Book 01
Chapter 04
Happiness is "the good" we are all trying to get.

Let us go on now. We said that everything tries to get at some good, and we said also that Politics is over and above everything else and Politics tries to get at something, something that is better than any other thing. Now, what is this?

Pretty much everyone, philosopher or not, would agree, at least, that this thing, whatever it is, can and should be called happiness. We think of happiness as being in a good way. But what it is that makes for happiness, people have different opinions about that.

If you ask the average person, they will tell you happiness is something plain and obvious. One person says feeling good (pleasure) makes him happy, another one says having money makes him happy, and another will tell you that being honored means being happy.

Often the very same person changes their mind about this. If they are sick, then they say they would be happy if they were healthy. If they are poor, then they say they would be happy if they had some money. But, they know that they do not really know what it is, and so they admire those who say it is something so great and so far beyond that people cannot ever begin to understand it.

Now there are some thinkers who have said that besides the various things people think make for happiness, there is something else that comes before these and is the cause of the goodness in each and every one of them. But it would take too long to go over everything that has been said about this topic. So let us go over the opinions that have proven the most popular, if not the best.

Also, let us not forget about those first things which we are going to build on. Plato used to ask whether we were building up from the basics or getting down to the bottom of things. We are building off of the basics. Here I mean, certain truths which we are going to take to be self-evident. We are going to go off of these, and we are not going to try to prove them. I mean here, the basics of what is good and not good.

Anyone who was brought up right knows good from bad. They will recognize such things when they see them, and if someone does not, we are not going to take extra trouble to explain it to them. It is like Hesiod says:

The person who can and does understand it all is the best. / One who can take good advice is also good. / But one who does not understand, and will not listen / to the good words of another? Such a one is good-for-nothing.


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