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Aristotle - Ethics; Book 2 lyrics

Well: human Excellence is of two kinds, Intellectual and Moral: now the
Intellectual springs originally, and is increased subsequently, from
Teaching (for the most part that is), and needs therefore experience
And time; whereas the Moral comes from custom, and so the Greek term
Denoting it is but a slight deflection from the term denoting custom in
That language

From this fact it is plain that not one of the Moral Virtues comes to be
In us merely by nature: because of such things as exist by nature, none
Can be changed by custom: a stone, for instance, by nature gravitating
Downwards, could never by custom be brought to ascend, not even if one
Were to try and accustom it by throwing it up ten thousand times; nor
Could file again be brought to descend, nor in fact could anything whose
Nature is in one way be brought by custom to be in another. The Virtues
Then come to be in us neither by nature, nor in despite of nature, but
We are furnished by nature with a capacity for receiving themu and are
Perfected in them through custom

Again, in whatever cases we get things by nature, we get the faculties
First and perform the acts of working afterwards; an illustration of
Which is afforded by the case of our bodily senses, for it was not
From having often seen or heard that we got these senses, but just
The reverse: we had them and so exercised them, but did not have
Them because we had exercised them. But the Virtues we get by first
Performing single acts of working, which, again, is the case of other
Things, as the arts for instance; for what we have to make when we
Have learned how, these we learn how to make by making: men come to be
Builders, for instance, by building; harp-players, by playing on the
Harp: exactly so, by doing just actions we come to be just; by doing the
Actions of self-mastery we come to be perfected in self-mastery; and by
Doing brave actions brave

And to the truth of this testimony is borne by what takes place in
Communities: because the law-givers make the individual members good men
By habituation, and this is the intention certainly of every law-giver
And all who do not effect it well fail of their intent; and herein
Consists the difference between a good Constitution and a bad

Again, every Virtue is either produced or destroyed from and by the very
Same circumstances: art too in like manner; I mean it is by playing
The harp that both the good and the bad harp-players are formed: and
Similarly builders and all the rest; by building well men will become
Good builders; by doing it badly bad ones: in fact, if this had not been
So, there would have been no need of instructors, but all men would have
Been at once good or bad in their several arts without them

So too then is it with the Virtues: for by acting in the various
Relations in which we are thrown with our fellow men, we come to be
Some just, some unjust: and by acting in dangerous positions and being
Habituated to feel fear or confidence, we come to be, some brave, others

Similarly is it also with respect to the occasions of lust and anger:
For some men come to be perfected in self-mastery and mild, others
Destitute of all self-control and pa**ionate; the one cla** by behaving
In one way under them, the other by behaving in another. Or, in one
Word, the habits are produced from the acts of working like to them: and
So what we have to do is to give a certain character to these particular
Acts, because the habits formed correspond to the differences of these

So then, whether we are accustomed this way or that straight from
Childhood, makes not a small but an important difference, or rather I
Would say it makes all the difference


Since then the object of the present treatise is not mere speculation
As it is of some others (for we are inquiring not merely that we may
Know what virtue is but that we may become virtuous, else it would have
Been useless), we must consider as to the particular actions how we are
To do them, because, as we have just said, the quality of the habits
That shall be formed depends on these

Now, that we are to act in accordance with Right Reason is a general
Maxim, and may for the present be taken for granted: we will speak of it
Hereafter, and say both what Right Reason is, and what are its relations
To the other virtues

[Sidenote: 1104a]

But let this point be first thoroughly understood between us, that all
Which can be said on moral action must be said in outline, as it were
And not exactly: for as we remarked at the commencement, such reasoning
Only must be required as the nature of the subject-matter admits of, and
Matters of moral action and expediency have no fixedness any more than
Matters of health. And if the subject in its general maxims is such
Still less in its application to particular cases is exactness
Attainable: because these fall not under any art or system of rules, but
It must be left in each instance to the individual agents to look to the
Exigencies of the particular case, as it is in the art of healing
Or that of navigating a ship. Still, though the present subject is
Confessedly such, we must try and do what we can for it

First then this must be noted, that it is the nature of such things to
Be spoiled by defect and excess; as we see in the case of health and
Strength (since for the illustration of things which cannot be seen we
Must use those that can), for excessive training impairs the strength as
Well as deficient: meat and drink, in like manner, in too great or too
Small quantities, impair the health: while in due proportion they cause
Increase, and preserve it

