Translated by Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page.
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10. But, it may be said, length of time produces an abundance of good actions missed by the man whose attainment of the happy state is recent — if indeed we can think at all of a state of happiness where good actions have been few.
Now to make multiplicity, whether in time or in action, essential to Happiness is to put it together by combining non-existents, represented by the past, with some one thing that actually is. This consideration it was that led us at the very beginning to place Happiness in the actually existent and on that basis to launch our enquiry as to whether the higher degree was determined by the longer time. It might be thought that the Happiness of longer date must surpass the shorter by virtue of the greater number of acts it included.
But, to begin with, men quite outside of the active life may attain the state of felicity, and not in a less but in a greater degree than men of affairs.
Secondly, the good does not derive from the act itself but from the inner disposition which prompts the noble conduct: the wise and good man in his very action harvests the good not by what he does but by what he is.
A wicked man no less than a Sage may save the country, and the good of the act is for all alike, no matter whose was the saving hand. The contentment of the Sage does not hang upon such actions and events: it is his own inner habit that creates at once his felicity and whatever pleasure may accompany it.
To put Happiness in actions is to put it in things that are outside virtue and outside the Soul; for the Soul’s expression is not in action but in wisdom, in a contemplative operation within itself; and this, this alone, is Happiness.
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