Let us again return to the good we are seeking, and ask what it canbe. It seems different in different actions and arts; it is differentin medicine, in strategy, and in the other arts likewise. What thenis the good of each? Surely that for whose sake everything else isdone. In medicine this is health, in strategy victory, in architecturea house, in any other sphere something else, and in every action andpursuit the end; for it is for the sake of this that all men do whateverelse they do.
Therefore, if there is an end for all that we do, thiswill be the good achievable by action, and if there are more thanone, 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 evidentlymore than one end, and we choose some of these (e. g.
wealth, flutes,and in general instruments) for the sake of something else, clearlynot all ends are final ends; but the chief good is evidently somethingfinal. Therefore, if there is only one final end, this will be whatwe are seeking, and if there are more than one, the most final ofthese will be what we are seeking. Now we call that which is in itselfworthy of pursuit more final than that which is worthy of pursuitfor the sake of something else, and that which is never desirablefor the sake of something else more final than the things that aredesirable both in themselves and for the sake of that other thing,and therefore we call final without qualification that which is alwaysdesirable in itself and never for the sake of something else. Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for thiswe choose always for self and never for the sake of something else,but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed forthemselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still chooseeach of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness,judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on theother 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 tofollow; for the final good is thought to be self-sufficient.Order now
Now byself-sufficient we do not mean that which is sufficient for a manby 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 andfriends’ friends we are in for an infinite series. Let us examinethis question, however, on another occasion; the self-sufficient wenow define as that which when isolated makes life desirable and lackingin nothing; and such we think happiness to be; and further we thinkit most desirable of all things, without being counted as one goodthing among others- if it were so counted it would clearly be mademore desirable by the addition of even the least of goods; for thatwhich is added becomes an excess of goods, and of goods the greateris always more desirable. Happiness, then, is something final andself-sufficient, and is the end of action. Presumably, however, to say that happiness is the chief good seemsa platitude, and a clearer account of what it is still desired. Thismight perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function ofman.
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 goodand the ‘well’ is thought to reside in the function, so would it seemto be for man, if he has a function. Have the carpenter, then, andthe tanner certain functions or activities, and has man none? Is heborn without a function? Or as eye, hand, foot, and in general eachof the parts evidently has a function, may one lay it down that mansimilarly has a function apart from all these? What then can thisbe? Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking whatis peculiar to man. Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutritionand growth. Next there would be a life of perception, but it alsoseems to be common even to the horse, the ox, and every animal. Thereremains, 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 obedientto one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought.
And, as ‘life of the rational element’ also has two meanings, we muststate that life in the sense of activity is what we mean; for thisseems to be the more proper sense of the term. Now if the functionof man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rationalprinciple, and if we say ‘so-and-so-and ‘a good so-and-so’ have afunction 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 ofgoodness being idded to the name of the function (for the functionof a lyre-player is to play the lyre, and that of a good lyre-playeris to do so well): if this is the case, and we state the functionof man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity oractions of the soul implying a rational principle, and the functionof a good man to be the good and noble performance of these, and ifany action is well performed when it is performed in accordance withthe appropriate excellence: if this is the case, human good turnsout to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if thereare 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 makea summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, doesnot make a man blessed and happy. Let this serve as an outline of the good; for we must presumably firstsketch it roughly, and then later fill in the details. But it wouldseem that any one is capable of carrying on and articulating whathas once been well outlined, and that time is a good discoverer orpartner in such a work; to which facts the advances of the arts aredue; for any one can add what is lacking. And we must also rememberwhat has been said before, and not look for precision in all thingsalike, but in each class of things such precision as accords withthe subject-matter, and so much as is appropriate to the inquiry.
For a carpenter and a geometer investigate the right angle in differentways; the former does so in so far as the right angle is useful forhis work, while the latter inquires what it is or what sort of thingit is; for he is a spectator of the truth. We must act in the sameway, then, in all other matters as well, that our main task may notbe subordinated to minor questions. Nor must we demand the cause inall matters alike; it is enough in some cases that the fact be wellestablished, as in the case of the first principles; the fact is theprimary thing or first principle. Now of first principles we see someby induction, some by perception, some by a certain habituation, andothers too in other ways.
But each set of principles we must try toinvestigate in the natural way, and we must take pains to state themdefinitely, since they have a great influence on what follows. Forthe beginning is thought to be more than half of the whole, and manyof the questions we ask are cleared up by it. The excellence of humans is linked to their growth towards to some realization of his best nature. Once he has established the notion that all human activities are directed by some final goal, Aristotle proceeds to define the final goal in human life should be.
He searches for the most important activity that we pursue for its own sake, something above all other goods. This final goal is happiness. He gives a sense that happiness is derived from success. A full happy life will include success no only and necessarily for oneself, but for all of one’s family as well.
We do not achieve happiness by actively seeking it, but rather by following the pursuit of all the other goods. Aristotle then proceeds to explain that every object, living or dead has a specific function for which it is designed. The excellence of a person will be derived by how well he fulfills his function. Sine a human being is designed above all to be a social and political being, then excellence in humans should be measured by how well they can carry out their political or social roles.
By putting together all of the above notions, Aristotle offers his listeners a fundamental moral principal. A good man is one whose life, which should consist of trying to achieve set goals, is in conformity with excellence or virtue. It is understandable that there is a difference between being successful and being morally good. But the truth is that success must be evaluated in how well it is carried out in a social environment. Since human beings are social beings, their excellence must be rated in social terms.
Human excellence is a measure of how well one can contribute to their society. Personal pleasure, honor, or money cannot be the final end to human life. Although happiness is achieved by striving for these goals, human beings would not be carrying out their function correctly if they were to seek these goals for no one else but themselves. It is in striving to attain these goals for one’s society that humans achieve excellence.
I am a firm supporter of putting other people’s needs before my own when making an important decision. Yet this is not a completely unselfish action. My own happiness is derived from instilling happiness in the lives others.BibliographynonePhilosophy Essays