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The Greeks On Pleasure$

J. C. B. Gosling and C. C. W. Taylor

Print publication date: 1982

Print ISBN-13: 9780198246664

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198246664.001.0001

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(p.454) (p.455) Appendix B The Magna Moralia

(p.454) (p.455) Appendix B The Magna Moralia

Source:
The Greeks On Pleasure
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

B.0.1. Some remarks should be made about the treatment of pleasure in a strange ethical work, traditionally included in the Aristotelian corpus, called the Magna Moralia. The general problems of this work are beyond the scope of this book.1 It roughly follows the development of the Nicomachean Ethics as regards topics treated, so long as we take the disputed books V-VII to belong to the Nicomachean Ethics, but it stops after the discussion of friendship. Alternatively, if the disputed books are allotted to the Eudemian Ethics, it roughly follows that book. It was almost certainly composed in the third century bc. What concerns us here is the treatment of pleasure and its likely relationship to the treatments in Books VII and X of the Ethics. Clearly some of what we say will have to be provisional on wider theses about the work as a whole.

1. Sketch and comparison with the Nicomachean Ethics

B.1.1. As in Book VII of the Ethics the treatment of pleasure follows that of self-control and develops as follows:

(p.456) (p.457)

1204a19–30

Pleasure is to be discussed because

  

(i) all think either

  

(a) that pleasure is related to ‘happiness’ or, if disgusted by pleasure

  

(b) that at least absence of pain is necessary, which is close to pleasure;

  

(ii) ‘happiness’ is the exercise of virtue, which is concerned with pleasure and pain.

a31–b3

Some think pleasure is no part of the good because

  

(i) pleasure is a becoming;

  

(ii) there are some bad pleasures and the good is never to be found in badness;

  

(iii) pleasure is found alike in the good and the bad, in wild beasts and tame, but good is unmixed with bad;

  

(iv) pleasure is not the best thing, but the good is;

  

(v) pleasure is a hindrance to right action.

1204b4–1205a7

(A) Pleasure and becoming (Objection (i)).

1204b4–20

(i) Not all pleasures are becomings, e.g. thought, smell, for these are not the effects of want or excess, which are pains. So these pleasures may be good.

b21–37

(ii) No pleasure is a becoming. Pleasure ensues on the righting of a defect, but there is a part of the soul with which we experience pleasure and it is the motion or actualization of this, concomitant with the remedy, that is pleasure. Since the righting is visible, but the part of the soul not, people take the first to be the pleasure.

b38–1205a7

(iii) Pleasure is not a perceived restoration to a normal state, for there are pleasures without such restoration. Therefore: pleasure may be a good.

1205a8–b12

(B) Some pleasures are not good (Objection (ii).

1205a8–16

(i) ‘Good’ is predicated in all the categories; every actualization of good is attended with pleasure, so pleasure will also be good — indeed every pleasure will be good.

a16–25

(ii) Pleasures differ in kind: those of drunkenness and sex do not dispose one in the same way. [So that all are bad does not follow?]

a26–b12

(iii) That some pleasures are bad shows nothing: so are some natures (beetles) and sciences (mechanical), but one judges the quality of X from its successes, not its failures. Similarly pleasure is good in kind, though some are bad since creatures differ (man is good, wolves are bad), and since, if pleasure is a restoration of nature, bad natures will have bad pleasures.

b13–27

Summing up. The opposition view is based on ignorance. They only know bodily pleasures and seeing these to be processes of coming-to-be and/or not good they infer to all pleasures. Pleasures of a normal state are superior to those of restoration.

1205b28–37.

(C) That pleasure is common to all (Objection (iii)).

  

This might be an objection in the eyes of an ambitious person; but that all pursue pleasure shows it to be good.

1206a1–25

(D) Pleasure is a hindrance (Objection (v)). Pleasure intensifies the activity enjoyed, and stimulates the virtuous to virtue. The virtuous do not act in distress — that is a proof of compulsion. But virtuous acts must be done with either distress or pleasure, since there is no middle condition. (So: since not with distress, with pleasure.)

