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Besides, the life of the good man is not more pleasurable than any other unless it be granted that his active workings are so too.


Some inquiry into the bodily Pleasures is also necessary for those who say that some Pleasures, to be sure, are highly choiceworthy (the good ones to wit), but not the bodily Pleasures; that is, those which are the object-matter of the man utterly destitute of Self-Control.

If so, we ask, why are the contrary Pains bad? they cannot be (on their assumption) because the contrary of bad is good.

May we not say that the necessary bodily Pleasures are good in the sense in which that which is not-bad is good? or that they are good only up to a certain point? because such states or movements as cannot have too much of the better cannot have too much of Pleasure, but those which can of the former can also of the latter. Now the bodily Pleasures do admit of excess: in fact the low bad man is such because he pursues the excess of them instead of those which are necessary (meat, drink, and the objects of other animal appetites do give pleasure to all, but not in right manner or degree to all). But his relation to Pain is exactly the contrary: it is not excessive Pain, but Pain at all, that he avoids [which makes him to be in this way too a bad low man], because only in the case of him who pursues excessive Pleasure is Pain contrary to excessive Pleasure.

It is not enough however merely to state the truth, we should also show how the false view arises; because this strengthens conviction. I mean, when we have given a probable reason why that impresses people as true which really is not true, it gives them a stronger conviction of the truth. And so we must now explain why the bodily Pleasures appear to people to be more choiceworthy than any others.

The first obvious reason is, that bodily Pleasure drives out Pain; and because Pain is felt in excess men pursue Pleasure in excess, i.e. generally bodily Pleasure, under the notion of its being a remedy for that Pain. These remedies, moreover, come to be violent ones; which is the very reason they are pursued, since the impression they produce on the mind is owing to their being looked at side by side with their contrary.

And, as has been said before, there are the two following reasons why bodily Pleasure is thought to be not-good.

1. Some Pleasures of this class are actings of a low nature, whether congenital as in brutes, or acquired by custom as in low bad men.

2. Others are in the nature of cures, cures that is of some deficiency; now of course it is better to have [the healthy state] originally than that it should accrue afterwards.

1154b] But some Pleasures result when natural states are being perfected: these therefore are good as a matter of result.

Again, the very fact of their being violent causes them to be pursued by such as can relish no others: such men in fact create violent thirsts for themselves (if harmless ones then we find no fault, if harmful then it is bad and low) because they have no other things to take pleasure in, and the neutral state is distasteful to some people constitutionally; for toil of some kind is inseparable from life, as physiologists testify, telling us that the acts of seeing or hearing are painful, only that we are used to the pain and do not find it out.

Similarly in youth the constant growth produces a state much like that of vinous intoxication, and youth is pleasant. Again, men of the melancholic temperament constantly need some remedial process (because the body, from its temperament, is constantly being worried), and they are in a chronic state of violent desire. But Pleasure drives out Pain; not only such Pleasure as is directly contrary to Pain but even any Pleasure provided it be strong: and this is how men come to be utterly destitute of Self-Mastery, i.e. low and bad.

But those Pleasures which are unconnected with Pains do not admit of excess: i.e. such as belong to objects which are naturally pleasant and not merely as a matter of result: by the latter class I mean such as are remedial, and the reason why these are thought to be pleasant is that the cure results from the action in some way of that part of the constitution which remains sound. By “pleasant naturally” I mean such as put into action a nature which is pleasant.

The reason why no one and the same thing is invariably pleasant is that our nature is, not simple, but complex, involving something different from itself (so far as we are corruptible beings). Suppose then that one part of this nature be doing something, this something is, to the other part, unnatural: but, if there be an equilibrium of the two natures, then whatever is being done is indifferent. It is obvious that if there be any whose nature is simple and not complex, to such a being the same course of acting will always be the most pleasurable.

For this reason it is that the Divinity feels Pleasure which is always one, i.e. simple: not motion merely but also motionlessness acts, and Pleasure resides rather in the absence than in the presence of motion.

The reason why the Poet’s dictum “change is of all things most pleasant” is true, is “a baseness in our blood;” for as the bad man is easily changeable, bad must be also the nature that craves change, i.e. it is neither simple nor good.

We have now said our say about Self-Control and its opposite; and about Pleasure and Pain. What each is, and how the one set is good the other bad. We have yet to speak of Friendship.


I 1155a] Next would seem properly to follow a dissertation on Friendship: because, in the first place, it is either itself a virtue or connected with virtue; and next it is a thing most necessary for life, since no one would choose to live without friends though he should have all the other good things in the world: and, in fact, men who are rich or possessed of authority and influence are thought to have special need of friends: for where is the use of such prosperity if there be taken away the doing of kindnesses of which friends are the most usual and most commendable objects? Or how can it be kept or preserved without friends? because the greater it is so much the more slippery and hazardous: in poverty moreover and all other adversities men think friends to be their only refuge.

Furthermore, Friendship helps the young to keep from error: the old, in respect of attention and such deficiencies in action as their weakness makes them liable to; and those who are in their prime, in respect of noble deeds (“They two together going,” Homer says, you may remember), because they are thus more able to devise plans and carry them out.

Again, it seems to be implanted in us by Nature: as, for instance, in the parent towards the offspring and the offspring towards the parent (not merely in the human species, but likewise in birds and most animals), and in those of the same tribe towards one another, and specially in men of the same nation; for which reason we commend those men who love their fellows: and one may see in the course of travel how close of kin and how friendly man is to man.

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