In "The Art of Rhetoric" Chapter 1.7, Aristotle presents a list of conditions determining which good out of two goods is the more expedient.
- If, of two things, one is an end and the other is not, the one that is an end is a greater good, because it is chosen for its own sake, whereas the other is chosen for the sake of something else, as exercise is chosen for the sake of physical fitness.
- If A is a beginning and B is not, then A is the greater good, and if A is a cause and B is not, then A is the greater good. The principle is the same in both cases: it is impossible for anything to exist or to come into existence without a cause and a beginning.
The way I currently understand this, this is a clear contradiction. In one instance the thing which is the "end" is considered the greater good, and in another the thing which is considered the "beginning".
For example, is "exercise" not the "beginning" of "physical fitness"?
- Anything scarcer is a greater good than anything abundant, as gold is a greater good than iron, despite being less useful. The possession of gold is a greater good because it is harder to come by.
- In another sense, however, anything abundant is a greater good than anything scarce, since the use of the former exceeds that of the latter, in so far as 'often' exceeds 'seldom'. Hence the saying that 'Water is best.'
How should I understand these contradictions? They are clearly recognized by Aristotle. But, doesn't it undermine the attempt at determining the "greater good"?