Part 2 out of 6
six; because for the person who is to take it this also may be too much
or too little: for Milo it would be too little, but for a man just
commencing his athletic exercises too much: similarly too of the
exercises themselves, as running or wrestling.
So then it seems every one possessed of skill avoids excess and defect,
but seeks for and chooses the mean, not the absolute but the relative.
Now if all skill thus accomplishes well its work by keeping an eye on
the mean, and bringing the works to this point (whence it is common
enough to say of such works as are in a good state, "one cannot add
to or take ought from them," under the notion of excess or defect
destroying goodness but the mean state preserving it), and good
artisans, as we say, work with their eye on this, and excellence, like
nature, is more exact and better than any art in the world, it must have
an aptitude to aim at the mean.
It is moral excellence, _i.e._ Virtue, of course which I mean, because
this it is which is concerned with feelings and actions, and in these
there can be excess and defect and the mean: it is possible, for
instance, to feel the emotions of fear, confidence, lust, anger,
compassion, and pleasure and pain generally, too much or too little,
and in either case wrongly; but to feel them when we ought, on what
occasions, towards whom, why, and as, we should do, is the mean, or in
other words the best state, and this is the property of Virtue.
In like manner too with respect to the actions, there may be excess and
defect and the mean. Now Virtue is concerned with feelings and actions,
in which the excess is wrong and the defect is blamed but the mean is
praised and goes right; and both these circumstances belong to Virtue.
Virtue then is in a sense a mean state, since it certainly has an
aptitude for aiming at the mean.
Again, one may go wrong in many different ways (because, as the
Pythagoreans expressed it, evil is of the class of the infinite, good
of the finite), but right only in one; and so the former is easy, the
latter difficult; easy to miss the mark, but hard to hit it: and for
these reasons, therefore, both the excess and defect belong to Vice, and
the mean state to Virtue; for, as the poet has it,
"Men may be bad in many ways,
But good in one alone."
Virtue then is "a state apt to exercise deliberate choice, being in the
relative mean, determined by reason, and as the man of practical wisdom
It is a middle state between too faulty ones, in the way of excess on
one side and of defect on the other: and it is so moreover, because the
faulty states on one side fall short of, and those on the other exceed,
what is right, both in the case of the feelings and the actions; but
Virtue finds, and when found adopts, the mean.
And so, viewing it in respect of its essence and definition, Virtue is a
mean state; but in reference to the chief good and to excellence it is
the highest state possible.
But it must not be supposed that every action or every feeling is
capable of subsisting in this mean state, because some there are
which are so named as immediately to convey the notion of badness, as
malevolence, shamelessness, envy; or, to instance in actions, adultery,
theft, homicide; for all these and suchlike are blamed because they are
in themselves bad, not the having too much or too little of them.
In these then you never can go right, but must always be wrong: nor in
such does the right or wrong depend on the selection of a proper person,
time, or manner (take adultery for instance), but simply doing any one
soever of those things is being wrong.
You might as well require that there should be determined a mean state,
an excess and a defect in respect of acting unjustly, being cowardly, or
giving up all control of the passions: for at this rate there will be
of excess and defect a mean state; of excess, excess; and of defect,
But just as of perfected self-mastery and courage there is no excess and
defect, because the mean is in one point of view the highest possible
state, so neither of those faulty states can you have a mean state,
excess, or defect, but howsoever done they are wrong: you cannot, in
short, have of excess and defect a mean state, nor of a mean state
excess and defect.
It is not enough, however, to state this in general terms, we must also
apply it to particular instances, because in treatises on moral conduct
general statements have an air of vagueness, but those which go into
detail one of greater reality: for the actions after all must be in
detail, and the general statements, to be worth anything, must hold good
We must take these details then from the Table.
I. In respect of fears and confidence or boldness:
The Mean state is Courage: men may exceed, of course, either in absence
of fear or in positive confidence: the former has no name (which is a
common case), the latter is called rash: again, the man who has too much
fear and too little confidence is called a coward.
II. In respect of pleasures and pains (but not all, and perhaps fewer
pains than pleasures):
The Mean state here is perfected Self-Mastery, the defect total absence
of Self-control. As for defect in respect of pleasure, there are really
no people who are chargeable with it, so, of course, there is really no
name for such characters, but, as they are conceivable, we will give
them one and call them insensible.
III. In respect of giving and taking wealth (a):
The mean state is Liberality, the excess Prodigality, the defect
Stinginess: here each of the extremes involves really an excess and
defect contrary to each other: I mean, the prodigal gives out too much
and takes in too little, while the stingy man takes in too much and
gives out too little. (It must be understood that we are now giving
merely an outline and summary, intentionally: and we will, in a later
part of the treatise, draw out the distinctions with greater exactness.)
IV. In respect of wealth (b):
There are other dispositions besides these just mentioned; a mean state
called Munificence (for the munificent man differs from the liberal, the
former having necessarily to do with great wealth, the latter with but
small); the excess called by the names either of Want of taste or
Vulgar Profusion, and the defect Paltriness (these also differ from the
extremes connected with liberality, and the manner of their difference
shall also be spoken of later).
V. In respect of honour and dishonour (a):
The mean state Greatness of Soul, the excess which may be called
braggadocio, and the defect Littleness of Soul.
VI. In respect of honour and dishonour (b):
Now there is a state bearing the same relation to Greatness of Soul as
we said just now Liberality does to Munificence, with the difference
that is of being about a small amount of the same thing: this state
having reference to small honour, as Greatness of Soul to great honour;
a man may, of course, grasp at honour either more than he should or
less; now he that exceeds in his grasping at it is called ambitious, he
that falls short unambitious, he that is just as he should be has no
proper name: nor in fact have the states, except that the disposition of
the ambitious man is called ambition. For this reason those who are in
either extreme lay claim to the mean as a debateable land, and we call
the virtuous character sometimes by the name ambitious, sometimes by
that of unambitious, and we commend sometimes the one and sometimes
the other. Why we do it shall be said in the subsequent part of the
treatise; but now we will go on with the rest of the virtues after the
plan we have laid down.
VII. In respect of anger:
Here too there is excess, defect, and a mean state; but since they
may be said to have really no proper names, as we call the virtuous
character Meek, we will call the mean state Meekness, and of the
extremes, let the man who is excessive be denominated Passionate, and
the faulty state Passionateness, and him who is deficient Angerless, and
the defect Angerlessness.
There are also three other mean states, having some mutual resemblance,
but still with differences; they are alike in that they all have for
their object-matter intercourse of words and deeds, and they differ in
that one has respect to truth herein, the other two to what is pleasant;
and this in two ways, the one in relaxation and amusement, the other in
all things which occur in daily life. We must say a word or two about
these also, that we may the better see that in all matters the mean is
praiseworthy, while the extremes are neither right nor worthy of praise
but of blame.
Now of these, it is true, the majority have really no proper names, but
still we must try, as in the other cases, to coin some for them for the
sake of clearness and intelligibleness.
I. In respect of truth: The man who is in the mean state we will call
Truthful, and his state Truthfulness, and as to the disguise of truth,
if it be on the side of exaggeration, Braggadocia, and him that has it a
Braggadocio; if on that of diminution, Reserve and Reserved shall be the
II. In respect of what is pleasant in the way of relaxation or
amusement: The mean state shall be called Easy-pleasantry, and the
character accordingly a man of Easy-pleasantry; the excess Buffoonery,
and the man a Buffoon; the man deficient herein a Clown, and his state
III. In respect of what is pleasant in daily life: He that is as he
should be may be called Friendly, and his mean state Friendliness: he
that exceeds, if it be without any interested motive, somewhat too
Complaisant, if with such motive, a Flatterer: he that is deficient and
in all instances unpleasant, Quarrelsome and Cross.
There are mean states likewise in feelings and matters concerning them.
Shamefacedness, for instance, is no virtue, still a man is praised for
being shamefaced: for in these too the one is denominated the man in the
mean state, the other in the excess; the Dumbfoundered, for instance,
who is overwhelmed with shame on all and any occasions: the man who is
in the defect, _i.e._ who has no shame at all in his composition, is
called Shameless: but the right character Shamefaced.
Indignation against successful vice, again, is a state in the mean
between Envy and Malevolence: they all three have respect to pleasure
and pain produced by what happens to one's neighbour: for the man who
has this right feeling is annoyed at undeserved success of others, while
the envious man goes beyond him and is annoyed at all success of others,
and the malevolent falls so far short of feeling annoyance that he even
rejoices [at misfortune of others].
But for the discussion of these also there will be another opportunity,
as of Justice too, because the term is used in more senses than one. So
after this we will go accurately into each and say how they are mean
states: and in like manner also with respect to the Intellectual
Now as there are three states in each case, two faulty either in the way
of excess or defect, and one right, which is the mean state, of course
all are in a way opposed to one another; the extremes, for instance, not
only to the mean but also to one another, and the mean to the extremes:
for just as the half is greater if compared with the less portion, and
less if compared with the greater, so the mean states, compared with the
defects, exceed, whether in feelings or actions, and _vice versa_. The
brave man, for instance, shows as rash when compared with the coward,
and cowardly when compared with the rash; similarly too the man of
perfected self-mastery, viewed in comparison with the man destitute of
all perception, shows like a man of no self-control, but in comparison
with the man who really has no self-control, he looks like one destitute
of all perception: and the liberal man compared with the stingy seems
prodigal, and by the side of the prodigal, stingy.
And so the extreme characters push away, so to speak, towards each other
the man in the mean state; the brave man is called a rash man by
the coward, and a coward by the rash man, and in the other cases
accordingly. And there being this mutual opposition, the contrariety
between the extremes is greater than between either and the mean,
because they are further from one another than from the mean, just as
the greater or less portion differ more from each other than either from
the exact half.
Again, in some cases an extreme will bear a resemblance to the mean;
rashness, for instance, to courage, and prodigality to liberality; but
between the extremes there is the greatest dissimilarity. Now things
which are furthest from one another are defined to be contrary, and so
the further off the more contrary will they be.
[Sidenote: 1109a] Further: of the extremes in some cases the excess,
and in others the defect, is most opposed to the mean: to courage, for
instance, not rashness which is the excess, but cowardice which is the
defect; whereas to perfected self-mastery not insensibility which is the
defect but absence of all self-control which is the excess.
