Happiness Depends On Ourselves Essay

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Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotelēs; 384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and a scientist.


Quotations from Aristotle are often cited by Bekker numbers, which are keyed to the original Greek and therefore independent of the translation used. In this lemma quotes are arranged by Bekker numbers (as far as possible).


Categories (Greek Κατηγορίαι Katēgoriai; Latin Categoriae)
  • Of things said without any combination, each signifies either substance or quantity or qualification or a relative or where or when or being-in-a-position or having or doing or being affected. To give a rough idea, examples of substance are man, horse; of quantity: four-foot, five-foot; of qualification: white, grammatical; of a relative: double, half, larger; of where: in the Lyceum, in the market-place; of when: yesterday, last-year; of being-in-a-position: is-lying, is sitting; of having: has-shoes-on, has-armour-on; of doing: cutting, burning; of being-affected: being-cut, being-burned.

Posterior Analytics[edit]

Posterior Analytics (Greek: Ἀναλυτικὰ Ὕστερα; Latin: Analytica Posteriora)
  • Knowledge of the fact differs from knowledge of the reason for the fact.
  • The premisses of demonstrative knowledge must be true, primary, immediate, more knowable than and prior to the conclusion, which is further related to them as effect to cause... The premisses must be the cause of the conclusion, more knowable than it, and prior to it; its causes, since we posses scientific knowledge of a thing only when we know its cause; prior, in order to be causes; antecedently known, this antecedent knowledge being not our mere understanding of the meaning, but knowledge of the fact as well. Now 'prior' and 'more knowable' are ambiguous terms, for there is a difference between what is prior and more knowable in the order of being and what is prior and knowable to man. I mean that objects nearer to sense are prior and more knowable to man; objects without qualification prior and more knowable are those further from sense. Now the most universal causes are furthest from sense and particular causes are nearest to sense, and they are thus exactly opposed to each other.
  • We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses—in short from fewer premisses; for... given that all these are equally well known, where they are fewer knowledge will be more speedily acquired, and that is a desideratum. The argument implied in our contention that demonstration from fewer assumptions is superior may be set out in universal form...


