Nicomachean Ethics

by Aristotle
translated by W. D. Ross
Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Book VI Book VII Book VIII Book IX Book X



EVERY art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit,
is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has
rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a
certain difference is found among ends; some are activities, others
are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where
there are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of the
products to be better than the activities. Now, as there are many
actions, arts, and sciences, their ends also are many; the end of
the medical art is health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of
strategy victory, that of economics wealth. But where such arts fall
under a single capacity- as bridle-making and the other arts concerned
with the equipment of horses fall under the art of riding, and this
and every military action under strategy, in the same way other arts
fall under yet others- in all of these the ends of the master arts
are to be preferred to all the subordinate ends; for it is for the
sake of the former that the latter are pursued. It makes no difference
whether the activities themselves are the ends of the actions, or
something else apart from the activities, as in the case of the
sciences just mentioned.

If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for
its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and
if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for
at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire
would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the
chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence
on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more
likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline at
least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or
capacities it is the object. It would seem to belong to the most
authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art. And
politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains
which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each
class of citizens should learn and up to what point they should
learn them; and we see even the most highly esteemed of capacities
to fall under this, e.g. strategy, economics, rhetoric; now, since
politics uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it
legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from,
the end of this science must include those of the others, so that this
end must be the good for man. For even if the end is the same for a
single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events
something greater and more complete whether to attain or to
preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one
man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for
city-states. These, then, are the ends at which our inquiry aims,
since it is political science, in one sense of that term.

Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the
subject-matter admits of, for precision is not to be sought for
alike in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the
crafts. Now fine and just actions, which political science
investigates, admit of much variety and fluctuation of opinion, so
that they may be thought to exist only by convention, and not by
nature. And goods also give rise to a similar fluctuation because they
bring harm to many people; for before now men have been undone by
reason of their wealth, and others by reason of their courage. We must
be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses
to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about
things which are only for the most part true and with premisses of the
same kind to reach conclusions that are no better. In the same spirit,
therefore, should each type of statement be received; for it is the
mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of
things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is
evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a
mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.
Now each man judges well the things he knows, and of these he is a
good judge. And so the man who has been educated in a subject is a
good judge of that subject, and the man who has received an
all-round education is a good judge in general. Hence a young man is
not a proper hearer of lectures on political science; for he is
inexperienced in the actions that occur in life, but its discussions
start from these and are about these; and, further, since he tends
to follow his passions, his study will be vain and unprofitable,
because the end aimed at is not knowledge but action. And it makes
no difference whether he is young in years or youthful in character;
the defect does not depend on time, but on his living, and pursuing
each successive object, as passion directs. For to such persons, as to
the incontinent, knowledge brings no profit; but to those who desire
and act in accordance with a rational principle knowledge about such
matters will be of great benefit.
These remarks about the student, the sort of treatment to be
expected, and the purpose of the inquiry, may be taken as our preface.

Let us resume our inquiry and state, in view of the fact that all
knowledge and every pursuit aims at some good, what it is that we
say political science aims at and what is the highest of all goods
achievable by action. Verbally there is very general agreement; for
both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that
it is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with being
happy; but with regard to what happiness is they differ, and the
many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it
is some plain and obvious thing, like pleasure, wealth, or honour;
they differ, however, from one another- and often even the same man
identifies it with different things, with health when he is ill,
with wealth when he is poor; but, conscious of their ignorance, they
admire those who proclaim some great ideal that is above their
comprehension. Now some thought that apart from these many goods there
is another which is self-subsistent and causes the goodness of all
these as well. To examine all the opinions that have been held were
perhaps somewhat fruitless; enough to examine those that are most
prevalent or that seem to be arguable.
Let us not fail to notice, however, that there is a difference
between arguments from and those to the first principles. For Plato,
too, was right in raising this question and asking, as he used to
do, 'are we on the way from or to the first principles?' There is a
difference, as there is in a race-course between the course from the
judges to the turning-point and the way back. For, while we must begin
with what is known, things are objects of knowledge in two senses-
some to us, some without qualification. Presumably, then, we must
begin with things known to us. Hence any one who is to listen
intelligently to lectures about what is noble and just, and generally,
about the subjects of political science must have been brought up in
good habits. For the fact is the starting-point, and if this is
sufficiently plain to him, he will not at the start need the reason as
well; and the man who has been well brought up has or can easily get
startingpoints. And as for him who neither has nor can get them, let
him hear the words of Hesiod:

Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight.

