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It appears then that the presence of friends is, under all circumstances, choiceworthy.

May we not say then that, as seeing the beloved object is most prized by lovers and they choose this sense rather than any of the others because Love

  “Is engendered in the eyes,
  With gazing fed,”

in like manner intimacy is to friends most choiceworthy, Friendship being communion? Again, as a man is to himself so is he to his friend; now with respect to himself the perception of his own existence is choiceworthy, therefore is it also in respect of his friend.

And besides, their Friendship is acted out in intimacy, and so with good reason they desire this. And whatever in each man’s opinion constitutes existence, or whatsoever it is for the sake of which they choose life, herein they wish their friends to join with them; and so some men drink together, others gamble, others join in gymnastic exercises or hunting, others study philosophy together: in each case spending their days together in that which they like best of all things in life, for since they wish to be intimate with their friends they do and partake in those things whereby they think to attain this object.

Therefore the Friendship of the wicked comes to be depraved; for, being unstable, they share in what is bad and become depraved in being made like to one another: but the Friendship of the good is good, growing with their intercourse; they improve also, as it seems, by repeated acts, and by mutual correction, for they receive impress from one another in the points which give them pleasure; whence says the poet,

  “Thou from the good, good things shalt surely learn.”

Here then we will terminate our discourse of Friendship. The next thing is to go into the subject of Pleasure.


Next, it would seem, follows a discussion respecting Pleasure, for it is thought to be most closely bound up with our kind: and so men train the young, guiding them on their course by the rudders of Pleasure and Pain. And to like and dislike what one ought is judged to be most important for the formation of good moral character: because these feelings extend all one’s life through, giving a bias towards and exerting an influence on the side of Virtue and Happiness, since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful.

Subjects such as these then, it would seem, we ought by no means to pass by, and specially since they involve much difference of opinion. There are those who call Pleasure the Chief Good; there are others who on the contrary maintain that it is exceedingly bad; some perhaps from a real conviction that such is the case, others from a notion that it is better, in reference to our life and conduct, to show up Pleasure as bad, even if it is not so really; arguing that, as the mass of men have a bias towards it and are the slaves of their pleasures, it is right to draw them to the contrary, for that so they may possibly arrive at the mean.

I confess I suspect the soundness of this policy; in matters respecting men’s feelings and actions theories are less convincing than facts: whenever, therefore, they are found conflicting with actual experience, they not only are despised but involve the truth in their fall: he, for instance, who deprecates Pleasure, if once seen to aim at it, gets the credit of backsliding to it as being universally such as he said it was, the mass of men being incapable of nice distinctions.

Real accounts, therefore, of such matters seem to be most expedient, not with a view to knowledge merely but to life and conduct: for they are believed as being in harm with facts, and so they prevail with the wise to live in accordance with them.

But of such considerations enough: let us now proceed to the current maxims respecting Pleasure.

II Now Eudoxus thought Pleasure to be the Chief Good because he saw all, rational and irrational alike, aiming at it: and he argued that, since in all what was the object of choice must be good and what most so the best, the fact of all being drawn to the same thing proved this thing to be the best for all: “For each,” he said, “finds what is good for itself just as it does its proper nourishment, and so that which is good for all, and the object of the aim of all, is their Chief Good.”

(And his theories were received, not so much for their own sake, as because of his excellent moral character; for he was thought to be eminently possessed of perfect self-mastery, and therefore it was not thought that he said these things because he was a lover of Pleasure but that he really was so convinced.)

And he thought his position was not less proved by the argument from the contrary: that is, since Pain was in itself an object of avoidance to all the contrary must be in like manner an object of choice.

Again he urged that that is most choiceworthy which we choose, not by reason of, or with a view to, anything further; and that Pleasure is confessedly of this kind because no one ever goes on to ask to what purpose he is pleased, feeling that Pleasure is in itself choiceworthy.

Again, that when added to any other good it makes it more choiceworthy; as, for instance, to actions of justice, or perfected self-mastery; and good can only be increased by itself.

However, this argument at least seems to prove only that it belongs to the class of goods, and not that it does so more than anything else: for every good is more choicewortby in combination with some other than when taken quite alone. In fact, it is by just such an argument that Plato proves that Pleasure is not the Chief Good: “For,” says he, “the life of Pleasure is more choiceworthy in combination with Practical Wisdom than apart from it; but, if the compound better then simple Pleasure cannot be the Chief Good; because the very Chief Good cannot by any addition become choiceworthy than it is already:” and it is obvious that nothing else can be the Chief Good, which by combination with any of the things in themselves good comes to be more choiceworthy.

What is there then of such a nature? (meaning, of course, whereof we can partake; because that which we are in search of must be such).

As for those who object that “what all aim at is not necessarily good,” I confess I cannot see much in what they say, because what all think we say is. And he who would cut away this ground from under us will not bring forward things more dependable: because if the argument had rested on the desires of irrational creatures there might have been something in what he says, but, since the rational also desire Pleasure, how can his objection be allowed any weight? and it may be that, even in the lower animals, there is some natural good principle above themselves which aims at the good peculiar to them.

Nor does that seem to be sound which is urged respecting the argument from the contrary: I mean, some people say “it does not follow that Pleasure must be good because Pain is evil, since evil may be opposed to evil, and both evil and good to what is indifferent:” now what they say is right enough in itself but does not hold in the present instance. If both Pleasure and Pain were bad both would have been objects of avoidance; or if neither then neither would have been, at all events they must have fared alike: but now men do plainly avoid the one as bad and choose the other as good, and so there is a complete opposition. III Nor again is Pleasure therefore excluded from being good because it does not belong to the class of qualities: the acts of virtue are not qualities, neither is Happiness [yet surely both are goods].

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