And for this there are two reasons to be given; one from the nature of
the thing itself, because from the one extreme being nearer and more
like the mean, we do not put this against it, but the other; as, for
instance, since rashness is thought to be nearer to courage than
cowardice is, and to resemble it more, we put cowardice against courage
rather than rashness, because those things which are further from the
mean are thought to be more contrary to it. This then is one reason
arising from the thing itself; there is another arising from our own
constitution and make: for in each man's own case those things give the
impression of being more contrary to the mean to which we individually
have a natural bias. Thus we have a natural bias towards pleasures,
for which reason we are much more inclined to the rejection of all
self-control, than to self-discipline.
These things then to which the bias is, we call more contrary, and so
total want of self-control (the excess) is more contrary than the defect
is to perfected self-mastery.
Now that Moral Virtue is a mean state, and how it is so, and that it
lies between two faulty states, one in the way of excess and another in
the way of defect, and that it is so because it has an aptitude to aim
at the mean both in feelings and actions, all this has been set forth
fully and sufficiently.
And so it is hard to be good: for surely hard it is in each instance to
find the mean, just as to find the mean point or centre of a circle is
not what any man can do, but only he who knows how: just so to be angry,
to give money, and be expensive, is what any man can do, and easy: but
to do these to the right person, in due proportion, at the right time,
with a right object, and in the right manner, this is not as before what
any man can do, nor is it easy; and for this cause goodness is rare, and
praiseworthy, and noble.
Therefore he who aims at the mean should make it his first care to keep
away from that extreme which is more contrary than the other to the
mean; just as Calypso in Homer advises Ulysses,
"Clear of this smoke and surge thy barque direct;"
because of the two extremes the one is always more, and the other
less, erroneous; and, therefore, since to hit exactly on the mean is
difficult, one must take the least of the evils as the safest plan; and
this a man will be doing, if he follows this method.
[Sidenote: 1109b] We ought also to take into consideration our own
natural bias; which varies in each man's case, and will be ascertained
from the pleasure and pain arising in us. Furthermore, we should force
ourselves off in the contrary direction, because we shall find ourselves
in the mean after we have removed ourselves far from the wrong side,
exactly as men do in straightening bent timber.
But in all cases we must guard most carefully against what is pleasant,
and pleasure itself, because we are not impartial judges of it.
We ought to feel in fact towards pleasure as did the old counsellors
towards Helen, and in all cases pronounce a similar sentence; for so by
sending it away from us, we shall err the less.
Well, to speak very briefly, these are the precautions by adopting which
we shall be best able to attain the mean.
Still, perhaps, after all it is a matter of difficulty, and specially
in the particular instances: it is not easy, for instance, to determine
exactly in what manner, with what persons, for what causes, and for what
length of time, one ought to feel anger: for we ourselves sometimes
praise those who are defective in this feeling, and we call them meek;
at another, we term the hot-tempered manly and spirited.
Then, again, he who makes a small deflection from what is right, be it
on the side of too much or too little, is not blamed, only he who makes
a considerable one; for he cannot escape observation. But to what point
or degree a man must err in order to incur blame, it is not easy to
determine exactly in words: nor in fact any of those points which are
matter of perception by the Moral Sense: such questions are matters of
detail, and the decision of them rests with the Moral Sense.
At all events thus much is plain, that the mean state is in all things
praiseworthy, and that practically we must deflect sometimes towards
excess sometimes towards defect, because this will be the easiest method
of hitting on the mean, that is, on what is right.
I Now since Virtue is concerned with the regulation of feelings and
actions, and praise and blame arise upon such as are voluntary, while
for the involuntary allowance is made, and sometimes compassion is
excited, it is perhaps a necessary task for those who are investigating
the nature of Virtue to draw out the distinction between what is
voluntary and what involuntary; and it is certainly useful for
legislators, with respect to the assigning of honours and punishments.
Involuntary actions then are thought to be of two kinds, being
done either on compulsion, or by reason of ignorance. An action is,
properly speaking, compulsory, when the origination is external to the
agent, being such that in it the agent (perhaps we may more properly
say the patient) contributes nothing; as if a wind were to convey you
anywhere, or men having power over your person.
But when actions are done, either from fear of greater evils, or from
some honourable motive, as, for instance, if you were ordered to commit
some base act by a despot who had your parents or children in his power,
and they were to be saved upon your compliance or die upon your refusal,
in such cases there is room for a question whether the actions are
voluntary or involuntary.
A similar question arises with respect to cases of throwing goods
overboard in a storm: abstractedly no man throws away his property
willingly, but with a view to his own and his shipmates' safety any one
would who had any sense.
The truth is, such actions are of a mixed kind, but are most like
voluntary actions; for they are choiceworthy at the time when they are
being done, and the end or object of the action must be taken with
reference to the actual occasion. Further, we must denominate an action
voluntary or involuntary at the time of doing it: now in the given case
the man acts voluntarily, because the originating of the motion of his
limbs in such actions rests with himself; and where the origination is
in himself it rests with himself to do or not to do.
Such actions then are voluntary, though in the abstract perhaps
involuntary because no one would choose any of such things in and by
But for such actions men sometimes are even praised, as when they endure
any disgrace or pain to secure great and honourable equivalents; if
_vice versa_, then they are blamed, because it shows a base mind to
endure things very disgraceful for no honourable object, or for a
For some again no praise is given, but allowance is made; as where a
man does what he should not by reason of such things as overstrain the
powers of human nature, or pass the limits of human endurance.
Some acts perhaps there are for which compulsion cannot be pleaded, but
a man should rather suffer the worst and die; how absurd, for instance,
are the pleas of compulsion with which Alcmaeon in Euripides' play
excuses his matricide!
But it is difficult sometimes to decide what kind of thing should be
chosen instead of what, or what endured in preference to what, and much
moreso to abide by one's decisions: for in general the alternatives are
painful, and the actions required are base, and so praise or blame is
awarded according as persons have been compelled or no.
1110b What kind of actions then are to be called compulsory? may we say,
simply and abstractedly whenever the cause is external and the agent
contributes nothing; and that where the acts are in themselves such
as one would not wish but choiceworthy at the present time and in
preference to such and such things, and where the origination rests with
the agent, the actions are in themselves involuntary but at the given
time and in preference to such and such things voluntary; and they are
more like voluntary than involuntary, because the actions consist of
little details, and these are voluntary.
But what kind of things one ought to choose instead of what, it is not
easy to settle, for there are many differences in particular instances.
But suppose a person should say, things pleasant and honourable exert
a compulsive force (for that they are external and do compel); at that
rate every action is on compulsion, because these are universal motives
Again, they who act on compulsion and against their will do so with
pain; but they who act by reason of what is pleasant or honourable act
It is truly absurd for a man to attribute his actions to external things
instead of to his own capacity for being easily caught by them; or,
again, to ascribe the honourable to himself, and the base ones to
So then that seems to be compulsory "whose origination is from without,
the party compelled contributing nothing." Now every action of which
ignorance is the cause is not-voluntary, but that only is involuntary
which is attended with pain and remorse; for clearly the man who has
done anything by reason of ignorance, but is not annoyed at his own
action, cannot be said to have done it _with_ his will because he did
not know he was doing it, nor again _against_ his will because he is not
sorry for it.
So then of the class "acting by reason of ignorance," he who feels
regret afterwards is thought to be an involuntary agent, and him that
has no such feeling, since he certainly is different from the other, we
will call a not-voluntary agent; for as there is a real difference it is
better to have a proper name.
Again, there seems to be a difference between acting _because of_
ignorance and acting _with_ ignorance: for instance, we do not usually
assign ignorance as the cause of the actions of the drunken or angry
man, but either the drunkenness or the anger, yet they act not knowingly
but with ignorance.
Again, every bad man is ignorant what he ought to do and what to leave
undone, and by reason of such error men become unjust and wholly evil.
[Sidenote: 1111a] Again, we do not usually apply the term involuntary
when a man is ignorant of his own true interest; because ignorance which
affects moral choice constitutes depravity but not involuntariness: nor
does any ignorance of principle (because for this men are blamed)
but ignorance in particular details, wherein consists the action and
wherewith it is concerned, for in these there is both compassion and
allowance, because he who acts in ignorance of any of them acts in a
proper sense involuntarily.
It may be as well, therefore, to define these particular details; what
they are, and how many; viz. who acts, what he is doing, with respect to
what or in what, sometimes with what, as with what instrument, and with
what result (as that of preservation, for instance), and how, as whether
softly or violently.
All these particulars, in one and the same case, no man in his senses
could be ignorant of; plainly not of the agent, being himself. But
what he is doing a man may be ignorant, as men in speaking say a
thing escaped them unawares; or as Aeschylus did with respect to the
Mysteries, that he was not aware that it was unlawful to speak of them;
or as in the case of that catapult accident the other day the man said
he discharged it merely to display its operation. Or a person might
suppose a son to be an enemy, as Merope did; or that the spear really
pointed was rounded off; or that the stone was a pumice; or in striking
with a view to save might kill; or might strike when merely wishing to
show another, as people do in sham-fighting.
Now since ignorance is possible in respect to all these details in
which the action consists, he that acted in ignorance of any of them is
thought to have acted involuntarily, and he most so who was in ignorance
as regards the most important, which are thought to be those in which
the action consists, and the result.
Further, not only must the ignorance be of this kind, to constitute an
action involuntary, but it must be also understood that the action is
followed by pain and regret.
Now since all involuntary action is either upon compulsion or by reason
of ignorance, Voluntary Action would seem to be "that whose origination
is in the agent, he being aware of the particular details in which the
For, it may be, men are not justified by calling those actions
involuntary, which are done by reason of Anger or Lust.
Because, in the first place, if this be so no other animal but man, and
not even children, can be said to act voluntarily. Next, is it meant
that we never act voluntarily when we act from Lust or Anger, or that we
act voluntarily in doing what is right and involuntarily in doing what
is discreditable? The latter supposition is absurd, since the cause
is one and the same. Then as to the former, it is a strange thing to
maintain actions to be involuntary which we are bound to grasp at: now
there are occasions on which anger is a duty, and there are things which
we are bound to lust after, health, for instance, and learning.
Again, whereas actions strictly involuntary are thought to be attended
with pain, those which are done to gratify lust are thought to be
Again: how does the involuntariness make any difference between wrong
actions done from deliberate calculation, and those done by reason of
anger? for both ought to be avoided, and the irrational feelings are
thought to be just as natural to man as reason, and so of course must be
such actions of the individual as are done from Anger and Lust. It is
absurd then to class these actions among the involuntary.
