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.

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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.
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.

Philosophy Essays


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