A Hierarchy of the Good - Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Bk I Ch I - IV
Hierarchy of Goods
Aristotle begins his famous work on ethics with a fundamental premise: Everything we do, all the time, has to do with the pursuit of some good. Now these goods are varied, and each activity, skill, or art has its own good end. For example, medicine is for the good of health, shipbuilding is for the good of having vessels, strategy is done for the sake of winning, and economics practiced for the good of wealth. Yet, he says, there are some pursuits which are more perfect than others because to attain their end is to attain the purpose of the lower pursuits as well. For example, the pursuit of winning a war or nation independence would require all the pursuits above - economic, strategic, naval, etc. Therefore, the pursuit of independence or freedom is hierarchically higher than the previous as the previous are required in the pursuit of the higher.
An Ultimate Pursuit
In so many words, there is a hierarchy of goods, with some being better than others, and an ultimate being best. Having this knowledge as to what is the highest good to pursue, then, will make all the difference in one's life. "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."
The Highest Art
In terms of the highest art or field, Aristotle identifies this with political science. This may seem odd at first, and so needs some unpacking. In terms of relative pursuits of this or that field, politics acts as the director of all the others in a society. Politics says which fields should be pursued, and to what degree. Politics involves guiding all the aspects of human society like the mind governing the limbs of the body. And so a good political system brings harmony to the whole, just as a good man has harmony throughout the parts of his body. But what is the highest good which the highest art pursues?
The Highest Good
1 - Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Book I, Ch. I - IV. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html