1206a26–30

(E) That there is no skill of pleasure.

  

Cookery is one, and sciences which do not have pleasure as an end still have pleasure in the end.

1206a31–5

(F) That pleasure is not the best thing (Objection (iv)).

  

Parity of argument would show the virtues not to be good. So pleasure may still be good.

B.1.2. (p.458) It is instructive to compare this outline with those of Books VII and X of the Ethics. There is a general similarity of structure; an introduction giving reasons for discussing; an outline of objections to the thesis to be held; and a refutation of the objections. The main difference at the general level is that there is no account of the nature of pleasure to establish the thesis and underpin the refutations. For the rest, the dissimilarities are most noticeable, as can be brought out by the comparison set out in Table I on p. 460.

B.1.3. There is clearly more overlap with Book VII than with Book X, but still, three Book VII objections are ignored (as against seven from Book X), and there are two objections peculiar to the Magna Moralia. One would expect counters to its special objections to be peculiar to the Magna Moralia, but there are also interesting differences in the counters to the common objections (see Table II, p. 461).

B.1.4. Here the rejection of the view that pleasure is a genesis shows overlap with both books of the Nicornachean Ethics, but for the rest it is the lack of relationship with either that is more noticeable. Of course the whole has an Aristotelian air to it; there is talk of ‘good’ being predicated in all the categories, and there is the terminology of energeia. Yet it would be hard to hold that the treatment of pleasure is based on either of the other works. It could certainly hardly be following Book X: there is no trace of a Plato/Eudoxus opposition, and most of the Book X objections to saying pleasure is a/the good are missing. As to Book VII, not only are three of the Book VII objections missing, the main thesis seems noticeably different: the Magna Moralia aims no higher than to show that pleasures may be good. Finally not only are some counters to objections peculiar to the Magna Moralia, so also are some of the objections countered. At the risk of some slight repetition we shall now consider in more detail first some of the objections shared with the Nicornachean Ethics and the treatment of them, and then the objections found only in the Magna Moralia. This will help bring out the special features of this work.

(p.459) 2. Objections common to the Magna Moralia and the Nicomachean Ethics

B.2.1. Objection (i): Pleasure is a genesis. The treatment of this objection is curious. It falls into three sections. In the first the counter is made that not every pleasure is a genesis; in the second that none is, since the genesis is only the occasion for the soul to take pleasure; in the third that pleasure is not a perceived restoration since there are pleasures where there is no restoration because no lack. Except for the intrusion of the word ‘perceived’ there is an air of repetition about the first and third points. On close inspection, however, the first and second points recall Book X, the third Book VII. In Book X (1173b13 ff.) Aristotle explains the view as arising from pleasure and pains related to nourishment; lacking it, and so being distressed, we take pleasure in the replenishment, but pleasures of learning, smell, hearing, vision, as well as memories and hopes involve no lack or distress. In the Magna Moralia too we get (1204b4 ff.) the same explanation of why pleasures of eating and drinking are held to be becomings, with a similar list of counter-examples: hearing, sight, and smell, with thought (doing duty for learning, memory, and hope), are all said not to be becomings because not preceded by distress.

B.2.2. The second counter also recalls Book X. There (1173b4–13) Aristotle argues that if pleasure were a genesis, since it is a physical genesis or restoration, the body would do the enjoying, whereas the fact is simply that when the restoration occurs someone takes pleasure. In the Magna Moralia we get a similar point, differently made It is simply asserted that the opposition make their mistake because pleasure accompanies the observable restoration. In fact, however, the actualization of a part of the soul on the occasion of the restoration is that whereby we take pleasure. Now this is not so close to Book X as the previous point. There is no attempted reduction of the opposition. On the other hand some play is made of the opposition mistaking the restoration, which they can observe, for the unobservable reality — a point of which there is no sign in Book X. So the point might simply be elaborated from elsewhere, e.g. the Philehus, which might explain the soul coming in for (p.460) (p.461) (p.462) Aristotle’s ‘someone’. The general point, however, that replenishments are physical, whereas pleasure is taken by a person or soul, is shared with Book X, and is at least not a point made in this context in Book VII.

