Reading Response

After reading the Nicomachean Ethics reflect on the ideas, arguments, conceptions, and perspectives Aristotle offers. Consider one of them that you find intriguing, compelling, or important to your understanding of the reading. In doing so, ponder the specific reasons for why you find it intriguing, compelling, or important. Possible considerations to contemplate is the strength of an argument in terms of its validity, its truthfulness in terms of evidence that can support it, its coherence with other ideas presented in the reading, its relatability to your own life (especially the specific values and beliefs you hold–not just a story about how one time…), and how it compares with other philosophical perspectives you have encountered elsewhere. Be sure to explain the argument you choose, define philosophical concepts that you use, and provide examples to support your points. Your explanation should include textual support with citations; any citation style can be used so long as the page number of the quote or paraphrase is provided. To earn full credit and have appropriate philosophical depth, your response should be at least 400 words.

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Reading Response Journal Rubric

Reading Response Journal Rubric


This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeUnderstandingThe reading response entry contains an accurate, precise description of the specific argument, conception, idea, or perspective being focused on in the journal entry.

9.0 ptsExcellent
The entry contains highly accurate and precise summarization, description and/or paraphrasing of the argument, conception, idea, or perspective. The entry uses appropriate textual support for these.

8.0 ptsGood
The summarization, description and/or paraphrasing of the argument, conception, idea, or perspective is fairly accurate and precise and has textual support, but other passages may have been better choices.

7.0 ptsNeeds Improvement
The summarization, description and/or paraphrasing of the argument, conception, idea, or perspective is fairly accurate, but not precise, and the textual support is inappropriate.

6.0 ptsUnacceptable
The summarization, description and/or paraphrasing of the argument, conception, idea, or perspective is inaccurate and/or has no textual support.

9.0 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeEvaluationEvaluation of the argument, conception, idea, or perspective being considered in the journal entry.

9.0 ptsExcellent
The entry evaluates the argument, conception, idea, or perspective in question by checking for adherence to various standards (validity, soundness, etc.), for how it is supported by evidence, and internal consistency. The entry suggests how the argument, conception, idea, or perspective could be made better according to the appropriate standard and by exploring unmentioned plausible alternatives.

8.0 ptsGood
The entry evaluates the argument, conception, idea, or perspective in question by checking for adherence to various standards (validity, soundness, etc.), for how it is supported by evidence, and internal consistency.

7.0 ptsNeeds Improvement
The entry evaluates the argument, conception, idea, or perspective by superficially considering its plausibility. Evaluation needs more development with respect to the standard used, suggestions for improving the argument, and/or exploration of unmentioned plausible alternatives.

6.0 ptsUnacceptable
The entry evaluates the position in question by whether the author agrees or disagrees with it.

9.0 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeLength

2.0 ptsFull Marks
Journal entry is 400 words or more.

0.0 ptsNo Marks
Journal entry is 399 words or less.

2.0 pts

Total Points: 20



Translated with Introduction, Notes, and Glossary, by


Second Edition

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Indianapolis /Cambridge

Copyright© 1999 by Terence Irwin

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Aristotle.

[Nicomachean ethics. English] Nicomachean ethics I Aristotle : translated, with introduction,

notes, and glossary by Terence Irwin.-2nd ed. p. em.

Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-87220-465-0-ISBN 0-87220-464-2 (pbk.) 1. Ethics. I. Irwin, Terence. II. Title.

B430.A5N5313 1999 171 ‘.3-dc21

ISBN-13: 978-0-87220-465-2 (cloth) ISBN-13: 978-0-87220-464-5 (pbk.) Adobe PDF ebook ISBN: 978-1-60384-567-0

99-26709 CIP

N I COMAC H EAN ETH I CS Book I , Chapte r 4 §5

cated in that area, and the unqualifiedly good judge is the person edu- 1 095a cated in every area.

This is why a youth is not a suitable student of political science; for he lacks experience of the actions in life, which are the subject and premises of our arguments. §6 Moreover, since he tends to follow his feelings, his study will be futile and useless; for the end [of political science] is action, 5 not knowledge.* §7 It does not matter whether he is young in years or immature in character, since the deficiency does not depend on age, but results from following his feelings in his life and in a given pursuit; for an immature person, like an incontinent person, gets no benefit from his knowledge. But for those who accord with reason in forming their desires 10 and in their actions, knowledge of political science will be of great benefit.

§8 These are the preliminary points about the student, about the way our claims are to be accepted, and about what we propose to do.*


[Co m mon Be l iefs]

Let us, then, begin again.* Since every sort of knowledge and decision* pursues some good, what is the good that we say political science seeks? 15 What, [in other words,] is the highest of all the goods achievable in action?

§2 As far as its name goes, most people virtually agree; for both the many and the cultivated call it happiness, and they suppose that living well and doing well are the same as being happy.* But they disagree 20 about what happiness is, and the many do not give the same answer as the wise.*

§3 For the many think it is something obvious and evident-for instance, pleasure, wealth, or honor. Some take it to be one thing, others another. Indeed, the same person often changes his mind; for when he has fallen ill, he thinks happiness is health, and when he has fallen into pov­ erty, he thinks it is wealth. And when they are conscious of their own ignorance, they admire anyone who speaks of something grand and 25 above their heads. [Among the wise,] however, some used to think that besides these many goods there is some other good that exists in its own right and that causes all these goods to be goods.*

§4 Presumably, then, it is rather futile to examine all these beliefs, and it is enough to examine those that are most current or seem to have some 30 argument for them.

§5 We must notice, however, the difference between arguments from principles and arguments toward principles.* For indeed Plato was right to be puzzled about this, when he used to ask if [the argument] set out from the principles or led toward them*-just as on a race course the path 1095b may go from the starting line to the far end,* or back again. For we should



Book I, Chapte r 4 §5 AR I STOT LE

1095b certainly begin from things known, but things are known in two ways;* for some are known to us, some known without qualification. Presum­ ably, then, we ought to begin from things known to us.

5 §6 That is why we need to have been brought up in fine habits if we are to be adequate students of fine and just things, and of political ques­ tions generally. §7 For we begin from the [belief] that [something is true]; if this is apparent enough to us, we can begin without also [know­ ing] why [it is true].* Someone who is well brought up has the begin­ nings, or can easily acquire them.* Someone who neither has them nor

10 can acquire them should listen to Hesiod:* ‘He who grasps everything himself is best of all; he is noble also who listens to one who has spoken well; but he who neither grasps it himself nor takes to heart what he hears from another is a useless man.’


[T he T h ree L ives]

But let us begin again from the point from which we digressed.* For, it would seem, people quite reasonably reach their conception of the good,

15 i.e., of happiness, from the lives [they lead]; §2 for there are roughly three most favored lives: the lives of gratification, of political activity, and, third, of study.*

The many, the most vulgar, would seem to conceive the good and hap­ piness as pleasure, and hence they also like the life of gratification.

