Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 3 Part 2

In their consequences

1. Moreover, whenever two things are very much like one another, and we cannot see any superiority in the one over the other of them, we should look at them from the standpoint of their consequences. For the one which is followed by the greater good is the more desirable: or, if the consequences be evil, that is more desirable which is followed by the less evil. For though both may be desirable, yet there may possibly be some unpleasant consequence involved to turn the scale. Our survey from the point of view of consequences lies in two directions, for there are prior consequences and later consequences: e.g. if a man learns, it follows that he was ignorant before and knows afterwards. As a rule, the later consequence is the better to consider. You should take, therefore, whichever of the consequences suits your purpose.

2. Moreover, a greater number of good things is more desirable than a smaller, either absolutely or when the one is included in the other, viz. the smaller number in the greater. An objection may be raised suppose in some particular case the one is valued for the sake of the other; for then the two together are not more desirable than the one; e.g. recovery of health and health, than health alone, inasmuch as we desire recovery of health for the sake of health. Also it is quite possible for what is not good, together with what is, to be more desirable than a greater number of good things, e.g. the combination of happiness and something else which is not good may be more desirable than the combination of justice and courage. Also, the same things are more valuable if accompanied than if unaccompanied by pleasure, and likewise when free from pain than when attended with pain.

3. Also, everything is more desirable at the season when it is of greater consequence; e.g. freedom from pain in old age more than in youth: for it is of greater consequence in old age. On the same principle also, prudence is more desirable in old age; for no man chooses the young to guide him, because he does not expect them to be prudent. With courage, the converse is the case, for it is in youth that the active exercise of courage is more imperatively required. Likewise also with temperance; for the young are more troubled by their passions than are their elders.

4. Also, that is more desirable which is more useful at every season or at most seasons, e.g. justice and temperance rather than courage: for they are always useful, while courage is only useful at times. Also, that one of two things which if all possess, we do not need the other thing, is more desirable than that which all may possess and still we want the other one as well. Take the case of justice and courage; if everybody were just, there would be no use for courage, whereas all might be courageous, and still justice would be of use.

5. Moreover, judge by the destructions and losses and generations and acquisitions and contraries of things: for things whose destruction is more objectionable are themselves more desirable. Likewise also with the losses and contraries of things; for a thing whose loss or whose contrary is more objectionable is itself more desirable. With the generations or acquisitions of things the opposite is the case: for things whose acquisition or generation is more desirable are themselves also desirable. Another commonplace rule is that what is nearer to the good is better and more desirable, i.e. what more nearly resembles the good: thus justice is better than a just man. Also, that which is more like than another thing to something better than itself, as e.g. some say that Ajax was a better man than Odysseus because he was more like Achilles. An objection may be raised to this that it is not true: for it is quite possible that Ajax did not resemble Achilles more nearly than Odysseus in the points which made Achilles the best of them, and that Odysseus was a good man, though unlike Achilles. Look also to see whether the resemblance be that of a caricature, like the resemblance of a monkey to a man, whereas a horse bears none: for the monkey is not the more handsome creature, despite its nearer resemblance to a man. Again, in the case of two things, if one is more like the better thing while another is more like the worse, then that is likely to be better which is more like the better. This too, however, admits of an objection: for quite possibly the one only slightly resembles the better, while the other strongly resembles the worse, e.g. supposing the resemblance of Ajax to Achilles to be slight, while that of Odysseus to Nestor is strong. Also it may be that the one which is like the better type shows a degrading likeness, whereas the one which is like the worse type improves upon it: witness the likeness of a horse to a donkey, and that of a monkey to a man.

6. Another rule is that the more conspicuous good is more desirable than the less conspicuous, and the more difficult than the easier: for we appreciate better the possession of things that cannot be easily acquired. Also the more personal possession is more desirable than the more widely shared. Also, that which is more free from connexion with evil: for what is not attended by any unpleasantness is more desirable than what is so attended.

7. Moreover, if A be without qualification better than B, then also the best of the members of A is better than the best of the members of B; e.g. if Man be better than Horse, then also the best man is better than the best horse. Also, if the best in A be better than the best in B, then also A is better than B without qualification; e.g. if the best man be better than the best horse, then also Man is better than Horse without qualification.

8. Moreover, things which our friends can share are more desirable than those they cannot. Also, things which we like rather to do to our friend are more desirable than those we like to do to the man in the street, e.g. just dealing and the doing of good rather than the semblance of them: for we would rather really do good to our friends than seem to do so, whereas towards the man in the street the converse is the case.

9. Also, superfluities are better than necessities, and are sometimes more desirable as well: for the good life is better than mere life, and good life is a superfluity, whereas mere life itself is a necessity. Sometimes, though, what is better is not also more desirable: for there is no necessity that because it is better it should also be more desirable: at least to be a philosopher is better than to make money, but it is not more desirable for a man who lacks the necessities of life. The expression 'superfluity' applies whenever a man possesses the necessities of life and sets to work to secure as well other noble acquisitions. Roughly speaking, perhaps, necessities are more desirable, while superfluities are better.

10. Also, what cannot be got from another is more desirable than what can be got from another as well, as (e.g.) is the case of justice compared with courage. Also, A is more desirable if A is desirable without B, but not B without A: power (e.g.) is not desirable without prudence, but prudence is desirable without power. Also, if of two things we repudiate the one in order to be thought to possess the other, then that one is more desirable which we wish to be thought to possess; thus (e.g.) we repudiate the love of hard work in order that people may think us geniuses.

11. Moreover, that is more desirable in whose absence it is less blameworthy for people to be vexed; and that is more desirable in whose absence it is more blameworthy for a man not to be vexed.

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