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Nicomachean Ethics   


now in one way, now in another, e.g. droughts and rains; nor about
chance events, like the finding of treasure. But we do not deliberate
even about all human affairs; for instance, no Spartan deliberates
about the best constitution for the Scythians. For none of these
things can be brought about by our own efforts.
We deliberate about things that are in our power and can be done; and
these are in fact what is left. For nature, necessity, and chance are
thought to be causes, and also reason and everything that depends on
man. Now every class of men deliberates about the things that can be
done by their own efforts. And in the case of exact and self-contained
sciences there is no deliberation, e.g. about the letters of the
alphabet (for we have no doubt how they should be written); but the
things that are brought about by our own efforts, but not always in
the same way, are the things about which we deliberate, e.g. questions
of medical treatment or of money-making. And we do so more in the case
of the art of navigation than in that of gymnastics, inasmuch as it
has been less exactly worked out, and again about other things in the
same ratio, and more also in the case of the arts than in that of the
sciences; for we have more doubt about the former. Deliberation is
concerned with things that happen in a certain way for the most part,
but in which the event is obscure, and with things in which it is
indeterminate. We call in others to aid us in deliberation on
important questions, distrusting ourselves as not being equal to
deciding.
We deliberate not about ends but about means. For a doctor does not
deliberate whether he shall heal, nor an orator whether he shall
persuade, nor a statesman whether he shall produce law and order, nor
does any one else deliberate about his end. They assume the end and
consider how and by what means it is to be attained; and if it seems
to be produced by several means they consider by which it is most
easily and best produced, while if it is achieved by one only they
consider how it will be achieved by this and by what means this will
be achieved, till they come to the first cause, which in the order of
discovery is last. For the person who deliberates seems to investigate
and analyse in the way described as though he were analysing a
geometrical construction (not all investigation appears to be
deliberation- for instance mathematical investigations- but all
deliberation is investigation), and what is last in the order of
analysis seems to be first in the order of becoming. And if we come on
an impossibility, we give up the search, e.g. if we need money and
this cannot be got; but if a thing appears possible we try to do it.
By 'possible' things I mean things that might be brought about by our
own efforts; and these in a sense include things that can be brought
about by the efforts of our friends, since the moving principle is in
ourselves. The subject of investigation is sometimes the instruments,
sometimes the use of them; and similarly in the other cases- sometimes
the means, sometimes the mode of using it or the means of bringing it
about. It seems, then, as has been said, that man is a moving
principle of actions; now deliberation is about the things to be done
by the agent himself, and actions are for the sake of things other
than themselves. For the end cannot be a subject of deliberation, but
only the means; nor indeed can the particular facts be a subject of
it, as whether this is bread or has been baked as it should; for these
are matters of perception. If we are to be always deliberating, we
shall have to go on to infinity.
The same thing is deliberated upon and is chosen, except that the
object of choice is already determinate, since it is that which has
been decided upon as a result of deliberation that is the object of
choice. For every one ceases to inquire how he is to act when he has
brought the moving principle back to himself and to the ruling part of
himself; for this is what chooses. This is plain also from the ancient
constitutions, which Homer represented; for the kings announced their
choices to the people. The object of choice being one of the things in
our own power which is desired after deliberation, choice will be

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