Having thus drawn out the distinction between voluntary and involuntary
action our next step is to examine into the nature of Moral Choice,
because this seems most intimately connected with Virtue and to be a
more decisive test of moral character than a man's acts are.
Now Moral Choice is plainly voluntary, but the two are not co-extensive,
voluntary being the more comprehensive term; for first, children and all
other animals share in voluntary action but not in Moral Choice; and
next, sudden actions we call voluntary but do not ascribe them to Moral
Nor do they appear to be right who say it is lust or anger, or wish, or
opinion of a certain kind; because, in the first place, Moral Choice is
not shared by the irrational animals while Lust and Anger are. Next; the
man who fails of self-control acts from Lust but not from Moral Choice;
the man of self-control, on the contrary, from Moral Choice, not from
Lust. Again: whereas Lust is frequently opposed to Moral Choice, Lust is
not to Lust.
Lastly: the object-matter of Lust is the pleasant and the painful, but
of Moral Choice neither the one nor the other. Still less can it be
Anger, because actions done from Anger are thought generally to be least
of all consequent on Moral Choice.
Nor is it Wish either, though appearing closely connected with it;
because, in the first place, Moral Choice has not for its objects
impossibilities, and if a man were to say he chose them he would be
thought to be a fool; but Wish may have impossible things for its
objects, immortality for instance.
Wish again may be exercised on things in the accomplishment of which
one's self could have nothing to do, as the success of any particular
actor or athlete; but no man chooses things of this nature, only such as
he believes he may himself be instrumental in procuring.
Further: Wish has for its object the End rather, but Moral Choice the
means to the End; for instance, we wish to be healthy but we choose
the means which will make us so; or happiness again we wish for, and
commonly say so, but to say we choose is not an appropriate term,
because, in short, the province of Moral Choice seems to be those things
which are in our own power.
Neither can it be Opinion; for Opinion is thought to be unlimited in its
range of objects, and to be exercised as well upon things eternal and
impossible as on those which are in our own power: again, Opinion is
logically divided into true and false, not into good and bad as Moral
However, nobody perhaps maintains its identity with Opinion simply; but
it is not the same with opinion of any kind, because by choosing good
and bad things we are constituted of a certain character, but by having
opinions on them we are not.
Again, we choose to take or avoid, and so on, but we opine what a thing
is, or for what it is serviceable, or how; but we do not opine to take
Further, Moral Choice is commended rather for having a right object than
for being judicious, but Opinion for being formed in accordance with
Again, we choose such things as we pretty well know to be good, but we
form opinions respecting such as we do not know at all.
And it is not thought that choosing and opining best always go together,
but that some opine the better course and yet by reason of viciousness
choose not the things which they should.
It may be urged, that Opinion always precedes or accompanies Moral
Choice; be it so, this makes no difference, for this is not the point in
question, but whether Moral Choice is the same as Opinion of a certain
Since then it is none of the aforementioned things, what is it, or how
is it characterised? Voluntary it plainly is, but not all voluntary
action is an object of Moral Choice. May we not say then, it is "that
voluntary which has passed through a stage of previous deliberation?"
because Moral Choice is attended with reasoning and intellectual
process. The etymology of its Greek name seems to give a hint of it,
being when analysed "chosen in preference to somewhat else."
Well then; do men deliberate about everything, and is anything soever
the object of Deliberation, or are there some matters with respect to
which there is none? (It may be as well perhaps to say, that by "object
of Deliberation" is meant such matter as a sensible man would deliberate
upon, not what any fool or madman might.)
Well: about eternal things no one deliberates; as, for instance, the
universe, or the incommensurability of the diameter and side of a
Nor again about things which are in motion but which always happen in
the same way either necessarily, or naturally, or from some other cause,
as the solstices or the sunrise.
Nor about those which are variable, as drought and rains; nor fortuitous
matters, as finding of treasure.
Nor in fact even about all human affairs; no Lacedaemonian, for instance,
deliberates as to the best course for the Scythian government to adopt;
because in such cases we have no power over the result.
But we do deliberate respecting such practical matters as are in our own
power (which are what are left after all our exclusions).
I have adopted this division because causes seem to be divisible into
nature, necessity, chance, and moreover intellect, and all human powers.
And as man in general deliberates about what man in general can effect,
so individuals do about such practical things as can be effected through
their own instrumentality.
[Sidenote: 1112b] Again, we do not deliberate respecting such arts or
sciences as are exact and independent: as, for instance, about written
characters, because we have no doubt how they should be formed; but we
do deliberate on all buch things as are usually done through our own
instrumentality, but not invariably in the same way; as, for instance,
about matters connected with the healing art, or with money-making; and,
again, more about piloting ships than gymnastic exercises, because the
former has been less exactly determined, and so forth; and more about
arts than sciences, because we more frequently doubt respecting the
So then Deliberation takes place in such matters as are under general
laws, but still uncertain how in any given case they will issue,
_i.e._ in which there is some indefiniteness; and for great matters we
associate coadjutors in counsel, distrusting our ability to settle them
Further, we deliberate not about Ends, but Means to Ends. No physician,
for instance, deliberates whether he will cure, nor orator whether
he will persuade, nor statesman whether he will produce a good
constitution, nor in fact any man in any other function about his
particular End; but having set before them a certain End they look how
and through what means it may be accomplished: if there is a choice of
means, they examine further which are easiest and most creditable; or,
if there is but one means of accomplishing the object, then how it may
be through this, this again through what, till they come to the first
cause; and this will be the last found; for a man engaged in a process
of deliberation seems to seek and analyse, as a man, to solve a
problem, analyses the figure given him. And plainly not every search is
Deliberation, those in mathematics to wit, but every Deliberation is
a search, and the last step in the analysis is the first in the
constructive process. And if in the course of their search men come upon
an impossibility, they give it up; if money, for instance, be necessary,
but cannot be got: but if the thing appears possible they then attempt
to do it.
And by possible I mean what may be done through our own instrumentality
(of course what may be done through our friends is through our own
instrumentality in a certain sense, because the origination in such
cases rests with us). And the object of search is sometimes the
necessary instruments, sometimes the method of using them; and similarly
in the rest sometimes through what, and sometimes how or through what.
So it seems, as has been said, that Man is the originator of his
actions; and Deliberation has for its object whatever may be done
through one's own instrumentality, and the actions are with a view to
other things; and so it is, not the End, but the Means to Ends on which
Deliberation is employed.
Nor, again, is it employed on matters of detail, as whether the
substance before me is bread, or has been properly cooked; for these
come under the province of sense, and if a man is to be always
deliberating, he may go on _ad infinitum_.
Further, exactly the same matter is the object both of Deliberation
and Moral Choice; but that which is the object of Moral Choice is
thenceforward separated off and definite, because by object of Moral
Choice is denoted that which after Deliberation has been preferred to
something else: for each man leaves off searching how he shall do a
thing when he has brought the origination up to himself, _i.e_. to the
governing principle in himself, because it is this which makes the
choice. A good illustration of this is furnished by the old regal
constitutions which Homer drew from, in which the Kings would announce
to the commonalty what they had determined before.
Now since that which is the object of Moral Choice is something in our
own power, which is the object of deliberation and the grasping of the
Will, Moral Choice must be "a grasping after something in our own power
consequent upon Deliberation:" because after having deliberated we
decide, and then grasp by our Will in accordance with the result of our
Let this be accepted as a sketch of the nature and object of Moral
Choice, that object being "Means to Ends."
[Sidenote: IV] That Wish has for its object-matter the End, has been
already stated; but there are two opinions respecting it; some thinking
that its object is real good, others whatever impresses the mind with a
notion of good.
Now those who maintain that the object of Wish is real good are beset by
this difficulty, that what is wished for by him who chooses wrongly is
not really an object of Wish (because, on their theory, if it is an
object of wish, it must be good, but it is, in the case supposed, evil).
Those who maintain, on the contrary, that that which impresses the mind
with a notion of good is properly the object of Wish, have to meet this
difficulty, that there is nothing naturally an object of Wish but to
each individual whatever seems good to him; now different people have
different notions, and it may chance contrary ones.
But, if these opinions do not satisfy us, may we not say that,
abstractedly and as a matter of objective truth, the really good is the
object of Wish, but to each individual whatever impresses his mind with
the notion of good. And so to the good man that is an object of Wish
which is really and truly so, but to the bad man anything may be; just
as physically those things are wholesome to the healthy which are really
so, but other things to the sick. And so too of bitter and sweet, and
hot and heavy, and so on. For the good man judges in every instance
correctly, and in every instance the notion conveyed to his mind is the
For there are fair and pleasant things peculiar to, and so varying with,
each state; and perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the
good man is his seeing the truth in every instance, he being, in fact,
the rule and measure of these matters.
The multitude of men seem to be deceived by reason of pleasure, because
though it is not really a good it impresses their minds with the notion
of goodness, so they choose what is pleasant as good and avoid pain as
Now since the End is the object of Wish, and the means to the End of
Deliberation and Moral Choice, the actions regarding these matters
must be in the way of Moral Choice, _i.e._ voluntary: but the acts of
working out the virtues are such actions, and therefore Virtue is in our
And so too is Vice: because wherever it is in our power to do it is also
in our power to forbear doing, and _vice versa_: therefore if the doing
(being in a given case creditable) is in our power, so too is the
forbearing (which is in the same case discreditable), and _vice versa_.
But if it is in our power to do and to forbear doing what is creditable
or the contrary, and these respectively constitute the being good or
bad, then the being good or vicious characters is in our power.
As for the well-known saying, "No man voluntarily is wicked or
involuntarily happy," it is partly true, partly false; for no man is
happy against his will, of course, but wickedness is voluntary. Or must
we dispute the statements lately made, and not say that Man is the
originator or generator of his actions as much as of his children?
But if this is matter of plain manifest fact, and we cannot refer our
actions to any other originations beside those in our own power, those
things must be in our own power, and so voluntary, the originations of
which are in ourselves.
Moreover, testimony seems to be borne to these positions both privately
by individuals, and by law-givers too, in that they chastise and punish
those who do wrong (unless they do so on compulsion, or by reason of
ignorance which is not self-caused), while they honour those who act
rightly, under the notion of being likely to encourage the latter and
restrain the former. But such things as are not in our own power, _i.e._
not voluntary, no one thinks of encouraging us to do, knowing it to be
of no avail for one to have been persuaded not to be hot (for instance),
or feel pain, or be hungry, and so forth, because we shall have those
sensations all the same.
