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Nicomachean Ethics   


us even to make a jest of such. The refined and well-bred man,
therefore, will be as we have described, being as it were a law to
himself.
Such, then, is the man who observes the mean, whether he be called
tactful or ready-witted. The buffoon, on the other hand, is the slave
of his sense of humour, and spares neither himself nor others if he
can raise a laugh, and says things none of which a man of refinement
would say, and to some of which he would not even listen. The boor,
again, is useless for such social intercourse; for he contributes
nothing and finds fault with everything. But relaxation and amusement
are thought to be a necessary element in life.
The means in life that have been described, then, are three in number,
and are all concerned with an interchange of words and deeds of some
kind. They differ, however, in that one is concerned with truth; and
the other two with pleasantness. Of those concerned with pleasure, one
is displayed in jests, the other in the general social intercourse of
life.
9
Shame should not be described as a virtue; for it is more like a
feeling than a state of character. It is defined, at any rate, as a
kind of fear of dishonour, and produces an effect similar to that
produced by fear of danger; for people who feel disgraced blush, and
those who fear death turn pale. Both, therefore, seem to be in a sense
bodily conditions, which is thought to be characteristic of feeling
rather than of a state of character.
The feeling is not becoming to every age, but only to youth. For we
think young people should be prone to the feeling of shame because
they live by feeling and therefore commit many errors, but are
restrained by shame; and we praise young people who are prone to this
feeling, but an older person no one would praise for being prone to
the sense of disgrace, since we think he should not do anything that
need cause this sense. For the sense of disgrace is not even
characteristic of a good man, since it is consequent on bad actions
(for such actions should not be done; and if some actions are
disgraceful in very truth and others only according to common opinion,
this makes no difference; for neither class of actions should be done,
so that no disgrace should be felt); and it is a mark of a bad man
even to be such as to do any disgraceful action. To be so constituted
as to feel disgraced if one does such an action, and for this reason
to think oneself good, is absurd; for it is for voluntary actions that
shame is felt, and the good man will never voluntarily do bad actions.
But shame may be said to be conditionally a good thing; if a good man
does such actions, he will feel disgraced; but the virtues are not
subject to such a qualification. And if shamelessness-not to be
ashamed of doing base actions-is bad, that does not make it good to be
ashamed of doing such actions. Continence too is not virtue, but a
mixed sort of state; this will be shown later. Now, however, let us
discuss justice.
Nicomachean Ethics
By Aristotle
Written 350 B.C.E 1
With regards to justice and injustice we must (1) consider what kind
of actions they are concerned with, (2) what sort of mean justice is,
and (3) between what extremes the just act is intermediate. Our
investigation shall follow the same course as the preceding
discussions.
We see that all men mean by justice that kind of state of character
which makes people disposed to do what is just and makes them act
justly and wish for what is just; and similarly by injustice that
state which makes them act unjustly and wish for what is unjust. Let
us too, then, lay this down as a general basis. For the same is not
true of the sciences and the faculties as of states of character. A
faculty or a science which is one and the same is held to relate to
contrary objects, but a state of character which is one of two

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