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In short, in all praiseworthy things the good man does plainly give to himself a larger share of the honourable. [Sidenote: 1169b] In this sense it is right to be Self-loving, in the vulgar acceptation of the term it is not.
IX] A question is raised also respecting the Happy man, whether he will want Friends, or no?
Some say that they who are blessed and independent have no need of Friends, for they already have all that is good, and so, as being independent, want nothing further: whereas the notion of a friend’s office is to be as it were a second Self and procure for a man what he cannot get by himself: hence the saying,
“When Fortune gives us good, what need we Friends?”
On the other hand, it looks absurd, while we are assigning to the Happy man all other good things, not to give him Friends, which are, after all, thought to be the greatest of external goods.
Again, if it is more characteristic of a friend to confer than to receive kindnesses, and if to be beneficent belongs to the good man and to the character of virtue, and if it is more noble to confer kindnesses on friends than strangers, the good man will need objects for his benefactions. And out of this last consideration springs a question whether the need of Friends be greater in prosperity or adversity, since the unfortunate man wants people to do him kindnesses and they who are fortunate want objects for their kind acts.
Again, it is perhaps absurd to make our Happy man a solitary, because no man would choose the possession of all goods in the world on the condition of solitariness, man being a social animal and formed by nature for living with others: of course the Happy man has this qualification since he has all those things which are good by nature: and it is obvious that the society of friends and good men must be preferable to that of strangers and ordinary people, and we conclude, therefore, that the Happy man does need Friends.
But then, what do they mean whom we quoted first, and how are they right? Is it not that the mass of mankind mean by Friends those who are useful? and of course the Happy man will not need such because he has all good things already; neither will he need such as are Friends with a view to the pleasurable, or at least only to a slight extent; because his life, being already pleasurable, does not want pleasure imported from without; and so, since the Happy man does not need Friends of these kinds, he is thought not to need any at all.
But it may be, this is not true: for it was stated originally, that Happiness is a kind of Working; now Working plainly is something that must come into being, not be already there like a mere piece of property.
1170a] If then the being happy consists in living and working, and the good man’s working is in itself excellent and pleasurable (as we said at the commencement of the treatise), and if what is our own reckons among things pleasurable, and if we can view our neighbours better than ourselves and their actions better than we can our own, then the actions of their Friends who are good men are pleasurable to the good; inasmuch as they have both the requisites which are naturally pleasant. So the man in the highest state of happiness will need Friends of this kind, since he desires to contemplate good actions, and actions of his own, which those of his friend, being a good man, are. Again, common opinion requires that the Happy man live with pleasure to himself: now life is burthensome to a man in solitude, for it is not easy to work continuously by one’s self, but in company with, and in regard to others, it is easier, and therefore the working, being pleasurable in itself will be more continuous (a thing which should be in respect of the Happy man); for the good man, in that he is good takes pleasure in the actions which accord with Virtue and is annoyed at those which spring from Vice, just as a musical man is pleased with beautiful music and annoyed by bad. And besides, as Theognis says, Virtue itself may be improved by practice, from living with the good.
And, upon the following considerations more purely metaphysical, it will probably appear that the good friend is naturally choiceworthy to the good man. We have said before, that whatever is naturally good is also in itself good and pleasant to the good man; now the fact of living, so far as animals are concerned, is characterised generally by the power of sentience, in man it is characterised by that of sentience, or of rationality (the faculty of course being referred to the actual operation of the faculty, certainly the main point is the actual operation of it); so that living seems mainly to consist in the act of sentience or exerting rationality: now the fact of living is in itself one of the things that are good and pleasant (for it is a definite totality, and whatever is such belongs to the nature of good), but what is naturally good is good to the good man: for which reason it seems to be pleasant to all. (Of course one must not suppose a life which is depraved and corrupted, nor one spent in pain, for that which is such is indefinite as are its inherent qualities: however, what is to be said of pain will be clearer in what is to follow.)
If then the fact of living is in itself good and pleasant (and this appears from the fact that all desire it, and specially those who are good and in high happiness; their course of life being most choiceworthy and their existence most choiceworthy likewise), then also he that sees perceives that he sees; and he that hears perceives that he hears; and he that walks perceives that he walks; and in all the other instances in like manner there is a faculty which reflects upon and perceives the fact that we are working, so that we can perceive that we perceive and intellectually know that we intellectually know: but to perceive that we perceive or that we intellectually know is to perceive that we exist, since existence was defined to be perceiving or intellectually knowing.
1170b Now to perceive that one lives is a thing pleasant in itself, life being a thing naturally good, and the perceiving of the presence in ourselves of things naturally good being pleasant.
Therefore the fact of living is choiceworthy, and to the good specially so since existence is good and pleasant to them: for they receive pleasure from the internal consciousness of that which in itself is good.
But the good man is to his friend as to himself, friend being but a name for a second Self; therefore as his own existence is choiceworthy to each so too, or similarly at least, is his friend’s existence. But the ground of one’s own existence being choiceworthy is the perceiving of one’s self being good, any such perception being in itself pleasant. Therefore one ought to be thoroughly conscious of one’s friend’s existence, which will result from living with him, that is sharing in his words and thoughts: for this is the meaning of the term as applied to the human species, not mere feeding together as in the case of brutes.