And what makes the case stronger is this: that they chastise for the
very fact of ignorance, when it is thought to be self-caused; to the
drunken, for instance, penalties are double, because the origination in
such case lies in a man's own self: for he might have helped getting
drunk, and this is the cause of his ignorance.
[Sidenote: III4_a_] Again, those also who are ignorant of legal
regulations which they are bound to know, and which are not hard to
know, they chastise; and similarly in all other cases where neglect is
thought to be the cause of the ignorance, under the notion that it was
in their power to prevent their ignorance, because they might have paid
But perhaps a man is of such a character that he cannot attend to such
things: still men are themselves the causes of having become such
characters by living carelessly, and also of being unjust or destitute
of self-control, the former by doing evil actions, the latter by
spending their time in drinking and such-like; because the particular
acts of working form corresponding characters, as is shown by those who
are practising for any contest or particular course of action, for such
men persevere in the acts of working.
As for the plea, that a man did not know that habits are produced
from separate acts of working, we reply, such ignorance is a mark of
Furthermore, it is wholly irrelevant to say that the man who acts
unjustly or dissolutely does not _wish_ to attain the habits of these
vices: for if a man wittingly does those things whereby he must become
unjust he is to all intents and purposes unjust voluntarily; but he
cannot with a wish cease to be unjust and become just. For, to take the
analogous case, the sick man cannot with a wish be well again, yet in
a supposable case he is voluntarily ill because he has produced his
sickness by living intemperately and disregarding his physicians. There
was a time then when he might have helped being ill, but now he has let
himself go he cannot any longer; just as he who has let a stone out of
his hand cannot recall it, and yet it rested with him to aim and throw
it, because the origination was in his power. Just so the unjust man,
and he who has lost all self-control, might originally have helped being
what they are, and so they are voluntarily what they are; but now that
they are become so they no longer have the power of being otherwise.
And not only are mental diseases voluntary, but the bodily are so in
some men, whom we accordingly blame: for such as are naturally deformed
no one blames, only such as are so by reason of want of exercise, and
neglect: and so too of weakness and maiming: no one would think of
upbraiding, but would rather compassionate, a man who is blind by
nature, or from disease, or from an accident; but every one would blame
him who was so from excess of wine, or any other kind of intemperance.
It seems, then, that in respect of bodily diseases, those which depend
on ourselves are censured, those which do not are not censured; and if
so, then in the case of the mental disorders, those which are censured
must depend upon ourselves.
[Sidenote: III4_b_] But suppose a man to say, "that (by our own
admission) all men aim at that which conveys to their minds an
impression of good, and that men have no control over this impression,
but that the End impresses each with a notion correspondent to his own
individual character; that to be sure if each man is in a way the cause
of his own moral state, so he will be also of the kind of impression he
receives: whereas, if this is not so, no one is the cause to himself of
doing evil actions, but he does them by reason of ignorance of the true
End, supposing that through their means he will secure the chief good.
Further, that this aiming at the End is no matter of one's own choice,
but one must be born with a power of mental vision, so to speak, whereby
to judge fairly and choose that which is really good; and he is blessed
by nature who has this naturally well: because it is the most important
thing and the fairest, and what a man cannot get or learn from another
but will have such as nature has given it; and for this to be so given
well and fairly would be excellence of nature in the highest and truest
If all this be true, how will Virtue be a whit more voluntary than Vice?
Alike to the good man and the bad, the End gives its impression and is
fixed by nature or howsoever you like to say, and they act so and so,
referring everything else to this End.
Whether then we suppose that the End impresses each man's mind with
certain notions not merely by nature, but that there is somewhat also
dependent on himself; or that the End is given by nature, and yet Virtue
is voluntary because the good man does all the rest voluntarily, Vice
must be equally so; because his own agency equally attaches to the bad
man in the actions, even if not in the selection of the End.
If then, as is commonly said, the Virtues are voluntary (because we at
least co-operate in producing our moral states, and we assume the End
to be of a certain kind according as we are ourselves of certain
characters), the Vices must be voluntary also, because the cases are
Well now, we have stated generally respecting the Moral Virtues, the
genus (in outline), that they are mean states, and that they are habits,
and how they are formed, and that they are of themselves calculated to
act upon the circumstances out of which they were formed, and that they
are in our own power and voluntary, and are to be done so as right
Reason may direct.
[Sidenote: III5_a_] But the particular actions and the habits are not
voluntary in the same sense; for of the actions we are masters from
beginning to end (supposing of course a knowledge of the particular
details), but only of the origination of the habits, the addition by
small particular accessions not being cognisiable (as is the case with
sicknesses): still they are voluntary because it rested with us to use
our circumstances this way or that.
Here we will resume the particular discussion of the Moral Virtues,
and say what they are, what is their object-matter, and how they stand
respectively related to it: of course their number will be thereby
shown. First, then, of Courage. Now that it is a mean state, in respect
of fear and boldness, has been already said: further, the objects of our
fears are obviously things fearful or, in a general way of statement,
evils; which accounts for the common definition of fear, viz.
"expectation of evil."
Of course we fear evils of all kinds: disgrace, for instance, poverty,
disease, desolateness, death; but not all these seem to be the
object-matter of the Brave man, because there are things which to fear
is right and noble, and not to fear is base; disgrace, for example,
since he who fears this is a good man and has a sense of honour, and he
who does not fear it is shameless (though there are those who call him
Brave by analogy, because he somewhat resembles the Brave man who agrees
with him in being free from fear); but poverty, perhaps, or disease, and
in fact whatever does not proceed from viciousness, nor is attributable
to his own fault, a man ought not to fear: still, being fearless in
respect of these would not constitute a man Brave in the proper sense of
Yet we do apply the term in right of the similarity of the cases; for
there are men who, though timid in the dangers of war, are liberal men
and are stout enough to face loss of wealth.
And, again, a man is not a coward for fearing insult to his wife or
children, or envy, or any such thing; nor is he a Brave man for being
bold when going to be scourged.
What kind of fearful things then do constitute the object-matter of the
Brave man? first of all, must they not be the greatest, since no man is
more apt to withstand what is dreadful. Now the object of the greatest
dread is death, because it is the end of all things, and the dead man is
thought to be capable neither of good nor evil. Still it would seem
that the Brave man has not for his object-matter even death in every
circumstance; on the sea, for example, or in sickness: in what
circumstances then? must it not be in the most honourable? now such is
death in war, because it is death in the greatest and most honourable
danger; and this is confirmed by the honours awarded in communities, and
He then may be most properly denominated Brave who is fearless in
respect of honourable death and such sudden emergencies as threaten
death; now such specially are those which arise in the course of war.
[Sidenote: 1115b] It is not meant but that the Brave man will be
fearless also on the sea (and in sickness), but not in the same way as
sea-faring men; for these are light-hearted and hopeful by reason of
their experience, while landsmen though Brave are apt to give themselves
up for lost and shudder at the notion of such a death: to which it
should be added that Courage is exerted in circumstances which admit
of doing something to help one's self, or in which death would be
honourable; now neither of these requisites attach to destruction by
drowning or sickness.
Again, fearful is a term of relation, the same thing not being so to
all, and there is according to common parlance somewhat so fearful as to
be beyond human endurance: this of course would be fearful to every
man of sense, but those objects which are level to the capacity of
man differ in magnitude and admit of degrees, so too the objects of
confidence or boldness.
Now the Brave man cannot be frighted from his propriety (but of course
only so far as he is man); fear such things indeed he will, but he will
stand up against them as he ought and as right reason may direct, with a
view to what is honourable, because this is the end of the virtue.
Now it is possible to fear these things too much, or too little, or
again to fear what is not really fearful as if it were such. So the
errors come to be either that a man fears when he ought not to fear at
all, or that he fears in an improper way, or at a wrong time, and so
forth; and so too in respect of things inspiring confidence. He is
Brave then who withstands, and fears, and is bold, in respect of right
objects, from a right motive, in right manner, and at right times:
since the Brave man suffers or acts as he ought and as right reason may
Now the end of every separate act of working is that which accords
with the habit, and so to the Brave man Courage; which is honourable;
therefore such is also the End, since the character of each is
determined by the End.
So honour is the motive from which the Brave man withstands things
fearful and performs the acts which accord with Courage.
Of the characters on the side of Excess, he who exceeds in utter absence
of fear has no appropriate name (I observed before that many states have
none), but he would be a madman or inaccessible to pain if he feared
nothing, neither earthquake, nor the billows, as they tell of the Celts.
He again who exceeds in confidence in respect of things fearful is rash.
He is thought moreover to be a braggart, and to advance unfounded claims
to the character of Brave: the relation which the Brave man really bears
to objects of fear this man wishes to appear to bear, and so imitates
him in whatever points he can; for this reason most of them exhibit a
curious mixture of rashness and cowardice; because, affecting rashness
in these circumstances, they do not withstand what is truly fearful.
[Sidenote: III6_a_] The man moreover who exceeds in feeling fear is a
coward, since there attach to him the circumstances of fearing wrong
objects, in wrong ways, and so forth. He is deficient also in feeling
confidence, but he is most clearly seen as exceeding in the case of
pains; he is a fainthearted kind of man, for he fears all things: the
Brave man is just the contrary, for boldness is the property of the
light-hearted and hopeful.
So the coward, the rash, and the Brave man have exactly the same
object-matter, but stand differently related to it: the two
first-mentioned respectively exceed and are deficient, the last is in a
mean state and as he ought to be. The rash again are precipitate, and,
being eager before danger, when actually in it fall away, while the
Brave are quick and sharp in action, but before are quiet and composed.
Well then, as has been said, Courage is a mean state in respect of
objects inspiring boldness or fear, in the circumstances which have been
stated, and the Brave man chooses his line and withstands danger either
because to do so is honourable, or because not to do so is base. But
dying to escape from poverty, or the pangs of love, or anything that is
simply painful, is the act not of a Brave man but of a coward; because
it is mere softness to fly from what is toilsome, and the suicide braves
the terrors of death not because it is honourable but to get out of the
reach of evil.
Courage proper is somewhat of the kind I have described, but there are
dispositions, differing in five ways, which also bear in common parlance
the name of Courage.