Table I

  

Book VII

Book X

Magna Moralia

Introduction:

The philosopher must discuss pleasure, because he constructs the end.

Pleasure is important because of its role in education.

Thesis

Some pleasure is the good.

Either pleasure is the good, or pleasure is hard to distinguish from the good.

Pleasure (some pleasure) is a good

Objections:

Pleasure is a perceived genesis.

  

Pleasure is a perceived restoration.

  

The temperate flee pleasure.

  

  

  

The wise pursue absence of pain. Pleasure hinders thought.

Pleasure hinders ‘activity’.

Pleasure is a hindrance to right action.

  

There is no skill of pleasure.

  

There is no skill of pleasure.

  

Children and animals pursue pleasure.

  

  

  

Some pleasures are base.

Some pleasures are shameful.

Some pleasures are disreputable/inferior

  

Pleasure is a genesis.

Pleasure is a genesis/movement

Pleasure is a genesis.

  

(Pain has two opposites)

Pain has two opposites.

  

  

  

Intelligence, added to pleasure, makes it better.

  

  

  

It is false that what all desire is the good.

  

  

  

Pleasure is not a quality.

  

  

Pleasure is indeterminate.

  

  

  

  

Friends differ from flatterers in aiming at good, not pleasure.

  

  

  

Some things we should want even without pleasure.

  

Table II

Counters:

Pleasure not a perceived genesis since some pleasures related to no genesis.

  

Pleasure not a perceived genesis for Book VII reasons.

  

Explanation of perceived genesis view.

  

  

  

  

Pleasure not a genesis:

  

  

  

(i) genesis only the occasion for someone to have pleasure;

The soul experiences pleasure on the righting of a defect;

  

  

(ii) not all pleasures becomings e.g. thought, smell where there is no prior lack.

some pleasures (thought, smell) occur without prior lack.

  

  

  

‘Good’ is predicated in all the categories, and every actualization of good accompanied by pleasure. Therefore pleasure also good. Different pleasures dispose in different ways.

  

  

  

Some species are bad, and so their pleasures will be bad.

  

Bad pleasures are only incidentally, not naturally, pleasant.

Bad pleasures are only pleasant to things in a bad condition and so are not pleasant tout court.

  

  

Pleasure aids its own activity.

Pleasure aids its own activity.

Pleasure aids its own activity.

  

  

  

Further: the virtuous do not act in distress, because they act freely; and if not in distress then with pleasure. Therefore pleasure cannot be a hindrance.

B.2.3. The third counter, on the other hand, addresses itself to the Book VII opposition, that pleasure is a perceived restoration. The account of the relation of restoration to lack and pain is recalled (it is also in Book VII 1152b33 ff.) and the Book VII point made that there are pleasures without restoration. This suggests that perhaps the author had both the Book VII and the Book X treatments in mind and either realized that there were two different, genesis views, or was uneasily unsure that there were not. The precise degree of relation to these two books is, however, hard to determine. This is most obvious with regard to the second point. For here there are two oddities. First, there is the claim that for any restoration there is a part of the soul that is actualized on the occasion of a (pleasant) restoration. There is no source for this in Book X, but it might be an echo of Book VII 1152b33–1153a2. There Aristotle has an obscure explanation of pleasures of restoration. He says either (a) that in the case of desires the actualization is of the defective state of nature, or (b) that in this case (of restoration) the actualization is of the desires of the defective state or nature. In either case the claim could be glossed as saying that for any instance of enjoyed restoration there is some element of the psuchē that is actualized, and it is this (unobserved) actualization, not the (observed) restoration, that constitutes the pleasure. But if the view is an echo of Book VII, it remains that there the point is made as part of an argument that the pleasures of restoration are only ‘accidentally’ pleasures, whereas in the Magna Moralia it is part of an argument against identifying the pleasure with the restoration, and this aim more directly recalls Book X. Clearly there is no direct ‘copying’ of either book.