The Physics (Greek: Φυσικὴ ἀκρόασις Phusike akroasis; Latin: Physica, or Physicae Auscultationes, meaning "lectures on nature"), 184a–267b26, as translated by Thomas Taylor, The Physics, or Physical Ausculation of Aristotle (1806) unless otherwise noted.
  • The natural way of doing this [seeking scientific knowledge or explanation of fact] is to start from the things which are more knowable and obvious to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more knowable by nature; for the same things are not 'knowable relatively to us' and 'knowable' without qualification. So in the present inquiry we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but clearer to us, towards what is more clear and more knowable by nature. Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses, the elements and principles of which became known to us by later analysis...
    • A.1, 184a.16 sqq, source:, Book I, Part 1, Tr. R. P. Hardie, R. K. Gaye.
  • But it is better to assume principles less in number and finite, as Empedocles makes them to be. All philosophers... make principles to be contraries... (for Parmenides makes principles to be hot and cold, and these he demominates fire and earth) as those who introduce as principles the rare and the dense. But Democritus makes the principles to be the solid and the void; of which the former, he says, has the relation of being, and the latter of non-being. ...it is necessary that principles should be neither produced from each other, nor from other things; and that from these all things should be generated. But these requisites are inherent in the first contraries: for, because they are first, they are not from other things; and because they are contraries, they are not from each other.
    • Book I, Ch. VI, pp. 53-55.
  • It is necessary that every thing which is harmonized, should be generated from that which is void of harmony, and that which is void of harmony from that which is harmonized. ...But there is no difference, whether this is asserted of harmony, or of order, or composition... the same reason will apply to all of these.
  • [T]he ancient philosophers... all of them assert that the elements, and those things which are called by them principles, are contraries, though they establish them without reason, as if they were compelled to assert this by truth itself. They differ, however... that some of them assume prior, and others posterior principles; and some of them things more known according to reason, but others such as are more known according to sense: for some establish the hot and the cold, others the moist and the dry, others the odd and the even, and others strife and friendship, as the causes of generation. ...in a certain respect they assert the same things, and speak differently from each other. They assert different things... but the same things, so far as they speak analogously. For they assume principles from the same co-ordination; since, of contraries, some contain, and others are contained.
    • Book I, Ch. VI, pp. 57-59.
  • [U]niversal is known according to reason, but that which is particular, according to sense...
  • This opinion... appears to be ancient... that the one, excess and defect, are the principles of things... It is not... probable that there are more than three principles... [E]ssence is one certain genus of being: so that principles will differ from each other in prior and posterior alone, but not in genus, for in one genus there is always one contrariety, and all contrarieties appear to be referred to one. That there is neither one element, therefore, nor more than two or three, is evident.
    • Book I, Ch. VII, pp. 62-63.
  • [T]he first philosophers, in investigating the truth and the nature of things, wandered, as if led by ignorance, into a certain... path. Hence, they say that no being is either generated or corrupted, because it is necessary that what is generated should be generated either from being or non-being: but both these are impossible; for neither can being be generated, since it already is; and from nothing, nothing can be generated... And thus... they said that there were not many things, but that being alone had a subsistence. ...the ancient philosophers ...through this ignorance added so much to their want of knowledge, as to fancy that nothing else was generated or had a being; but they subverted all generation.
    • Book I, Ch. IX, pp. 73-76.
  • [A]ll things as subsist from nature appear to contain in themselves a principle of motion and permanency; some according to place, others according to increase and diminuation; and others according to change in quality.
  • According to one mode... nature is thus denominated, viz. the first subject matter to every thing which contains in itself the principle of motion and mutation. But after another mode it is denominated form, which subsists according to definition: for as art is called that which subsists according to art, and that which is artificial; so likewise nature is both called that which is according to nature, and that which is natural. ...that which is composed from these is not nature, but consists from nature; as, for instance, man. And this is nature in a greater degree than matter: for every thing is then said to be, when it is form in energy... entelecheia, rather than when it is incapacity.
    • Book II, Ch. I, pp. 93-94.
  • [L]et us consider, with respect to causes, what they are, and how many there are in number... this also must be done by us in discoursing concerning generation and corruption, and all physical mutation... knowing the principles of these...