Let us, however, resume our discussion from the point at which we
digressed. To judge from the lives that men lead, most men, and men of
the most vulgar type, seem (not without some ground) to identify the
good, or happiness, with pleasure; which is the reason why they love
the life of enjoyment. For there are, we may say, three prominent
types of life- that just mentioned, the political, and thirdly the
contemplative life. Now the mass of mankind are evidently quite
slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts, but
they get some ground for their view from the fact that many of those
in high places share the tastes of Sardanapallus. A consideration of
the prominent types of life shows that people of superior refinement
and of active disposition identify happiness with honour; for this is,
roughly speaking, the end of the political life. But it seems too
superficial to be what we are looking for, since it is thought to
depend on those who bestow honour rather than on him who receives
it, but the good we divine to be something proper to a man and not
easily taken from him. Further, men seem to pursue honour in order
that they may be assured of their goodness; at least it is by men of
practical wisdom that they seek to be honoured, and among those who
know them, and on the ground of their virtue; clearly, then, according
to them, at any rate, virtue is better. And perhaps one might even
suppose this to be, rather than honour, the end of the political life.
But even this appears somewhat incomplete; for possession of virtue
seems actually compatible with being asleep, or with lifelong
inactivity, and, further, with the greatest sufferings and
misfortunes; but a man who was living so no one would call happy,
unless he were maintaining a thesis at all costs. But enough of
this; for the subject has been sufficiently treated even in the
current discussions. Third comes the contemplative life, which we
shall consider later.
The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and
wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely
useful and for the sake of something else. And so one might rather
take the aforenamed objects to be ends; for they are loved for
themselves. But it is evident that not even these are ends; yet many
arguments have been thrown away in support of them. Let us leave
this subject, then.


