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Nicomachean Ethics   


alike it is possible to partake of justice incidentally, and similarly
(it is plain) of injustice; for to do what is unjust is not the same
as to act unjustly, nor to suffer what is unjust as to be treated
unjustly, and similarly in the case of acting justly and being justly
treated; for it is impossible to be unjustly treated if the other does
not act unjustly, or justly treated unless he acts justly. Now if to
act unjustly is simply to harm some one voluntarily, and 'voluntarily'
means 'knowing the person acted on, the instrument, and the manner of
one's acting', and the incontinent man voluntarily harms himself, not
only will he voluntarily be unjustly treated but it will be possible
to treat oneself unjustly. (This also is one of the questions in
doubt, whether a man can treat himself unjustly.) Again, a man may
voluntarily, owing to incontinence, be harmed by another who acts
voluntarily, so that it would be possible to be voluntarily treated
unjustly. Or is our definition incorrect; must we to 'harming another,
with knowledge both of the person acted on, of the instrument, and of
the manner' add 'contrary to the wish of the person acted on'? Then a
man may be voluntarily harmed and voluntarily suffer what is unjust,
but no one is voluntarily treated unjustly; for no one wishes to be
unjustly treated, not even the incontinent man. He acts contrary to
his wish; for no one wishes for what he does not think to be good, but
the incontinent man does do things that he does not think he ought to
do. Again, one who gives what is his own, as Homer says Glaucus gave
Diomede
Armour of gold for brazen, the price of a hundred beeves for nine, is
not unjustly treated; for though to give is in his power, to be
unjustly treated is not, but there must be some one to treat him
unjustly. It is plain, then, that being unjustly treated is not
voluntary.
Of the questions we intended to discuss two still remain for
discussion; (3) whether it is the man who has assigned to another more
than his share that acts unjustly, or he who has the excessive share,
and (4) whether it is possible to treat oneself unjustly. The
questions are connected; for if the former alternative is possible and
the distributor acts unjustly and not the man who has the excessive
share, then if a man assigns more to another than to himself,
knowingly and voluntarily, he treats himself unjustly; which is what
modest people seem to do, since the virtuous man tends to take less
than his share. Or does this statement too need qualification? For (a)
he perhaps gets more than his share of some other good, e.g. of honour
or of intrinsic nobility. (b) The question is solved by applying the
distinction we applied to unjust action; for he suffers nothing
contrary to his own wish, so that he is not unjustly treated as far as
this goes, but at most only suffers harm.
It is plain too that the distributor acts unjustly, but not always the
man who has the excessive share; for it is not he to whom what is
unjust appertains that acts unjustly, but he to whom it appertains to
do the unjust act voluntarily, i.e. the person in whom lies the origin
of the action, and this lies in the distributor, not in the receiver.
Again, since the word 'do' is ambiguous, and there is a sense in which
lifeless things, or a hand, or a servant who obeys an order, may be
said to slay, he who gets an excessive share does not act unjustly,
though he 'does' what is unjust.
Again, if the distributor gave his judgement in ignorance, he does not
act unjustly in respect of legal justice, and his judgement is not
unjust in this sense, but in a sense it is unjust (for legal justice
and primordial justice are different); but if with knowledge he judged
unjustly, he is himself aiming at an excessive share either of
gratitude or of revenge. As much, then, as if he were to share in the
plunder, the man who has judged unjustly for these reasons has got too
much; the fact that what he gets is different from what he distributes
makes no difference, for even if he awards land with a view to sharing
in the plunder he gets not land but money.
Men think that acting unjustly is in their power, and therefore that

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