    Cause... is after one manner said to be that, from which, being inherent, something is produced... But after another manner cause is form and paradigm (and this is the definition of the essence of a thing) and the genera of this. ...But it happens... that there are also many causes of the same thing, and this is not from accident. ...seed, a physician, he who consults, and, in short, he who makes, are all of them causes, as that whence the principle of mutation, or permanency, or motion is derived. ...It is, however, necessary always to investigate the supreme cause of every thing ...Further still, it is necessary to investigate the genera of genera; and the particulars of particulars... We should also explore the capacities of the capabilities, and the energizers of the things affected by energy.
    • Book II, Ch. III, pp. 107-113.
  • Fortune... and chance, are said to be in the number of causes... [W]ith some it is dubious whether these things have subsistence or not. For, say they, nothing is produced from fortune, but there is a definite cause of all such things... For if fortune were any thing, it would truly appear to be absurd; and some one might doubt why no one of the ancient wise men, when assigning the causes of generation and corruption, has ever defined any thing concerning fortune. ...[M]any things are produced, and have a subsistence, from fortune and chance... They did not, however, think that fortune was any thing belonging to friendship or strife, or fire, or intellect, or any thing else of things of this kind. They are chargeable, therefore, with absurdity, whether they did not conceive that it had a substance, or whether fancying that it had, they omitted it; especially since it was sometimes employed by them. Thus Empedocles says that the air...
    Thus it then chanc'd to run, tho' varying oft.
    He also says that the greater part of... animals were generated by fortune. But there are some who assign chance to the cause of this heaven, and of all mundane natures... [W]e must consider... whether chance or fortune are the same... or different from each other, and how they fall into definite causes.
    • Book II, Ch. IV, pp. 113-115.
  • [S]ince causes are four in number, to know them all is the business of the natural philosopher, who also referring to the cause why a thing is to all of them, viz. to matter, form, that which moves, and for the sake of which a thing subsists, physically assigns a reason. Frequently, however, three of these causes pass into one: for the cause why a thing is, and that for the sake of which it is, are one. But that which motion first originates, is in species the same with these... [T]here are three treatises; once concerning that which is immoveable; another concerning that which is moved, indeed, but is incorruptible; and a third concerning corruptible natures. So the cause of why a thing is, is assigned by him who refers to matter, to essence, and to the first mover... But there are two principles which are naturally motive; of which, one is not physical, because it does not contain in itself the principle of motion. And if there is any thing which moves without being moved, it is of this kind; as is that which is perfectly immoveable, that which is the first of all things, together with essence and form: for it is the end, and that for the sake of which a thing subsists. So that since nature is for the sake of something, it is also necessary to know this cause.
    • Book II, Ch. VII, pp. 124-126.
  • Since... nature is a principle of motion and mutation... it is necessary that we should not be ignorant of what motion is... But motion appears to belong to things continuous; and the infinite first presents itself to the view in that which is continuous. ...[F]requently ...those who define the continuous, employ the nature or the infinite, as if that which is divisible to infinity is continuous.
    • Book III, Ch. I, pp. 135-136.
  • [I]t is impossible for motion to subsist without place, and void, and time.
  • There is... something which is in energy only; and there is something which is both in energy and capacity. ...of relatives, one is predicated as according to excess and defect: another according to the effective and passive, and, in short, the motive, and that which may be moved... Motion, however, has not a substance separate from things... But each of the categories subsists in a twofold manner in all things. Thus... one thing pertaining to it is form, and another privation. ...So the species of motion and mutation are as many as those of being. But since in every genus of things, there is that which is in entelecheia, and that which is in capacity; motion is the entelecheia of that which is in capacity... That there is energy, therefore, and that a thing then happens to be moved, when this energy exists, and neither prior nor posterior to it, is manifest. ... 474either motion nor mutation can be placed in any other genus; nor have those who have advanced a different opinion concerning it spoken rightly. ...for by some motion is said to be difference, inequality, and non-being; though it is not necessary that any of these should be moved... Neither is mutation into these, nor from these, rather than from their opposites. ...The cause, however, why motion appears to be indefinite, is because it can neither be simply referred to the capacity, nor to the energy of beings. ...[I]t is difficult to apprehend what motion is: for it is necessary to refer it either to privation, or to capacity, or to simple energy; but it does not appear that it can be any of these. The above-mentioned mode, therfore remains, viz. that it is a certain energy; but... difficult to be perceived, but which may have a subsistence.
    • Book III, Ch. I, pp. 137-147.