Thus it is therefore with the habits of perfected Self-Mastery and
Courage and the rest of the Virtues: for the man who flies from and
Fears all things, and never stands up against anything, comes to be a
Coward; and he who fears nothing, but goes at everything, comes to be
Rash. In like manner too, he that tastes of every pleasure and abstains
From none comes to lose all self-control; while he who avoids all, as
Do the dull and clownish, comes as it were to lose his faculties of
Perception: that is to say, the habits of perfected Self-Mastery and
Courage are spoiled by the excess and defect, but by the mean state are

Furthermore, not only do the origination, growth, and marring of the
Habits come from and by the same circumstances, but also the acts of
Working after the habits are formed will be exercised on the same: for
So it is also with those other things which are more directly matters of
Sight, strength for instance: for this comes by taking plenty of food
And doing plenty of work, and the man who has attained strength is best
Able to do these: and so it is with the Virtues, for not only do we by
Abstaining from pleasures come to be perfected in Self-Mastery, but when
We have come to be so we can best abstain from them: similarly too with
Courage: for it is by accustoming ourselves to despise objects of fear
And stand up against them that we come to be brave; and [Sidenote(?):
1104_b_] after we have come to be so we shall be best able to stand up
Against such objects

And for a test of the formation of the habits we must [Sidenote(?): III]
Take the pleasure or pain which succeeds the acts; for he is perfected
In Self-Mastery who not only abstains from the bodily pleasures but is
Glad to do so; whereas he who abstains but is sorry to do it has not
Self-Mastery: he again is brave who stands up against danger, either
With positive pleasure or at least without any pain; whereas he who does
It with pain is not brave

For Moral Virtue has for its object-matter pleasures and pains, because
By reason of pleasure we do what is bad, and by reason of pain decline
Doing what is right (for which cause, as Plato observes, men should have
Been trained straight from their childhood to receive pleasure and pain
From proper objects, for this is the right education). Again: since
Virtues have to do with actions and feelings, and on every feeling and
Every action pleasure and pain follow, here again is another proof that
Virtue has for its object-matter pleasure and pain. The same is
Shown also by the fact that punishments are effected through the
Instrumentality of these; because they are of the nature of remedies
And it is the nature of remedies to be the contraries of the ills they
Cure. Again, to quote what we said before: every habit of the Soul by
Its very nature has relation to, and exerts itself upon, things of the
Same kind as those by which it is naturally deteriorated or improved:
Now such habits do come to be vicious by reason of pleasures and pains
That is, by men pursuing or avoiding respectively, either such as they
Ought not, or at wrong times, or in wrong manner, and so forth (for
Which reason, by the way, some people define the Virtues as certain
States of impa**ibility and utter quietude, but they are wrong because
They speak without modification, instead of adding "as they ought," "as
They ought not," and "when," and so on). Virtue then is a**umed to be
That habit which is such, in relation to pleasures and pains, as to
Effect the best results, and Vice the contrary

The following considerations may also serve to set this in a clear
Light. There are principally three things moving us to choice and three
To avoidance, the honourable, the expedient, the pleasant; and their
Three contraries, the dishonourable, the hurtful, and the painful: now
The good man is apt to go right, and the bad man wrong, with respect
To all these of course, but most specially with respect to pleasure:
Because not only is this common to him with all animals but also it is
A concomitant of all those things which move to choice, since both the
Honourable and the expedient give an impression of pleasure

[Sidenote: 1105a] Again, it grows up with us all from infancy, and so it
Is a hard matter to remove from ourselves this feeling, engrained as it
Is into our very life

Again, we adopt pleasure and pain (some of us more, and some less) as
The measure even of actions: for this cause then our whole business must
Be with them, since to receive right or wrong impressions of pleasure
And pain is a thing of no little importance in respect of the actions
Once more; it is harder, as Heraclitus says, to fight against pleasure
Than against anger: now it is about that which is more than commonly
Difficult that art comes into being, and virtue too, because in that
Which is difficult the good is of a higher order: and so for this
Reason too both virtue and moral philosophy generally must wholly busy
Themselves respecting pleasures and pains, because he that uses these
Well will be good, he that does so ill will be bad

Let us then be understood to have stated, that Virtue has for its
Object-matter pleasures and pains, and that it is either increased or
Marred by the same circumstances (differently used) by which it
Is originally generated, and that it exerts itself on the same
Circumstances out of which it was generated