We will take first that which bears most resemblance to the true, the
Courage of Citizenship, so named because the motives which are thought
to actuate the members of a community in braving danger are the
penalties and disgrace held out by the laws to cowardice, and the
dignities conferred on the Brave; which is thought to be the reason
why those are the bravest people among whom cowards are visited with
disgrace and the Brave held in honour.
Such is the kind of Courage Homer exhibits in his characters; Diomed and
Hector for example. The latter says,
"Polydamas will be the first to fix
Disgrace upon me."
"For Hector surely will hereafter say,
Speaking in Troy, Tydides by my hand"--
This I say most nearly resembles the Courage before spoken of, because
it arises from virtue, from a feeling of shame, and a desire of what is
noble (that is, of honour), and avoidance of disgrace which is base. In
the same rank one would be inclined to place those also who act under
compulsion from their commanders; yet are they really lower, because not
a sense of honour but fear is the motive from which they act, and what
they seek to avoid is not that which is base but that which is simply
painful: commanders do in fact compel their men sometimes, as Hector
says (to quote Homer again),
"But whomsoever I shall find cowering afar from the fight,
The teeth of dogs he shall by no means escape."
[Sidenote: III6_h_] Those commanders who station staunch troops by
doubtful ones, or who beat their men if they flinch, or who draw their
troops up in line with the trenches, or other similar obstacles,
in their rear, do in effect the same as Hector, for they all use
But a man is to be Brave, not on compulsion, but from a sense of honour.
In the next place, Experience and Skill in the various particulars is
thought to be a species of Courage: whence Socrates also thought that
Courage was knowledge.
This quality is exhibited of course by different men under different
circumstances, but in warlike matters, with which we are now concerned,
it is exhibited by the soldiers ("the regulars"): for there are, it
would seem, many things in war of no real importance which these have
been constantly used to see; so they have a show of Courage because
other people are not aware of the real nature of these things. Then
again by reason of their skill they are better able than any others to
inflict without suffering themselves, because they are able to use their
arms and have such as are most serviceable both with a view to offence
and defence: so that their case is parallel to that of armed men
fighting with unarmed or trained athletes with amateurs, since in
contests of this kind those are the best fighters, not who are the
bravest men, but who are the strongest and are in the best condition.
In fact, the regular troops come to be cowards whenever the danger is
greater than their means of meeting it; supposing, for example, that
they are inferior in numbers and resources: then they are the first to
fly, but the mere militia stand and fall on the ground (which as you
know really happened at the Hermaeum), for in the eyes of these flight
was disgraceful and death preferable to safety bought at such a price:
while "the regulars" originally went into the danger under a notion
of their own superiority, but on discovering their error they took to
flight, having greater fear of death than of disgrace; but this is not
the feeling of the Brave man.
Thirdly, mere Animal Spirit is sometimes brought under the term Courage:
they are thought to be Brave who are carried on by mere Animal Spirit,
as are wild beasts against those who have wounded them, because in fact
the really Brave have much Spirit, there being nothing like it for going
at danger of any kind; whence those frequent expressions in Homer,
"infused strength into his spirit," "roused his strength and spirit," or
again, "and keen strength in his nostrils," "his blood boiled:" for all
these seem to denote the arousing and impetuosity of the Animal Spirit.
[Sidenote: III7_a_] Now they that are truly Brave act from a sense of
honour, and this Animal Spirit co-operates with them; but wild beasts
from pain, that is because they have been wounded, or are frightened;
since if they are quietly in their own haunts, forest or marsh, they do
not attack men. Surely they are not Brave because they rush into danger
when goaded on by pain and mere Spirit, without any view of the danger:
else would asses be Brave when they are hungry, for though beaten they
will not then leave their pasture: profligate men besides do many bold
actions by reason of their lust. We may conclude then that they are not
Brave who are goaded on to meet danger by pain and mere Spirit; but
still this temper which arises from Animal Spirit appears to be most
natural, and would be Courage of the true kind if it could have added
to it moral choice and the proper motive. So men also are pained by a
feeling of anger, and take pleasure in revenge; but they who fight from
these causes may be good fighters, but they are not truly Brave (in
that they do not act from a sense of honour, nor as reason directs, but
merely from the present feeling), still they bear some resemblance to
Nor, again, are the Sanguine and Hopeful therefore Brave: since their
boldness in dangers arises from their frequent victories over numerous
foes. The two characters are alike, however, in that both are confident;
but then the Brave are so from the afore-mentioned causes, whereas these
are so from a settled conviction of their being superior and not likely
to suffer anything in return (they who are intoxicated do much the
same, for they become hopeful when in that state); but when the event
disappoints their expectations they run away: now it was said to be the
character of a Brave man to withstand things which are fearful to man
or produce that impression, because it is honourable so to do and the
contrary is dishonourable.
For this reason it is thought to be a greater proof of Courage to be
fearless and undisturbed under the pressure of sudden fear than under
that which may be anticipated, because Courage then comes rather from a
fixed habit, or less from preparation: since as to foreseen dangers a
man might take his line even from calculation and reasoning, but in
those which are sudden he will do so according to his fixed habit of
Fifthly and lastly, those who are acting under Ignorance have a show
of Courage and are not very far from the Hopeful; but still they are
inferior inasmuch as they have no opinion of themselves; which the
others have, and therefore stay and contest a field for some little
time; but they who have been deceived fly the moment they know things to
be otherwise than they supposed, which the Argives experienced when they
fell on the Lacedaemonians, taking them for the men of Sicyon. We have
described then what kind of men the Brave are, and what they who are
thought to be, but are not really, Brave.
It must be remarked, however, that though Courage has for its
object-matter boldness and fear it has not both equally so, but objects
of fear much more than the former; for he that under pressure of these
is undisturbed and stands related to them as he ought is better entitled
to the name of Brave than he who is properly affected towards objects
of confidence. So then men are termed Brave for withstanding painful
It follows that Courage involves pain and is justly praised, since it
is a harder matter to withstand things that are painful than to abstain
from such as are pleasant.
It must not be thought but that the End and object of Courage is
pleasant, but it is obscured by the surrounding circumstances: which
happens also in the gymnastic games; to the boxers the End is pleasant
with a view to which they act, I mean the crown and the honours; but the
receiving the blows they do is painful and annoying to flesh and blood,
and so is all the labour they have to undergo; and, as these drawbacks
are many, the object in view being small appears to have no pleasantness
If then we may say the same of Courage, of course death and wounds must
be painful to the Brave man and against his will: still he endures these
because it is honourable so to do or because it is dishonourable not to
do so. And the more complete his virtue and his happiness so much the
more will he be pained at the notion of death: since to such a man as
he is it is best worth while to live, and he with full consciousness is
deprived of the greatest goods by death, and this is a painful idea. But
he is not the less Brave for feeling it to be so, nay rather it may be
he is shown to be more so because he chooses the honour that may be
reaped in war in preference to retaining safe possession of these other
goods. The fact is that to act with pleasure does not belong to all the
virtues, except so far as a man realises the End of his actions.
But there is perhaps no reason why not such men should make the best
soldiers, but those who are less truly Brave but have no other good to
care for: these being ready to meet danger and bartering their lives
against small gain.
Let thus much be accepted as sufficient on the subject of Courage; the
true nature of which it is not difficult to gather, in outline at least,
from what has been said.
Next let us speak of Perfected Self-Mastery, which seems to claim the
next place to Courage, since these two are the Excellences of the
Irrational part of the Soul.
That it is a mean state, having for its object-matter Pleasures, we have
already said (Pains being in fact its object-matter in a less degree
and dissimilar manner), the state of utter absence of self-control has
plainly the same object-matter; the next thing then is to determine what
kind of Pleasures.
Let Pleasures then be understood to be divided into mental and bodily:
instances of the former being love of honour or of learning: it being
plain that each man takes pleasure in that of these two objects which he
has a tendency to like, his body being no way affected but rather his
intellect. Now men are not called perfectly self-mastering or wholly
destitute of self-control in respect of pleasures of this class: nor in
fact in respect of any which are not bodily; those for example who love
to tell long stories, and are prosy, and spend their days about
mere chance matters, we call gossips but not wholly destitute of
self-control, nor again those who are pained at the loss of money or
It is bodily Pleasures then which are the object-matter of Perfected
Self-Mastery, but not even all these indifferently: I mean, that they
who take pleasure in objects perceived by the Sight, as colours, and
forms, and painting, are not denominated men of Perfected Self-Mastery,
or wholly destitute of self-control; and yet it would seem that one may
take pleasure even in such objects, as one ought to do, or excessively,
or too little.
So too of objects perceived by the sense of Hearing; no one applies the
terms before quoted respectively to those who are excessively pleased
with musical tunes or acting, or to those who take such pleasure as they
Nor again to those persons whose pleasure arises from the sense
of Smell, except incidentally: I mean, we do not say men have no
self-control because they take pleasure in the scent of fruit, or
flowers, or incense, but rather when they do so in the smells of
unguents and sauces: since men destitute of self-control take pleasure
herein, because hereby the objects of their lusts are recalled to their
imagination (you may also see other men take pleasure in the smell of
food when they are hungry): but to take pleasure in such is a mark of
the character before named since these are objects of desire to him.
Now not even brutes receive pleasure in right of these senses, except
incidentally. I mean, it is not the scent of hares' flesh but the eating
it which dogs take pleasure in, perception of which pleasure is caused
by the sense of Smell. Or again, it is not the lowing of the ox but
eating him which the lion likes; but of the fact of his nearness the
lion is made sensible by the lowing, and so he appears to take pleasure
in this. In like manner, he has no pleasure in merely seeing or finding
a stag or wild goat, but in the prospect of a meal.
The habits of Perfect Self-Mastery and entire absence of self-control
have then for their object-matter such pleasures as brutes also share
in, for which reason they are plainly servile and brutish: they are
Touch and Taste.
But even Taste men seem to make little or no use of; for to the sense of
Taste belongs the distinguishing of flavours; what men do, in fact, who
are testing the quality of wines or seasoning "made dishes."
But men scarcely take pleasure at all in these things, at least those
whom we call destitute of self-control do not, but only in the actual
enjoyment which arises entirely from the sense of Touch, whether in
eating or in drinking, or in grosser lusts. This accounts for the wish
said to have been expressed once by a great glutton, "that his throat
had been formed longer than a crane's neck," implying that his pleasure
was derived from the Touch.
