Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Nicomachean Ethics

Previous | Next

Nicomachean Ethics   

are confident for the reasons stated earlier, while these are so
because they think they are the strongest and can suffer nothing.
(Drunken men also behave in this way; they become sanguine). When
their adventures do not succeed, however, they run away; but it was
the mark of a brave man to face things that are, and seem, terrible
for a man, because it is noble to do so and disgraceful not to do so.
Hence also it is thought the mark of a braver man to be fearless and
undisturbed in sudden alarms than to be so in those that are foreseen;
for it must have proceeded more from a state of character, because
less from preparation; acts that are foreseen may be chosen by
calculation and rule, but sudden actions must be in accordance with
one's state of character.
(5) People who are ignorant of the danger also appear brave, and they
are not far removed from those of a sanguine temper, but are inferior
inasmuch as they have no self-reliance while these have. Hence also
the sanguine hold their ground for a time; but those who have been
deceived about the facts fly if they know or suspect that these are
different from what they supposed, as happened to the Argives when
they fell in with the Spartans and took them for Sicyonians.
We have, then, described the character both of brave men and of those
who are thought to be brave.
Though courage is concerned with feelings of confidence and of fear,
it is not concerned with both alike, but more with the things that
inspire fear; for he who is undisturbed in face of these and bears
himself as he should towards these is more truly brave than the man
who does so towards the things that inspire confidence. It is for
facing what is painful, then, as has been said, that men are called
brave. Hence also courage involves pain, and is justly praised; for it
is harder to face what is painful than to abstain from what is
Yet the end which courage sets before it would seem to be pleasant,
but to be concealed by the attending circumstances, as happens also in
athletic contests; for the end at which boxers aim is pleasant- the
crown and the honours- but the blows they take are distressing to
flesh and blood, and painful, and so is their whole exertion; and
because the blows and the exertions are many the end, which is but
small, appears to have nothing pleasant in it. And so, if the case of
courage is similar, death and wounds will be painful to the brave man
and against his will, but he will face them because it is noble to do
so or because it is base not to do so. And the more he is possessed of
virtue in its entirety and the happier he is, the more he will be
pained at the thought of death; for life is best worth living for such
a man, and he is knowingly losing the greatest goods, and this is
painful. But he is none the less brave, and perhaps all the more so,
because he chooses noble deeds of war at that cost. It is not the
case, then, with all the virtues that the exercise of them is
pleasant, except in so far as it reaches its end. But it is quite
possible that the best soldiers may be not men of this sort but those
who are less brave but have no other good; for these are ready to face
danger, and they sell their life for trifling gains.
So much, then, for courage; it is not difficult to grasp its nature in
outline, at any rate, from what has been said.
After courage let us speak of temperance; for these seem to be the
virtues of the irrational parts. We have said that temperance is a
mean with regard to pleasures (for it is less, and not in the same
way, concerned with pains); self-indulgence also is manifested in the
same sphere. Now, therefore, let us determine with what sort of
pleasures they are concerned. We may assume the distinction between
bodily pleasures and those of the soul, such as love of honour and
love of learning; for the lover of each of these delights in that of
which he is a lover, the body being in no way affected, but rather the
mind; but men who are concerned with such pleasures are called neither

Previous | Next
Site Search