  • Since the science of nature is conversant with magnitudes, motion, and time, each of which must necessarily be either infinite or finite...[we] should speculate the infinite, and consider whether it is or not; and if it is what it is. ...[A]ll those who appear to have touched on a philosophy of this kind... consider it as a certain principle of beings. Some, indeed, as the Pythagoreans and Plato, consider it, per se, not as being an accident to any thing else, but as having an essential subsistence... the Pythagoreans... consider the infinite as subsisting in sensibles; for they do not make number to be separate; and they assert that what is beyond the heavens is infinite; but Plato says that beyond the heavens there is not any body, nor ideas, because these are no where: he affirms, however, that the infinite is both in sensibles, and in ideas. ...Plato establishes two infinities, viz. the great and the small.
    • Book III, Ch. IV, pp. 150-152.
  • All those... who discourse concerning nature, always subject a certain other nature of... elements, to the infinite... But no one of those who make the elements to be finite introduces infinity. Such, however, as make infinite elements, as Anaxagoras and Democritus, say that the infinite is continuous by contact. ...Rationally, too, do all philosophers consider the infinite as a principle; for it cannot be in vain, nor can any other power be present with it than that of a principle: for all things are either the principle, or from the principle; but of the infinite there is no principle, since otherwise it would have an end. ...it is also unbegotten and uncorruptible, as being a certain principle: for... end is the corruption of everything. ...It likewise appears to comprehend and govern all things, as those assert who do not introduce other causes beside the infinite... It would seem also that this is divine: for it is immortal and indestructible, as Anaximander says, and most of the physiologists.
    • Book III, Ch. IV, pp. 152-155.
  • [B]ecause that which is finite is always bounded with reference to something... it is necessary that there should be no end... 474umber also appears to be infinite, and mathematical magnitudes, and that which is beyond the heavens. And since that which is beyond is infinite, body also appears to be infinite, and it would seem that there are infinite worlds; for why is there rather void here than there? ...If also there is a vacuum, and an infinite place, it is necessary that there should be an infinite body: for in things which have a perpetual subsistence, capacity differs nothing from being. The speculation of the infinite is, however, attended with doubt: for many impossibilities happen both to those who do not admit that it has a subsistence, and to those who do. ...It is ...especially the province of a natural philosopher to consider if there be a sensible infinite magnitude.
  • [T]hey pronounce absurdly who thus speak, as the Pythagoreans assert: for at the same time they make the infinite to be essence, and distribute it into parts.
    • Book III, Ch. VI, p. 158.
  • [I]t is impossible that each of the elements should be infinite. For that is body which has interval on all sides; and that is infinite which has extension without bound.
    • Book III, Ch. VII, p. 159.
  • [I]t's gravity is the cause; and that which is heavy abides in the middle, and the earth is in the middle: in like manner also, the infinite will abide in itself, through some other cause... and will itself support itself. ...[T]he places of the whole and the part are of the same species; as of the whole earth and a clod, the place is downward; and of the whole of fire, and a spark, the place is upward. So that if the place of the infinite is in itself, there will be the same place also of a part of the infinite.
    • Book III, Ch. VII, p. 162.
  • [H]ow will one part of the infinite be above, and another below? Or how will it have extremes or a middle? Further still, every sensible body is in place; but the species and differences of place are upward and downward, before and behind, to the right hand and to the left: and these things not only thus subsist with relation to us, and by position, but have a definite subsistence in the universe itself. But it is impossible that these things should be in the infinite: and... that there should be an infinite place. But every body is in place; and therefore it is also impossible that there should be an infinite body. ...[T]herefore ...there is not an infinite body in energy.
    • Book III, Ch. VII, pp. 163-164.
  • [T]he infinite is in capacity. That, however, which is infinite in capacity is not to be assumed as that which is infinite in energy. ...[I]t has its being in capacity, and in division and diminution. ...[I]t is always possible to assume something beyond it. It does not, however, on this account surpass every definite magnitude; as in division it surpasses every definite magnitude, and will be less.
    • Book III, Ch. VIII, pp. 164-166.
  • Plato... introduces two infinities, because both in increase and diminution there appears to be transcendency, and a progression to infinity. Though... he did not use them: for neither is there infinity in numbers by diminution or division; since unity is a minimum: nor by increase; for he extends number as far as to the decad.
    • Book III, Ch. VIII, p. 167.
  • The infinite... happens to subsist in a way contrary to what is asserted by others: for the infinite is not that beyond which there is nothing, but it is that of which there is always something beyond. ...But that pertaining to which there is nothing beyond is perfect and whole. ...that of which nothing is absent pertaining to the parts ...the whole is that pertaining to which there is nothing beyond. But that pertaining to which something external is absent, that is not all ...But nothing is perfect which has not an end; and the end is a bound. On this account... Parmenides spoke better than Melissus: for the latter says that the infinite is a whole; but the former, that the whole is finite, and equally balanced from the middle: for to conjoin the infinite with the universe and the whole, is not to connect line with line.
    • Book III, Ch. IX, pp. 168-169.

