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Nicomachean Ethics   


every kind of object, who is it that is incontinent in the unqualified
sense? No one has all the forms of incontinence, but we say some
people are incontinent without qualification.
3
Of some such kind are the difficulties that arise; some of these
points must be refuted and the others left in possession of the field;
for the solution of the difficulty is the discovery of the truth. (1)
We must consider first, then, whether incontinent people act knowingly
or not, and in what sense knowingly; then (2) with what sorts of
object the incontinent and the continent man may be said to be
concerned (i.e. whether with any and every pleasure and pain or with
certain determinate kinds), and whether the continent man and the man
of endurance are the same or different; and similarly with regard to
the other matters germane to this inquiry. The starting-point of our
investigation is (a) the question whether the continent man and the
incontinent are differentiated by their objects or by their attitude,
i.e. whether the incontinent man is incontinent simply by being
concerned with such and such objects, or, instead, by his attitude,
or, instead of that, by both these things; (b) the second question is
whether incontinence and continence are concerned with any and every
object or not. The man who is incontinent in the unqualified sense is
neither concerned with any and every object, but with precisely those
with which the self-indulgent man is concerned, nor is he
characterized by being simply related to these (for then his state
would be the same as self-indulgence), but by being related to them in
a certain way. For the one is led on in accordance with his own
choice, thinking that he ought always to pursue the present pleasure;
while the other does not think so, but yet pursues it.
(1) As for the suggestion that it is true opinion and not knowledge
against which we act incontinently, that makes no difference to the
argument; for some people when in a state of opinion do not hesitate,
but think they know exactly. If, then, the notion is that owing to
their weak conviction those who have opinion are more likely to act
against their judgement than those who know, we answer that there need
be no difference between knowledge and opinion in this respect; for
some men are no less convinced of what they think than others of what
they know; as is shown by the of Heraclitus. But (a), since we use the
word 'know' in two senses (for both the man who has knowledge but is
not using it and he who is using it are said to know), it will make a
difference whether, when a man does what he should not, he has the
knowledge but is not exercising it, or is exercising it; for the
latter seems strange, but not the former.
(b) Further, since there are two kinds of premisses, there is nothing
to prevent a man's having both premisses and acting against his
knowledge, provided that he is using only the universal premiss and
not the particular; for it is particular acts that have to be done.
And there are also two kinds of universal term; one is predicable of
the agent, the other of the object; e.g. 'dry food is good for every
man', and 'I am a man', or 'such and such food is dry'; but whether
'this food is such and such', of this the incontinent man either has
not or is not exercising the knowledge. There will, then, be, firstly,
an enormous difference between these manners of knowing, so that to
know in one way when we act incontinently would not seem anything
strange, while to know in the other way would be extraordinary.
And further (c) the possession of knowledge in another sense than
those just named is something that happens to men; for within the case
of having knowledge but not using it we see a difference of state,
admitting of the possibility of having knowledge in a sense and yet
not having it, as in the instance of a man asleep, mad, or drunk. But
now this is just the condition of men under the influence of passions;
for outbursts of anger and sexual appetites and some other such
passions, it is evident, actually alter our bodily condition, and in
some men even produce fits of madness. It is plain, then, that
incontinent people must be said to be in a similar condition to men

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