B.2.4. The second oddity is the charge that the opposition are concentrating on what is observable, and fail to realize the role of the relevant part of the soul because they cannot (p.463) see it. It is like supposing that a man can be equated with his body because that is visible, while the soul is not — but souls exist. This is not a point which has any ancestry in either of the Nicomachean Ethics passages.

B.2.5. These two oddities, together with the point that both Book VII and Book X arguments seem to have some influence, make it clear that the connection is not in either case as close either as copying or as note-taking.

B.2.6. Objection (ii): Some pleasures are bad, (a) The first counter to this objection is peculiar to the Magna Moralia, and is, indeed, simply peculiar. The other counters argue that it does not follow from the premiss that some pleasures are bad that none is good. Since they are rejections of a hypothetical, they would be quite consistent with the position that all pleasures are good, but in fact the third counter commits the author to the view that some natures/species (e.g. wolves, beetles) are bad, and that the actualizations (=? pleasures) of bad natures will similarly be bad. This first counter seems just to contradict this by claiming that all pleasures will be good. So the first oddity is that this counter introduces an inconsistency with other points made.

B.2.7. The second oddity is that this inconsistency-producing conclusion is not only stronger than what is required, it also fails to follow from the premisses. The argument is as follows: ‘good’ is predicated in all the categories; every actualization of good is attended with pleasure; therefore since pleasure is in all the categories, pleasure is good; since goods and pleasures are in these, and the pleasure that comes from goods is pleasure, every pleasure is good. The most that seems to follow from the given premisses is that pleasure will accompany goods — but not that it will only accompany goods; and it is not at all clear why it is supposed that every pleasure is good. The only way to save the argument is to interpret the sentence that the pleasure that comes from the goods is pleasure as saying that they constitute the set of pleasures. Given that what accompanies a good is good (perhaps that the actualization is the pleasure) then the conclusion will follow, but only via a strained interpretation.

(p.464) B.2.8. The third oddity is the irrelevance of the assertion that ‘good’ is predicated in all the categories All that it seems to contribute, in conjunction with the unqualified assertion that every actualization of a good is accompanied by pleasure, is the absurd implication that the e.g. occurrence of good weather for germination must be, or be accompanied by, pleasure. There is no parent for this confused hotchpotch in the Nicomachean Ethics and it is hard to imagine what the author thought he was up to. If we take the assertion about actualizations seriously we must conclude that he was quite at sea on the Aristotelian thesis about pleasure as an actualization.

B.2.9. (b) The second counter also seems peculiar to the Magna Moralia. The argument is that different pleasures dispose one in a different way (contrast those of drink and sex). The point presumably is that while those that dispose one to bad acts will be bad, those that dispose to good acts will be good, and so the existence of bad pleasures will not stop some being good. The Nicomachean Ethics’ view, that we tend to do what we enjoy and that enjoyment improves and lengthens our indulgence in the activities enjoyed (cf. 1153a 20–3, 1175b13–16), doubtless implies that different pleasures dispose differently. The point is there made, however, in the context of the objection that pleasure is a hindrance to activity. It is not developed or applied, in the manner of the Magna Moralia, to the objection that pleasure cannot be a good since some are bad.

B.2.10. (c) The third counter is to the effect that nothing follows, from the fact that some pleasures are disreputable, about pleasures in general. After all, some natures and some sciences are bad (disreputable), but one judges the quality of X by reference to successful Xs. There are bad pleasures, since there are bad natures, but pleasure is good in kind.