20 §3 In this they appear completely slavish, since the life they decide on is a life for grazing animals.* Still, they have some argument in their defense, since many in positions of power feel as Sardanapallus* felt, [and also choose this life].

§4 The cultivated people, those active [in politics], conceive the good as honor, since this is more or less the end [normally pursued] in the political life. This, however, appears to be too superficial to be what we

25 are seeking;* for it seems to depend more on those who honor than on the one honored, whereas we intuitively believe that the good is something of our own and hard to take from us.* §5 Further, it would seem, they pursue honor to convince themselves that they are good; at any rate, they seek to be honored by prudent people, among people who know them,

30 and for virtue. It is clear, then, that-in their view at any rate-virtue is superior [to honor].

§6 Perhaps, indeed, one might conceive virtue more than honor to be the end of the political life. However, this also is apparently too incom­ plete [to be the good]. For it seems possible for someone to possess virtue

1096a but be asleep or inactive throughout his life, and, moreover, to suffer the worst evils and misfortunes. If this is the sort of life he leads, no one would count him happy, except to defend a philosopher ‘s paradox.*



N I COMAC H EAN ETH I CS Book I , Chapte r 6 §4

Enough about this, since it has been adequately discussed in the popular 1 096a works* as well.

§7 The third life is the life of study, which we shall examine in what 5 follows.*

§8 The moneymaker ‘s life is in a way forced on him [not chosen for itself];* and clearly wealth is not the good we are seeking, since it is [merely] useful, [choiceworthy only] for some other end. Hence one would be more inclined to suppose that [any of] the goods mentioned earlier is the end, since they are liked for themselves. But apparently they are not [the end] either; and many arguments have been presented 10 against them.* Let us, then, dismiss them.


[T he P lato n i c Form of the Good ]

Presumably, though, we had better examine the universal good, and puz­ zle out what is meant in speaking of it.* This sort of inquiry is, to be sure, unwelcome to us, because those who introduced the Forms were friends* of ours; still, it presumably seems better, indeed only right, to destroy 15 even what is close to us if that is the way to preserve truth. We must espe- cially do this as philosophers, [lovers of wisdom]; for though we love both the truth and our friends, reverence is due to the truth first.

§2 Those who introduced this view did not mean to produce an Idea for any [series] in which they spoke of prior and posterior [members];* that was why they did not mean to establish an Idea [of number] for [the series of] numbers. But the good is spoken of both in what-it-is [that is, 20 substance], and in quality and relative;* and what exists in its own right, that is, substance, is by nature prior to the relative,* since a relative would seem to be an appendage and coincident of being. And so there is no com- mon Idea over these.

§3 Further, good is spoken of in as many ways as being [is spoken of]:* in what-it-is, as god and mind;* in quality, as the virtues; in quantity, as the 25 measured amount; in relative, as the useful; in time, as the opportune moment; in place, as the [right] situation; and so on. Hence it is clear that the good cannot be some common and single universal; for if it were, it would be spoken of in only one [of the types of] predication, not in them all.

§4 Further, if a number of things have a single Idea, there is also a sin- 30 gle science of them; hence [if there were an Idea of good] there would also be some single science of all goods. But, in fact, there are many sciences even of the goods under one [type of] predication; for the science of the opportune moment, for instance, in war is generalship, in disease medi- cine. And similarly the science of the measured amount in food is medi- cine, in exertion gymnastics. [Hence there is no single science of the good, and so no Idea.]



N I COMAC H EAN ETH I CS Book I , Chapte r 7 §4

§14 Perhaps, however, someone might think it is better to get to know 1096b the Idea with a view to the goods that we can possess and achieve in 1097a action; for [one might suppose that] if we have this as a sort of pattern, we shall also know better about the goods that are goods for us, and if we know about them, we shall hit on them. §15 This argument certainly has some plausibility, but it would seem to clash with the sciences. For 5 each of these, though it aims at some good and seeks to supply what is lacking, leaves out knowledge of the Idea; but if the Idea were such an important aid, surely it would not be reasonable for all craftsmen to know nothing about it and not even to look for it.

§16 Moreover, it is a puzzle to know what the weaver or carpenter will gain for his own craft from knowing this Good Itself, or how anyone 10 will be better at medicine or generalship from having gazed on the Idea Itself. For what the doctor appears to consider is not even health [univer- sally, let alone good universally], but human health, and presumably the health of this human being even more, since he treats one particular patient at a time.*

So much, then, for these questions.


[An Accoun t of the H u man G ood]

But let us return once again to the good we are looking for, and con- 15 sider just what it could be.* For it is apparently one thing in one action or craft, and another thing in another; for it is one thing in medicine, another in generalship, and so on for the rest. What, then, is the good of each action or craft? Surely it is that for the sake of which the other things are done; in medicine this is health, in generalship victory, in house-building 20 a house, in another case something else, but in every action and decision it is the end, since it is for the sake of the end that everyone does the other actions.* And so, if there is some end of everything achievable in action, the good achievable in action will be this end; if there are more ends than one, [the good achievable in action] will be these ends.*

§2 Our argument, then, has followed a different route to reach the same conclusion.* But we must try to make this still more perspicuous.* 25 §3 Since there are apparently many ends, and we choose some of them (for instance, wealth, flutes, and, in general, instruments) because of something else, it is clear that not all ends are complete.* But the best good is apparently something complete. And so, if only one end is com- plete, the good we are looking for will be this end; if more ends than one are complete, it will be the most complete end of these.* 30

§4 We say that an end pursued in its own right is more complete than an end pursued because of something else, and that an end that is never choiceworthy because of something else is more complete than ends that



Book I, Chapte r 7 §4 AR I STOT LE

1 097a are choiceworthy both in their own right and because of this end. Hence an end that is always choiceworthy in its own right,* never because of something else, is complete without qualification.

§5 Now happiness, more than anything else, seems complete without 1097b qualification.* For we always choose it because of itself,* never because of

something else. Honor, pleasure, understanding, and every virtue we cer­ tainly choose because of themselves, since we would choose each of them even if it had no further result; but we also choose them for the sake of hap-

s piness, supposing that through them we shall be happy.* Happiness, by con­ trast, no one ever chooses for their sake, or for the sake of anything else at all.

§6 The same conclusion [that happiness is complete] also appears to follow from self-sufficiency. For the complete good seems to be self-suffi­ cient.* What we count as self-sufficient is not what suffices for a solitary

10 person by himself, living an isolated life, but what suffices also for par­ ents, children, wife, and, in general, for friends and fellow citizens, since a human being is a naturally political [animal].* §7 Here, however, we must impose some limit; for if we extend the good to parents’ parents and children’s children and to friends of friends, we shall go on without limit; but we must examine this another time.

