Book One - The General Good and the Good Man
Summary: The definition of good according to Aristotle in book 1 of Nicomachean Ethics is the same thing to which everything strives . But there is a need to distinguish between two different types of purpose for actions, the purpose of the action itself, and a purpose which is results which are different from the action itself, so the results of the action are more equal than the action itself. In addition, there are purposes which are for a particular purpose but also for a higher purpose, for which all the specific purposes are named. When we work for a lofty goal, it does not matter whether it is achieved by the action or by its results. The good is the same purpose to which we aspire, in itself and through other purposes . Therefore we must seek the same good. (It is clear that political science is the one whose good purpose is in the country, and therefore its way can be projected on personal good.)
According to Aristotle we are looking for what is the same thing which is fine and handsome. This requires knowledge of the subject of political science, which a young boy may not have, since knowledge is not the way to find the good, but the act . To find the good one needs experience in life, and the ability not to pursue the desires of life. Only people whose discretion directs their desires and they act accordingly will benefit from knowing about these issues.
There is a consensus among most human beings that the pinnacle of all fulfilling favors is happiness , and a life of happiness equals a good life. But there are disagreements about the nature of happiness, since it depends on the things that human beings desire. It is impossible to argue for universal good, for in every inquiry it is necessary to depart from the point which is already known to us, and not from the mere known. From this it can be understood that only the ‘well-educated’ person will understand the inquiry of happiness.
There are three types of life patterns associated with happiness:
A life of pleasure - to which the crowd is attracted.
Political life - which is the essence of gaining respect. But the good belongs to man per se and is not separate from him . The good virtue is superior to the honor. But even the good virtue is not happiness , for a man can have the good virtue but not do any deed all his life.
A life of thought - which will be discussed later.
The general good is the good in itself . Since everything can be said about it that there is a situation that is good, it is impossible for there to be a separate 'idea' for good, since it will be empty and meaningless. There is no good in anything that has one and only one idea embedded in it . In all actions the purpose is the good that can be actually achieved, and as the number of purposes, the types of good that can be achieved.
The best of all (the best good ) has perfection in it, and therefore there is only one purpose that is complete, a purpose to which one strives for oneself. For Aristotle the purpose of good is happiness , for only to happiness does man strive for himself. And even all of man's other actions are directed to happiness. A condition for a whole life, in which nothing is lacking, is happiness. Therefore, happiness is perfect and sufficient for itself, and the purpose of all human actions.
Man's activity is a mental activity done out of discretion, and the activity of the good man is an action done well in accordance with the good virtue of the action. Fine action over time will make the person happy. Benefits are the actions that belong to the soul, not external benefits. There should be enjoyment in actions which are done in the name of the good virtue, and should be done in the name of the good virtue and not for another external purpose. But inner happiness is also the result of external factors, such as pleasure, wisdom, beauty, familial pedigree, and decent children since man cannot do good deeds without inventions. Therefore, one can associate happiness with good luck and also with good virtue.
Happiness for Aristotle is among the most divine things, whether it is a gift from God or bought by study and habit. Humans who have not been happily blessed by luck, can acquire it by good virtue, learning and habit. Happiness requires perfect virtue as well as perfect longevity, and the role of the state is to impart to certain citizens certain qualities and to make them good and capable of good deeds. A person's life is measured by the actions he has performed during them , actions that are done according to the good virtue will lead to happiness. Stability is required in the actions he does, that only then will happiness depend only slightly on luck and man will be a really good person.
"… Happy as a person who acts according to a good and perfect virtue, and is sufficiently equipped with the external favors, and this not only in a period of time that happens at random, but in days of life in which there is some perfection." (Aristotle / Nicomachean Ethics Book 1)