B.2.11. This might seem to be drawing together two points from Book VII of the Nicomachean Ethics, 1153b7–9 and 1154a31–4. But there are differences. The Magna Moralia seems to argue that some species are inferior and consequently (p.465) their pleasures are inferior, but then some species are good and so their pleasures are good. In other words, what seems to be meant by the claim that there are inferior natures is that there are inferior species — and so we get examples such as beetles and wolves. The argument then is that pleasures of inferior species may be inferior, but there are superior species such as man, and their pleasures will be good. As it stands the argument only tells against someone who infers the worthlessness of pleasure from the fact that worthless species indulge in it. This idea seems barely to be suggested by the second passage from Book VII, but the thought might be that some of the pleasures indulged in by humans are activities indulged in by inferior species and so must be inferior pleasures. If so, it is not clearly brought out, though it may be a part of the point of Book VII. Both Book VII and Book X, however, are mainly concerned not with saying that certain pleasures are inferior (phaulos) as characterizing inferior species, but with pleasures that are blameworthy, shameful, harmful, and so on (cf. 1152b20–2, 1173b20–30, 1176a10 ff.), and when (e.g. 1148b15 ff.) there is talk of bad (mochthēros) natures, it is beastly humans, not normal beasts, that the author had in mind. Further, there is no tendency to suppose that because a pleasure is characteristic of an inferior species, therefore it is blameworthy (the view at EN 1154a30 ff. is attributed to others — it is not Aristotle’s); after all, eating and drinking are such, but are perfectly reputable. The pleasures which are base or blameworthy are disposed of as either, in Book VII terminology, not naturally but only ‘accidentally’ pleasant, or, in the Book X terminology as only pleasant to someone in a bad condition and not pleasant tout court. ‘Bad natures’ are corrupt members of species, not inferior species, and what is pleasant to them is not (really) pleasant. Interestingly, this style of reaction is totally absent from the Magna Moralia passage. At 1205b21 ff. we are told that pleasures of the natural state are better than those of restoration, but there is no hint that the latter are not really pleasures. This may be an improvement, but the point is that it is a difference.

B.2.12. Objection (v): Pleasure is a hindrance. While the (p.466) answer to this has something in common with the Nicomachean Ethics treatments, it has a strange added argument: that the virtuous do not act with distress — which is a proof of compulsion (and, presumably, good acts are not done under compulsion) — and therefore must act with pleasure since there is no third possibility. There are two strange features of this argument: first, the idea that a person who acts in distress acts under compulsion, and secondly the idea that there is no third option between pleasure and pain.

B.2.13. As to the first, there is, in the Nicomachean Ethics, a view that ‘involuntary’ acts done through ignorance are accompanied by distress (1110b18–22), but nowhere is the view expressed that distress shows compulsion. Indeed, it is explicitly recognized of a brave man (1117b9 ff. and cf. EE 1229b30 ff.) that he will be distressed at the prospect of death but will still (freely) choose the noble course, and this will, if anything, underline his courage. It is true that Aristotle is here trying to defend his thesis that nevertheless the virtuous man takes pleasure in his virtue, but he does not defend it at the cost of claiming that he enjoys the performance of the deed which shows him brave (for further discussion cf. 14.9.10–15).

B.2.14. As to the second, the Magna Moralia argument is as follows: it is impossible to act virtuously without either pleasure or distress as there is nothing in between. For virtue occurs in passion, and passion in pleasure or distress, and there is no state between But a good man cannot act in distress, and therefore must act with pleasure.