15 Anyhow, we regard something as self-sufficient when all by itself it makes a life choiceworthy and lacking nothing; and that is what we think happiness does. §8 Moreover, we think happiness is most choicewor­ thy of all goods, [since] it is not counted as one good among many.* [If it were] counted as one among many,* then, clearly, we think it would be more choiceworthy if the smallest of goods were added; for the good that is added becomes an extra quantity of goods, and the larger of two goods

20 is always more choiceworthy.* Happiness, then, is apparently something complete and self-sufficient,

since it is the end of the things achievable in action.*

§9 But presumably the remark that the best good is happiness is apparently something [generally ] agreed, and we still need a clearer statement of what the best good is.* §10 Perhaps, then, we shall find

25 this if we first grasp the function of a human being. For just as the good, i.e., [doing] well, for a flautist, a sculptor, and every craftsman, and, in general, for whatever has a function and [characteristic] action, seems to depend on its function,* the same seems to be true for a human being, if a human being has some function.

30 §11 Then do the carpenter and the leather worker have their functions and actions, but has a human being no function?* Is he by nature idle, without any function?* Or, just as eye, hand, foot, and, in general, every [bodily] part apparently has its function, may we likewise ascribe to a human being some function apart from all of these?*

§12 What, then, could this be? For living is apparently shared with 1098a plants, but what we are looking for is the special function of a human


N I COMAC H EAN ETH I CS Book I, Chapte r 7 §20

being; hence we should set aside the life of nutrition and growth.* The life 1 09Ba next in order is some sort of life of sense perception; but this too is appar- ently shared with horse, ox, and every animal.*

§13 The remaining possibility, then, is some sort of life of action* of the [part of the soul] that has reason.* One [part] of it has reason as obey- ing reason; the other has it as itself having reason and thinking.* More- 5 over, life is also spoken of in two ways [as capacity and as activity], and we must take [a human being’s special function to be] life as activity, since this seems to be called life more fully.* §14 We have found, then, that the human function is activity of the soul in accord with reason or requiring reason.*

Now we say that the function of a [kind of thing]-of a harpist, for instance-is the same in kind as the function of an excellent individual of the kind-of an excellent harpist, for instance. And the same is true with- 10 out qualification in every case, if we add to the function the superior achievement in accord with the virtue; for the function of a harpist is to play the harp, and the function of a good harpist is to play it well.* More- over, we take the human function to be a certain kind of life, and take this life to be activity and actions of the soul that involve reason; hence the function of the excellent man is to do this well and finely. 15

§15 Now each function is completed well by being completed in accord with the virtue proper [to that kind of thing].* And so the human good proves to be activity of the soul in accord with virtue,* and indeed with the best and most complete virtue, if there are more virtues than one.* §16 Moreover, in a complete life.* For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day ; nor, similarly, does one day or a short time 20 make us blessed and happy.

§17 This, then, is a sketch of the good; for, presumably, we must draw the outline first, and fill it in later.* If the sketch is good, anyone, it seems, can advance and articulate it, and in such cases time discovers more, or is a good partner in discovery. That is also how the crafts have improved, 25 since anyone can add what is lacking [in the outline].

§18 We must also remember our previous remarks, so that we do not look for the same degree of exactness in all areas, but the degree that accords with a given subject matter and is proper to a given line of inquiry.* §19 For the carpenter ‘s and the geometer ‘s inquiries about the 30 right angle are different also; the carpenter restricts himself to what helps his work, but the geometer inquires into what, or what sort* of thing, the right angle is, since he studies the truth. We must do the same, then, in other areas too, [seeking the proper degree of exactness], so that digres- sions do not overwhelm our main task.

§20 Nor should we make the same demand for an explanation in all 1098b cases. On the contrary, in some cases it is enough to prove rightly that [something is true, without also explaining why it is true]. This is so, for



N I COMAC H EAN ETH I CS Book I, Chapte r 8 §1 7

may be in a state that achieves no good-if, for instance, he is asleep or 1099a inactive in some other way-but this cannot be true of the activity; for it will necessarily act and act well. And just as Olympic prizes are not for the finest and strongest, but for the contestants-since it is only these who 5 win-the same is true in life; among the fine and good people, only those who act correctly* win the prize.

§10 Moreover, the life of these active people is also pleasant in itself.* For being pleased is a condition of the soul, [and hence is included in the activity of the soul]. Further, each type of person finds pleasure in what­ ever he is called a lover of; a horse, for instance, pleases the horse-lover, a spectacle the lover of spectacles. Similarly, what is just pleases the lover of 10 justice, and in general what accords with virtue pleases the lover of virtue.

§11 Now the things that please most people conflict,* because they are not pleasant by nature, whereas the things that please lovers of the fine are things pleasant by nature. Actions in accord with virtue are pleasant by nature, so that they both please lovers of the fine and are pleasant in 15 their own right.

§12 Hence these people’s life does not need pleasure to be added [to virtuous activity] as some sort of extra decoration; rather, it has its plea­ sure within itself.* For besides the reasons already given, someone who does not enjoy fine actions is not good; for no one would call a person just, for instance, if he did not enjoy doing just actions, or generous if he did not enjoy generous actions, and similarly for the other virtues. 20

§13 If this is so, actions in accord with the virtues are pleasant in their own right. Moreover, these actions are good and fine as well as pleasant; indeed, they are good, fine, and pleasant more than anything else is, since on this question the excellent person judges rightly, and his judgment agrees with what we have said.

§14 Happiness, then, is best, finest, and most pleasant, and the Delian 25 inscription is wrong to distinguish these things: ‘What is most just is fin- est; being healthy is most beneficial; but it is most pleasant to win our heart’s desire.’* For all three features are found in the best activities, and we say happiness is these activities, or [rather] one of them, the best one.*

§15 Nonetheless, happiness evidently also needs external goods to be added, as we said, since we cannot, or cannot easily, do fine actions if we lack the resources.* For, first of all, in many actions we use friends, 1099b wealth, and political power just as we use instruments. §16 Further, deprivation of certain [externals]-for instance, good birth, good chil- dren, beauty-mars our blessedness. For we do not altogether have the character of happiness* if we look utterly repulsive or are ill-born, soli- tary, or childless; and we have it even less, presumably, if our children or 5 friends are totally bad, or were good but have died.

§17 And so, as we have said, happiness would seem to need this sort of prosperity added also. That is why some people identify happiness with good fortune, and others identify it with virtue.

1 1


Book I, Chapte r 9 §1 AR I STOT LE


[ H ow I s H app i ness Ach ieved? ]

1099b This also leads to a puzzle: Is happiness acquired by learning, or habitua- 10 tion, or by some other form of cultivation? Or is it the result of some

divine fate, or even of fortune?* §2 First, then, if the gods give any gift at all to human beings, it is rea­

sonable for them to give us happiness more than any other human good, insofar as it is the best of human goods. §3 Presumably, however, this question is more suitable for a different inquiry.

