II

If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or capacities it is the object. It would seem to belong to the most authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art. And politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each class of citizens should learn and up to what point they should learn them; and we see even the most highly esteemed of capacities to fall under this, e.g. strategy, economics, rhetoric; now, since politics uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from, the end of this science must include those of the others, so that this end must be the good for man. For even if the end is the same for a single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events something greater and more complete whether to attain or to preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states. These, then, are the ends at which our inquiry aims, since it is political science, in one sense of that term.


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Forward to Nicomachean Ethics: Book I: Section III
In this section of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle seems to offer an argument for the existence of a single "best good," but he is in fact offering a conditional argument for what the highest motivating end would be, if existent. He presents a dichotomy: Either desire is empty and futile, or it is not. Supposing that desire is not futile, he proposes the following:
IF (p): there were a single end motivating all human actions and wishes—an end desirable per se,

THEN (q): such end would obviously be "the best good".

This conditional argument is not offered with any supporting evidence, and it need not be. By itself, the statement is axiomatic: IF there were only one thing we were to choose because of itself, THEN that one thing would be called good. Aristotle proposes only that 'the putative single end which is desirable per se', be renamed, "the best good". Accepting this only obliges us to agree to regard a putative, single, intrinsically desirable end as being "good".

Aristotle’s argument is perfectly acceptable, even without a detailed description of what is "good", because he is proposing only a hypothetical situation. Although it may appear on first reading that Aristotle asserts that there IS a single "best good", he does not. The appearance to the contrary is owed to the subjunctive mood of English, which, while existent, is not readily distinguished from the indicative mood. The inclusion of the words, "Suppose," and "if," are evidence that the passage was written entirely in the subjunctive mood. He leaves open the possibilities that desire is either empty and futile (and that therefore there is NO ultimate end); or that there is more than one intrinsically desirable thing.

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