On the Heavens[edit]

On the Heavens (Greek: Περὶ οὐρανοῦ, Latin: De Caelo or De Caelo et Mundo), 268a1 - 313b23
  • The bodies of which the world is composed are solids, and therefore have three dimensions. Now, three is the most perfect number,—it is the first of numbers, for of one we do not speak as a number, of two we say both, but three is the first number of which we say all. Moreover, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
    • I. 1. as translated by William Whewell and as quoted by Florian Cajori, A History of Physics in its Elementary Branches (1899) as Aristotle's proof that the world is perfect.
  • ...suppose α without weight, but β possessing weight; and let α pass over space γδ, but β in the same time pass over a space γε,—for that which has weight will be carried through the larger space. If now the heavy body be divided in the proportion that space γε bears to γδ, ... and if the whole is carried through the whole space γε, then it must be that a part in the same time would be carried through γδ...
    • Book III Ch. II as quoted by Florian Cajori (1899), as Aristotle's explanation of why bodies fall quicker in exact proportion to their weight.
  • That body is heavier than another which, in an equal bulk, moves downward quicker.

De Anima[edit]

  • Sound is the motion of that which is able to be moved, after the manner in which those things are moved, that rebound from smooth bodies, when any one strikes them. Not every thing... sounds... but it is necessary, that the body which is struck should be equable, that the air may collectively rebound, and be shaken. The differences, however, of bodies which sound, are manifested in the sound, which is in energy; for, as colours are not perceived without light, so neither are the sharp and the flat perceived without sound. But these things are asserted metaphorically, from those which pertain to the touch; for the sharp moves the sense much in a short time, but the flat a little in a long time. The sharp, therefore, is not rapid, and the flat slow; but such a motion is produced of the one, on account of celerity, and of the other on account of slowness, that, also, which is perceived in the touch, appears to be analogous to the acute and obtuse, for the acute, as it were, stings; but the obtuse, as it were, impels: because the one moves in a short, but the other in a long time. Hence it happens that the one is swift but the other slow. Let it therefore be thus determined concerning sound.
    • Book II : On the soul; In: Aristotle (1808). Works, Vol. 4. p. 62 (412a-424b)
  • It is not necessary to ask whether soul and body are one, just as it is not necessary to ask whether the wax and its shape are one, nor generally whether the matter of each thing and that of which it is the matter are one. For even if one and being are spoken of in several ways, what is properly so spoken of is the actuality.
  • But voice is a certain sound of that which is animated; for nothing inanimate emits a voice; but they are said to emit a voice from similitude, as a pipe, and a lyre, and such other inanimate things, have extension, modulation, and dialect; for thus it appears, because voice, also, has these.
    • Book II: On the soul; In: Aristotle (1808). Works, Vol. 4. p. 63 (412a-424b)

Parts of Animals[edit]

  • Ἐν πᾶσι γὰρ τοῖς φυσικοῖς ἔνεστί τι θαυμαστόν.
    • In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
    • Book I, 645a.16
  • We should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.
  • The essential nature (concerning the soul) cannot be corporeal, yet it is also clear that this soul is present in a particular bodily part, and this one of the parts having control over the rest (heart).
    • Parva Naturalia 467b.13–16

Generation of Animals[edit]

  • Nature flies from the infinite, for the infinite is unending or imperfect, and Nature ever seeks an end.
  • Concerning the generation of animals akin to them, as hornets and wasps, the facts in all cases are similar to a certain extent, but are devoid of the extraordinary features which characterize bees; this we should expect, for they have nothing divine about them as the bees have.
  • Just as it sometimes happens that deformed offspring are produced by deformed parents, and sometimes not, so the offspring produced by a female are sometimes female, sometimes not, but male, because the female is as it were a deformed male.
    • Generation of Animals as translated by Arthur Leslie Peck (1943), p. 175


  • All men by naturedesire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer sight to almost everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.
    • Book I, 980a.21: Opening paragraph of Metaphysics
    • Variant: All men by nature desire knowledge.
    • The first sentence is in the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 21:10
  • οὐ γὰρ δεῖν ἐπιτάττεσθαι τὸν σοφὸν ἀλλ᾽ ἐπιτάττειν, καὶ οὐ τοῦτον ἑτέρῳ πείθεσθαι, ἀλλὰ τούτῳ τὸν ἧττον σοφόν.
    • The wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not obey another, but the less wise must obey him.
      • 982a.15, W. Ross, trans., The Basic Works of Aristotle (2001), p. 691.
  • That which is desirable on its own account and for the sake of knowing it is more of the nature of wisdom than that which is desirable on account of its results.
    • 982a16, Complete Works, vol. 2, p. 1554
  • πάντων γὰρ ὅσα πλείω μέρη ἔχει καὶ μὴ ἔστιν οἷον σωρὸς τὸ πᾶν.
    • The totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts.
    • Book VIII, 1045a.8–10
    • Cf. Euclid, Elements, Book I, Common Notion 5: "τὸ ὅλον τοῦ μέρους μεῖζον. [The whole is greater than the part.]"
  • If, then, God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are, this compels our wonder; and if in a better this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal.
  • Those who assert that the mathematical sciences say nothing of the beautiful or the good are in error. For these sciences say and prove a great deal about them; if they do not expressly mention them, but prove attributes which are their results or definitions, it is not true that they tell us nothing about them. The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree.