B.2.15. In EN 1106b13 ff. (and cf. EE 1221b33 ff.) Aristotle certainly says that virtue (that is, in context, behavioural virtue) is concerned with pleasure and pain. The argument is: the virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and pleasure and distress follow every passion and every action, therefore the vitues are concerned with pleasure and distress. If we take the statement strictly as that every individual action or passion is followed by pleasure or distress, then clearly in the practical field there is (p.467) no option but one or other. But two points should be made: first the remark need only mean that there is pleasure or pain related to every type of action or passion, and allow that with actions, at least, while there are, say, both pleasant and painful instances of walking there are also others which are neither pleasant nor painful. This would allow the possibility that the actions of a virtuous man are neither pleasant nor painful, and require special argument for the thesis that in fact a good man takes pleasure in his virtue. In fact Aristotle never uses a version of the ‘no middle state’ argument, but relies rather on the thesis that what people love is pleasant to them. Not only would this be a more sensible position, but one would expect Aristotle’s view to yield a spectrum from distress through neutrality to pleasure, without any sudden break. The height of pleasure is achieved by a perfect subject operating in relation to a perfect object. This suggests that a humdrum eye looking at a humdrum picture might not yield either distress or pleasure. On the other hand, seeing, as a type of activity, can be either pleasurable or painful, and has its specific pleasures and distresses.

B.2.16. Secondly, Aristotle’s remark only covers the subject matter of behavioural virtue. It is quite possible that most acts of thought, which are not concerned with action (praxis) or passion (pathos), are neutral with regard to pleasure or pain. In particular, they will not be concerned with passion (pathos), but the Magna Moralia argument baldly asserts that all virtue is concerned with pathos. The options are as follows:

  1. (i) When the Magna Moralia talks of virtue, only behavioural virtue (ēthikē aretē) is meant But since (1197b3 ff.) philosophy is not only a virtue, but one superior to practical virtues, the position will be too weak for the conclusion. We should have no proof that the highest virtue was pleasant, nor that the pleasures of the inferior virtues did not interfere with its exercise.

  2. (ii) By virtue, the whole of virtue is meant. In this case we should have the very un-Aristotelian view that philosophy, along with the rest, was concerned with passions, since (p.468) virtue’s involvement with passion is one of the grounds for the conclusion that it involves pleasure.

B.2.17. This does not, of course show that the Nicomachean Ethics is not an influence, only that the argument used is not simply taken over from that work, but is at best a confused adaptation of points made there. It is of interest, however, in that it sounds like some relation of the Epicurean equation of pleasure with absence of pain.

3. Two objections peculiar to the Magna Moralia

B.3.1. We now turn to the two objections found in the Magna Moralia but not in the Nicomachean Ethics.

B.3.2. Objection (iii): This objection is that pleasure is shared by inferior and superior alike, but the good is not a common possession and has no commerce with the disreputable. As presented at 1204a38 ff. this objection recalls Gorg. 496–8, but nothing in the Nicomachean Ethics. The response to it at 1205b29 ff., however, suggests that it is not precisely the Gorgias point. For there Socrates argues that the vicious experience pleasure equally with the virtuous, so if a good life is one whose subject is in posession of the good, and pleasure is the good, a vicious life will be as good as a virtuous one. In the Magna Moralia the opposition seems rather to be holding that if pleasure is the good, then the good will not be anything exceptional. They would seem to be viewing virtue and the good life as something only attained by outstanding people and perhaps having to be worked for. The objection to pleasure is not that the wicked enjoy it, but that any mediocre Tom, Dick, or Harry enjoys it This recalls a tradition going back at least to Prodicus’ story about Heracles (cf. 1.1.3, 1.1.5). It is, however, difficult to show what precisely the background to the objection is. After all, anyone reading Plato or Aristotle would get the impression that a good life is hard to come by, and so might well think pleasure an odd candidate.

B.3.3. The response to the objection is itself slightly surprising, in that it just appeals to the Eudoxan thesis used (p.469) by Aristotle, that if everything desires pleasure then pleasure is good. It is surprising in that it would be so obviously unconvincing to the opposition. Aristotle, of course, could have replied that the pleasures which are good are ‘real’ pleasures, that these just are the pleasures of a person in a good condition, that the condition is not shared by many, and so neither are the pleasures that are good. But as has been remarked, the author of the Magna Moralia either has not grasped or does not accept the thesis on real pleasures, and so cannot make that move to ‘accept the truth’ in his opponents’ position.

