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Nicomachean Ethics   


themselves. Now virtue makes the choice right, but the question of the
things which should naturally be done to carry out our choice belongs
not to virtue but to another faculty. We must devote our attention to
these matters and give a clearer statement about them. There is a
faculty which is called cleverness; and this is such as to be able to
do the things that tend towards the mark we have set before ourselves,
and to hit it. Now if the mark be noble, the cleverness is laudable,
but if the mark be bad, the cleverness is mere smartness; hence we
call even men of practical wisdom clever or smart. Practical wisdom is
not the faculty, but it does not exist without this faculty. And this
eye of the soul acquires its formed state not without the aid of
virtue, as has been said and is plain; for the syllogisms which deal
with acts to be done are things which involve a starting-point, viz.
'since the end, i.e. what is best, is of such and such a nature',
whatever it may be (let it for the sake of argument be what we
please); and this is not evident except to the good man; for
wickedness perverts us and causes us to be deceived about the
starting-points of action. Therefore it is evident that it is
impossible to be practically wise without being good.
13
We must therefore consider virtue also once more; for virtue too is
similarly related; as practical wisdom is to cleverness-not the same,
but like it-so is natural virtue to virtue in the strict sense. For
all men think that each type of character belongs to its possessors in
some sense by nature; for from the very moment of birth we are just or
fitted for selfcontrol or brave or have the other moral qualities; but
yet we seek something else as that which is good in the strict
sense-we seek for the presence of such qualities in another way. For
both children and brutes have the natural dispositions to these
qualities, but without reason these are evidently hurtful. Only we
seem to see this much, that, while one may be led astray by them, as a
strong body which moves without sight may stumble badly because of its
lack of sight, still, if a man once acquires reason, that makes a
difference in action; and his state, while still like what it was,
will then be virtue in the strict sense. Therefore, as in the part of
us which forms opinions there are two types, cleverness and practical
wisdom, so too in the moral part there are two types, natural virtue
and virtue in the strict sense, and of these the latter involves
practical wisdom. This is why some say that all the virtues are forms
of practical wisdom, and why Socrates in one respect was on the right
track while in another he went astray; in thinking that all the
virtues were forms of practical wisdom he was wrong, but in saying
they implied practical wisdom he was right. This is confirmed by the
fact that even now all men, when they define virtue, after naming the
state of character and its objects add 'that (state) which is in
accordance with the right rule'; now the right rule is that which is
in accordance with practical wisdom. All men, then, seem somehow to
divine that this kind of state is virtue, viz. that which is in
accordance with practical wisdom. But we must go a little further. For
it is not merely the state in accordance with the right rule, but the
state that implies the presence of the right rule, that is virtue; and
practical wisdom is a right rule about such matters. Socrates, then,
thought the virtues were rules or rational principles (for he thought
they were, all of them, forms of scientific knowledge), while we think
they involve a rational principle.
It is clear, then, from what has been said, that it is not possible to
be good in the strict sense without practical wisdom, nor practically
wise without moral virtue. But in this way we may also refute the
dialectical argument whereby it might be contended that the virtues
exist in separation from each other; the same man, it might be said,
is not best equipped by nature for all the virtues, so that he will
have already acquired one when he has not yet acquired another. This
is possible in respect of the natural virtues, but not in respect of
those in respect of which a man is called without qualification good;

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