Nicomachean Ethics[edit]

  • If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.
  • It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.
  • The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.
  • Piety requires us to honor truth above our friends.
  • Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking what is peculiar to man. Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition and growth. Next there would be a life of perception, but it also seems to be common even to the horse, the ox, and every animal. There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle; of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of being obedient to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought. And, as "life of the rational element" also has two meanings, we must state that life in the sense of activity is what we mean; for this seems to be the more proper sense of the term. Now if the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational principle, and if we say "so-and-so" and "a good so-and-so" have a function which is the same in kind, e.g. a lyre, and a good lyre-player, and so without qualification in all cases, eminence in respect of goodness being added to the name of the function (for the function of a lyre-player is to play the lyre, and that of a good lyre-player is to do so well): if this is the case, and we state the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity or actions of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function of a good man to be the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.
    But we must add "in a complete life." For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
    • Book I, 1098a; §7 as translated by W. D. Ross
    • Variants:
    • One swallow does not a summer make.
      • As quoted in A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginning to Augustine (1998) by Karsten Friis Johansen, p. 382
    • One swallow (they say) no Sommer doth make.
    • One swallow yet did never summer make.
    • One swallow does not make a spring, nor does one sunny day; similarly, one day or a short time does not make a man blessed and happy.
      • As translated in Philosophical Grounds of Rationality: Intentions, Categories, Ends (1988), by Richard E. Grandy and ‎Richard Warner, p. 483
  • Let this serve as an outline of the good; for we must presumably first sketch it roughly, and then later fill in the details. But it would seem that any one is capable of carrying on and articulating what has once been well outlined, and that time is a good discoverer or partner in such a work; to which facts the advances of the arts are due; for any one can add what is lacking. And we must also remember what has been said before, and not look for precision in all things alike, but in each class of things such precision as accords with the subject-matter, and so much as is appropriate to the inquiry. For a carpenter and a geometer investigate the right angle in different ways; the former does so in so far as the right angle is useful for his work, while the latter inquires what it is or what sort of thing it is; for he is a spectator of the truth. We must act in the same way, then, in all other matters as well, that our main task may not be subordinated to minor questions. Nor must we demand the cause in all matters alike; it is enough in some cases that the fact be well established, as in the case of the first principles; the fact is the primary thing or first principle. Now of first principles we see some by induction, some by perception, some by a certain habituation, and others too in other ways. But each set of principles we must try to investigate in the natural way, and we must take pains to state them definitely, since they have a great influence on what follows. For the beginning is thought to be more than half of the whole, and many of the questions we ask are cleared up by it.
    • Book I, 1098a-b; §7 as translated by W. D. Ross
  • For some identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophic wisdom, others with these, or one of these, accompanied by pleasure or not without pleasure; while others include also external prosperity. Now … it is not probable that these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should be right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.
  • For pleasure is a state of soul, and to each man that which he is said to be a lover of is pleasant.... Now for most men their pleasures are in conflict with one another because these are not by nature pleasant, but the lovers of what is noble find pleasant the things that are by nature pleasant; and virtuous actions are such... Happiness then is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world, and these attributes are not severed as in the inscription at Delos: Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health; but pleasantest is it to win what we love.
  • Everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature as good as it can be, and similarly everything that depends on art or any rational cause, and especially if it depends on the best of all causes. To entrust to chance what is greatest and most noble would be a very defective arrangement.
    • Book I, 1099b.22: Quoted in Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 21:8.
  • The truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow.
  • May not we then confidently pronounce that man happy who realizes complete goodness in action, and is adequately furnished with external goods? Or should we add, that he must also be destined to go on living not for any casual period but throughout a complete lifetime in the same manner, and to die accordingly, because the future is hidden from us, and we conceive happiness as an end, something utterly and absolutely final and complete? If this is so, we shall pronounce those of the living who possess and are destined to go on possessing the good things we have specified to be supremely blessed, though on the human scale of bliss.
  • For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.
    • Book II, 1103a.33: Cited in: Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 21:9
  • For legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark, and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.
  • .... In a word, acts of any kind produce habits or characters of the same kind. Hence we ought to make sure that our acts are of a certain kind; for the resulting character varies as they vary. It makes no small difference, therefore, whether a man be trained in his youth up in this way or that, but a great difference, or rather all the difference.
  • It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good. But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do.
  • Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited … and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult—to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.
  • The vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate.
    • Book II, 1107a.4
    • Variant: Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.
  • In cases of this sort, let us say adultery, rightness and wrongness do not depend on committing it with the right woman at the right time and in the right manner, but the mere fact of committing such action at all is to do wrong.
  • οὕτω δὲ καὶ τὸ μὲν ὀργισθῆναι παντὸς καὶ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ τὸ δοῦναι ἀργύριον καὶ δαπανῆσαι· τὸ δ᾽ ᾧ καὶ ὅσον καὶ ὅτε καὶ οὗ ἕνεκα καὶ ὥς, οὐκέτι παντὸς οὐδὲ ῥᾴδιον
    • Any one can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy.
    • Book II, 1109a.27.
    • Variant translation: Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.
      • As quoted in The Child: At Home and School (1944) by Edith M. Leonard, Lillian E. Miles, and Catherine S. Van der Kar, p. 203
  • κατὰ τὸν δεύτερον, φασί, πλοῦν τὰ ἐλάχιστα ληπτέον τῶν κακῶν
    • We must as second best, as people say, take the least of the evils.
    • Book II, 1109a.34 (cf. Nicomachean Ethics, 1131b: ἔστι γὰρ τὸ ἔλαττον κακὸν μᾶλλον αἱρετὸν τοῦ μείζονος [the lesser of two evils is more desirable than the greater])
  • Therefore only an utterly senseless person can fail to know that our characters are the result of our conduct.
    • Book III, 5.12
    • Variant: Now not to know that it is from the exercise of activities on particular objects that states of character are produced is the mark of a thoroughly senseless person.
  • μεταβολὴ δὲ πάντων γλυκύ
    • Change in all things is sweet.
    • Book VII, 14
    • Remark: While this quote is known as Aristotle's, he did not propose it as his own saying, but as a citation from another author. The full text is: "But 'change in all things is sweet', as the poet says, because of some vice."
  • ἄνευ γὰρ φίλων οὐδεὶς ἕλοιτ᾽ ἂν ζῆν, ἔχων τὰ λοιπὰ ἀγαθὰ πάντα
    • Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.
    • Book VIII, 1155a.5
  • When people are friends, they have no need of justice, but when they are just, they need friendship in addition.
  • The best friend is he that, when he wishes a person's good, wishes it for that person's own sake.
    • Book IX, 1168b.1
    • Variants: My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.
      The best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.
  • After these matters we ought perhaps next to discuss pleasure. For it is thought to be most intimately connected with our human nature, which is the reason why in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain; it is thought, too, that to enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on virtue of character. For these things extend right through life, with a weight and power of their own in respect both to virtue and to the happy life, since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful; and such things, it will be thought, we should least of all omit to discuss, especially since they admit of much dispute.
  • And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace.
  • Now the activity of the practical virtues is exhibited in political or military affairs, but the actions concerned with these seem to be unleisurely. Warlike actions are completely so (for no one chooses to be at war, or provokes war, for the sake of being at war; any one would seem absolutely murderous if he were to make enemies of his friends in order to bring about battle and slaughter); but the action of the statesman is also unleisurely, and-apart from the political action itself—aims at despotic power and honours, or at all events happiness, for him and his fellow citizens—a happiness different from political action, and evidently sought as being different. So if among virtuous actions political and military actions are distinguished by nobility and greatness, and these are unleisurely and aim at an end and are not desirable for their own sake, but the activity of reason, which is contemplative, seems both to be superior in serious worth and to aim at no end beyond itself, and to have its pleasure proper to itself (and this augments the activity), and the self-sufficiency, leisureliness, unweariedness (so far as this is possible for man), and all the other attributes ascribed to the supremely happy man are evidently those connected with this activity, it follows that this will be the complete happiness of man, if it be allowed a complete term of life.

