Happiness and the external goods


At the end of the function argument of NE i 7, Aristotle offers an initial description of his view of the human good or happiness (eudaimonia). He tells us that. the human good turns out to be activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are several virtues, in accordance with the best and most complete. Again, this must be over a complete life. For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day. Neither does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy. (1098a16-20). Immediately after presenting these statements, Aristotle says: “So let this serve as an outline of the good, since perhaps we have first to make a rough sketch, and then fill it in later” (1098a20-22). The main points of this rough sketch are that eudaimonia involves activity in accordance with virtue, and it involves a complete life. With respect to the first point, Aristotle will later distinguish between virtues of character and virtues of thought (NE i 13). Virtues of character include such dispositions as temperance, courage, generosity, and justice, which are studied in some detail in books 2-5. Virtues of thought, demarcated in NE vi, include, especially, wisdom (σοφία) and practical wisdom (φρόνησις). It is also argued, in NE x 7-8, that the activities flowing from these virtues are primary components of eudaimonia. Thus, many of the inquiries that follow NE i 7 carry out the project of “filling in” its rough sketch of eudaimonia. The investigations of the different virtues and their activities, however, are not the only investigations relevant for working out the details of the account of eudaimonia. NE i 8-12 clearly also assign a role in the happy life to goods other than the virtues. Thus, at the end of i 10, Aristotle appears to arrive at a revised statement of his earlier sketch of eudaimonia:. What is to prevent us, then, from concluding that the happy person is the one who, adequately furnished with external goods, engages in activities in accordance with complete virtue, not for just any period of time but over a complete life?. (1101a14-16).

Publication Title

The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics