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Nicomachean Ethics   


for with the presence of the one quality, practical wisdom, will be
given all the virtues. And it is plain that, even if it were of no
practical value, we should have needed it because it is the virtue of
the part of us in question; plain too that the choice will not be
right without practical wisdom any more than without virtue; for the
one deter, mines the end and the other makes us do the things that
lead to the end.
But again it is not supreme over philosophic wisdom, i.e. over the
superior part of us, any more than the art of medicine is over health;
for it does not use it but provides for its coming into being; it
issues orders, then, for its sake, but not to it. Further, to maintain
its supremacy would be like saying that the art of politics rules the
gods because it issues orders about all the affairs of the state.
Nicomachean Ethics
By Aristotle
Written 350 B.C.E 1
Let us now make a fresh beginning and point out that of moral states
to be avoided there are three kinds-vice, incontinence, brutishness.
The contraries of two of these are evident,-one we call virtue, the
other continence; to brutishness it would be most fitting to oppose
superhuman virtue, a heroic and divine kind of virtue, as Homer has
represented Priam saying of Hector that he was very good,
For he seemed not, he,
The child of a mortal man, but as one that of God's seed came.
Therefore if, as they say, men become gods by excess of virtue, of
this kind must evidently be the state opposed to the brutish state;
for as a brute has no vice or virtue, so neither has a god; his state
is higher than virtue, and that of a brute is a different kind of
state from vice.
Now, since it is rarely that a godlike man is found-to use the epithet
of the Spartans, who when they admire any one highly call him a
'godlike man'-so too the brutish type is rarely found among men; it is
found chiefly among barbarians, but some brutish qualities are also
produced by disease or deformity; and we also call by this evil name
those men who go beyond all ordinary standards by reason of vice. Of
this kind of disposition, however, we must later make some mention,
while we have discussed vice before we must now discuss incontinence
and softness (or effeminacy), and continence and endurance; for we
must treat each of the two neither as identical with virtue or
wickedness, nor as a different genus. We must, as in all other cases,
set the observed facts before us and, after first discussing the
difficulties, go on to prove, if possible, the truth of all the common
opinions about these affections of the mind, or, failing this, of the
greater number and the most authoritative; for if we both refute the
objections and leave the common opinions undisturbed, we shall have
proved the case sufficiently.
Now (1) both continence and endurance are thought to be included among
things good and praiseworthy, and both incontinence and soft, ness
among things bad and blameworthy; and the same man is thought to be
continent and ready to abide by the result of his calculations, or
incontinent and ready to abandon them. And (2) the incontinent man,
knowing that what he does is bad, does it as a result of passion,
while the continent man, knowing that his appetites are bad, refuses
on account of his rational principle to follow them (3) The temperate
man all men call continent and disposed to endurance, while the
continent man some maintain to be always temperate but others do not;
and some call the self-indulgent man incontinent and the incontinent
man selfindulgent indiscriminately, while others distinguish them. (4)
The man of practical wisdom, they sometimes say, cannot be
incontinent, while sometimes they say that some who are practically
wise and clever are incontinent. Again (5) men are said to be
incontinent even with respect to anger, honour, and gain.-These, then,
are the things that are said.
2

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