Eudemian Ethics[edit]


Full text online on Wikisource
  • Nature does nothing uselessly.
  • Further, the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except in an equivocal sense, as we might speak of a stone hand; for when destroyed the hand will be no better than that. But things are defined by their working and power; and we ought not to say that they are the same when they no longer have their proper quality, but only that they have the same name.
  • The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole.
  • He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.
  • Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.
  • Money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.
  • Men … are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause — the wickedness of human nature.
  • One would have thought that it was even more necessary to limit population than property; and that the limit should be fixed by calculating the chances of mortality in the children, and of sterility in married persons. The neglect of this subject, which in existing states is so common, is a never-failing cause of poverty among the citizens; and poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
  • It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.
  • Again, men in general desire the good, and not merely what their fathers had.
  • Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered.
  • That judges of important causes should hold office for life is a disputable thing, for the mind grows old as well as the body.
  • They should rule who are able to rule best.
  • The good citizen need not of necessity possess the virtue which makes a good man.
  • A state is not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange.... Political society exists for the sake of nobleactions, and not of mere companionship.
    • Book III, 1280b.30–1281a.3
  • If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.
  • Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions.
  • Even trifles are most important when they concern the rulers, as was the case of old at Syracuse; for the Syracusan constitution was once changed by a love-quarrel of two young men, who were in the government. The story is that while one of them was away from home his beloved was gained over by his companion, and he to revenge himself seduced the other's wife. They then drew the members of the ruling class into their quarrel and so split all the people into portions. We learn from this story that we should be on our guard against the beginnings of such evils, and should put an end to the quarrels of chiefs and mighty men. The mistake lies in the beginning — as the proverb says — 'Well begun is half done'; so an error at the beginning, though quite small, bears the same ratio to the errors in the other parts.
  • Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms.
  • Democracy arose from men’s thinking that if they are equal in any respect they are equal absolutely [in all respects]."
    • Aristotle, Politics, Book V 1301a.29-31
  • τὸ πένητας ποιεῖν τοὺς ἀρχομένους τυραννικόν, ὅπως μήτε φυλακὴ τρέφηται καὶ πρὸς τῷ καθ᾽ ἡμέραν ὄντες ἄσχολοι ὦσιν ἐπιβουλεύειν.
    • It is also in the interests of a tyrant to make his subjects poor, so that he may be able to afford the cost of his bodyguard, while the people are so occupied with their daily tasks that they have no time for plotting.
    • Book V, 1313b.16
  • ... καὶ ἡ εἰσφορὰ τῶν τελῶν...
    • Subjects are also kept poor by payment of taxes.
    • Book V, 1313b.16
  • A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
  • The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
  • Happiness, whether consisting in pleasure or virtue, or both, is more often found with those who are highly cultivated in their minds and in their character, and have only a moderate share of external goods, than among those who possess external goods to a useless extent but are deficient in higher qualities.
  • But for those that are equal to have an unequal share and those that are alike an unlike share is contrary to nature, and nothing contrary to nature is noble.
  • Law is order, and good law is good order.
  • Practical life is not necessarily directed toward other people, as some think; and it is not the case that practical thoughts are only those which result from action for the sake of what ensues. On the contrary, much more practical are those mental activities and reflections which have their goal in themselves and take place for their own sake.
  • Those who live in a cold climate and in [northern] Europe are full of spirit, but wanting in intelligence and skill; and therefore they keep their freedom, but have no political organization, and are incapable of ruling over others. Whereas the natives of Asia are intelligent and inventive, but they are wanting in spirit, and therefore they are always in a state of subjection and slavery. But the Hellenic race, which is situated between them, is likewise intermediate in character, being high-spirited and also intelligent. Hence it continues free, and is the best governed of any nation, and, if it could be formed into one state, would be able to rule the world.
  • Let us then enunciate the functions of a state and we shall easily elicit what we want: First there must be food; secondly, arts, for life requires many instruments; thirdly, there must be arms, for the members of a community have need of them, and in their own hands, too, in order to maintain authority both against disobedient subjects and against external assailants....
  • The soul of man may be divided into two parts; that which has reason in itself, and that which hath not, but is capable of obeying its dictates.
  • The appropriate age for marriage is around eighteen for girls and thirty-seven for men.
  • It is not easy to determine the nature of music, or why any one should have a knowledge of it.
  • There can be no doubt that children should be taught those useful things which are really necessary, but not all things, for occupations are divided into liberal and illiberal; and to young children should be imparted only such kinds of knowledge as will be useful to them without vulgarizing them. And any occupation, art, or science which makes the body, or soul, or mind of the freeman less fit for the practice or exercise of virtue is vulgar; wherefore we call those arts vulgar which tend to deform the body, and likewise all paid employments, for they absorb and degrade the mind. There are also some liberal arts quite proper for a freeman to acquire, but only in a certain degree, and if he attend to them too closely, in order to attain perfection in them, the same evil effects will follow.


  • For well-being and health, again, the homestead should be airy in summer, and sunny in winter. A homestead possessing these qualities would be longer than it is deep; and its main front would face the south.
    • 1345a.20, Economics (Oeconomica), Greek Texts and Translations, Perseus under PhiloLogic.


  • It is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with his limbs but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use of reason is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs.
  • Evils draw men together.
    • Book I, 1362b.39: quoting a proverb
  • Thus every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.
    • Book I, 1369a.5
    • Variant: All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion and desire
  • The young have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things—and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning.... All their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything; they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
  • Wit is cultured insolence.
  • It is simplicity that makes the uneducated more effective than the educated when addressing popular audiences.


  • A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in language ... not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.
  • A whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end.
  • διὸ καὶ φιλοσοφώτερον καὶ σπουδαιότερον ποίησις ἱστορίας ἐστίν: ἡ μὲν γὰρ ποίησις μᾶλλον τὰ καθόλου, ἡ δ᾽ ἱστορία τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστον λέγει.
  • διὸ εὐφυοῦς ἡ ποιητική ἐστιν ἢ μανικοῦ
    • Poetry demands a man with a special gift for it, or else one with a touch of madness in him.
    • 1455a.33
  • But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
  • Homer has taught all other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.
    • 1460a.19
    • Variant: It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.
  • For the purposes of poetry a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility.

The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers[edit]

Diogenes Laërtius, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Literally translated by C. D. Yonge; Henry G. Bohn, 1853. [Dicta attributed to Aristotle in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius.]
  • The roots of education … are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
  • I have gained this by philosophy … I do without being ordered what some are constrained to do by their fear of the law.
  • Liars … when they speak the truth they are not believed.
  • Hope is the dream of a waking man.
  • A friend is one soul abiding in two bodies.
    • p. 188; also reported in various sources as:
      Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
      A true friend is one soul in two bodies.
      Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
      What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.


  • Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas.
    • Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.
    • Variant: Plato is my friend, but the truth is more my friend.
    • A similar statement was attributed to Aristotle in antiquityː "Φίλος μὲν Σωκράτης, ἀλλὰ φιλτέρα ἀλήθεια." ["Socrates is a friend, but truth is a greater."] — Ammonius Hermiae, Life of Aristotle (as translated in Dictionary of Quotations (1906) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 527). The variant mentioned above may possibly be derived from a reduction of a statement known to have been made by Isaac Newton, who at the head of notes he titled Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae (Certain Philosophical Questions) wrote in Latin: "Amicus Plato— amicus Aristoteles— magis amica veritas" which translates to: "Plato is my friend— Aristotle is my friend— but my greatest friend is truth." (c. 1664)
    • Another possible origin of the "dear is Plato" statement is in the Nicomachean Ethics; the Ross translation (of 1096a.11–1096a.16) provides: "We had perhaps better consider the universal good and discuss thoroughly what is meant by it, although such an inquiry is made an uphill one by the fact that the Forms have been introduced by friends of our own. Yet it would perhaps be thought to be better, indeed to be our duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to destroy what touches us closely, especially as we are philosophers; for, while both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above our friends."
      Note that the last clause, when quoted by itself loses the connection to "the friends" who introduced "the Forms", Plato above all. Therefore the misattribution could be the result of the "quote" actually being a paraphrase which identifies Plato where Aristotle only alludes to him circumspectly.
    • According to the notes in Plato: Republic Book X, edited by John Ferguson, p. 71, «the familiar 'amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas' is found in Cervantes' Don Quixote II 8 and cannot be traced further back. Cf. Roger Bacon Op. mai. I vii, 'amicus est Socrates, magister meus, sed magis est amica veritas'. For the opposite view, see Cicero, T.D. I 17,39, 'errare mehercule malo cum Platone . . . quam cum istis vera sentire'.»
  • The single harmony produced by all the heavenly bodies singing and dancing together springs from one source and ends by achieving one purpose, and has rightly bestowed the name not of "disordered" but of "ordered universe" upon the whole.
  • Remember that time slurs over everything, let all deeds fade, blurs all writings and kills all memories. Except are only those which dig into the hearts of men by love.
    • "The Letter of Aristotle to Alexander on the Policy toward the Cities", translated from Lettre d’Aristote à Alexandre sur la politique envers les cités, an Arabic text translated and edited by Józef Bielawski and Marian Plezia (1970), p. 72; translated from an ancient Greek text that survived only in Arabic translation, there is little acceptance that this is an authentic letter of Aristotle.
  • It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
    • Attributed to Aristotle in Lowell L. Bennion, Religion and the Pursuit of Truth, Deseret Book Company, 1959, p. 52, and in American Opinion, Volume 24, Robert Welch, Inc., 1981, p. 23. Possibly a discombobulation of the Nicomachean Ethics Book I, 1094b.24 quote above.
  • Man is a goal-seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for goals.
    • Attributed to Aristotle in Bernhoff A. Dahl, Optimize Your Life!, Trionics International Inc., 2005, p. 111.
  • Happiness depends upon ourselves
    • An interpretative gloss of Aristotle's position in Nicomachean Ethics book 1 section 9, tacitly inserted by J. A. K. Thomson in his English translation The Ethics of Aristotle (1955). The original Greek at Book I 1099b.29, reads ὁμολογούμενα δὲ ταῦτ’ ἂν εἴη καὶ τοῖς ἐν ἀρχῇ, which W. D. Ross translates fairly literally as [a]nd this will be found to agree with what we said at the outset. Thomson's much freer translation renders the same passage thus: [t]he conclusion that happiness depends upon ourselves is in harmony with what I said in the first of these lectures; the words "that happiness depends upon ourselves" were added by Thomson to clarify what "the conclusion" is, but they do not appear in the original Greek of Aristotle.[1] Rackham's earlier English translation added a similar gloss, but averted confusion by confining it to a footnote.[2]
Remember that time slurs over everything, lets all deeds fade, blurs all writings and kills all memories. Except are only those which dig into the hearts of men by love.
Practical life is not necessarily directed toward other people, as some think; and it is not the case that practical thoughts are only those which result from action for the sake of what ensues. On the contrary, much more practical are those mental activities and reflections which have their goal in themselves and take place for their own sake.
That which is desirable on its own account and for the sake of knowing it is more of the nature of wisdom than that which is desirable on account of its results.
The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
The wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not obey another, but the less wise must obey him.
If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.
The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
All paid jobs … absorb and degrade the mind.

... English 7 2013 September 18 Happiness in Modern Society Most people struggle in their lives because of a common reason: seeking for happiness. Happiness is defined in the Webster dictionary as the state of well-being and satisfaction. Out of this definition, which seems to be too general and comprehensive, people tend to offer their own interpretations. Some people believe that happiness exists wherever there is money. I don’t completely agree with this idea because I think how we use money is more important than how much money we have, in order to get happiness. Moreover, apart from money, there are many other things that can make people happy, too. To find out what really matters to our happiness and why we all struggle for seeking happiness, the book Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton will be the best source. By writing this book, Botton sends a message to everyone: to live in a happy life, we must avoid the causes that make us unhappy, such as lovelessness, expectation, and some other factors; beside that, we also need find the solutions to gain happiness that Botton mentions in the second part of the book such as philosophy, art, polictics, religion and bohemia. In my opinion, in this modern American society, happiness is simply earned by doing three things: first, avoiding the “lovelessness”; second, making as much money as you can and...

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