[Sidenote: 1118b] The sense then with which is connected the habit of
absence of self-control is the most common of all the senses, and this
habit would seem to be justly a matter of reproach, since it attaches to
us not in so far as we are men but in so far as we are animals. Indeed
it is brutish to take pleasure in such things and to like them best of
all; for the most respectable of the pleasures arising from the touch
have been set aside; those, for instance, which occur in the course of
gymnastic training from the rubbing and the warm bath: because the touch
of the man destitute of self-control is not indifferently of _any_ part
of the body but only of particular parts.
Now of lusts or desires some are thought to be universal, others
peculiar and acquired; thus desire for food is natural since every one
who really needs desires also food, whether solid or liquid, or both
(and, as Homer says, the man in the prime of youth needs and desires
intercourse with the other sex); but when we come to this or that
particular kind, then neither is the desire universal nor in all men is
it directed to the same objects. And therefore the conceiving of such
desires plainly attaches to us as individuals. It must be admitted,
however, that there is something natural in it: because different things
are pleasant to different men and a preference of some particular
objects to chance ones is universal. Well then, in the case of the
desires which are strictly and properly natural few men go wrong and all
in one direction, that is, on the side of too much: I mean, to eat and
drink of such food as happens to be on the table till one is overfilled
is exceeding in quantity the natural limit, since the natural desire
is simply a supply of a real deficiency. For this reason these men are
called belly-mad, as filling it beyond what they ought, and it is the
slavish who become of this character.
But in respect of the peculiar pleasures many men go wrong and in many
different ways; for whereas the term "fond of so and so" implies either
taking pleasure in wrong objects, or taking pleasure excessively, or as
the mass of men do, or in a wrong way, they who are destitute of all
self-control exceed in all these ways; that is to say, they take
pleasure in some things in which they ought not to do so (because they
are properly objects of detestation), and in such as it is right to take
pleasure in they do so more than they ought and as the mass of men do.
Well then, that excess with respect to pleasures is absence of
self-control, and blameworthy, is plain. But viewing these habits on the
side of pains, we find that a man is not said to have the virtue for
withstanding them (as in the case of Courage), nor the vice for not
withstanding them; but the man destitute of self-control is such,
because he is pained more than he ought to be at not obtaining things
which are pleasant (and thus his pleasure produces pain to him), and the
man of Perfected Self-Mastery is such in virtue of not being pained by
their absence, that is, by having to abstain from what is pleasant.
[Sidenote:III9a] Now the man destitute of self-control desires either
all pleasant things indiscriminately or those which are specially
pleasant, and he is impelled by his desire to choose these things in
preference to all others; and this involves pain, not only when he
misses the attainment of his objects but, in the very desiring them,
since all desire is accompanied by pain. Surely it is a strange case
this, being pained by reason of pleasure.
As for men who are defective on the side of pleasure, who take
less pleasure in things than they ought, they are almost imaginary
characters, because such absence of sensual perception is not natural to
man: for even the other animals distinguish between different kinds of
food, and like some kinds and dislike others. In fact, could a man be
found who takes no pleasure in anything and to whom all things are
alike, he would be far from being human at all: there is no name for
such a character because it is simply imaginary.
But the man of Perfected Self-Mastery is in the mean with respect to
these objects: that is to say, he neither takes pleasure in the things
which delight the vicious man, and in fact rather dislikes them, nor at
all in improper objects; nor to any great degree in any object of the
class; nor is he pained at their absence; nor does he desire them; or,
if he does, only in moderation, and neither more than he ought, nor at
improper times, and so forth; but such things as are conducive to health
and good condition of body, being also pleasant, these he will grasp at
in moderation and as he ought to do, and also such other pleasant things
as do not hinder these objects, and are not unseemly or disproportionate
to his means; because he that should grasp at such would be liking such
pleasures more than is proper; but the man of Perfected Self-Mastery
is not of this character, but regulates his desires by the dictates of
Now the vice of being destitute of all Self-Control seems to be more
truly voluntary than Cowardice, because pleasure is the cause of the
former and pain of the latter, and pleasure is an object of choice,
pain of avoidance. And again, pain deranges and spoils the natural
disposition of its victim, whereas pleasure has no such effect and is
more voluntary and therefore more justly open to reproach.
It is so also for the following reason; that it is easier to be inured
by habit to resist the objects of pleasure, there being many things of
this kind in life and the process of habituation being unaccompanied by
danger; whereas the case is the reverse as regards the objects of fear.
Again, Cowardice as a confirmed habit would seem to be voluntary in
a different way from the particular instances which form the habit;
because it is painless, but these derange the man by reason of pain so
that he throws away his arms and otherwise behaves himself unseemly,
for which reason they are even thought by some to exercise a power of
But to the man destitute of Self-Control the particular instances are on
the contrary quite voluntary, being done with desire and direct exertion
of the will, but the general result is less voluntary: since no man
desires to form the habit.
The name of this vice (which signifies etymologically unchastened-ness)
we apply also to the faults of children, there being a certain
resemblance between the cases: to which the name is primarily applied,
and to which secondarily or derivatively, is not relevant to the present
subject, but it is evident that the later in point of time must get the
name from the earlier. And the metaphor seems to be a very good one;
for whatever grasps after base things, and is liable to great increase,
ought to be chastened; and to this description desire and the child
answer most truly, in that children also live under the direction of
desire and the grasping after what is pleasant is most prominently seen
Unless then the appetite be obedient and subjected to the governing
principle it will become very great: for in the fool the grasping after
what is pleasant is insatiable and undiscriminating; and every acting
out of the desire increases the kindred habit, and if the desires are
great and violent in degree they even expel Reason entirely; therefore
they ought to be moderate and few, and in no respect to be opposed
to Reason. Now when the appetite is in such a state we denominate it
obedient and chastened.
In short, as the child ought to live with constant regard to the orders
of its educator, so should the appetitive principle with regard to those
So then in the man of Perfected Self-Mastery, the appetitive principle
must be accordant with Reason: for what is right is the mark at which
both principles aim: that is to say, the man of perfected self-mastery
desires what he ought in right manner and at right times, which is
exactly what Reason directs. Let this be taken for our account of
We will next speak of Liberality. Now this is thought to be the mean
state, having for its object-matter Wealth: I mean, the Liberal man is
praised not in the circumstances of war, nor in those which constitute
the character of perfected self-mastery, nor again in judicial
decisions, but in respect of giving and receiving Wealth, chiefly the
former. By the term Wealth I mean "all those things whose worth is
measured by money."
Now the states of excess and defect in regard of Wealth are respectively
Prodigality and Stinginess: the latter of these terms we attach
invariably to those who are over careful about Wealth, but the former we
apply sometimes with a complex notion; that is to say, we give the name
to those who fail of self-control and spend money on the unrestrained
gratification of their passions; and this is why they are thought to be
most base, because they have many vices at once.
It must be noted, however, that this is not a strict and proper use of
the term, since its natural etymological meaning is to denote him who
has one particular evil, viz. the wasting his substance: he is unsaved
(as the term literally denotes) who is wasting away by his own fault;
and this he really may be said to be; the destruction of his substance
is thought to be a kind of wasting of himself, since these things
are the means of living. Well, this is our acceptation of the term
Again. Whatever things are for use may be used well or ill, and Wealth
belongs to this class. He uses each particular thing best who has the
virtue to whose province it belongs: so that he will use Wealth best
who has the virtue respecting Wealth, that is to say, the Liberal
man. Expenditure and giving are thought to be the using of money, but
receiving and keeping one would rather call the possessing of it. And so
the giving to proper persons is more characteristic of the Liberal man,
than the receiving from proper quarters and forbearing to receive
from the contrary. In fact generally, doing well by others is more
characteristic of virtue than being done well by, and doing things
positively honourable than forbearing to do things dishonourable;
and any one may see that the doing well by others and doing things
positively honourable attaches to the act of giving, but to that of
receiving only the being done well by or forbearing to do what is
Besides, thanks are given to him who gives, not to him who merely
forbears to receive, and praise even more. Again, forbearing to receive
is easier than giving, the case of being too little freehanded with
one's own being commoner than taking that which is not one's own.
And again, it is they who give that are denominated Liberal, while they
who forbear to receive are commended, not on the score of Liberality but
of just dealing, while for receiving men are not, in fact, praised at
And the Liberal are liked almost best of all virtuous characters,
because they are profitable to others, and this their profitableness
consists in their giving.
Furthermore: all the actions done in accordance with virtue are
honourable, and done from the motive of honour: and the Liberal man,
therefore, will give from a motive of honour, and will give rightly;
I mean, to proper persons, in right proportion, at right times, and
whatever is included in the term "right giving:" and this too with
positive pleasure, or at least without pain, since whatever is done in
accordance with virtue is pleasant or at least not unpleasant, most
certainly not attended with positive pain.
But the man who gives to improper people, or not from a motive of honour
but from some other cause, shall be called not Liberal but something
else. Neither shall he be so [Sidenote:1120b] denominated who does it
with pain: this being a sign that he would prefer his wealth to the
honourable action, and this is no part of the Liberal man's character;
neither will such an one receive from improper sources, because the so
receiving is not characteristic of one who values not wealth: nor again
will he be apt to ask, because one who does kindnesses to others does
not usually receive them willingly; but from proper sources (his own
property, for instance) he will receive, doing this not as honourable
but as necessary, that he may have somewhat to give: neither will he be
careless of his own, since it is his wish through these to help others
in need: nor will he give to chance people, that he may have wherewith
to give to those to whom he ought, at right times, and on occasions when
it is honourable so to do.
Again, it is a trait in the Liberal man's character even to exceed
very much in giving so as to leave too little for himself, it being
characteristic of such an one not to have a thought of self.
Now Liberality is a term of relation to a man's means, for the
Liberal-ness depends not on the amount of what is given but on the moral
state of the giver which gives in proportion to his means. There is then
no reason why he should not be the more Liberal man who gives the less
amount, if he has less to give out of.
Again, they are thought to be more Liberal who have inherited, not
acquired for themselves, their means; because, in the first place, they
have never experienced want, and next, all people love most their own
works, just as parents do and poets.
It is not easy for the Liberal man to be rich, since he is neither apt
to receive nor to keep but to lavish, and values not wealth for its own
sake but with a view to giving it away. Hence it is commonly charged
upon fortune that they who most deserve to be rich are least so. Yet
this happens reasonably enough; it is impossible he should have wealth
who does not take any care to have it, just as in any similar case.