We had perhaps better consider the universal good and discuss
thoroughly what is meant by it, although such an inquiry is made an
uphill one by the fact that the Forms have been introduced by
friends of our own. Yet it would perhaps be thought to be better,
indeed to be our duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to
destroy what touches us closely, especially as we are philosophers
or lovers of wisdom; for, while both are dear, piety requires us to
honour truth above our friends.
The men who introduced this doctrine did not posit Ideas of
classes within which they recognized priority and posteriority
(which is the reason why they did not maintain the existence of an
Idea embracing all numbers); but the term 'good' is used both in the
category of substance and in that of quality and in that of
relation, and that which is per se, i.e. substance, is prior in nature
to the relative (for the latter is like an off shoot and accident of
being); so that there could not be a common Idea set over all these
goods. Further, since 'good' has as many senses as 'being' (for it
is predicated both in the category of substance, as of God and of
reason, and in quality, i.e. of the virtues, and in quantity, i.e.
of that which is moderate, and in relation, i.e. of the useful, and in
time, i.e. of the right opportunity, and in place, i.e. of the right
locality and the like), clearly it cannot be something universally
present in all cases and single; for then it could not have been
predicated in all the categories but in one only. Further, since of
the things answering to one Idea there is one science, there would
have been one science of all the goods; but as it is there are many
sciences even of the things that fall under one category, e.g. of
opportunity, for opportunity in war is studied by strategics and in
disease by medicine, and the moderate in food is studied by medicine
and in exercise by the science of gymnastics. And one might ask the
question, what in the world they mean by 'a thing itself', is (as is
the case) in 'man himself' and in a particular man the account of
man is one and the same. For in so far as they are man, they will in
no respect differ; and if this is so, neither will 'good itself' and
particular goods, in so far as they are good. But again it will not be
good any the more for being eternal, since that which lasts long is no
whiter than that which perishes in a day. The Pythagoreans seem to
give a more plausible account of the good, when they place the one
in the column of goods; and it is they that Speusippus seems to have
But let us discuss these matters elsewhere; an objection to what
we have said, however, may be discerned in the fact that the
Platonists have not been speaking about all goods, and that the
goods that are pursued and loved for themselves are called good by
reference to a single Form, while those which tend to produce or to
preserve these somehow or to prevent their contraries are called so by
reference to these, and in a secondary sense. Clearly, then, goods
must be spoken of in two ways, and some must be good in themselves,
the others by reason of these. Let us separate, then, things good in
themselves from things useful, and consider whether the former are
called good by reference to a single Idea. What sort of goods would
one call good in themselves? Is it those that are pursued even when
isolated from others, such as intelligence, sight, and certain
pleasures and honours? Certainly, if we pursue these also for the sake
of something else, yet one would place them among things good in
themselves. Or is nothing other than the Idea of good good in
itself? In that case the Form will be empty. But if the things we have
named are also things good in themselves, the account of the good will
have to appear as something identical in them all, as that of
whiteness is identical in snow and in white lead. But of honour,
wisdom, and pleasure, just in respect of their goodness, the
accounts are distinct and diverse. The good, therefore, is not some
common element answering to one Idea.
But what then do we mean by the good? It is surely not like the
things that only chance to have the same name. Are goods one, then, by
being derived from one good or by all contributing to one good, or are
they rather one by analogy? Certainly as sight is in the body, so is
reason in the soul, and so on in other cases. But perhaps these
subjects had better be dismissed for the present; for perfect
precision about them would be more appropriate to another branch of
philosophy. And similarly with regard to the Idea; even if there is
some one good which is universally predicable of goods or is capable
of separate and independent existence, clearly it could not be
achieved or attained by man; but we are now seeking something
attainable. Perhaps, however, some one might think it worth while to
recognize this with a view to the goods that are attainable and
achievable; for having this as a sort of pattern we shall know
better the goods that are good for us, and if we know them shall
attain them. This argument has some plausibility, but seems to clash
with the procedure of the sciences; for all of these, though they
aim at some good and seek to supply the deficiency of it, leave on one
side the knowledge of the good. Yet that all the exponents of the arts
should be ignorant of, and should not even seek, so great an aid is
not probable. It is hard, too, to see how a weaver or a carpenter will
be benefited in regard to his own craft by knowing this 'good itself',
or how the man who has viewed the Idea itself will be a better
doctor or general thereby. For a doctor seems not even to study health
in this way, but the health of man, or perhaps rather the health of
a particular man; it is individuals that he is healing. But enough
of these topics.

