Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Chapter 8 (1098b9-1099b8)

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Book 1, Chapter 8 (1098b9-1099b8)

  • Aristotle categorizes the types of good things: some belong to external things, and others to body and soul.
  • Those belonging to the soul are considered the best and especially good—at least according to ancient philosophers.
  • The noblest aim, then, is for the actions and activities of the soul, which makes the goods related to the soul superior.
  • A truly happy person, then, lives a good life, behaving and acting well.
  • Which means that, for practical purposes, happiness is an activity, since it proceeds from a life of virtuous actions.
  • Aristotle says that it makes a difference whether a person simply possesses virtuous characteristics or actually acts on them—since having a virtue does no good if we don't use it.
  • Pleasure also proceeds from a virtuous life. Since a person feels pleasure whenever he engages in something he loves, a virtuous person will feel it whenever he acts well.
  • And this kind of pleasure—taken in acting well—is complete and self-sufficient. It needs nothing added to make such actions pleasant to the noble person.
  • Aristotle makes a little aside by saying that those people who don't love to behave well are simply not good. So, virtuous actions (and the people that do them) must be good and noble.
  • Happiness, then, is both the best and most pleasant thing, since it is the highest good.
  • Aristotle quotes the inscription at the temple of Apollo on Delos. It claims that just things are noblest of all, health is best, and pleasure is found in having what we desire.
  • Aristotle says that this surely true and that all of these pleasures are happiness—which makes happiness the best of all.
  • All those other actions—noble/just behavior, health, achieving passions—aren't complete goods. They rely on other things to achieve them.
  • If you're without wealth, or good family connections, or lovely children you may not be able to achieve these ends and be happy.
  • So it seems that even happiness requires external additions.
  • Which is why, Aristotle says, that good fortune or virtue is often substituted for the idea of happiness.

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