15 But even if it is not sent by the gods, but instead results from virtue and some sort of learning or cultivation, happiness appears to be one of the most divine things, since the prize and goal of virtue appears to be the best good, something divine and blessed. §4 Moreover [if happiness comes in this way] it will be widely shared; for any one who is not deformed [in his capacity] for virtue will be able to achieve happiness

20 through some sort of learning and attention. §5 And since it is better to be happy in this way than because of for­

tune, it is reasonable for this to be the way [we become] happy. For what­ ever is natural is naturally in the finest state possible. §6 The same is true of the products of crafts and of every other cause, especially the best cause; and it would be seriously inappropriate to entrust what is greatest and finest to fortune.*

25 §7 The answer to our question is also evident from our account. For we have said that happiness is a certain sort of activity of the soul in accord with virtue, [and hence not a result of fortune]. Of the other goods, some are necessary conditions of happiness, while others are naturally useful and cooperative as instruments [but are not parts of it].

§8 Further, this conclusion agrees with our opening remarks. For we 30 took the goal of political science to be the best good; and most of its atten­

tion is devoted to the character of the citizens, to make them good people who do fine actions.*

§9 It is not surprising, then, that we regard neither ox, nor horse, nor uooa any other kind of animal as happy; for none of them can share in this sort

of activity. §10 For the same reason a child is not happy either, since his age prevents him from doing these sorts of actions. If he is called happy, he is being congratulated [simply] because of anticipated blessedness; for,

5 as we have said, happiness requires both complete virtue and a complete life.*

§10 It needs a complete life because life includes many reversals of for­ tune, good and bad, and the most prosperous person may fall into a terri­ ble disaster in old age, as the Trojan stories tell us about Priam. If someone has suffered these sorts of misfortunes and comes to a miserable end, no one counts him happy.

1 2


Book I, Chapte r 1 2 §4 AR I STOT LE

1101b how it appears. For the gods and the most godlike* of men are [not 25 praised, but] congratulated for their blessedness and happiness. The

same is true of goods; for we never praise happiness, as we praise justice, but we count it blessed, as something better and more godlike [than any­ thing that is praised].

§5 Indeed, Eudoxus seems to have used the right sort of argument in defending the supremacy of pleasure.* By not praising pleasure, though it

30 is a good, we indicate-so he thought-that it is superior to everything praiseworthy ; [only] the god and the good have this superiority since the other goods are [praised] by reference to them.

§6 [Here he seems to have argued correctly.] For praise is given to vir­ tue, since it makes us do fine actions; but celebrations are for achieve­ ments, either of body or of soul. §7 But an exact treatment of this is

35 presumably more proper for specialists in celebrations. For us, anyhow, it 1102a is clear from what has been said that happiness is something honorable

and complete. §8 A further reason why this would seem to be correct is that happi­

ness is a principle; for [the principle] is what we all aim at in all our other actions;* and we take the principle and cause of goods to be something honorable and divine.

1 3

[ I n t rod uct ion to the Vi rtues]

5 Since happiness is a certain sort of activity of the soul in accord with complete virtue, we must examine virtue; for that will perhaps also be a way to study happiness better.* §2 Moreover, the true politician* seems to have put more effort into virtue than into anything else, since

10 he wants to make the citizens good and law-abiding. §3 We find an example of this in the Spartan and Cretan legislators and in any others who share their concerns. §4 Since, then, the examination of virtue is proper for political science, the inquiry clearly suits our decision at the beginning.*

§5 It is clear that the virtue we must examine is human virtue, since 15 we are also seeking the human good and human happiness. §6 By

human virtue we mean virtue of the soul, not of the body, since we also say that happiness is an activity of the soul. §7 If this is so, it is clear

20 that the politician must in some way know about the soul, just as some­ one setting out to heal the eyes must know about the whole body as well.* This is all the more true to the extent that political science is better and more honorable than medicine; even among doctors, the cultivated ones devote a lot of effort to finding out about the body. Hence the politician as well [as the student of nature] must study the soul.* §8 But he must

25 study it for his specific purpose, far enough for his inquiry [into virtue];

1 6


N I COMAC H EAN ETH I C S B o o k I , C hapte r 1 3 §1 8

for a more exact treatment would presumably take more effort than his 1102a purpose requires.*

§9 [We] have discussed the soul sufficiently [for our purposes] in [our] popular works as well [as our less popular],* and we should use this dis­ cussion. We have said, for instance, that one [part] of the soul is nonra- tional, while one has reason. §10 Are these distinguished as parts of a 30 body and everything divisible into parts are? Or are they two [only] in definition, and inseparable by nature, as the convex and the concave are in a surface? It does not matter for present purposes.*

§11 Consider the nonrational [part]. One [part] of it, i.e., the cause of nutrition and growth, would seem to be plantlike and shared [with all liv- 1102b ing things]; for we can ascribe this capacity of the soul to everything that is nourished, including embryos, and the same capacity to full-grown liv- ing things, since this is more reasonable than to ascribe another capacity to them.*

§12 Hence the virtue of this capacity is apparently shared, not [specif- ically] human. For this part and this capacity more than others seem to 5 be active in sleep, and here the good and the bad person are least dis- tinct; hence happy people are said to be no better off than miserable peo- ple for half their lives. §13 This lack of distinction is not surprising, since sleep is inactivity of the soul insofar as it is called excellent or base, unless to some small extent some movements penetrate [to our aware- 10 ness], and in this way the decent person comes to have better images [in dreams] than just any random person has. §14 Enough about this, however, and let us leave aside the nutritive part, since by nature it has no share in human virtue.

§15 Another nature in the soul would also seem to be nonrational, though in a way it shares in reason. For in the continent and the inconti- 15 nent person we praise their reason, that is to say, the [part] of the soul that has reason, because it exhorts them correctly and toward what is best; but they evidently also have in them some other [part] that is by nature some- thing apart from reason, clashing and struggling with reason. For just as paralyzed parts of a body, when we decide to move them to the right, do 20 the contrary and move off to the left, the same is true of the soul; for incontinent people have impulses in contrary directions. §16 In bodies, admittedly, we see the part go astray, whereas we do not see it in the soul; nonetheless, presumably, we should suppose that the soul also has some- thing apart from reason, countering and opposing reason. The [precise] 25 way it is different does not matter.

§17 However, this [part] as well [as the rational part] appears, as we said, to share in reason. At any rate, in the continent person it obeys rea­ son; and in the temperate and the brave person it presumably listens still better to reason, since there it agrees with reason in everything.*

§18 The nonrational [part], then, as well [as the whole soul] appar- ently has two parts. For while the plantlike [part] shares in reason not at 30

1 7


Book I, Chapte r 1 3 §1 8 AR I STOT LE

1102b all, the [part] with appetites and in general desires* shares in reason in a way, insofar as it both listens to reason and obeys it. This is the way in which we are said to ‘listen to reason’ from father or friends, as opposed to the way in which [we ‘give the reason’] in mathematics.* The nonra­ tional part also [obeys and] is persuaded in some way by reason, as is

1103a shown by correction, and by every sort of reproof and exhortation. §19 If, then, we ought to say that this [part] also has reason, then the

[part] that has reason, as well [as the nonrational part], will have two parts. One will have reason fully, by having it within itself; the other will have reason by listening to reason as to a father.*

5 The division between virtues accords with this difference. For some virtues are called virtues of thought, others virtues of character; wis­ dom, comprehension, and prudence are called virtues of thought, gener­ osity and temperance virtues of character.* For when we speak of someone’s character we do not say that he is wise or has good compre­ hension, but that he is gentle or temperate. And yet, we also praise the

10 wise person for his state, and the states that are praiseworthy are the ones we call virtues.