Let us again return to the good we are seeking, and ask what it
can be. It seems different in different actions and arts; it is
different in medicine, in strategy, and in the other arts likewise.
What then is the good of each? Surely that for whose sake everything
else is done. In medicine this is health, in strategy victory, in
architecture a house, in any other sphere something else, and in every
action and pursuit the end; for it is for the sake of this that all
men do whatever else they do. Therefore, if there is an end for all
that we do, this will be the good achievable by action, and if there
are more than one, these will be the goods achievable by action.
So the argument has by a different course reached the same point;
but we must try to state this even more clearly. Since there are
evidently more than one end, and we choose some of these (e.g. wealth,
flutes, and in general instruments) for the sake of something else,
clearly not all ends are final ends; but the chief good is evidently
something final. Therefore, if there is only one final end, this
will be what we are seeking, and if there are more than one, the
most final of these will be what we are seeking. Now we call that
which is in itself worthy of pursuit more final than that which is
worthy of pursuit for the sake of something else, and that which is
never desirable for the sake of something else more final than the
things that are desirable both in themselves and for the sake of
that other thing, and therefore we call final without qualification
that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of
something else.
Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for
this we choose always for self and never for the sake of something
else, but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose
indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should
still choose each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of
happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness,
on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in
general, for anything other than itself.
From the point of view of self-sufficiency the same result seems
to follow; for the final good is thought to be self-sufficient. Now by
self-sufficient we do not mean that which is sufficient for a man by
himself, for one who lives a solitary life, but also for parents,
children, wife, and in general for his friends and fellow citizens,
since man is born for citizenship. But some limit must be set to this;
for if we extend our requirement to ancestors and descendants and
friends' friends we are in for an infinite series. Let us examine this
question, however, on another occasion; the self-sufficient we now
define as that which when isolated makes life desirable and lacking in
nothing; and such we think happiness to be; and further we think it
most desirable of all things, without being counted as one good
thing among others- if it were so counted it would clearly be made
more desirable by the addition of even the least of goods; for that
which is added becomes an excess of goods, and of goods the greater
is always more desirable. Happiness, then, is something final and
self-sufficient, and is the end of action.
Presumably, however, to say that happiness is the chief good seems a
platitude, and a clearer account of what it is still desired. This
might perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function of
man. For just as for a flute-player, a sculptor, or an artist, and, in
general, for all things that have a function or activity, the good and
the 'well' is thought to reside in the function, so would it seem to
be for man, if he has a function. Have the carpenter, then, and the
tanner certain functions or activities, and has man none? Is he born
without a function? Or as eye, hand, foot, and in general each of
the parts evidently has a function, may one lay it down that man
similarly has a function apart from all these? What then can this
be? Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking what is
peculiar to man. Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition
and growth. Next there would be a life of perception, but it also
seems to be common even to the horse, the ox, and every animal.
There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational
principle; of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of
being obedient to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and
exercising thought. And, as 'life of the rational element' also has
two meanings, we must state that life in the sense of activity is what
we mean; for this seems to be the more proper sense of the term. Now
if the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies
a rational principle, and if we say 'so-and-so-and 'a good
so-and-so' have a function which is the same in kind, e.g. a lyre, and
a good lyre-player, and so without qualification in all cases,
eminence in respect of goodness being idded to the name of the
function (for the function of a lyre-player is to play the lyre, and
that of a good lyre-player is to do so well): if this is the case,
and we state the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and
this to be an activity or actions of the soul implying a rational
principle, and the function of a good man to be the good and noble
performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is
performed in accordance with the appropriate excellence: if this is
the case, human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance
with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with
the best and most complete.
But we must add 'in a complete life.' For one swallow does not
make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short
time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
Let this serve as an outline of the good; for we must presumably
first sketch it roughly, and then later fill in the details. But it
would seem that any one is capable of carrying on and articulating
what has once been well outlined, and that time is a good discoverer
or partner in such a work; to which facts the advances of the arts are
due; for any one can add what is lacking. And we must also remember
what has been said before, and not look for precision in all things
alike, but in each class of things such precision as accords with
the subject-matter, and so much as is appropriate to the inquiry.
For a carpenter and a geometer investigate the right angle in
different ways; the former does so in so far as the right angle is
useful for his work, while the latter inquires what it is or what sort
of thing it is; for he is a spectator of the truth. We must act in the
same way, then, in all other matters as well, that our main task may
not be subordinated to minor questions. Nor must we demand the cause
in all matters alike; it is enough in some cases that the fact be well
established, as in the case of the first principles; the fact is the
primary thing or first principle. Now of first principles we see
some by induction, some by perception, some by a certain
habituation, and others too in other ways. But each set of
principles we must try to investigate in the natural way, and we
must take pains to state them definitely, since they have a great
influence on what follows. For the beginning is thought to be more
than half of the whole, and many of the questions we ask are cleared
up by it.

