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Nicomachean Ethics   


But though our present account is of this nature we must give what
help we can. First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature
of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in the
case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things
imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things); both
excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly
drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the
health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases
and preserves it. So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and
courage and the other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears
everything and does not stand his ground against anything becomes a
coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every
danger becomes rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every
pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man
who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible;
temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and
preserved by the mean.
But not only are the sources and causes of their origination and
growth the same as those of their destruction, but also the sphere of
their actualization will be the same; for this is also true of the
things which are more evident to sense, e.g. of strength; it is
produced by taking much food and undergoing much exertion, and it is
the strong man that will be most able to do these things. So too is it
with the virtues; by abstaining from pleasures we become temperate,
and it is when we have become so that we are most able to abstain from
them; and similarly too in the case of courage; for by being
habituated to despise things that are terrible and to stand our ground
against them we become brave, and it is when we have become so that we
shall be most able to stand our ground against them.
3
We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain
that ensues on acts; for the man who abstains from bodily pleasures
and delights in this very fact is temperate, while the man who is
annoyed at it is self-indulgent, and he who stands his ground against
things that are terrible and delights in this or at least is not
pained is brave, while the man who is pained is a coward. For moral
excellence is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on account of
the pleasure that we do bad things, and on account of the pain that we
abstain from noble ones. Hence we ought to have been brought up in a
particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to
delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is
the right education.
Again, if the virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and
every passion and every action is accompanied by pleasure and pain,
for this reason also virtue will be concerned with pleasures and
pains. This is indicated also by the fact that punishment is inflicted
by these means; for it is a kind of cure, and it is the nature of
cures to be effected by contraries.
Again, as we said but lately, every state of soul has a nature
relative to and concerned with the kind of things by which it tends to
be made worse or better; but it is by reason of pleasures and pains
that men become bad, by pursuing and avoiding these- either the
pleasures and pains they ought not or when they ought not or as they
ought not, or by going wrong in one of the other similar ways that may
be distinguished. Hence men even define the virtues as certain states
of impassivity and rest; not well, however, because they speak
absolutely, and do not say 'as one ought' and 'as one ought not' and
'when one ought or ought not', and the other things that may be added.
We assume, then, that this kind of excellence tends to do what is best
with regard to pleasures and pains, and vice does the contrary.
The following facts also may show us that virtue and vice are
concerned with these same things. There being three objects of choice
and three of avoidance, the noble, the advantageous, the pleasant, and
their contraries, the base, the injurious, the painful, about all of

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