Book 01
Chapter 05
What people think makes for happiness.

But let's get back to it. Now, if you look at how most people live, then you can see they live for pleasure, as if that is the way to be happy. Well, that is one way you can live. The second way to seek happiness by gaining honor through service. The final way is from leading a life of contemplation. Now, it seems to be that most people are slaves to their passions and would just assume live fat, dumb, and happy like as if they were just a beast. Yet how to criticize them, when it is a fact that many people in the highest places try to live like Sardanapallus (who was a king famous for wasting much money on luxury and much time doing nothing at all worthwhile)?

But still, if you look into this, you will find that most well-known people are really after honor and think that that makes for happiness. Honor is the goal of political life, and yet, if you think about it, honor does not seem to be great enough to be the thing we should seek. How so? Well, to get it you need for people to give it to you, and people can decide that they do not feel like honoring you even when you really deserve it. Or they can take away your honor. But we really ought to think the good that we seek to be something that comes naturally and is not so easily lost.

What's more, part of the reason why people go for honor is so that they can feel like they are a person of worth. But who do people wish to be honored by most of all? Those who are well-known as being wise. And what do they want to be honored for most of all? Having virtue is what they want to be honored for. So, if you think about it, even the people that go for honor really think that virtue is better. Maybe virtue is the real reason to go into political life.

Then again, maybe not. After all, if you have virtue then you have it whether you are asleep or doing nothing or have got put in a bad way. But no one would point to such a person and say they were happy (unless they were trying to stick to their argument no matter what). Anyhow, we will come back to this later. Third is the contemplative life, and we will also come back to that later.

What about the life of chasing money? People do that only if they have to. Wealth is not the good that we are talking about. Why? Because it is for something else. We are trying to figure out what is the end -- whatever we ultimately do things for. The only way that wealth could be an end would be if one were to hoard it and never spend it. No, we would rather see it suggested this or that thing that you spend money on is the end, or else one of the things we have already mentioned (e.g. virtue or honor).

But there have already been so many arguments made about these things and none of them are convincing. So let us not get caught up here, but rather let us set all this off to one side and move on.


« index »

« subscribe »

« home »