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Nicomachean Ethics   


pleasures. Now the people who are strong-headed are the opinionated,
the ignorant, and the boorish-the opinionated being influenced by
pleasure and pain; for they delight in the victory they gain if they
are not persuaded to change, and are pained if their decisions become
null and void as decrees sometimes do; so that they are liker the
incontinent than the continent man.
But there are some who fail to abide by their resolutions, not as a
result of incontinence, e.g. Neoptolemus in Sophocles' Philoctetes;
yet it was for the sake of pleasure that he did not stand fast-but a
noble pleasure; for telling the truth was noble to him, but he had
been persuaded by Odysseus to tell the lie. For not every one who does
anything for the sake of pleasure is either self-indulgent or bad or
incontinent, but he who does it for a disgraceful pleasure.
Since there is also a sort of man who takes less delight than he
should in bodily things, and does not abide by the rule, he who is
intermediate between him and the incontinent man is the continent man;
for the incontinent man fails to abide by the rule because he delights
too much in them, and this man because he delights in them too little;
while the continent man abides by the rule and does not change on
either account. Now if continence is good, both the contrary states
must be bad, as they actually appear to be; but because the other
extreme is seen in few people and seldom, as temperance is thought to
be contrary only to self-indulgence, so is continence to incontinence.
Since many names are applied analogically, it is by analogy that we
have come to speak of the 'continence' the temperate man; for both the
continent man and the temperate man are such as to do nothing contrary
to the rule for the sake of the bodily pleasures, but the former has
and the latter has not bad appetites, and the latter is such as not to
feel pleasure contrary to the rule, while the former is such as to
feel pleasure but not to be led by it. And the incontinent and the
self-indulgent man are also like another; they are different, but both
pursue bodily pleasures- the latter, however, also thinking that he
ought to do so, while the former does not think this.
10
Nor can the same man have practical wisdom and be incontinent; for it
has been shown' that a man is at the same time practically wise, and
good in respect of character. Further, a man has practical wisdom not
by knowing only but by being able to act; but the incontinent man is
unable to act-there is, however, nothing to prevent a clever man from
being incontinent; this is why it is sometimes actually thought that
some people have practical wisdom but are incontinent, viz. because
cleverness and practical wisdom differ in the way we have described in
our first discussions, and are near together in respect of their
reasoning, but differ in respect of their purpose-nor yet is the
incontinent man like the man who knows and is contemplating a truth,
but like the man who is asleep or drunk. And he acts willingly (for he
acts in a sense with knowledge both of what he does and of the end to
which he does it), but is not wicked, since his purpose is good; so
that he is half-wicked. And he is not a criminal; for he does not act
of malice aforethought; of the two types of incontinent man the one
does not abide by the conclusions of his deliberation, while the
excitable man does not deliberate at all. And thus the incontinent man
like a city which passes all the right decrees and has good laws, but
makes no use of them, as in Anaxandrides' jesting remark,
The city willed it, that cares nought for laws; but the wicked man is
like a city that uses its laws, but has wicked laws to use.
Now incontinence and continence are concerned with that which is in
excess of the state characteristic of most men; for the continent man
abides by his resolutions more and the incontinent man less than most
men can.
Of the forms of incontinence, that of excitable people is more curable
than that of those who deliberate but do not abide by their decisions,
and those who are incontinent through habituation are more curable
than those in whom incontinence is innate; for it is easier to change

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