We must consider it, however, in the light not only of our
conclusion and our premisses, but also of what is commonly said
about it; for with a true view all the data harmonize, but with a
false one the facts soon clash. Now goods have been divided into three
classes, and some are described as external, others as relating to
soul or to body; we call those that relate to soul most properly and
truly goods, and psychical actions and activities we class as relating
to soul. Therefore our account must be sound, at least according to
this view, which is an old one and agreed on by philosophers. It is
correct also in that we identify the end with certain actions and
activities; for thus it falls among goods of the soul and not among
external goods. Another belief which harmonizes with our account is
that the happy man lives well and does well; for we have practically
defined happiness as a sort of good life and good action. The
characteristics that are looked for in happiness seem also, all of
them, to belong to what we have defined happiness as being. For some
identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others
with a kind of philosophic wisdom, others with these, or one of these,
accompanied by pleasure or not without pleasure; while others
include also external prosperity. Now some of these views have been
held by many men and men of old, others by a few eminent persons;
and it is not probable that either of these should be entirely
mistaken, but rather that they should be right in at least some one
respect or even in most respects.
With those who identify happiness with virtue or some one virtue our
account is in harmony; for to virtue belongs virtuous activity. But it
makes, perhaps, no small difference whether we place the chief good in
possession or in use, in state of mind or in activity. For the state
of mind may exist without producing any good result, as in a man who
is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the activity
cannot; for one who has the activity will of necessity be acting,
and acting well. And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most
beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete
(for it is some of these that are victorious), so those who act win,
and rightly win, the noble and good things in life.
Their life is also in itself pleasant. For pleasure is a state of
soul, and to each man that which he is said to be a lover of is
pleasant; e.g. not only is a horse pleasant to the lover of horses,
and a spectacle to the lover of sights, but also in the same way
just acts are pleasant to the lover of justice and in general virtuous
acts to the lover of virtue. Now for most men their pleasures are in
conflict with one another because these are not by nature pleasant,
but the lovers of what is noble find pleasant the things that are by
nature pleasant; and virtuous actions are such, so that these are
pleasant for such men as well as in their own nature. Their life,
therefore, has no further need of pleasure as a sort of adventitious
charm, but has its pleasure in itself. For, besides what we have said,
the man who does not rejoice in noble actions is not even good;
since no one would call a man just who did not enjoy acting justly,
nor any man liberal who did not enjoy liberal actions; and similarly
in all other cases. If this is so, virtuous actions must be in
themselves pleasant. But they are also good and noble, and have each
of these attributes in the highest degree, since the good man judges
well about these attributes; his judgement is such as we have
described. Happiness then is the best, noblest, and most pleasant
thing in the world, and these attributes are not severed as in the
inscription at Delos-

Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health;
But pleasantest is it to win what we love.

For all these properties belong to the best activities; and these,
or one- the best- of these, we identify with happiness.
Yet evidently, as we said, it needs the external goods as well;
for it is impossible, or not easy, to do noble acts without the proper
equipment. In many actions we use friends and riches and political
power as instruments; and there are some things the lack of which
takes the lustre from happiness, as good birth, goodly children,
beauty; for the man who is very ugly in appearance or ill-born or
solitary and childless is not very likely to be happy, and perhaps a
man would be still less likely if he had thoroughly bad children or
friends or had lost good children or friends by death. As we said,
then, happiness seems to need this sort of prosperity in addition; for
which reason some identify happiness with good fortune, though
others identify it with virtue.

