Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Nicomachean Ethics



Previous | Next
                  

Nicomachean Ethics   


reason and cultivates it seems to be both in the best state of mind
and most dear to the gods. For if the gods have any care for human
affairs, as they are thought to have, it would be reasonable both that
they should delight in that which was best and most akin to them (i.e.
reason) and that they should reward those who love and honour this
most, as caring for the things that are dear to them and acting both
rightly and nobly. And that all these attributes belong most of all to
the philosopher is manifest. He, therefore, is the dearest to the
gods. And he who is that will presumably be also the happiest; so that
in this way too the philosopher will more than any other be happy.
9
If these matters and the virtues, and also friendship and pleasure,
have been dealt with sufficiently in outline, are we to suppose that
our programme has reached its end? Surely, as the saying goes, where
there are things to be done the end is not to survey and recognize the
various things, but rather to do them; with regard to virtue, then, it
is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it, or try any
other way there may be of becoming good. Now if arguments were in
themselves enough to make men good, they would justly, as Theognis
says, have won very great rewards, and such rewards should have been
provided; but as things are, while they seem to have power to
encourage and stimulate the generous-minded among our youth, and to
make a character which is gently born, and a true lover of what is
noble, ready to be possessed by virtue, they are not able to encourage
the many to nobility and goodness. For these do not by nature obey the
sense of shame, but only fear, and do not abstain from bad acts
because of their baseness but through fear of punishment; living by
passion they pursue their own pleasures and the means to them, and and
the opposite pains, and have not even a conception of what is noble
and truly pleasant, since they have never tasted it. What argument
would remould such people? It is hard, if not impossible, to remove by
argument the traits that have long since been incorporated in the
character; and perhaps we must be content if, when all the influences
by which we are thought to become good are present, we get some
tincture of virtue.
Now some think that we are made good by nature, others by habituation,
others by teaching. Nature's part evidently does not depend on us, but
as a result of some divine causes is present in those who are truly
fortunate; while argument and teaching, we may suspect, are not
powerful with all men, but the soul of the student must first have
been cultivated by means of habits for noble joy and noble hatred,
like earth which is to nourish the seed. For he who lives as passion
directs will not hear argument that dissuades him, nor understand it
if he does; and how can we persuade one in such a state to change his
ways? And in general passion seems to yield not to argument but to
force. The character, then, must somehow be there already with a
kinship to virtue, loving what is noble and hating what is base.
But it is difficult to get from youth up a right training for virtue
if one has not been brought up under right laws; for to live
temperately and hardily is not pleasant to most people, especially
when they are young. For this reason their nurture and occupations
should be fixed by law; for they will not be painful when they have
become customary. But it is surely not enough that when they are young
they should get the right nurture and attention; since they must, even
when they are grown up, practise and be habituated to them, we shall
need laws for this as well, and generally speaking to cover the whole
of life; for most people obey necessity rather than argument, and
punishments rather than the sense of what is noble.
This is why some think that legislators ought to stimulate men to
virtue and urge them forward by the motive of the noble, on the
assumption that those who have been well advanced by the formation of
habits will attend to such influences; and that punishments and
penalties should be imposed on those who disobey and are of inferior
nature, while the incurably bad should be completely banished. A good

Previous | Next
Site Search