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Nicomachean Ethics   


principle is in the man himself, since he had the power of not getting
drunk and his getting drunk was the cause of his ignorance. And we
punish those who are ignorant of anything in the laws that they ought
to know and that is not difficult, and so too in the case of anything
else that they are thought to be ignorant of through carelessness; we
assume that it is in their power not to be ignorant, since they have
the power of taking care.
But perhaps a man is the kind of man not to take care. Still they are
themselves by their slack lives responsible for becoming men of that
kind, and men make themselves responsible for being unjust or
self-indulgent, in the one case by cheating and in the other by
spending their time in drinking bouts and the like; for it is
activities exercised on particular objects that make the corresponding
character. This is plain from the case of people training for any
contest or action; they practise the activity the whole time. Now not
to know that it is from the exercise of activities on particular
objects that states of character are produced is the mark of a
thoroughly senseless person. Again, it is irrational to suppose that a
man who acts unjustly does not wish to be unjust or a man who acts
self-indulgently to be self-indulgent. But if without being ignorant a
man does the things which will make him unjust, he will be unjust
voluntarily. Yet it does not follow that if he wishes he will cease to
be unjust and will be just. For neither does the man who is ill become
well on those terms. We may suppose a case in which he is ill
voluntarily, through living incontinently and disobeying his doctors.
In that case it was then open to him not to be ill, but not now, when
he has thrown away his chance, just as when you have let a stone go it
is too late to recover it; but yet it was in your power to throw it,
since the moving principle was in you. So, too, to the unjust and to
the self-indulgent man it was open at the beginning not to become men
of this kind, and so they are unjust and selfindulgent voluntarily;
but now that they have become so it is not possible for them not to be
so.
But not only are the vices of the soul voluntary, but those of the
body also for some men, whom we accordingly blame; while no one blames
those who are ugly by nature, we blame those who are so owing to want
of exercise and care. So it is, too, with respect to weakness and
infirmity; no one would reproach a man blind from birth or by disease
or from a blow, but rather pity him, while every one would blame a man
who was blind from drunkenness or some other form of self-indulgence.
Of vices of the body, then, those in our own power are blamed, those
not in our power are not. And if this be so, in the other cases also
the vices that are blamed must be in our own power.
Now some one may say that all men desire the apparent good, but have
no control over the appearance, but the end appears to each man in a
form answering to his character. We reply that if each man is somehow
responsible for his state of mind, he will also be himself somehow
responsible for the appearance; but if not, no one is responsible for
his own evildoing, but every one does evil acts through ignorance of
the end, thinking that by these he will get what is best, and the
aiming at the end is not self-chosen but one must be born with an eye,
as it were, by which to judge rightly and choose what is truly good,
and he is well endowed by nature who is well endowed with this. For it
is what is greatest and most noble, and what we cannot get or learn
from another, but must have just such as it was when given us at
birth, and to be well and nobly endowed with this will be perfect and
true excellence of natural endowment. If this is true, then, how will
virtue be more voluntary than vice? To both men alike, the good and
the bad, the end appears and is fixed by nature or however it may be,
and it is by referring everything else to this that men do whatever
they do.
Whether, then, it is not by nature that the end appears to each man
such as it does appear, but something also depends on him, or the end
is natural but because the good man adopts the means voluntarily

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