Our Happiness Depends on the Happiness of Others

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  • 7/23/2019 Our Happiness Depends on the Happiness of Others


    CHAPTER ELEVENBut that the fortunes of a person's descendants and all his friends contrib-ute nothing whatsoever [to his happiness] appears to be excessively op-posed to what is dear67and contrary to the opinions held. And becausethe things that may befall us are many and differ in various respects- 25some hitting closer to home, other less so-thoroughly distinguishingeach appears to be a long and even endless task. But perhaps for the mat-ter to be stated generally and in outline would be adequate.Just as some of the misfortunes that concern a person himself have acertain gravity and weight as regards his life but others seem lighter, so 30also the misfortunes that concern all his friends are similar; and if, con-cerning each thing suffered, it makes a difference whether the friends arealive or have met their end, far more than if the unlawful and terriblethings in tragic plays occur before the action of the play or during it, thenone must indeed take this difference into account-and even more, per-haps, when it comes to the perplexity raised concerning those who have 35passed away,68that is, whether they share in something good or in theopposite. For it seems, on the basis of these points, that even if anything ttotbat all does get through to them, whether good or its contrary, it is some-

    thing faint and small, either simply so or to them. And if this is not so,then what gets through to them is, at any rate, of such a degree and kindthat it does not make happy those who are not such or deprive those whoare happy of their blessedness. The friends' faring well, then, appears tomake some contribution to the condition of those who have passed away,as does, similarly, their faring ill-but a contribution of such a kind anddegree as not to make the happy unhappy or anything else of that sort.66 Or, "according to reason" (seen. 63).67 Or, perhaps, "excessively unfriendly" or even "hateful" (aphilon).68 Literally, "those who have grown weary;' a euphemistic term, characteristic of trag-edy, that can be applied either to the sick or to the dead. 22] BOOK 1, CHAPTER 12

    CHAPTER TWELVE10 With these things defined, let us examine closely whether happiness issomething praised or rather honored, for it is clear that it does not be-long among the capacities, at any rate.69Now, everything praised appearsto be praised for its being of a certain sort and for its condition relative tosomething: we praise the just person, the courageous person, and, in gen-15 eral, the good person as well as virtue itself, on account of the actions andworks involved; and we praise the strong man and the swift runner andeach of the rest for their being, by nature, of a certain sort and for theircondition in relation to something good and serious. This is clear also on

    the basis of the praises offered to the gods, since it is manifestly laughable20 for them to be compared to us; but this happens because praise arisesthrough comparison, as we said. And if praise is of things of that sort, itis clear that not praise but something greater and better than praise ap-plies to the best things, as in fact appears to be the case: the gods we deemblessed and happy, and the most divine of men we deem blessed.7025 The case is similar with the good things too: none praise happiness theway they praise justice; rather, people deem happiness a blessed thing, onthe grounds that it is something more divine and better. And Eudoxus too

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    seems to have nobly pleaded his case that the first prize belongs to plea-sure. For the fact that it is not praised as being among the good things re-30 veals, he supposed, that it is superior to the things praised; and such, hesupposed, is the god and the good. For it is to these that all else is com-pared. Indeed, praise belongs to virtue: people are apt to do noble thingsas a result of virtue, whereas encomiums belong to the works ofboth bodyand soul alike. But perhaps being very precise about these things is more35 appropriate to those who have labored over encomiums; to us it is clear,11o2a on the basis of what has been said, that happiness belongs among thethings that are honored and complete. This seems to be the case also onaccount of its being a principle: it is for the sake of this that we all do ev-erything else, and we posit the principle and the cause of the good thingsas being something honorable and divine.69 For a possible interpretation of this line, see Aristotle's treatment of capacities in2.1 and 2.5.70 The reading of the MSS. Burnet, following the text of Bywater and the suggestionofSusemihl, deletes the final verb such that the emended text would read in translation,"we deem blessed and happy the gods as well as the most divine of men." BOOK 1, CHAPTER 13 [ 23CHAPTER THIRTEENNow, since happiness is a certain activity of soul in accord with complete

    virtue, what concerns virtue would have to be examined. For perhaps inthis way we might better contemplate happiness as well. And the politi-cian in the true sense seems to have labored over this especially, for hewishes to make the citizens good and obedient to the laws. We have asmodels of these the lawgivers of the Cretans and Lacedaimonians, and 10any others of that sort there might have been. And if this examination isa part of the political art, it is clear that the investigation would be in ac-cord with the choice made at the beginning.But that we must examine the virtue distinctive of a human being isclear, for we were seeking both the human good and human happiness. 15We mean by "virtue distinctive of a human being" not that of the bodybut that of the soul, and by "happiness" we mean an activity of soul. Butif these things are so, then it is clear that the politician ought to know