[ H ow a Vi rtu e of Cha racte r Is Acq u i red ]

1 5 Virtue, then, is of two sorts, virtue of thought and virtue of character. Vir­ tue of thought arises and grows mostly from teaching; that is why it needs experience and time. Virtue of character [i.e., of ethos] results from habit [ethos] ; hence its name ‘ethical’, slightly varied from ‘ethos’.*

§2 Hence it is also clear that none of the virtues of character arises in 20 us naturally. For if something is by nature in one condition, habituation

cannot bring it into another condition. A stone, for instance, by nature moves downwards, and habituation could not make it move upwards, not even if you threw it up ten thousand times to habituate it; nor could habituation make fire move downwards, or bring anything that is by nature in one condition into another condition. §3 And so the virtues

25 arise in us neither by nature nor against nature. Rather, we are by nature able to acquire them, and we are completed through habit.*

§4 Further, if something arises in us by nature, we first have the capac­ ity for it, and later perform the activity. This is clear in the case of the

30 senses; for we did not acquire them by frequent seeing or hearing, but we already had them when we exercised them, and did not get them by exer­ cising them. Virtues, by contrast, we acquire, just as we acquire crafts, by

1 8

N I COMAC H EAN ETH I C S B o o k I I , Chapte r 2 §3

having first activated them. For we learn a craft by producing the same 1103a product that we must produce when we have learned it; we become builders, for instance, by building, and we become harpists by playing the harp. Similarly, then, we become just by doing just actions, temperate 1103b by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions.

§5 What goes on in cities is also evidence for this. For the legislator makes the citizens good by habituating them, and this is the wish of every 5 legislator; if he fails to do it well he misses his goal.* Correct habituation distinguishes a good political system from a bad one.

§6 Further, the sources and means that develop each virtue also ruin it, just as they do in a craft. For playing the harp makes both good and bad harpists, and it is analogous in the case of builders and all the rest; for 10 building well makes good builders, and building badly makes bad ones. §7 Otherwise no teacher would be needed, but everyone would be born a good or a bad craftsman.

It is the same, then, with the virtues. For what we do in our dealings with other people makes some of us just, some unjust; what we do in ter- 15 rifying situations, and the habits of fear or confidence that we acquire, make some of us brave and others cowardly. The same is true of situa- tions involving appetites and anger; for one or another sort of conduct in these situations makes some temperate and mild, others intemperate and 20 irascible. To sum it up in a single account: a state [of character] results from [the repetition of] similar activities.*

§8 That is why we must perform the right activities, since differences in these imply corresponding differences in the states.* It is not unimpor­ tant, then, to acquire one sort of habit or another, right from our youth. On the contrary, it is very important, indeed all-important. 25


[H ab i tuat ion ]

Our present discussion does not aim, as our others do, at study; for the purpose of our examination is not to know what virtue is, but to become good, since otherwise the inquiry would be of no benefit to us.* And so 30 we must examine the right ways of acting; for, as we have said, the actions also control the sorts of states we acquire.

§2 First, then, actions should accord with the correct reason.* That is a common [belief], and let us assume it. We shall discuss it later, and say what the correct reason is and how it is related to the other virtues.

§3 But let us take it as agreed in advance that every account of the 1104a actions we must do has to be stated in outline, not exactly. As we also said at the beginning, the type of accounts we demand should accord with the subject matter; and questions about actions and expediency, like ques- tions about health, have no fixed answers.*

1 9


Book I I , C hapte r 2 §4 AR I STOT LE

1104a5 §4 While this is the character of our general account, the account of particular cases is still more inexact. For these fall under no craft or pro­ fession; the agents themselves must consider in each case what the oppor-

10 tune action is, as doctors and navigators do.* §5 The account we offer, then, in our present inquiry is of this inexact sort; still, we must try to offer help.*

§6 First, then, we should observe that these sorts of states naturally tend to be ruined by excess and deficiency. We see this happen with strength and health-for we must use evident cases [such as these] as wit-

15 nesses to things that are not evident.* For both excessive and deficient exercise ruin bodily strength, and, similarly, too much or too little eating or drinking ruins health, whereas the proportionate amount produces, increases, and preserves it.

20 §7 The same is true, then, of temperance, bravery, and the other vir- tues. For if, for instance, someone avoids and is afraid of everything, standing firm against nothing, he becomes cowardly ; if he is afraid of nothing at all and goes to face everything, he becomes rash. Similarly, if he gratifies himself with every pleasure and abstains from none, he

25 becomes intemperate; if he avoids them all, as boors do, he becomes some sort of insensible person. Temperance and bravery, then, are ruined by excess and deficiency, but preserved by the mean.*

§8 But these actions are not only the sources and causes both of the emergence and growth of virtues and of their ruin; the activities of the

30 virtues [once we have acquired them] also consist in these same actions.* For this is also true of more evident cases; strength, for instance, arises from eating a lot and from withstanding much hard labor, and it is the strong person who is most capable of these very actions. §9 It is the same with the virtues. For abstaining from plea-

35 sures makes us become temperate, and once we have become temperate 1104b we are most capable of abstaining from pleasures. It is similar with

bravery; habituation in disdain for frightening situations and in stand­ ing firm against them makes us become brave, and once we have become brave we shall be most capable of standing firm.


[T he I m portan ce of P leasu re and Pa i n ]

5 But we must take someone’s pleasure or pain following on his actions to be a sign of his state.* For if someone who abstains from bodily pleasures enjoys the abstinence itself, he is temperate; if he is grieved by it, he is intemperate.* Again, if he stands firm against terrifying situations and enjoys it, or at least does not find it painful, he is brave; if he finds it painful, he is cowardly. For virtue of character is about pleasures and pains.*


N I COMAC H EAN ETH I C S B o o k I I , Chapte r 3 §1 1

For pleasure causes us to do base actions, and pain causes us to abstain 1104b10 from fine ones. §2 That is why we need to have had the appropriate upbringing-right from early youth, as Plato says*-to make us find enjoyment or pain in the right things; for this is the correct education.

§3 Further, virtues are concerned with actions and feelings; but every feeling and every action implies pleasure or pain;* hence, for this reason 15 too, virtue is about pleasures and pains. §4 Corrective treatments also indicate this, since they use pleasures and pains; for correction is a form of medical treatment, and medical treatment naturally operates through contraries.

