 8–10). Hence it is not the rational part as such that is related to the non-rational part as convex and concave, or vice versa, but the rational part in its directive role. This is a strictly human role, since reason in its theoretic mode is all there is to the soul of a god.
Editor’s Note
1102a33 what is responsible for the taking in of food and for increase in size This is the 'nutritive' soul, responsible for metabolism, growth, and also reproduction (On the Soul ii. 4).
Editor’s Note
1102b1–2 and this same one too as being in them when they are full-grown, for it is more reasonable to suppose the presence of this one than of any other Since the power of growth is also the power of nutrition, it is the same in immature and mature organisms, although only the former express it through growth.
Editor’s Note
1102b2–3 Excellence in the exercise of this capacity … appears to be something shared and not distinctively human Good growth and metabolism show physical health, a non-rational excellence. Elsewhere in the Ethics Ar. falls in with the dualist classification of health as an excellence of body as distinct from soul (e.g. i. 8, 1098b13–16; 13, 1102a16–17; cf. viii. 11, 1161a35).
Editor’s Note
1102b13–14 although participating [metechousa] in a way in reason Cf. 25–6; 30–1. 'Participate' is Platonic; so also 'share in' (koinōnei) at 29–30. In Platonism, Socrates' relation to the Form of Man makes it not incorrect to call Socrates a 'man' even though the Form is more properly called 'man' than any human individual. So for Ar. the potentially obedient part of the soul may be called 'reason' and 'rational' because of its relation to the directive part, even though the terms primarily apply to the latter. See 1103a1–3. Note that whereas Plato's 'participate' and 'share' are meant to bring out the fact that a given participant is one of many (the Form is 'one over many'), Ar.'s indicate no more than a dependence that allows transfer of terms.
Editor’s Note
1102b14 those with and without self-control Self-control (a good quality but not an excellence) is the disposition to refuse to act on desires not approved by reason; the lack of it (a defect, but not a vice) is the disposition to give way to them. The topic is studied in vii. 1–10 (1145a15–1152a36).
Editor’s Note
1102b25 How it is different is of no importance Cf. 1102a28–32.
Editor’s Note
1102b30 the appetitive and generally desiring part On the different kinds of desire (orexis), see iii. 2, 1111b10–11 with note. Here Ar. may be omitting the kind called 'wish', since he usually associates it with the rational part; cf. Topics iv. 5, 126a6–13.
Editor’s Note
1102b32–3 it is the way one is reasonable when one takes account of advice from one's father or loved ones, not when one has an account of things, as for example in mathematics Having an account is being able to demonstrate a result oneself.
Editor’s Note
1103a4–5 we call some of them intellectual excellences, others excellences of character (a) we call Ar. refers to his own school. (b) character The word is ēthos, whence 'ethics', 'ethical'. The plural ēthē, is rendered by the Latin 'mores', whence 'moral', 'morality'. Thus the excellences of the 'listening' part of the soul are often labelled the 'ethical' or 'moral' virtues.
Editor’s Note
1103a8–10 but we do also praise someone accomplished in something for his disposition, and the dispositions we praise are the ones we call 'excellences' This is a proof that intellectual accomplishment (sophia) counts as a human excellence. Proof is necessary because this quality is not on a par with the others: unlike them, it is godlike even in human beings (see x. 7–8), and it would not have been obvious to everyone in Ar.'s audience, or everyone in the communities in which they would serve, that intellectual accomplishment (especially on Ar.'s interpretation of it) is necessary for complete human excellence (1102a1), and that one of the duties of political expertise is therefore to encourage its cultivation in everyone. (In calling something a 'human excellence', Ar. implies that it is not a technique that can be left to a few specialists.)
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