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Nicomachean Ethics   


problem, but the selfindulgent man is incurable and the incontinent
man curable; for wickedness is like a disease such as dropsy or
consumption, while incontinence is like epilepsy; the former is a
permanent, the latter an intermittent badness. And generally
incontinence and vice are different in kind; vice is unconscious of
itself, incontinence is not (of incontinent men themselves, those who
become temporarily beside themselves are better than those who have
the rational principle but do not abide by it, since the latter are
defeated by a weaker passion, and do not act without previous
deliberation like the others); for the incontinent man is like the
people who get drunk quickly and on little wine, i.e. on less than
most people.
Evidently, then, incontinence is not vice (though perhaps it is so in
a qualified sense); for incontinence is contrary to choice while vice
is in accordance with choice; not but what they are similar in respect
of the actions they lead to; as in the saying of Demodocus about the
Milesians, 'the Milesians are not without sense, but they do the
things that senseless people do', so too incontinent people are not
criminal, but they will do criminal acts.
Now, since the incontinent man is apt to pursue, not on conviction,
bodily pleasures that are excessive and contrary to the right rule,
while the self-indulgent man is convinced because he is the sort of
man to pursue them, it is on the contrary the former that is easily
persuaded to change his mind, while the latter is not. For virtue and
vice respectively preserve and destroy the first principle, and in
actions the final cause is the first principle, as the hypotheses are
in mathematics; neither in that case is it argument that teaches the
first principles, nor is it so here-virtue either natural or produced
by habituation is what teaches right opinion about the first
principle. Such a man as this, then, is temperate; his contrary is the
self-indulgent.
But there is a sort of man who is carried away as a result of passion
and contrary to the right rule-a man whom passion masters so that he
does not act according to the right rule, but does not master to the
extent of making him ready to believe that he ought to pursue such
pleasures without reserve; this is the incontinent man, who is better
than the self-indulgent man, and not bad without qualification; for
the best thing in him, the first principle, is preserved. And contrary
to him is another kind of man, he who abides by his convictions and is
not carried away, at least as a result of passion. It is evident from
these considerations that the latter is a good state and the former a
bad one.
9
Is the man continent who abides by any and every rule and any and
every choice, or the man who abides by the right choice, and is he
incontinent who abandons any and every choice and any and every rule,
or he who abandons the rule that is not false and the choice that is
right; this is how we put it before in our statement of the problem.
Or is it incidentally any and every choice but per se the true rule
and the right choice by which the one abides and the other does not?
If any one chooses or pursues this for the sake of that, per se he
pursues and chooses the latter, but incidentally the former. But when
we speak without qualification we mean what is per se. Therefore in a
sense the one abides by, and the other abandons, any and every
opinion; but without qualification, the true opinion.
There are some who are apt to abide by their opinion, who are called
strong-headed, viz. those who are hard to persuade in the first
instance and are not easily persuaded to change; these have in them
something like the continent man, as the prodigal is in a way like the
liberal man and the rash man like the confident man; but they are
different in many respects. For it is to passion and appetite that the
one will not yield, since on occasion the continent man will be easy
to persuade; but it is to argument that the others refuse to yield,
for they do form appetites and many of them are led by their

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