    in some way about the soul, just as also someone who is going to treatthe eye must know the whole body as well-and even more so inasmuch 20as the political art is more honorable and better than medicine. Thosephysicians who are refined take very seriously what pertains to knowl-edge of the body, and the politician too ought to contemplate the soul;but he ought to contemplate it for the sake of these things and up to thepoint that is adequate for what is being sought: to be more precise is per- 25haps too difficult given the tasks set forth. But some points concerningthe soul are stated sufficiently even in the exoteric71arguments, and oneought to make use of them-for example, that one part of it is nonra-tional, another possesses reason. Yet whether these things are divided,

    like the parts of the body and every divisible thing, or whether they aretwo in speech but naturally inseparable, like the convex and the concave 30in the circumference of a circle, makes no difference with a view to thepresent task.Of the nonrational, one part seems to be that which is held in com-mon and vegetative-! mean that which causes nutrition and growth.For someone could posit that such a capacity of the soul is in all things 11o2b that are nourished and in embryos, and that this same capacity is presentin the completed things as well, for this is more rational than positing

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    71 Evidently a reference to writings intended for a wider or more popular audience;see also n. 26. BOOK 1, CHAPTER 13some other capacity. A certain virtue belonging to this capacity, then, ap-pears to be common and not distinctive of a human being. For this partand its capacity seem particularly active in sleep, but the good person andthe bad would be least distinct in sleep. (So it is that people assert that forhalf oflife, the happy do not differ at all from the wretched, and this is tobe expected: sleep is an idleness of that in reference to which the soul issaid to be serious or base.) Unless, that is, certain motions do reach them10 to a small degree, and in this way the dreams of the decent72are betterthan those of people at random. But enough about these things: let thenutritive part be, since it does not naturally share in human virtue.Yet there seems to be also a certain other nature of the soul that is non-rational, although it does share in reason in a way. For in the case of theself-restrained person and of the one lacking self-restraint, we praise their15 reason and that part of their soul possessing reason, since it correctly ex-horts them toward the best things. But there appears to be something elsein them that is by nature contrary to reason, which does battle with andstrains against reason. For just as when we choose to move paralyzed parts20 of the body to the right and they are, to the contrary, borne off to the left,

    so also with the soul: the impulses of those lacking self-restraint are to-ward things contrary [to their reason]. Yet whereas in the case of bodies,we see the thing being borne off, in the case of the soul we do not see it.But perhaps one must hold there to be, no less in the case of the soul too,25 something contrary to reason that opposes and blocks it. How it is dif-ferent does not matter at all; it too appears to share in reason, as we said.In the case of the self-restrained person, at any rate, it is obedient to thecommands of reason-and perhaps it heeds those commands still morereadily in the case of the moderate or courageous person, since then it isin all respects in harmony with reason.It appears, therefore, that the nonrational part is twofold, for the veg-30 etative part has nothing in common with reason; but that part character-ized by desire, and by longing in general, shares somehow in reason inas-

    much as it heeds it and is apt to be obedient to its commands. Thus weassert that [he who is in this way obedient to the commands] of his fa-ther and friends in some manner possesses reason-and not that he doesso in the manner of [someone knowledgeable in] mathematics. That thenonrational part is somehow persuaded by reason is indicated both by72 Epieikes, here in its general sense of"decent," is also rendered as "equitable" in thediscussion of justice and equity in 5.10. BOOK 1, CHAPTER 13 [25admonition and by all criticism as well as exhortation. But if we must as- 1103a sert that this part too possesses reason, then that which possesses reasonwill be twofold as well: what possesses it in the authoritative sense and initself, on the one hand, and, on the other, what has it in the sense ofbeing

    apt to listen as one does to one's father.Virtue too is defined in accord with this distinction, for we say thatsome of the virtues are intellectual, others moral:73wisdom, comprehen-sion, and prudence being intellectual, liberality and moderation beingmoral. For in speaking about someone's character, we do not say that heis wise or comprehending but that he is gentle or moderate. Yet we praisethe wise person too with respect to the characteristic that is his, and wesay that of the characteristics, the praiseworthy ones are virtues.


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