§5 Further, as we said earlier, every state of soul is naturally related to and about whatever naturally makes it better or worse; and pleasures and 20 pains make people base, from pursuing and avoiding the wrong ones, at the wrong time, in the wrong ways, or whatever other distinctions of that sort are needed in an account. These [bad effects of pleasure and pain] are the reason why people actually define the virtues as ways of being unaf- fected and undisturbed [by pleasures and pains].* They are wrong, how- 25 ever, because they speak of being unaffected without qualification, not of being unaffected in the right or wrong way, at the right or wrong time, and the added qualifications.

§6 We assume, then, that virtue is the sort of state that does the best actions concerning pleasures and pains, and that vice is the contrary state.

§7 The following will also make it evident that virtue and vice are 30 about the same things. For there are three objects of choice-fine, expedi- ent, and pleasant-and three objects of avoidance-their contraries, shameful, harmful, and painful.* About all these, then, the good person is correct and the bad person is in error, and especially about pleasure. For 35 pleasure is shared with animals, and implied by every object of choice, 1105a since what is fine and what is expedient appear pleasant as well.

§8 Further, pleasure grows up with all of us from infancy on. That is why it is hard to rub out this feeling that is dyed into our lives. We also estimate actions [as well as feelings]-some of us more, some less-by 5 pleasure and pain. §9 For this reason, our whole discussion must be about these; for good or bad enjoyment or pain is very important for our actions.

§10 Further, it is more difficult to fight pleasure than to fight spirit­ and Heracleitus tells us [how difficult it is to fight spirit].* Now both craft and virtue are in every case about what is more difficult, since a good 10 result is even better when it is more difficult. Hence, for this reason also, the whole discussion, for virtue and political science alike, must consider pleasures and pains; for if we use these well, we shall be good, and if badly, bad.

§11 To sum up: Virtue is about pleasures and pains; the actions that are 15 its sources also increase it or, if they are done badly, ruin it; and its activity is about the same actions as those that are its sources.



Book I I , C hapte r 6 §2 AR I STOT LE

1106a standing steady in the face of the enemy. §3 If this is true in every case, the virtue of a human being will likewise be the state that makes a human being good and makes him perform his function well.

25 §4 We have already said how this will be true, and it will also be evident from our next remarks, if we consider the sort of nature that virtue has.*

In everything continuous and divisible we can take more, less, and equal, and each of them either in the object itself or relative to us; and the

30 equal is some intermediate between excess and deficiency. §5 By the intermediate in the object I mean what is equidistant from each extremity; this is one and the same for all. But relative to us the intermediate is what is neither superfluous nor deficient; this is not one, and is not the same for all.*

§6 If, for instance, ten are many and two are few, we take six as inter- 35 mediate in the object, since it exceeds [two] and is exceeded [by ten] by an

equal amount, [four]. §7 This is what is intermediate by numerical pro- 1106b portion. But that is not how we must take the intermediate that is relative

to us. For if ten pounds [of food], for instance, are a lot for someone to eat, and two pounds a little, it does not follow that the trainer will prescribe six, since this might also be either a little or a lot for the person who is to take it-for Milo [the athlete] a little, but for the beginner in gymnastics a

5 lot; and the same is true for running and wrestling. §8 In this way every scientific expert avoids excess and deficiency and seeks and chooses what is intermediate-but intermediate relative to us, not in the object.

§9 This, then, is how each science produces its product well, by focus- 10 ing on what is intermediate and making the product conform to that.*

This, indeed, is why people regularly comment on well-made products that nothing could be added or subtracted; they assume that excess or deficiency ruins a good [result], whereas the mean preserves it. Good craftsmen also, we say, focus on what is intermediate when they produce

15 their product. And since virtue, like nature, is better and more exact than any craft, it will also aim at what is intermediate.*

§10 By virtue I mean virtue of character; for this is about feelings and actions, and these admit of excess, deficiency, and an intermediate condi­ tion. We can be afraid, for instance, or be confident, or have appetites, or

20 get angry, or feel pity, and in general have pleasure or pain, both too much and too little, and in both ways not well. §11 But having these feelings at the right times, about the right things, toward the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condi­ tion, and this is proper to virtue. §12 Similarly, actions also admit of excess, deficiency, and an intermediate condition.

25 Now virtue is about feelings and actions, in which excess and defi- ciency are in error and incur blame, whereas the intermediate condition is correct and wins praise,* which are both proper to virtue. §13 Virtue, then, is a mean, insofar as it aims at what is intermediate.

30 §14 Moreover, there are many ways to be in error-for badness is proper to the indeterminate, as the Pythagoreans pictured it, and good to



N I COMAC H EAN ETH I C S B o o k I I , Chapte r 7 §1

the determinate. But there is only one way to be correct. That is why error 11 06b is easy and correctness is difficult, since it is easy to miss the target and difficult to hit it. And so for this reason also excess and deficiency are proper to vice, the mean to virtue; ‘for we are noble in only one way, but 35 bad in all sorts of ways.’*

§15 Virtue, then, is a state that decides, consisting in a mean, the mean 1107a relative to us, which is defined by reference to reason, that is to say, to the reason by reference to which the prudent person would define it.* It is a mean between two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.

§16 It is a mean for this reason also: Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings 5 or in actions, whereas virtue finds and chooses what is intermediate.

§17 That is why virtue, as far as its essence and the account stating what it is are concerned, is a mean, but, as far as the best [condition] and the good [result] are concerned, it is an extremity.

§18 Now not every action or feeling admits of the mean.* For the 10 names of some automatically include baseness-for instance, spite, shamelessness, envy [among feelings], and adultery, theft, murder, among actions.* For all of these and similar things are called by these names because they themselves, not their excesses or deficiencies, are base. Hence in doing these things we can never be correct, but must 15 invariably be in error. We cannot do them well or not well-by commit- ting adultery, for instance, with the right woman at the right time in the right way. On the contrary, it is true without qualification that to do any of them is to be in error.

§19 [To think these admit of a mean], therefore, is like thinking that unjust or cowardly or intemperate action also admits of a mean, an excess 20 and a deficiency. If it did, there would be a mean of excess, a mean of defi- ciency, an excess of excess and a deficiency of deficiency. §20 On the contrary, just as there is no excess or deficiency of temperance or of brav- ery (since the intermediate is a sort of extreme), so also there is no mean of these vicious actions either, but whatever way anyone does them, he is in error. For in general there is no mean of excess or of deficiency, and no 25 excess or deficiency of a mean.


[T he Part i cu l a r V i rtues of Characte r]

However, we must not only state this general account but also apply it to the particular cases. For among accounts concerning actions, though the 30 general ones are common to more cases, the specific ones are truer, since actions are about particular cases, and our account must accord with these.* Let us, then, find these from the chart.*



Book I I , C hapte r 7 §2 AR I STOT LE

1107b §2 First, then, in feelings of fear and confidence the mean is bravery. The excessively fearless person is nameless (indeed many cases are name­ less), and the one who is excessively confident is rash. The one who is excessive in fear and deficient in confidence is cowardly.

