Superphysics Superphysics
Chapters 2-3

What is the highest end of action?

by Aristotle Icon
2 minutes  • 360 words

Since all knowledge and moral choice grasps at good of some kind or another, what good is that which we say πολιτικὴ aims at?

What is the highest of all the goods which are the objects of action?

Both the masses and the refined few agree that HAPPINESS and “being happy” are the same with “living well” and “doing well”.

But men dispute about the Nature of this Happiness. Here, the masses do not agree with the wise.

Some say it is of those things which are palpable and apparent, as pleasure, wealth, or honour.

Often, the same man gives a different account of it.

  • When ill, he calls happiness as health
  • When poor, he calls it wealth

Some hold happiness to be something by itself, other than and beside these many good things, which is in fact to all these the cause of their being good.

It is useless to sift all these opinions. I will just sift through those which are most generally current, orthose that have some reason in them.

There is a difference between:

  • reasoning from principles
  • reasoning to principles:[4]

With good cause, Plato too doubted about this. He asked whether the right road is from principles or to principles, just as in the racecourse from the judges to the further end, or vice versâ.

As individuals, we begin with what we do know.

Hence the necessity that he should have been well trained in habits, who is to study, with any tolerable chance of profit, the principles of nobleness and justice and moral philosophy generally.

A principle is a matter of fact. If the fact is clear to a man, there will be no need to add reason for the fact.

And he that has been thus trained either has principles already, or can receive them easily: as for him who neither has nor can receive them, let him hear his sentence from Hesiod:


He is best of all who of himself conceiveth all things;

Good again is he too who can adopt a good suggestion;

But whoso neither of himself conceiveth nor hearing from another

Layeth it to heart;—he is a useless man.

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