Yet he will not give to improper people, nor at wrong times, and so on:
because he would not then be acting in accordance with Liberality, and
if he spent upon such objects, would have nothing to spend on those on
which he ought: for, as I have said before, he is Liberal who spends in
proportion to his means, and on proper objects, while he who does so
in excess is prodigal (this is the reason why we never call despots
prodigal, because it does not seem to be easy for them by their gifts
and expenditure to go beyond their immense possessions).
To sum up then. Since Liberality is a mean state in respect of the
giving and receiving of wealth, the Liberal man will give and spend on
proper objects, and in proper proportion, in great things and in small
alike, and all this with pleasure to himself; also he will receive from
right sources, and in right proportion: because, as the virtue is a mean
state in respect of both, he will do both as he ought, and, in fact,
upon proper giving follows the correspondent receiving, while that which
is not such is contrary to it. (Now those which follow one another come
to co-exist in the same person, those which are contraries plainly do
[Sidenote:1121a] Again, should it happen to him to spend money beyond
what is needful, or otherwise than is well, he will be vexed, but only
moderately and as he ought; for feeling pleasure and pain at right
objects, and in right manner, is a property of Virtue.
The Liberal man is also a good man to have for a partner in respect of
wealth: for he can easily be wronged, since he values not wealth, and
is more vexed at not spending where he ought to have done so than at
spending where he ought not, and he relishes not the maxim of Simonides.
But the Prodigal man goes wrong also in these points, for he is neither
pleased nor pained at proper objects or in proper manner, which will
become more plain as we proceed. We have said already that Prodigality
and Stinginess are respectively states of excess and defect, and this in
two things, giving and receiving (expenditure of course we class under
giving). Well now, Prodigality exceeds in giving and forbearing to
receive and is deficient in receiving, while Stinginess is deficient in
giving and exceeds in receiving, but it is in small things.
The two parts of Prodigality, to be sure, do not commonly go together;
it is not easy, I mean, to give to all if you receive from none, because
private individuals thus giving will soon find their means run short,
and such are in fact thought to be prodigal. He that should combine both
would seem to be no little superior to the Stingy man: for he may be
easily cured, both by advancing in years, and also by the want of means,
and he may come thus to the mean: he has, you see, already the _facts_
of the Liberal man, he gives and forbears to receive, only he does
neither in right manner or well. So if he could be wrought upon by
habituation in this respect, or change in any other way, he would be a
real Liberal man, for he will give to those to whom he should, and will
forbear to receive whence he ought not. This is the reason too why he is
thought not to be low in moral character, because to exceed in giving
and in forbearing to receive is no sign of badness or meanness, but only
[Sidenote:1121b] Well then, he who is Prodigal in this fashion is
thought far superior to the Stingy man for the aforementioned reasons,
and also because he does good to many, but the Stingy man to no one,
not even to himself. But most Prodigals, as has been said, combine with
their other faults that of receiving from improper sources, and on this
point are Stingy: and they become grasping, because they wish to spend
and cannot do this easily, since their means soon run short and they are
necessitated to get from some other quarter; and then again, because
they care not for what is honourable, they receive recklessly, and from
all sources indifferently, because they desire to give but care not how
or whence. And for this reason their givings are not Liberal, inasmuch
as they are not honourable, nor purely disinterested, nor done in right
fashion; but they oftentimes make those rich who should be poor, and to
those who are quiet respectable kind of people they will give nothing,
but to flatterers, or those who subserve their pleasures in any way,
they will give much. And therefore most of them are utterly devoid
of self-restraint; for as they are open-handed they are liberal in
expenditure upon the unrestrained gratification of their passions, and
turn off to their pleasures because they do not live with reference to
what is honourable.
Thus then the Prodigal, if unguided, slides into these faults; but if he
could get care bestowed on him he might come to the mean and to what is
Stinginess, on the contrary, is incurable: old age, for instance, and
incapacity of any kind, is thought to make people Stingy; and it is more
congenial to human nature than Prodigality, the mass of men being fond
of money rather than apt to give: moreover it extends far and has many
phases, the modes of stinginess being thought to be many. For as it
consists of two things, defect of giving and excess of receiving,
everybody does not have it entire, but it is sometimes divided, and one
class of persons exceed in receiving, the other are deficient in giving.
I mean those who are designated by such appellations as sparing,
close-fisted, niggards, are all deficient in giving; but other men's
property they neither desire nor are willing to receive, in some
instances from a real moderation and shrinking from what is base.
There are some people whose motive, either supposed or alleged, for
keeping their property is this, that they may never be driven to do
anything dishonourable: to this class belongs the skinflint, and every
one of similar character, so named from the excess of not-giving. Others
again decline to receive their neighbour's goods from a motive of fear;
their notion being that it is not easy to take other people's things
yourself without their taking yours: so they are content neither to
receive nor give.
[Sidenote:1122a] The other class again who are Stingy in respect of
receiving exceed in that they receive anything from any source; such as
they who work at illiberal employments, brothel keepers, and such-like,
and usurers who lend small sums at large interest: for all these receive
from improper sources, and improper amounts. Their common characteristic
is base-gaining, since they all submit to disgrace for the sake of gain
and that small; because those who receive great things neither whence
they ought, nor what they ought (as for instance despots who sack cities
and plunder temples), we denominate wicked, impious, and unjust, but not
Now the dicer and bath-plunderer and the robber belong to the class of
the Stingy, for they are given to base gain: both busy themselves and
submit to disgrace for the sake of gain, and the one class incur the
greatest dangers for the sake of their booty, while the others make gain
of their friends to whom they ought to be giving.
So both classes, as wishing to make gain from improper sources, are
given to base gain, and all such receivings are Stingy. And with good
reason is Stinginess called the contrary of Liberality: both because it
is a greater evil than Prodigality, and because men err rather in this
direction than in that of the Prodigality which we have spoken of as
properly and completely such.
Let this be considered as what we have to say respecting Liberality and
the contrary vices.
Next in order would seem to come a dissertation on Magnificence,
this being thought to be, like liberality, a virtue having for its
object-matter Wealth; but it does not, like that, extend to all
transactions in respect of Wealth, but only applies to such as are
expensive, and in these circumstances it exceeds liberality in respect
of magnitude, because it is (what the very name in Greek hints at)
fitting expense on a large scale: this term is of course relative: I
mean, the expenditure of equipping and commanding a trireme is not the
same as that of giving a public spectacle: "fitting" of course also is
relative to the individual, and the matter wherein and upon which he has
to spend. And a man is not denominated Magnificent for spending as he
should do in small or ordinary things, as, for instance,
"Oft to the wandering beggar did I give,"
but for doing so in great matters: that is to say, the Magnificent man
is liberal, but the liberal is not thereby Magnificent. The falling
short of such a state is called Meanness, the exceeding it Vulgar
Profusion, Want of Taste, and so on; which are faulty, not because they
are on an excessive scale in respect of right objects but, because they
show off in improper objects, and in improper manner: of these we will
speak presently. The Magnificent man is like a man of skill, because he
can see what is fitting, and can spend largely in good taste; for, as
we said at the commencement, [Sidenote: 1122b] the confirmed habit is
determined by the separate acts of working, and by its object-matter.
Well, the expenses of the Magnificent man are great and fitting: such
also are his works (because this secures the expenditure being not great
merely, but befitting the work). So then the work is to be proportionate
to the expense, and this again to the work, or even above it: and the
Magnificent man will incur such expenses from the motive of honour, this
being common to all the virtues, and besides he will do it with pleasure
and lavishly; excessive accuracy in calculation being Mean. He will
consider also how a thing may be done most beautifully and fittingly,
rather, than for how much it may be done, and how at the least expense.
So the Magnificent man must be also a liberal man, because the liberal
man will also spend what he ought, and in right manner: but it is the
Great, that is to say tke large scale, which is distinctive of the
Magnificent man, the object-matter of liberality being the same, and
without spending more money than another man he will make the work more
magnificent. I mean, the excellence of a possession and of a work is not
the same: as a piece of property that thing is most valuable which is
worth most, gold for instance; but as a work that which is great and
beautiful, because the contemplation of such an object is admirable,
and so is that which is Magnificent. So the excellence of a work is
Magnificence on a large scale. There are cases of expenditure which we
call honourable, such as are dedicatory offerings to the gods, and the
furnishing their temples, and sacrifices, and in like manner everything
that has reference to the Deity, and all such public matters as are
objects of honourable ambition, as when men think in any case that it is
their duty to furnish a chorus for the stage splendidly, or fit out and
maintain a trireme, or give a general public feast.
Now in all these, as has been already stated, respect is had also to the
rank and the means of the man who is doing them: because they should be
proportionate to these, and befit not the work only but also the doer of
the work. For this reason a poor man cannot be a Magnificent man, since
he has not means wherewith to spend largely and yet becomingly; and if
he attempts it he is a fool, inasmuch as it is out of proportion and
contrary to propriety, whereas to be in accordance with virtue a thing
must be done rightly.
Such expenditure is fitting moreover for those to whom such things
previously belong, either through themselves or through their ancestors
or people with whom they are connected, and to the high-born or people
of high repute, and so on: because all these things imply greatness and
So then the Magnificent man is pretty much as I have described him,
and Magnificence consists in such expenditures: because they are the
greatest and most honourable: [Sidenote:1123a] and of private ones such
as come but once for all, marriage to wit, and things of that kind; and
any occasion which engages the interest of the community in general, or
of those who are in power; and what concerns receiving and despatching
strangers; and gifts, and repaying gifts: because the Magnificent man
is not apt to spend upon himself but on the public good, and gifts are
pretty much in the same case as dedicatory offerings.
It is characteristic also of the Magnificent man to furnish his house
suitably to his wealth, for this also in a way reflects credit; and
again, to spend rather upon such works as are of long duration, these
being most honourable. And again, propriety in each case, because the
same things are not suitable to gods and men, nor in a temple and a
tomb. And again, in the case of expenditures, each must be great of its
kind, and great expense on a great object is most magnificent, that is
in any case what is great in these particular things.
There is a difference too between greatness of a work and greatness of
expenditure: for instance, a very beautiful ball or cup is magnificent
as a present to a child, while the price of it is small and almost
mean. Therefore it is characteristic of the Magnificent man to do
magnificently whatever he is about: for whatever is of this kind cannot
be easily surpassed, and bears a proper proportion to the expenditure.
