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Nicomachean Ethics   

the same people are found offering to teach the arts and practising
them, e.g. doctors or painters; but while the sophists profess to
teach politics, it is practised not by any of them but by the
politicians, who would seem to do so by dint of a certain skill and
experience rather than of thought; for they are not found either
writing or speaking about such matters (though it were a nobler
occupation perhaps than composing speeches for the law-courts and the
assembly), nor again are they found to have made statesmen of their
own sons or any other of their friends. But it was to be expected that
they should if they could; for there is nothing better than such a
skill that they could have left to their cities, or could prefer to
have for themselves, or, therefore, for those dearest to them. Still,
experience seems to contribute not a little; else they could not have
become politicians by familiarity with politics; and so it seems that
those who aim at knowing about the art of politics need experience as
But those of the sophists who profess the art seem to be very far from
teaching it. For, to put the matter generally, they do not even know
what kind of thing it is nor what kinds of things it is about;
otherwise they would not have classed it as identical with rhetoric or
even inferior to it, nor have thought it easy to legislate by
collecting the laws that are thought well of; they say it is possible
to select the best laws, as though even the selection did not demand
intelligence and as though right judgement were not the greatest
thing, as in matters of music. For while people experienced in any
department judge rightly the works produced in it, and understand by
what means or how they are achieved, and what harmonizes with what,
the inexperienced must be content if they do not fail to see whether
the work has been well or ill made-as in the case of painting. Now
laws are as it were the' works' of the political art; how then can one
learn from them to be a legislator, or judge which are best? Even
medical men do not seem to be made by a study of text-books. Yet
people try, at any rate, to state not only the treatments, but also
how particular classes of people can be cured and should be
treated-distinguishing the various habits of body; but while this
seems useful to experienced people, to the inexperienced it is
valueless. Surely, then, while collections of laws, and of
constitutions also, may be serviceable to those who can study them and
judge what is good or bad and what enactments suit what circumstances,
those who go through such collections without a practised faculty will
not have right judgement (unless it be as a spontaneous gift of
nature), though they may perhaps become more intelligent in such
Now our predecessors have left the subject of legislation to us
unexamined; it is perhaps best, therefore, that we should ourselves
study it, and in general study the question of the constitution, in
order to complete to the best of our ability our philosophy of human
nature. First, then, if anything has been said well in detail by
earlier thinkers, let us try to review it; then in the light of the
constitutions we have collected let us study what sorts of influence
preserve and destroy states, and what sorts preserve or destroy the
particular kinds of constitution, and to what causes it is due that
some are well and others ill administered. When these have been
studied we shall perhaps be more likely to see with a comprehensive
view, which constitution is best, and how each must be ordered, and
what laws and customs it must use, if it is to be at its best. Let us
make a beginning of our discussion.
Nicomachean Ethics
By Aristotle
Written 350 B.C.E 1
Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual
virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for
which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue
comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one

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