For this reason also the question is asked, whether happiness is
to be acquired by learning or by habituation or some other sort of
training, or comes in virtue of some divine providence or again by
chance. Now if there is any gift of the gods to men, it is
reasonable that happiness should be god-given, and most surely
god-given of all human things inasmuch as it is the best. But this
question would perhaps be more appropriate to another inquiry;
happiness seems, however, even if it is not god-sent but comes as a
result of virtue and some process of learning or training, to be among
the most godlike things; for that which is the prize and end of virtue
seems to be the best thing in the world, and something godlike and
It will also on this view be very generally shared; for all who
are not maimed as regards their potentiality for virtue may win it
by a certain kind of study and care. But if it is better to be happy
thus than by chance, it is reasonable that the facts should be so,
since everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature
as good as it can be, and similarly everything that depends on art
or any rational cause, and especially if it depends on the best of all
causes. To entrust to chance what is greatest and most noble would
be a very defective arrangement.
The answer to the question we are asking is plain also from the
definition of happiness; for it has been said to be a virtuous
activity of soul, of a certain kind. Of the remaining goods, some must
necessarily pre-exist as conditions of happiness, and others are
naturally co-operative and useful as instruments. And this will be
found to agree with what we said at the outset; for we stated the
end of political science to be the best end, and political science
spends most of its pains on making the citizens to be of a certain
character, viz. good and capable of noble acts.
It is natural, then, that we call neither ox nor horse nor any other
of the animals happy; for none of them is capable of sharing in such
activity. For this reason also a boy is not happy; for he is not yet
capable of such acts, owing to his age; and boys who are called
happy are being congratulated by reason of the hopes we have for them.
For there is required, as we said, not only complete virtue but also a
complete life, since many changes occur in life, and all manner of
chances, and the most prosperous may fall into great misfortunes in
old age, as is told of Priam in the Trojan Cycle; and one who has
experienced such chances and has ended wretchedly no one calls happy.

Must no one at all, then, be called happy while he lives; must we,
as Solon says, see the end? Even if we are to lay down this
doctrine, is it also the case that a man is happy when he is dead?
Or is not this quite absurd, especially for us who say that
happiness is an activity? But if we do not call the dead man happy,
and if Solon does not mean this, but that one can then safely call a
man blessed as being at last beyond evils and misfortunes, this also
affords matter for discussion; for both evil and good are thought to
exist for a dead man, as much as for one who is alive but not aware of
them; e.g. honours and dishonours and the good or bad fortunes of
children and in general of descendants. And this also presents a
problem; for though a man has lived happily up to old age and has
had a death worthy of his life, many reverses may befall his
descendants- some of them may be good and attain the life they
deserve, while with others the opposite may be the case; and clearly
too the degrees of relationship between them and their ancestors may
vary indefinitely. It would be odd, then, if the dead man were to
share in these changes and become at one time happy, at another
wretched; while it would also be odd if the fortunes of the
descendants did not for some time have some effect on the happiness
of their ancestors.
But we must return to our first difficulty; for perhaps by a
consideration of it our present problem might be solved. Now if we
must see the end and only then call a man happy, not as being happy
but as having been so before, surely this is a paradox, that when he
is happy the attribute that belongs to him is not to be truly
predicated of him because we do not wish to call living men happy,
on account of the changes that may befall them, and because we have
assumed happiness to be something permanent and by no means easily
changed, while a single man may suffer many turns of fortune's
wheel. For clearly if we were to keep pace with his fortunes, we
should often call the same man happy and again wretched, making the
happy man out to be chameleon and insecurely based. Or is this keeping
pace with his fortunes quite wrong? Success or failure in life does
not depend on these, but human life, as we said, needs these as mere
additions, while virtuous activities or their opposites are what
constitute happiness or the reverse.
The question we have now discussed confirms our definition. For no
function of man has so much permanence as virtuous activities (these
are thought to be more durable even than knowledge of the sciences),
and of these themselves the most valuable are more durable because
those who are happy spend their life most readily and most
continuously in these; for this seems to be the reason why we do not
forget them. The attribute in question, then, will belong to the happy
man, and he will be happy throughout his life; for always, or by
preference to everything else, he will be engaged in virtuous action
and contemplation, and he will bear the chances of life most nobly and
altogether decorously, if he is 'truly good' and 'foursquare beyond
Now many events happen by chance, and events differing in
importance; small pieces of good fortune or of its opposite clearly do
not weigh down the scales of life one way or the other, but a
multitude of great events if they turn out well will make life happier
(for not only are they themselves such as to add beauty to life, but
the way a man deals with them may be noble and good), while if they
turn out ill they crush and maim happiness; for they both bring pain
with them and hinder many activities. Yet even in these nobility
shines through, when a man bears with resignation many great
misfortunes, not through insensibility to pain but through nobility
and greatness of soul.
If activities are, as we said, what gives life its character, no
happy man can become miserable; for he will never do the acts that are
hateful and mean. For the man who is truly good and wise, we think,
bears all the chances life becomingly and always makes the best of
circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the
army at his command and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of
the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen. And
if this is the case, the happy man can never become miserable;
though he will not reach blessedness, if he meet with fortunes like
those of Priam.
Nor, again, is he many-coloured and changeable; for neither will
he be moved from his happy state easily or by any ordinary
misadventures, but only by many great ones, nor, if he has had many
great misadventures, will he recover his happiness in a short time,
but if at all, only in a long and complete one in which he has
attained many splendid successes.
When then should we not say that he is happy who is active in
accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with
external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete
life? Or must we add 'and who is destined to live thus and die as
befits his life'? Certainly the future is obscure to us, while
happiness, we claim, is an end and something in every way final. If
so, we shall call happy those among living men in whom these
conditions are, and are to be, fulfilled- but happy men. So much for
these questions.

