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Nicomachean Ethics   


pity, and in general the feelings that are accompanied by pleasure or
pain; by faculties the things in virtue of which we are said to be
capable of feeling these, e.g. of becoming angry or being pained or
feeling pity; by states of character the things in virtue of which we
stand well or badly with reference to the passions, e.g. with
reference to anger we stand badly if we feel it violently or too
weakly, and well if we feel it moderately; and similarly with
reference to the other passions.
Now neither the virtues nor the vices are passions, because we are not
called good or bad on the ground of our passions, but are so called on
the ground of our virtues and our vices, and because we are neither
praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or
anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed,
but the man who feels it in a certain way), but for our virtues and
our vices we are praised or blamed.
Again, we feel anger and fear without choice, but the virtues are
modes of choice or involve choice. Further, in respect of the passions
we are said to be moved, but in respect of the virtues and the vices
we are said not to be moved but to be disposed in a particular way.
For these reasons also they are not faculties; for we are neither
called good nor bad, nor praised nor blamed, for the simple capacity
of feeling the passions; again, we have the faculties by nature, but
we are not made good or bad by nature; we have spoken of this before.
If, then, the virtues are neither passions nor faculties, all that
remains is that they should be states of character.
Thus we have stated what virtue is in respect of its genus.
6
We must, however, not only describe virtue as a state of character,
but also say what sort of state it is. We may remark, then, that every
virtue or excellence both brings into good condition the thing of
which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing be done
well; e.g. the excellence of the eye makes both the eye and its work
good; for it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well.
Similarly the excellence of the horse makes a horse both good in
itself and good at running and at carrying its rider and at awaiting
the attack of the enemy. Therefore, if this is true in every case, the
virtue of man also will be the state of character which makes a man
good and which makes him do his own work well.
How this is to happen we have stated already, but it will be made
plain also by the following consideration of the specific nature of
virtue. In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible
to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of
the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate
between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean
that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and
the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which
is neither too much nor too little- and this is not one, nor the same
for all. For instance, if ten is many and two is few, six is the
intermediate, taken in terms of the object; for it exceeds and is
exceeded by an equal amount; this is intermediate according to
arithmetical proportion. But the intermediate relatively to us is not
to be taken so; if ten pounds are too much for a particular person to
eat and two too little, it does not follow that the trainer will order
six pounds; for this also is perhaps too much for the person who is to
take it, or too little- too little for Milo, too much for the beginner
in athletic exercises. The same is true of running and wrestling. Thus
a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the
intermediate and chooses this- the intermediate not in the object but
relatively to us.
If it is thus, then, that every art does its work well- by looking to
the intermediate and judgling its works by this standard (so that we
often say of good works of art that it is not possible either to take
away or to add anything, implying that excess and defect destroy the
goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it; and good

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