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Nicomachean Ethics   


contraries does not produce the contrary results; e.g. as a result of
health we do not do what is the opposite of healthy, but only what is
healthy; for we say a man walks healthily, when he walks as a healthy
man would.
Now often one contrary state is recognized from its contrary, and
often states are recognized from the subjects that exhibit them; for
(A) if good condition is known, bad condition also becomes known, and
(B) good condition is known from the things that are in good
condition, and they from it. If good condition is firmness of flesh,
it is necessary both that bad condition should be flabbiness of flesh
and that the wholesome should be that which causes firmness in flesh.
And it follows for the most part that if one contrary is ambiguous the
other also will be ambiguous; e.g. if 'just' is so, that 'unjust' will
be so too.
Now 'justice' and 'injustice' seem to be ambiguous, but because their
different meanings approach near to one another the ambiguity escapes
notice and is not obvious as it is, comparatively, when the meanings
are far apart, e.g. (for here the difference in outward form is great)
as the ambiguity in the use of kleis for the collar-bone of an animal
and for that with which we lock a door. Let us take as a
starting-point, then, the various meanings of 'an unjust man'. Both
the lawless man and the grasping and unfair man are thought to be
unjust, so that evidently both the law-abiding and the fair man will
be just. The just, then, is the lawful and the fair, the unjust the
unlawful and the unfair.
Since the unjust man is grasping, he must be concerned with goods-not
all goods, but those with which prosperity and adversity have to do,
which taken absolutely are always good, but for a particular person
are not always good. Now men pray for and pursue these things; but
they should not, but should pray that the things that are good
absolutely may also be good for them, and should choose the things
that are good for them. The unjust man does not always choose the
greater, but also the less-in the case of things bad absolutely; but
because the lesser evil is itself thought to be in a sense good, and
graspingness is directed at the good, therefore he is thought to be
grasping. And he is unfair; for this contains and is common to both.
Since the lawless man was seen to be unjust and the law-abiding man
just, evidently all lawful acts are in a sense just acts; for the acts
laid down by the legislative art are lawful, and each of these, we
say, is just. Now the laws in their enactments on all subjects aim at
the common advantage either of all or of the best or of those who hold
power, or something of the sort; so that in one sense we call those
acts just that tend to produce and preserve happiness and its
components for the political society. And the law bids us do both the
acts of a brave man (e.g. not to desert our post nor take to flight
nor throw away our arms), and those of a temperate man (e.g. not to
commit adultery nor to gratify one's lust), and those of a
good-tempered man (e.g. not to strike another nor to speak evil), and
similarly with regard to the other virtues and forms of wickedness,
commanding some acts and forbidding others; and the rightly-framed law
does this rightly, and the hastily conceived one less well. This form
of justice, then, is complete virtue, but not absolutely, but in
relation to our neighbour. And therefore justice is often thought to
be the greatest of virtues, and 'neither evening nor morning star' is
so wonderful; and proverbially 'in justice is every virtue
comprehended'. And it is complete virtue in its fullest sense, because
it is the actual exercise of complete virtue. It is complete because
he who possesses it can exercise his virtue not only in himself but
towards his neighbour also; for many men can exercise virtue in their
own affairs, but not in their relations to their neighbour. This is
why the saying of Bias is thought to be true, that 'rule will show the
man'; for a ruler is necessarily in relation to other men and a member
of a society. For this same reason justice, alone of the virtues, is
thought to be 'another's good', because it is related to our

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