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Nicomachean Ethics   


view of virtue taken as a whole; for the law bids us practise every
virtue and forbids us to practise any vice. And the things that tend
to produce virtue taken as a whole are those of the acts prescribed by
the law which have been prescribed with a view to education for the
common good. But with regard to the education of the individual as
such, which makes him without qualification a good man, we must
determine later whether this is the function of the political art or
of another; for perhaps it is not the same to be a good man and a good
citizen of any state taken at random.
Of particular justice and that which is just in the corresponding
sense, (A) one kind is that which is manifested in distributions of
honour or money or the other things that fall to be divided among
those who have a share in the constitution (for in these it is
possible for one man to have a share either unequal or equal to that
of another), and (B) one is that which plays a rectifying part in
transactions between man and man. Of this there are two divisions; of
transactions (1) some are voluntary and (2) others involuntary-
voluntary such transactions as sale, purchase, loan for consumption,
pledging, loan for use, depositing, letting (they are called voluntary
because the origin of these transactions is voluntary), while of the
involuntary (a) some are clandestine, such as theft, adultery,
poisoning, procuring, enticement of slaves, assassination, false
witness, and (b) others are violent, such as assault, imprisonment,
murder, robbery with violence, mutilation, abuse, insult.
3
(A) We have shown that both the unjust man and the unjust act are
unfair or unequal; now it is clear that there is also an intermediate
between the two unequals involved in either case. And this is the
equal; for in any kind of action in which there's a more and a less
there is also what is equal. If, then, the unjust is unequal, just is
equal, as all men suppose it to be, even apart from argument. And
since the equal is intermediate, the just will be an intermediate. Now
equality implies at least two things. The just, then, must be both
intermediate and equal and relative (i.e. for certain persons). And
since the equall intermediate it must be between certain things (which
are respectively greater and less); equal, it involves two things; qua
just, it is for certain people. The just, therefore, involves at least
four terms; for the persons for whom it is in fact just are two, and
the things in which it is manifested, the objects distributed, are
two. And the same equality will exist between the persons and between
the things concerned; for as the latter the things concerned-are
related, so are the former; if they are not equal, they will not have
what is equal, but this is the origin of quarrels and complaints-when
either equals have and are awarded unequal shares, or unequals equal
shares. Further, this is plain from the fact that awards should be
'according to merit'; for all men agree that what is just in
distribution must be according to merit in some sense, though they do
not all specify the same sort of merit, but democrats identify it with
the status of freeman, supporters of oligarchy with wealth (or with
noble birth), and supporters of aristocracy with excellence.
The just, then, is a species of the proportionate (proportion being
not a property only of the kind of number which consists of abstract
units, but of number in general). For proportion is equality of
ratios, and involves four terms at least (that discrete proportion
involves four terms is plain, but so does continuous proportion, for
it uses one term as two and mentions it twice; e.g. 'as the line A is
to the line B, so is the line B to the line C'; the line B, then, has
been mentioned twice, so that if the line B be assumed twice, the
proportional terms will be four); and the just, too, involves at least
four terms, and the ratio between one pair is the same as that between
the other pair; for there is a similar distinction between the persons
and between the things. As the term A, then, is to B, so will C be to
D, and therefore, alternando, as A is to C, B will be to D. Therefore
also the whole is in the same ratio to the whole; and this coupling

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