5 §3 In pleasures and pains-though not in all types, and in pains less than in pleasures*-the mean is temperance and the excess intemperance. People deficient in pleasure are not often found, which is why they also lack even a name; let us call them insensible.

10 §4 In giving and taking money the mean is generosity, the excess wastefulness and the deficiency ungenerosity. Here the vicious people have contrary excesses and defects; for the wasteful person is excessive in spending and deficient in taking, whereas the ungenerous person is excessive in taking and deficient in spending. §5 At the moment we are

15 speaking in outline and summary, and that is enough; later we shall define these things more exactly.

§6 In questions of money there are also other conditions. Another mean is magnificence; for the magnificent person differs from the gener­ ous by being concerned with large matters, while the generous person is

20 concerned with small. The excess is ostentation and vulgarity, and the deficiency is stinginess. These differ from the vices related to generosity in ways we shall describe later.

§7 In honor and dishonor the mean is magnanimity, the excess some- 25 thing called a sort of vanity, and the deficiency pusillanimity. §8 And

just as we said that generosity differs from magnificence in its concern with small matters, similarly there is a virtue concerned with small hon­ ors, differing in the same way from magnanimity, which is concerned with great honors. For honor can be desired either in the right way or more or less than is right. If someone desires it to excess, he is called an

30 honor-lover, and if his desire is deficient he is called indifferent to honor, but if he is intermediate he has no name. The corresponding conditions have no name either, except the condition of the honor-lover, which is called honor-loving.

This is why people at the extremes lay claim to the intermediate area. Moreover, we also sometimes call the intermediate person an honor­ lover, and sometimes call him indifferent to honor; and sometimes we

1108a praise the honor-lover, sometimes the person indifferent to honor.* §9 We will mention later the reason we do this; for the moment, let us speak of the other cases in the way we have laid down.

5 §10 Anger also admits of an excess, deficiency, and mean. These are all practically nameless; but since we call the intermediate person mild, let us call the mean mildness. Among the extreme people, let the excessive person be irascible, and his vice irascibility, and let the deficient person be a sort of inirascible person, and his deficiency inirascibility.

10 §11 There are also three other means, somewhat similar to one another, but different. For they are all concerned with common dealings



Book I X, Chapter 8 §9 AR I STOT LE

11 69a fine for himself.* For he will choose intense pleasure for a short time over slight pleasure for a long time; a year of living finely over many years of

25 undistinguished life; and a single fine and great action over many small actions. This is presumably true of one who dies for others; he does indeed choose something great and fine for himself. He is also ready to sacrifice money as long as his friends profit; for the friends gain money, while he gains the fine, and so he awards himself the greater good.

30 §10 He treats honors and offices in the same way; for he will sacrifice them all for his friends, since this is fine and praiseworthy for himself. It is not surprising, then, that he seems to be excellent, since he chooses the fine at the cost of everything. It is also possible, however, to sacrifice actions to his friend, since it may be finer to be responsible for his friend’s doing the action than to do it himself.*

35 §11 In everything praiseworthy, then, the excellent person awards 1169b more of the fine to himself. In this way, then, we must be self-lovers, as

we have said. But in the way the many are, we ought not to be.*


[Why Are Fr i e nds Needed ?]

There is also a dispute about whether the happy person will need friends or not.* For it is said that blessedly happy and self-sufficient people have

5 no need of friends. For they already have [all] the goods, and hence, being self-sufficient, need nothing added. But your friend, since he is another yourself, supplies what your own efforts cannot supply. Hence it is said, ‘When the god gives well, what need is there of friends? ‘*

§2 It would seem absurd, however, to award the happy person all the 10 goods, without giving him friends; for having friends seems to be the

greatest external good.* And if it is more proper to a friend to confer ben­ efits than to receive them, and it is proper to the good person and to vir­ tue to do good, and it is finer to benefit friends than to benefit strangers, the excellent person will need people for him to benefit.* Indeed, that is why there is a question about whether friends are needed more in good

15 fortune than in ill fortune; for it is assumed that in ill fortune we need people to benefit us, and in good fortune we need others for us to benefit.

§3 Presumably it is also absurd to make the blessed person solitary. For no one would choose to have all [other] goods and yet be alone, since a human being is a political [animal], tending by nature to live together

20 with others.* This will also be true, then, of the happy person; for he has the natural goods, and clearly it is better to spend his days with decent friends than with strangers of just any character. Hence the happy person needs friends.

§4 Then what are those on the other side saying, and on what point are they correct? Perhaps they say what they say because the many think that

25 it is the useful people who are friends.* Certainly the blessedly happy

1 48


N I COMAC H EAN ETH I C S B o o k I X, Chapte r 9 §9

person will have no need of these, since he has [all] goods. Similarly, he 11 69b will have no need, or very little, of friends for pleasure; for since his life is pleasant, it has no need of imported pleasures.* Since he does not need these sorts of friends, he does not seem to need friends at all.

§5 This conclusion, however, is presumably not true. For we said at the beginning that happiness is a kind of activity ; and clearly activity 30 comes into being, and does not belong [to someone all the time], as a pos- session does. Now if being happy consists in living and being active; the activity of the good person is excellent, and [hence] pleasant in itself, as we said at the beginning; what is our own is pleasant; and we are able to observe our neighbors more than ourselves, and to observe their actions 35 more than our own; it follows that a good person finds pleasure in the actions of excellent people who are his friends, since these actions have 1170a both the naturally pleasant [features-they are good, and they are his own]. The blessed person, therefore, will need virtuous friends, given that he decides to observe virtuous actions that are his own, and the actions of a virtuous friend are of this sort.*

Further, it is thought that the happy person must live pleasantly.* But 5 the solitary person’s life is hard, since it is not easy for him to be continuously active all by himself; but in relation to others and in their company it is easier. §6 Hence his activity will be more continuous. It is also pleasant in itself, as it must be in the blessedly happy person’s case. For the excellent person, insofar as he is excellent, enjoys actions in accord with virtue, and objects to actions caused by vice, just as the musician 10 enjoys fine melodies and is pained by bad ones.

§7 Further, good people’s life together allows the cultivation of virtue, as The ognis says.*

If we examine the question more from the point of view of [human] nature,* an excellent friend would seem to be choice worthy by nature for an excellent person. For, as we have said, what is good by nature is good 15 and pleasant in itself for an excellent person.