That the fortunes of descendants and of all a man's friends should
not affect his happiness at all seems a very unfriendly doctrine,
and one opposed to the opinions men hold; but since the events that
happen are numerous and admit of all sorts of difference, and some
come more near to us and others less so, it seems a long- nay, an
infinite- task to discuss each in detail; a general outline will
perhaps suffice. If, then, as some of a man's own misadventures have a
certain weight and influence on life while others are, as it were,
lighter, so too there are differences among the misadventures of our
friends taken as a whole, and it makes a difference whether the
various suffering befall the living or the dead (much more even than
whether lawless and terrible deeds are presupposed in a tragedy or
done on the stage), this difference also must be taken into account;
or rather, perhaps, the fact that doubt is felt whether the dead share
in any good or evil. For it seems, from these considerations, that
even if anything whether good or evil penetrates to them, it must be
something weak and negligible, either in itself or for them, or if
not, at least it must be such in degree and kind as not to make
happy those who are not happy nor to take away their blessedness
from those who are. The good or bad fortunes of friends, then, seem to
have some effects on the dead, but effects of such a kind and degree
as neither to make the happy unhappy nor to produce any other change
of the kind.

These questions having been definitely answered, let us consider
whether happiness is among the things that are praised or rather among
the things that are prized; for clearly it is not to be placed among
potentialities. Everything that is praised seems to be praised because
it is of a certain kind and is related somehow to something else;
for we praise the just or brave man and in general both the good man
and virtue itself because of the actions and functions involved, and
we praise the strong man, the good runner, and so on, because he is of
a certain kind and is related in a certain way to something good and
important. This is clear also from the praises of the gods; for it
seems absurd that the gods should be referred to our standard, but
this is done because praise involves a reference, to something else.
But if if praise is for things such as we have described, clearly what
applies to the best things is not praise, but something greater and
better, as is indeed obvious; for what we do to the gods and the
most godlike of men is to call them blessed and happy. And so too with
good things; no one praises happiness as he does justice, but rather
calls it blessed, as being something more divine and better.
Eudoxus also seems to have been right in his method of advocating
the supremacy of pleasure; he thought that the fact that, though a
good, it is not praised indicated it to be better than the things that
are praised, and that this is what God and the good are; for by
reference to these all other things are judged. Praise is
appropriate to virtue, for as a result of virtue men tend to do
noble deeds, but encomia are bestowed on acts, whether of the body
or of the soul. But perhaps nicety in these matters is more proper
to those who have made a study of encomia; to us it is clear from what
has been said that happiness is among the things that are prized and
perfect. It seems to be so also from the fact that it is a first
principle; for it is for the sake of this that we all do all that we
do, and the first principle and cause of goods is, we claim, something
prized and divine.

