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Nicomachean Ethics   


asleep, mad, or drunk. The fact that men use the language that flows
from knowledge proves nothing; for even men under the influence of
these passions utter scientific proofs and verses of Empedocles, and
those who have just begun to learn a science can string together its
phrases, but do not yet know it; for it has to become part of
themselves, and that takes time; so that we must suppose that the use
of language by men in an incontinent state means no more than its
utterance by actors on the stage. (d) Again, we may also view the
cause as follows with reference to the facts of human nature. The one
opinion is universal, the other is concerned with the particular
facts, and here we come to something within the sphere of perception;
when a single opinion results from the two, the soul must in one type
of case affirm the conclusion, while in the case of opinions concerned
with production it must immediately act (e.g. if 'everything sweet
ought to be tasted', and 'this is sweet', in the sense of being one of
the particular sweet things, the man who can act and is not prevented
must at the same time actually act accordingly). When, then, the
universal opinion is present in us forbidding us to taste, and there
is also the opinion that 'everything sweet is pleasant', and that
'this is sweet' (now this is the opinion that is active), and when
appetite happens to be present in us, the one opinion bids us avoid
the object, but appetite leads us towards it (for it can move each of
our bodily parts); so that it turns out that a man behaves
incontinently under the influence (in a sense) of a rule and an
opinion, and of one not contrary in itself, but only incidentally-for
the appetite is contrary, not the opinion-to the right rule. It also
follows that this is the reason why the lower animals are not
incontinent, viz. because they have no universal judgement but only
imagination and memory of particulars.
The explanation of how the ignorance is dissolved and the incontinent
man regains his knowledge, is the same as in the case of the man drunk
or asleep and is not peculiar to this condition; we must go to the
students of natural science for it. Now, the last premiss both being
an opinion about a perceptible object, and being what determines our
actions this a man either has not when he is in the state of passion,
or has it in the sense in which having knowledge did not mean knowing
but only talking, as a drunken man may utter the verses of Empedocles.
And because the last term is not universal nor equally an object of
scientific knowledge with the universal term, the position that
Socrates sought to establish actually seems to result; for it is not
in the presence of what is thought to be knowledge proper that the
affection of incontinence arises (nor is it this that is 'dragged
about' as a result of the state of passion), but in that of perceptual
knowledge.
This must suffice as our answer to the question of action with and
without knowledge, and how it is possible to behave incontinently with
knowledge.
4
(2) We must next discuss whether there is any one who is incontinent
without qualification, or all men who are incontinent are so in a
particular sense, and if there is, with what sort of objects he is
concerned. That both continent persons and persons of endurance, and
incontinent and soft persons, are concerned with pleasures and pains,
is evident.
Now of the things that produce pleasure some are necessary, while
others are worthy of choice in themselves but admit of excess, the
bodily causes of pleasure being necessary (by such I mean both those
concerned with food and those concerned with sexual intercourse, i.e.
the bodily matters with which we defined self-indulgence and
temperance as being concerned), while the others are not necessary but
worthy of choice in themselves (e.g. victory, honour, wealth, and good
and pleasant things of this sort). This being so, (a) those who go to
excess with reference to the latter, contrary to the right rule which
is in themselves, are not called incontinent simply, but incontinent

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