Ancient words of counsel?

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“It may be said that every individual man and all men in common aim at a certain end which determines what they choose and what they avoid. This end, to sum it up briefly, is HAPPINESS AND ITS CONSTITUENTS. (…)

We may define happiness as prosperity combined with virtue; or as independence of life; or as the secure enjoyment of the maximum of pleasure; or as good condition of property and body, together with the power of guarding one’s property and body and making use of them. (…)

From this definition of happiness it follows that its constituent parts are:

  • good birth, plenty of friends, good friends, wealth, good children, plenty of children, a happy old age, such bodily excellences as health, beauty, strength, large stature, athletic powers, together with fame, honor, good luck, and virtue.

A man cannot fail to be completely independent if he possesses these internal and external goods (…). (Goods of the soul and of the body are internal. Good birth, friends, money and honor are external). (…)

The phrases ‘possession of good children’ and ‘of many children’ bear a quite clear meaning. Applied to a community, they mean that its young men are numerous and of good quality: good in regard to bodily excellences (…) and also in regard to the excellences of the soul, which in a young man are temperance and courage. (…) Communities as well as individuals should lack none of these perfections, in their women as well as in their men. Where, as among the Lacedaemonians, the state of women is bad, almost half of human life is spoilt.”

Aristotle – Rhetoric, 1360b-1361a.

(Translated by W. Rhys Roberts – The Modern Library, New York, 1984)

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