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him? But it is no wonder that these pleasures are not agreeable to corrupt and degraded natures, nor on the other hand that what they think pleasures are abhorrent to the virtuous man.
Aristotle here reverts to his definition of happiness, 'an activity in accordance with excellence, and preeminently with the highest excellence, which is that of the highest part of the soul, the reason (volls). The highest happiness therefore consists in activity of the reason, i.e.
, in philosophy (évépyela (ewpnten). This activity is capable of being sustained longer than any other. It is also the pleasantest, the least dependent on circumstances, and the freest from care ; and it is sought for its own sake without reference to any further result to be gained by it. Such a life of calm contemplation (ewpla) continued through an adequate period is the highest human happiness". Nay, it is more than human, for it is only by virtue of the divine element within him that man is capable of living such a life. And in whatever proportion that divine element transcends man's mixed and composite nature, in the same proportion will his purely rational activities transcend those which are inspired by the other virtues'. We often hear it said, that man should be content with his lot and not seek to rise above the limits of mortality; but, if we would attain the highest happiness, we must do the very contrary to this, train ourselves, as far as may be, to think and feel as immortals, and to live with a constant reference to that which is best and highest in our nature”. For that, after all, is the man's truest self; and it would be absurd to prefer another's life to that which is in the truest sense our own proper life. All other virtues, and the happiness which flows from them, are, in 'comparison with contemplation, human as opposed to divine. They are necessary for society and for the business of life; they are bound up with man's composite nature, with the passions as well as with the reason, with the corporeal as well as with the spiritual; they are more or less dependent on circumstances, (thus the liberal man and the just man need some amount of property if they are to give proof of their justice and liberality), while the contemplative life needs only the minimum of external prosperity. On the other hand the contemplative life is the only one which we can ascribe to the Gods. For what sort of actions would be congruous with our idea of the divine nature? Not just acts; for
1 έστιν εκάστου μέτρον η αρετή και ο αγαθός, ή τοιούτος, και ηδοναι ελεν αν αι τούτο φαινόμεναι και ηδέα οίς ούτος χαίρει, Χ. 5.
This high estimate of the philosophic life is common to all the great thinkers of antiquity; see Grant 1. p. 197. It is echoed in Virgil's Me vero primum dulces ante omnia Musae accipiant, caelique vias et sidera monstrent, G, 11. 475; and in the description of Elysium, Aen. VI. 721. The distinction between the Active and the Contemplative life was familiar in the Middle Ages, and supposed to be symbolized in the persons of Leah and Rachel, Martha and Mary; see Aquinas Summa Sec. Sec. Qu. 180. But our word 'contemplation' is scarcely an equivalent for Aristotle's Dewpla, suggesting rather the Imitatio Christi than the speculations of a Newton or a Kant, or the poetic musings of a Milton or a Wordsworth ; which would certainly approach nearer to Aristotle's conception oi what constituted the joy of the philosophic life.
i See, on the divine principle in man, Grant's Aristotle I. p. 296, and the passage quoted there from Gen. Anim. II. 3. 10, delmetal τον νούν μόνον θύραθεν έπεισιέναι και θείον είναι μόνον.
2 ου χρή κατά τους παραινουντας ανθρώπινα φρονείν άνθρωπον όντα ουδέ θνητά τον θνητόν, αλλ' εφ' όσον ενδέχεται αθανατίζειν και πάντα ποιείν προς το ζην κατα το κράτιστον των εν αυτώ, Χ. 7.
what have they to do with contracts and deposits ? nor brave acts; for what danger can threaten them? nor temperate acts; for what passions have they to need restraint? And yet the Gods are in the full enjoyment of conscious life. If then this life is not one of action, still less one of production, nothing remains but that it should be a life of contemplation. And thus it is in the contemplative life that man approaches most nearly the eternal blessedness of the Gods. The other animals have no share in happiness because they are incapable of contemplation.
Something of external prosperity is needed for the putting forth of that activity which constitutes happiness, but the wisest of men are agreed that what is needful is very small. And if there is any providential care of mankind, surely it is reasonable to suppose that he who cherishes reason above all things, and passes his life in harmony with reason, will be dear to those to whom reason is dear, and consequently under the special charge of the Gods and receive from them all he needs.
Our theory is now complete, but theory has little influence except with the small minority who are predisposed to virtue. The mass of mankind are insensible to appeals to reason or honour. Living by the rule of their passions they know of no higher pleasures than can be obtained through these. What is to be done, if such as these are to be reformed? Some hold that goodness is a gift of nature, some that it comes from teaching, others that it comes from habituation. If the first is a true account, we can ascribe it only to a special divine blessing; the second, as we have said, is only efficacious where the soul of the learner has been duly prepared,
as soil to receive good seed, by being accustomed to like and dislike as he ought; when a man is once enslaved · to his passions, there is no reasoning with him. We must therefore begin a course of habituation early in life. It is a part of the duty of the State to provide a system of public education and to enforce discipline by punishments, and this authoritative control should be continued through the whole of life, as at Sparta. Where such a system does not exist, private individuals should do their best to train and influence for good those who come within their reach. For this purpose it is necessary that they should endeavour to acquaint themselves with the principles of legislation and gain something of the spirit of a legislator. But where and how is this to be learnt? Up to the present time we have nothing but the empirical politics of the statesman, or the doctrinaire politics of the sophist. Aristotle proposes to construct a science of Politics from which to determine the nature of the best State and the laws by which it will train its citizens to virtue.
The sequel to the Ethics, as we might infer from the last sentence, is to be found in the Politics. Before proceeding to the analysis of the latter, I will make one or two brief remarks upon the former. First, as to Aristotle's general conception of Ethics, is he to be called a Eudaemonist? So it has often been said, because he makes cúdaluovia the end to which man's life and actions should be referred. But the well-being and well-doing, the ευζωία and ευπραξία, which constitute the ευδαιμονία of Aristotle, are carefully distinguished from any form of pleasurable sensation. Eudaluovia with him is a particular kind of putting forth of the powers of the soul, which is intrinsically good by itself, quite apart from the pleasure which, as a matter of fact, attends it like its shadow.. Virtuous activity does not become good because it is a means to pleasure; it is good as being itself the end we should aim at. We admire it in and for itself, as we admire a beautiful statue. This view is of course very far removed from the Epicurean and also from the modern Utilitarian. It agrees with these in so far as it determines the quality of our actions by referring them immediately to an end, instead of to an absolute law, or intuitive conception of right; but the end is neither pleasure to self nor pleasure to others, but the perfect fulfilment of the èpyov of man. And to know what this perfect fulfilment is, we must fall back on reason embodied in the judgment of the wise man. It is no doubt a grave defect in Aristotle's system, as compared with Utilitarianism or with Christianity, that in determining the quality of actions, he only incidentally, as in the discussion on friendship, notices their influence on the wellbeing of others; in fact, he nowhere gives any clear statement of the grounds of reason on which the wise man founds his judgment as to the virtuous mean. Secondly, as to the doctrine of the ‘Mean' itself, I think every one must feel that, while it is highly important to insist on balance, proportion, moderation, as an element of a perfect character, yet to make this the differentia of virtue, is both superficial and misleading. Aristotle himself confesses that the definition is not always strictly applicable; and, if we try to apply it to the higher Christian conception of virtue, as love towards God and Man, it of course fails utterly: there can be no excess of