Since happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect
virtue, we must consider the nature of virtue; for perhaps we shall
thus see better the nature of happiness. The true student of politics,
too, is thought to have studied virtue above all things; for he wishes
to make his fellow citizens good and obedient to the laws. As an
example of this we have the lawgivers of the Cretans and the Spartans,
and any others of the kind that there may have been. And if this
inquiry belongs to political science, clearly the pursuit of it will
be in accordance with our original plan. But clearly the virtue we
must study is human virtue; for the good we were seeking was human
good and the happiness human happiness. By human virtue we mean not
that of the body but that of the soul; and happiness also we call an
activity of soul. But if this is so, clearly the student of politics
must know somehow the facts about soul, as the man who is to heal
the eyes or the body as a whole must know about the eyes or the
body; and all the more since politics is more prized and better than
medicine; but even among doctors the best educated spend much labour
on acquiring knowledge of the body. The student of politics, then,
must study the soul, and must study it with these objects in view, and
do so just to the extent which is sufficient for the questions we
are discussing; for further precision is perhaps something more
laborious than our purposes require.
Some things are said about it, adequately enough, even in the
discussions outside our school, and we must use these; e.g. that one
element in the soul is irrational and one has a rational principle.
Whether these are separated as the parts of the body or of anything
divisible are, or are distinct by definition but by nature
inseparable, like convex and concave in the circumference of a circle,
does not affect the present question.
Of the irrational element one division seems to be widely
distributed, and vegetative in its nature, I mean that which causes
nutrition and growth; for it is this kind of power of the soul that
one must assign to all nurslings and to embryos, and this same power
to fullgrown creatures; this is more reasonable than to assign some
different power to them. Now the excellence of this seems to be common
to all species and not specifically human; for this part or faculty
seems to function most in sleep, while goodness and badness are
least manifest in sleep (whence comes the saying that the happy are
not better off than the wretched for half their lives; and this
happens naturally enough, since sleep is an inactivity of the soul
in that respect in which it is called good or bad), unless perhaps
to a small extent some of the movements actually penetrate to the
soul, and in this respect the dreams of good men are better than those
of ordinary people. Enough of this subject, however; let us leave
the nutritive faculty alone, since it has by its nature no share in
human excellence.
There seems to be also another irrational element in the soul-one
which in a sense, however, shares in a rational principle. For we
praise the rational principle of the continent man and of the
incontinent, and the part of their soul that has such a principle,
since it urges them aright and towards the best objects; but there
is found in them also another element naturally opposed to the
rational principle, which fights against and resists that principle.
For exactly as paralysed limbs when we intend to move them to the
right turn on the contrary to the left, so is it with the soul; the
impulses of incontinent people move in contrary directions. But
while in the body we see that which moves astray, in the soul we do
not. No doubt, however, we must none the less suppose that in the soul
too there is something contrary to the rational principle, resisting
and opposing it. In what sense it is distinct from the other
elements does not concern us. Now even this seems to have a share in a
rational principle, as we said; at any rate in the continent man it
obeys the rational principle and presumably in the temperate and brave
man it is still more obedient; for in him it speaks, on all matters,
with the same voice as the rational principle.
Therefore the irrational element also appears to be two-fold. For
the vegetative element in no way shares in a rational principle, but
the appetitive and in general the desiring element in a sense shares
in it, in so far as it listens to and obeys it; this is the sense in
which we speak of 'taking account' of one's father or one's friends,
not that in which we speak of 'accounting for a mathematical property.
That the irrational element is in some sense persuaded by a rational
principle is indicated also by the giving of advice and by all reproof
and exhortation. And if this element also must be said to have a
rational principle, that which has a rational principle (as well as
that which has not) will be twofold, one subdivision having it in
the strict sense and in itself, and the other having a tendency to
obey as one does one's father.
Virtue too is distinguished into kinds in accordance with this
difference; for we say that some of the virtues are intellectual and
others moral, philosophic wisdom and understanding and practical
wisdom being intellectual, liberality and temperance moral. For in
speaking about a man's character we do not say that he is wise or
has understanding but that he is good-tempered or temperate; yet we
praise the wise man also with respect to his state of mind; and of
states of mind we call those which merit praise virtues.