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Nicomachean Ethics   


under compulsion and unwillingly fails to return the deposit must be
said to act unjustly, and to do what is unjust, only incidentally. Of
voluntary acts we do some by choice, others not by choice; by choice
those which we do after deliberation, not by choice those which we do
without previous deliberation. Thus there are three kinds of injury in
transactions between man and man; those done in ignorance are mistakes
when the person acted on, the act, the instrument, or the end that
will be attained is other than the agent supposed; the agent thought
either that he was not hiting any one or that he was not hitting with
this missile or not hitting this person or to this end, but a result
followed other than that which he thought likely (e.g. he threw not
with intent to wound but only to prick), or the person hit or the
missile was other than he supposed. Now when (1) the injury takes
place contrary to reasonable expectation, it is a misadventure. When
(2) it is not contrary to reasonable expectation, but does not imply
vice, it is a mistake (for a man makes a mistake when the fault
originates in him, but is the victim of accident when the origin lies
outside him). When (3) he acts with knowledge but not after
deliberation, it is an act of injustice-e.g. the acts due to anger or
to other passions necessary or natural to man; for when men do such
harmful and mistaken acts they act unjustly, and the acts are acts of
injustice, but this does not imply that the doers are unjust or
wicked; for the injury is not due to vice. But when (4) a man acts
from choice, he is an unjust man and a vicious man.
Hence acts proceeding from anger are rightly judged not to be done of
malice aforethought; for it is not the man who acts in anger but he
who enraged him that starts the mischief. Again, the matter in dispute
is not whether the thing happened or not, but its justice; for it is
apparent injustice that occasions rage. For they do not dispute about
the occurrence of the act-as in commercial transactions where one of
the two parties must be vicious-unless they do so owing to
forgetfulness; but, agreeing about the fact, they dispute on which
side justice lies (whereas a man who has deliberately injured another
cannot help knowing that he has done so), so that the one thinks he is
being treated unjustly and the other disagrees.
But if a man harms another by choice, he acts unjustly; and these are
the acts of injustice which imply that the doer is an unjust man,
provided that the act violates proportion or equality. Similarly, a
man is just when he acts justly by choice; but he acts justly if he
merely acts voluntarily.
Of involuntary acts some are excusable, others not. For the mistakes
which men make not only in ignorance but also from ignorance are
excusable, while those which men do not from ignorance but (though
they do them in ignorance) owing to a passion which is neither natural
nor such as man is liable to, are not excusable.
9
Assuming that we have sufficiently defined the suffering and doing of
injustice, it may be asked (1) whether the truth in expressed in
Euripides' paradoxical words:
I slew my mother, that's my tale in brief.
Were you both willing, or unwilling both?
Is it truly possible to be willingly treated unjustly, or is all
suffering of injustice the contrary involuntary, as all unjust action
is voluntary? And is all suffering of injustice of the latter kind or
else all of the former, or is it sometimes voluntary, sometimes
involuntary? So, too, with the case of being justly treated; all just
action is voluntary, so that it is reasonable that there should be a
similar opposition in either case-that both being unjustly and being
justly treated should be either alike voluntary or alike involuntary.
But it would be thought paradoxical even in the case of being justly
treated, if it were always voluntary; for some are unwillingly treated
justly. (2) One might raise this question also, whether every one who
has suffered what is unjust is being unjustly treated, or on the other
hand it is with suffering as with acting. In action and in passivity

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