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Nicomachean Ethics   


more towards the worse states.
Now, since some pleasures are necessary while others are not, and are
necessary up to a point while the excesses of them are not, nor the
deficiencies, and this is equally true of appetites and pains, the man
who pursues the excesses of things pleasant, or pursues to excess
necessary objects, and does so by choice, for their own sake and not
at all for the sake of any result distinct from them, is
self-indulgent; for such a man is of necessity unlikely to repent, and
therefore incurable, since a man who cannot repent cannot be cured.
The man who is deficient in his pursuit of them is the opposite of
self-indulgent; the man who is intermediate is temperate. Similarly,
there is the man who avoids bodily pains not because he is defeated by
them but by choice. (Of those who do not choose such acts, one kind of
man is led to them as a result of the pleasure involved, another
because he avoids the pain arising from the appetite, so that these
types differ from one another. Now any one would think worse of a man
with no appetite or with weak appetite were he to do something
disgraceful, than if he did it under the influence of powerful
appetite, and worse of him if he struck a blow not in anger than if he
did it in anger; for what would he have done if he had been strongly
affected? This is why the self-indulgent man is worse than the
incontinent.) of the states named, then, the latter is rather a kind
of softness; the former is self-indulgence. While to the incontinent
man is opposed the continent, to the soft is opposed the man of
endurance; for endurance consists in resisting, while continence
consists in conquering, and resisting and conquering are different, as
not being beaten is different from winning; this is why continence is
also more worthy of choice than endurance. Now the man who is
defective in respect of resistance to the things which most men both
resist and resist successfully is soft and effeminate; for effeminacy
too is a kind of softness; such a man trails his cloak to avoid the
pain of lifting it, and plays the invalid without thinking himself
wretched, though the man he imitates is a wretched man.
The case is similar with regard to continence and incontinence. For if
a man is defeated by violent and excessive pleasures or pains, there
is nothing wonderful in that; indeed we are ready to pardon him if he
has resisted, as Theodectes' Philoctetes does when bitten by the
snake, or Carcinus' Cercyon in the Alope, and as people who try to
restrain their laughter burst out into a guffaw, as happened to
Xenophantus. But it is surprising if a man is defeated by and cannot
resist pleasures or pains which most men can hold out against, when
this is not due to heredity or disease, like the softness that is
hereditary with the kings of the Scythians, or that which
distinguishes the female sex from the male.
The lover of amusement, too, is thought to be self-indulgent, but is
really soft. For amusement is a relaxation, since it is a rest from
work; and the lover of amusement is one of the people who go to excess
in this.
Of incontinence one kind is impetuosity, another weakness. For some
men after deliberating fail, owing to their emotion, to stand by the
conclusions of their deliberation, others because they have not
deliberated are led by their emotion; since some men (just as people
who first tickle others are not tickled themselves), if they have
first perceived and seen what is coming and have first roused
themselves and their calculative faculty, are not defeated by their
emotion, whether it be pleasant or painful. It is keen and excitable
people that suffer especially from the impetuous form of incontinence;
for the former by reason of their quickness and the latter by reason
of the violence of their passions do not await the argument, because
they are apt to follow their imagination.
8
The self-indulgent man, as was said, is not apt to repent; for he
stands by his choice; but incontinent man is likely to repent. This is
why the position is not as it was expressed in the formulation of the

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