Book 01
Chapter 12
A life well-lived is something we should bow to.

Next let us consider whether happiness is something one should properly clap for (laud) or bow to (reverence). After all, this is something by which we can tell a difference between one good thing and another.

Why do people laud something, generally speaking? People laud things because those things have something good in them which sets them apart from the average and everyday. For instance, people may laud a strong man as being of good strength, a fast runner as being fleet of foot, and so on. People also applaud something as good because it has done something well and got good results. For instance, we applaud someone who is just and has made things right or we salute a general because they have won a victory for us.

Now, how is revering something different from lauding it? We can see the difference if we think about what it would mean to say we applaud the gods rather than reverence them. It would not sound right to say that we applaud the gods in recognition of their rising above the average human. Nor would it sound right to say we applaud Zeus for doing such a good job in sending us rain. The gods are beyond our level. We do not say they are good as compared with us. We say it in other ways, and we revere them rather than applaud them.

So now if we think about it, happiness is a good we ought to do more than just applaud, but rather we should revere it as something well beyond the good things we usually laud; happiness is at a level above them and is not comparable with them.

Eudoxus (who was one of Plato's most famous students) said that the feeling of goodness (pleasure) was the best of things, and to back up his opinion, he used the same type of argument that we are using here. He said that even though having a feeling of goodness is itself good thing, the fact that people do not laud it shows that it must be on a higher level, just as God and the Good are higher. Other things we judge by these things, and not the other way around (viz. we say of some things that they are godlike, but we do not say of the gods that they are like those things).

We applaud virtue because it shows that we approve of it and people are more likely to go for it that way, in order to get our approval. When someone has a done a very worthy act, we go beyond just saying good things about that person but also call them out and talk them up and give them what they are due. We could go further here on how people ought to be honored, but that is more another subject for another time.

At this point we can take it as settled that happiness ought to be revered as being at a higher level (rather than something set apart from the normal, but still on the same level). Now, remember that we said said that happiness is the ultimate good? That means that everything done is done in order to get to it. And that means it makes all those other things happen, because those things were done in order to gain happiness. So, as being the cause of so many good things, you can see it really is something divine, and that happiness ought to be revered.


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