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Classical Ethics, Lesson 12. Book I, Chapter 12

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Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (bust)
Aristotle (384-322 BC)

These things being discussed, let us consider, with respect to happiness, whether it is among the number of things laudable, or rather of things honourable; for it is evident that it does not consist in power. It seems, therefore, that everything which is laudable, is praised because it possesses a certain quality, and is in a certain respect referred to something. For we praise the just and the brave man, and in short the good man, and also virtue, on account of works and actions. We likewise praise the strong man, and the racer, &c. because they are naturally adapted to possess certain qualities, and have reference in a certain respect to something good and worthy. But this also is evident from the praises which pertain to the gods; for they appear to be ridiculous when referred to us. This, however, happens, as we have said, because praise subsists from relation. But if praise is given to things of this kind, it is evident that no praise can be given to the most excellent things, but something greater and better pertains to them, as also appears to be the case. For we proclaim the gods to be blessed and happy, and we also proclaim the most divine of men to be blessed; and in a similar manner we celebrate what is good. For no one praises happiness, in the same way as he does justice, but he proclaims it to be blessed, as something more divine and excellent than justice. Eudoxus, likewise, in his defence of pleasure, appears to have given it the palm of victory in a proper manner; for in consequence of its not being praised, as being among the number of good things, he considered this as an indication that it was more excellent than things that are laudable. But god and the good are things of this kind; for other things also are referred to these. For praise, indeed, is given to virtue; since from this we are enabled to perform beautiful deeds. Encomiums, however, pertain to deeds, and in a similar manner to bodies and souls. The accurate discussion, however, of these things, is perhaps more adapted to a treatise on Encomiums; but to us it is evident, from what has been said, that happiness is among the number of things honourable and perfect. It seems, likewise, that it is so, because it is a principle; for we all of us do everything else for the sake of this; but we admit that the principle and the cause of what is good, is something honourable and divine.


Classical Ethics Assessment