Such then is the Magnificent man.
The man who is in the state of excess, called one of Vulgar Profusion,
is in excess because he spends improperly, as has been said. I mean in
cases requiring small expenditure he lavishes much and shows off out of
taste; giving his club a feast fit for a wedding-party, or if he has to
furnish a chorus for a comedy, giving the actors purple to wear in the
first scene, as did the Megarians. And all such things he will do, not
with a view to that which is really honourable, but to display his
wealth, and because he thinks he shall be admired for these things; and
he will spend little where he ought to spend much, and much where he
should spend little.
The Mean man will be deficient in every case, and even where he has
spent the most he will spoil the whole effect for want of some trifle;
he is procrastinating in all he does, and contrives how he may spend
the least, and does even that with lamentations about the expense, and
thinking that he does all things on a greater scale than he ought.
Of course, both these states are faulty, but they do not involve
disgrace because they are neither hurtful to others nor very unseemly.
The very name of Great-mindedness implies, that great things are its
object-matter; and we will first settle what kind of things. It makes no
difference, of course, whether we regard the moral state in the abstract
or as exemplified in an individual.
[Sidenote: 1123b] Well then, he is thought to be Great-minded who values
himself highly and at the same time justly, because he that does so
without grounds is foolish, and no virtuous character is foolish or
senseless. Well, the character I have described is Great-minded. The man
who estimates himself lowly, and at the same time justly, is modest; but
not Great-minded, since this latter quality implies greatness, just as
beauty implies a large bodily conformation while small people are neat
and well made but not beautiful.
Again, he who values himself highly without just grounds is a Vain
man: though the name must not be applied to every case of unduly
high self-estimation. He that values himself below his real worth is
Small-minded, and whether that worth is great, moderate, or small, his
own estimate falls below it. And he is the strongest case of this error
who is really a man of great worth, for what would he have done had his
worth been less?
The Great-minded man is then, as far as greatness is concerned, at
the summit, but in respect of propriety he is in the mean, because he
estimates himself at his real value (the other characters respectively
are in excess and defect). Since then he justly estimates himself at a
high, or rather at the highest possible rate, his character will have
respect specially to one thing: this term "rate" has reference of course
to external goods: and of these we should assume that to be the greatest
which we attribute to the gods, and which is the special object of
desire to those who are in power, and which is the prize proposed to the
most honourable actions: now honour answers to these descriptions, being
the greatest of external goods. So the Great-minded man bears himself as
he ought in respect of honour and dishonour. In fact, without need of
words, the Great-minded plainly have honour for their object-matter:
since honour is what the great consider themselves specially worthy of,
and according to a certain rate.
The Small-minded man is deficient, both as regards himself, and also
as regards the estimation of the Great-minded: while the Vain man is in
excess as regards himself, but does not get beyond the Great-minded
man. Now the Great-minded man, being by the hypothesis worthy of the
greatest things, must be of the highest excellence, since the better a
man is the more is he worth, and he who is best is worth the most: it
follows then, that to be truly Great-minded a man must be good,
and whatever is great in each virtue would seem to belong to the
Great-minded. It would no way correspond with the character of the
Great-minded to flee spreading his hands all abroad; nor to injure any
one; for with what object in view will he do what is base, in whose eyes
nothing is great? in short, if one were to go into particulars, the
Great-minded man would show quite ludicrously unless he were a good man:
he would not be in fact deserving of honour if he were a bad man, honour
being the prize of virtue and given to the good.
This virtue, then, of Great-mindedness seems to be a kind of ornament
of all the other virtues, in that it makes them better and cannot be
without them; and for this reason it is a hard matter to be really and
truly Great-minded; for it cannot be without thorough goodness and
nobleness of character.
[Sidenote:1124a] Honour then and dishonour are specially the
object-matter of the Great-minded man: and at such as is great, and
given by good men, he will be pleased moderately as getting his own, or
perhaps somewhat less for no honour can be quite adequate to perfect
virtue: but still he will accept this because they have nothing higher
to give him. But such as is given by ordinary people and on trifling
grounds he will entirely despise, because these do not come up to his
deserts: and dishonour likewise, because in his case there cannot be
just ground for it.
Now though, as I have said, honour is specially the object-matter of the
Great-minded man, I do not mean but that likewise in respect of wealth
and power, and good or bad fortune of every kind, he will bear himself
with moderation, fall out how they may, and neither in prosperity will
he be overjoyed nor in adversity will he be unduly pained. For not even
in respect of honour does he so bear himself; and yet it is the greatest
of all such objects, since it is the cause of power and wealth being
choiceworthy, for certainly they who have them desire to receive honour
through them. So to whom honour even is a small thing to him will all
other things also be so; and this is why such men are thought to be
It seems too that pieces of good fortune contribute to form this
character of Great-mindedness: I mean, the nobly born, or men of
influence, or the wealthy, are considered to be entitled to honour, for
they are in a position of eminence and whatever is eminent by good is
more entitled to honour: and this is why such circumstances dispose men
rather to Great-mindedness, because they receive honour at the hands of
Now really and truly the good man alone is entitled to honour; only if
a man unites in himself goodness with these external advantages he is
thought to be more entitled to honour: but they who have them without
also having virtue are not justified in their high estimate of
themselves, nor are they rightly denominated Great-minded; since perfect
virtue is one of the indispensable conditions to such & character.
[Sidenote:1124b] Further, such men become supercilious and insolent, it
not being easy to bear prosperity well without goodness; and not being
able to bear it, and possessed with an idea of their own superiority to
others, they despise them, and do just whatever their fancy prompts; for
they mimic the Great-minded man, though they are not like him, and they
do this in such points as they can, so without doing the actions which
can only flow from real goodness they despise others. Whereas the
Great-minded man despises on good grounds (for he forms his opinions
truly), but the mass of men do it at random.
Moreover, he is not a man to incur little risks, nor does he court
danger, because there are but few things he has a value for; but he will
incur great dangers, and when he does venture he is prodigal of his life
as knowing that there are terms on which it is not worth his while to
live. He is the sort of man to do kindnesses, but he is ashamed to
receive them; the former putting a man in the position of superiority,
the latter in that of inferiority; accordingly he will greatly overpay
any kindness done to him, because the original actor will thus be laid
under obligation and be in the position of the party benefited. Such men
seem likewise to remember those they have done kindnesses to, but not
those from whom they have received them: because he who has received is
inferior to him who has done the kindness and our friend wishes to be
superior; accordingly he is pleased to hear of his own kind acts but not
of those done to himself (and this is why, in Homer, Thetis does
not mention to Jupiter the kindnesses she had done him, nor did the
Lacedaemonians to the Athenians but only the benefits they had received).
Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not
at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to
bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people
of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult
and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high
and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those
of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading
strength against the weak.
And again, not to put himself in the way of honour, nor to go where
others are the chief men; and to be remiss and dilatory, except in the
case of some great honour or work; and to be concerned in few things,
and those great and famous. It is a property of him also to be open,
both in his dislikes and his likings, because concealment is a
consequent of fear. Likewise to be careful for reality rather than
appearance, and talk and act openly (for his contempt for others makes
him a bold man, for which same reason he is apt to speak the truth,
except where the principle of reserve comes in), but to be reserved
towards the generality of men.
[Sidenote: II25a] And to be unable to live with reference to any other
but a friend; because doing so is servile, as may be seen in that all
flatterers are low and men in low estate are flatterers. Neither is his
admiration easily excited, because nothing is great in his eyes; nor
does he bear malice, since remembering anything, and specially wrongs,
is no part of Great-mindedness, but rather overlooking them; nor does he
talk of other men; in fact, he will not speak either of himself or of
any other; he neither cares to be praised himself nor to have others
blamed; nor again does he praise freely, and for this reason he is
not apt to speak ill even of his enemies except to show contempt and
And he is by no means apt to make laments about things which cannot be
helped, or requests about those which are trivial; because to be thus
disposed with respect to these things is consequent only upon real
anxiety about them. Again, he is the kind of man to acquire what
is beautiful and unproductive rather than what is productive and
profitable: this being rather the part of an independent man. Also slow
motion, deep-toned voice, and deliberate style of speech, are thought to
be characteristic of the Great-minded man: for he who is earnest about
few things is not likely to be in a hurry, nor he who esteems nothing
great to be very intent: and sharp tones and quickness are the result of
This then is my idea of the Great-minded man; and he who is in the
defect is a Small-minded man, he who is in the excess a Vain man.
However, as we observed in respect of the last character we discussed,
these extremes are not thought to be vicious exactly, but only mistaken,
for they do no harm.
The Small-minded man, for instance, being really worthy of good deprives
himself of his deserts, and seems to have somewhat faulty from not
having a sufficiently high estimate of his own desert, in fact from
self-ignorance: because, but for this, he would have grasped after what
he really is entitled to, and that is good. Still such characters are
not thought to be foolish, but rather laggards. But the having such
an opinion of themselves seems to have a deteriorating effect on the
character: because in all cases men's aims are regulated by their
supposed desert, and thus these men, under a notion of their own want of
desert, stand aloof from honourable actions and courses, and similarly
from external goods.
But the Vain are foolish and self-ignorant, and that palpably: because
they attempt honourable things, as though they were worthy, and then
they are detected. They also set themselves off, by dress, and carriage,
and such-like things, and desire that their good circumstances may
be seen, and they talk of them under the notion of receiving
honour thereby. Small-mindedness rather than Vanity is opposed to
Great-mindedness, because it is more commonly met with and is worse.
[Sidenote:1125b] Well, the virtue of Great-mindedness has for its object
great Honour, as we have said: and there seems to be a virtue having
Honour also for its object (as we stated in the former book), which may
seem to bear to Great-mindedness the same relation that Liberality does
to Magnificence: that is, both these virtues stand aloof from what is
great but dispose us as we ought to be disposed towards moderate and
small matters. Further: as in giving and receiving of wealth there is
a mean state, an excess, and a defect, so likewise in grasping after
Honour there is the more or less than is right, and also the doing so
from right sources and in right manner.
For we blame the lover of Honour as aiming at Honour more than he ought,
and from wrong sources; and him who is destitute of a love of Honour as
not choosing to be honoured even for what is noble. Sometimes again we
praise the lover of Honour as manly and having a love for what is noble,
and him who has no love for it as being moderate and modest (as we
noticed also in the former discussion of these virtues).
It is clear then that since "Lover of so and so" is a term capable of