B.3.4. Objection (iv). This objection claims that pleasure is not good because it is not the best. The reply is that by parity of argument courage would not be good, because it is not the best thing.

B.3.5. The obvious puzzle about this objection is how anyone could be so-crass as to make it; and a closer look at the text raises the suspicion that we have here a case of ignoratio elenchi. For when the objection is introduced at 1204b1–2 it reads: ‘fourthly, that pleasure is not the best, but the good is the best.’ A possible, but unlikely translation, ‘but what is good is best of all things’ is sometimes adopted, presumably in order to make the reply relevant; and it might, perhaps, reflect the way the author takes the objection. One suspects, however, that the thesis was in fact that pleasure cannot be the good and was perhaps relying on the argument found in the Philebus that since if knowledge is added to pleasure the result is better, pleasure cannot be the good. Aristotle is, of course, aware of this position, but one could only refute it by rejecting the premiss and so showing that pleasure is the best thing of all This the Magna Moralia never attempts.

B.3.6. In short, it is difficult to be sure whether we have here a report of a position found in Aristotle and misunderstood by the author of the Magna Moralia, or an accurate report of a quite inept objection.

(p.470) 4. Conclusion

B.4.1. To sum up: the Magna Moralia sets up the disputes differently; shows no sign of closely following the order of either book of the Nicomachean Ethics; shows some influence of each, but especially Book VII; omits many of the arguments and objections of those books; contains objections and arguments peculiar to itself; and contains some remarks quite out of tune with, if not inconsistent with, the Aristotelian works. It also argues for a different conclusion, and contains no explicit account of what pleasure is.

B.4.2. In view of all this it is intriguing to speculate on the provenance of the Magna Moralia (or at least this section). If, as some have thought, it was written by Aristotle, he was either very young or very old indeed. For Aristotelian doctrine would have to be either hardly developed or no longer grasped. If young, then he had failed to appreciate the arguments against Eudoxus, and only came to appreciate them in the Nicomachean Ethics X era; but then one wonders why at that stage he ignored those who thought pleasure was a perceived process. If old, then it is odd that his enemies left no rumour of such debilitating senescence.

B.4.3. Yet clearly there is Aristotelian influence. The argument that ‘good’ is predicated in all the categories, that the actualization of a good is accompanied by pleasure, and in general the terminology of ‘actualization’ in relation to pleasure, all smell of Aristotle and not of the earliest Aristotle (see 11.1). Then there are the elements shared with Books VII and X. Such connections are even more obvious if we consider the whole work. As noted above, however, there are some un-Aristotelian features, and an apparent inability to grasp Aristotelian ones, an omission of some characteristic Aristotelian positions and the adoption of arguments not found elsewhere. None of this, of course, would stop it being an emanation from Aristotelian circles. It is quite unrealistic to suppose that (even?) philosophers in the same department either read all each other’s writings, hear all each other’s lectures, understand or agree with all they read or hear, or share the same assessment of the importance of different (p.471) points. There are always those who fail to understand the current jargon or to see the importance of various distinctions or arguments, but still produce work festooned with reminders of better intellects. So it is quite possible that the author was a follower of Aristotle.

B.4.4. The fact remains that the work is disappointing for present purposes. One might perhaps hold that at least the author of the Magna Moralia held the positions expounded there, but the state of confusion is such as to leave one in doubt, where they depart from Aristotle, whether even he had any clear idea what those views were. For the rest we have evidence for the existence of a set of objectors who thought the good should be a rare attainment, without any precise indication of the form or provenance of the view; and just possibly for the existence of some incompetents who argued that if pleasure is not the best thing it cannot be good. The author himself also seems to accept in effect that a good life without distress must be pleasant. One point of interest in considering Epicurus is that the author still thinks it is worthwhile to refute those who hold that pleasure is a form of motion or genesis.

Notes:

(1) See Allan; Dirlmeier; Cooper (1); Rowe (2); Kenny (4), Ch. 9.