For animals, life is defined by the capacity for perception, but for human beings, it is defined by the capacity for perception or understanding; moreover, every capacity refers to an activity, and a thing is present fully in its activity ; hence living fully would seem to be perceiving or understanding.*

Now life is good and pleasant in itself; for it has definite order, which is 20 proper to the nature of what is good.* What is good by nature is also good for the decent person; that is why life would seem to be pleasant for everyone. §8 But we must not consider a life that is vicious and corrupted, or filled with pains; for such a life lacks definite order, just as its 25 proper features do. (The truth about pain will be more evident in what follows.)*

§9 Life itself, then, is good and pleasant, as it would seem, at any rate, from the fact that everyone desires it, and decent and blessed people

1 49


N I COMAC H EAN ETH I C S B o o k I X, Chapter 1 1 §2

number in a city? For a city could not be formed from ten people, but it 11 70b would be a city no longer if it had a hundred thousand.* Presumably, though, the right quantity is not just one number, but anything between certain defined limits. Hence there is also some limit defining the number 1171a of friends. Presumably, this is the largest number with whom you could live together, since we found that living together seems to be most characteristic of friendship.

§4 Clearly you cannot live with many people and distribute yourself among them.* Further these many people must also be friends to one another, if they are all to spend their days together; and this is hard work 5 for many people to manage. §5 It also becomes difficult for many to share one another ‘s enjoyments and distresses as their own, since you are quite likely to find yourself sharing one friend’s pleasure and another friend’s grief at the same time.

Presumably, then, it is good not to seek as many friends as possible, and good to have no more than enough for living together; indeed it even 10 seems impossible to be an extremely close friend to many people. That is why it also seems impossible to be passionately in love with many people, since passionate erotic love tends to be an excess of friendship, and one has this for one person; hence also one has extremely close friendship for a few people.

§6 This would seem to be borne out in what people actually do. For the friendship of companions is not found in groups of many people, and 15 the friendships celebrated in song are always between two people. By contrast, those who have many friends and treat everyone as close to them seem to be friends to no one, except in the way fellow citizens are friends; these people are regarded as ingratiating.* Certainly it is possible to have a fellow citizen’s friendship for many people, and still to be a truly decent person, not ingratiating; but it is impossible to be many people’s friend for their virtue and for themselves. We have reason to be satisfied if we can find even a few such friends.

1 1

[ Friends i n Good and I l l Fortune]

Have we more need of friends in good fortune or in ill fortune?* For in fact we seek them in both; for in ill fortune we need assistance, and in good fortune we need friends to live with and to benefit, since then we wish to do good. Certainly it is more necessary to have friends in ill for- tune; that is why useful friends are needed here. But it is finer to have 25 them in good fortune. That is why we also seek decent friends; for it is more choice worthy to do good to them and spend our time with them.

§2 The very presence of friends is also pleasant, in ill fortune as well as good fortune; for we have our pain lightened when our friends share our 30 distress. Indeed, that is why one might be puzzled about whether they

1 51


Book I X, Chapter 1 1 §2 ARISTOTLE

1171a take a part of it from us, as though helping us to lift a weight, or, alternatively, their presence is pleasant and our awareness that they share our distress makes the pain smaller. Well, we need not discuss whether it is this or something else that lightens our pain; at any rate, what we have mentioned does appear to occur.

35 §3 However, the presence of friends would seem to be a mixture [of 1171b pleasure and pain]. For certainly the sight of our friends in itself is please

ant, especially when we are in ill fortune, and it gives us some assistance in removing our pain. For a friend consoles us by the sight of him and by conversation, if he is dexterous, since he knows our character and what gives us pleasure and pain.*

5 §4 Nonetheless, awareness of his pain at our ill fortune is painful to us; for everyone tries to avoid causing pain to his friends. That is why someone with a manly nature tries to prevent his friend from sharing his pain.* Unless he is unusually immune to pain, he cannot endure pain coming to his friends; and he does not allow others to share his mourning

10 at all, since he is not prone to mourn himself either. Females, however, and effeminate men enjoy having people to wail with them; they love them as friends who share their distress. But in everything we clearly must imitate the better person.

§5 In good fortune, by contrast, the presence of friends makes it please ant to pass our time and to notice that they take pleasure in our own

15 goods. That is why it seems that we must eagerly call our friends to share our good fortune, since it is fine to do good. But we must hesitate to call them to share our ill fortune, since we must share bad things with them as little as possible; hence the saying ‘My misfortune is enough’. We should

20 invite them most of all whenever they will benefit us greatly, with little trouble to themselves.*

§6 Conversely, it is presumably appropriate to go eagerly, without having to be called, to friends in misfortune. For it is proper to a friend to benefit, especially to benefit a friend in need who has not demanded it, since this is finer and pleasanter for both friends. In good fortune he should come eagerly to help him, since friends are needed for this also;

25 but he should be slow to come to receive benefits, since eagerness to be benefited is not fine. Presumably, though, one should avoid getting a reputation for being a killjoy, as sometimes happens, by refusing benefits.

Hence the presence of friends is apparently choice worthy in all conditions.

1 2

[S hared Activity i n Fr ie n d s h i p]

30 What the erotic lover likes most is the sight of his beloved, and this is the sort of perception he chooses over the others, supposing that this above

1 52

N I COMACEAN ETHICS Book X, Chapter 1 §2

all is what makes him fall in love and remain in love. In the same way, 1171b surely, what friends find most choice worthy is living together. For friend- ship is community, and we are related to our friend as we are related to ourselves. Hence, since the perception of our own being is choice worthy, so is the perception of our friend’s being. Perception is active when we 35 live with him; hence, not surprisingly, this is what we seek.* 1172a

§2 Whatever someone [regards as] his being, or the end for which he chooses to be alive, that is the activity he wishes to pursue in his friend’s company. Hence some friends drink together, others play dice, while others do gymnastics and go hunting, or do philosophy. They spend their 5 days together on whichever pursuit in life they like most; for since they want to live with their friends, they share the actions in which they find their common life.

§3 Hence the friendship of base people turns out to be vicious. For they are unstable, and share base pursuits; and by becoming similar to 10 each other, they grow vicious. But the friendship of decent people is decent, and increases the more often they meet.* And they seem to become still better from their activities and their mutual correction. For each molds the other in what they approve of, so that ‘ [you will learn] what is noble from noble people’.

§4 So much, then, for friendship. The next task will be to discuss plea- 15 sure.*



[T he Right Approach to Pleasure]

The next task, presumably, is to discuss pleasure. For it seems to be especially proper to our [animal] kind; that is why, when we educate children, we steer them by pleasure and pain.* Besides, enjoying and hating the right things seems to be most important for virtue of character. For plea- sure and pain extend through the whole of our lives, and are of great importance for virtue and the happy life, since people decide on pleasant 25 things, and avoid painful things.

§2 Least of all, then,* it seems, should these topics be neglected, especially since they arouse much dispute. For some say pleasure is the good, while others, on the contrary, say it is altogether base.* Presumably, some [who say it is base] say so because they are persuaded that it is so. Others, however, say it because they think it is better for the conduct of our lives 30 to present pleasure as base even if it is not. For, they say, the many lean toward pleasure and are slaves to pleasures, and that is why we must

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