Now I can conceive a person perplexed as to the meaning of our
Statement, that men must do just actions to become just, and those of
Self-mastery to acquire the habit of self-mastery; "for," he would say
"if men are doing the actions they have the respective virtues already
Just as men are grammarians or musicians when they do the actions of
Either art." May we not reply by saying that it is not so even in the
Case of the arts referred to: because a man may produce something
Grammatical either by chance or the suggestion of another; but then only
Will he be a grammarian when he not only produces something grammatical
But does so grammarian-wise, _i.e._ in virtue of the grammatical
Knowledge he himself possesses

Again, the cases of the arts and the virtues are not parallel: because
Those things which are produced by the arts have their excellence in
Themselves, and it is sufficient therefore [Sidenote: 1105b] that these
When produced should be in a certain state: but those which are produced
In the way of the virtues, are, strictly speaking, actions of a certain
Kind (say of Justice or perfected Self-Mastery), not merely if in
Themselves they are in a certain state but if also he who does them
Does them being himself in a certain state, first if knowing what he is
Doing, next if with deliberate preference, and with such preference for
The things' own sake; and thirdly if being himself stable and unapt to
Change. Now to constitute possession of the arts these requisites are
Not reckoned in, excepting the one point of knowledge: whereas for
Possession of the virtues knowledge avails little or nothing, but the
Other requisites avail not a little, but, in fact, are all in all, and
These requisites as a matter of fact do come from oftentimes doing the
Actions of Justice and perfected Self-Mastery

The facts, it is true, are called by the names of these habits when they
Are such as the just or perfectly self-mastering man would do; but he is
Not in possession of the virtues who merely does these facts, but he who
Also so does them as the just and self-mastering do them

We are right then in saying, that these virtues are formed in a man by
His doing the actions; but no one, if he should leave them undone, would
Be even in the way to become a good man. Yet people in general do not
Perform these actions, but taking refuge in talk they flatter themselves
They are philosophising, and that they will so be good men: acting in
Truth very like those sick people who listen to the doctor with great
Attention but do nothing that he tells them: just as these then cannot
Be well bodily under such a course of treatment, so neither can those be
Mentally by such philosophising

[Sidenote: V] Next, we must examine what Virtue is. Well, since the
Things which come to be in the mind are, in all, of three kinds
Feelings, Capacities, States, Virtue of course must belong to one of the
Three cla**es

By Feelings, I mean such as lust, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy
Friendship, hatred, longing, emulation, compa**ion, in short all such as
Are followed by pleasure or pain: by Capacities, those in right of which
We are said to be capable of these feelings; as by virtue of which we
Are able to have been made angry, or grieved, or to have compa**ionated;
By States, those in right of which we are in a certain relation good
Or bad to the aforementioned feelings; to having been made angry, for
Instance, we are in a wrong relation if in our anger we were too violent
Or too slack, but if we were in the happy medium we are in a right
Relation to the feeling. And so on of the rest

Now Feelings neither the virtues nor vices are, because in right of the
Feelings we are not denominated either good or bad, but in right of the
Virtues and vices we are

[Sidenote: 1106_a_] Again, in right of the Feelings we are neither
Praised nor blamed (for a man is not commended for being afraid or
Being angry, nor blamed for being angry merely but for being so in a
Particular way), but in right of the virtues and vices we are

Again, both anger and fear we feel without moral choice, whereas the
Virtues are acts of moral choice, or at least certainly not independent
Of it

Moreover, in right of the Feelings we are said to be moved, but in right
Of the virtues and vices not to be moved, but disposed, in a certain

And for these same reasons they are not Capacities, for we are not
Called good or bad merely because we are able to feel, nor are we
Praised or blamed

And again, Capacities we have by nature, but we do not come to be good
Or bad by nature, as we have said before

Since then the virtues are neither Feelings nor Capacities, it remains
That they must be States

[Sidenote: VI] Now what the genus of Virtue is has been said; but we
Must not merely speak of it thus, that it is a state but say also what
Kind of a state it is. We must observe then that all excellence makes
That whereof it is the excellence both to be itself in a good state and
To perform its work well. The excellence of the eye, for instance, makes
Both the eye good and its work also: for by the excellence of the eye
We see well. So too the excellence of the horse makes a horse good, and
Good in speed, and in carrying his rider, and standing up against the
Enemy. If then this is universally the case, the excellence of Man, i.e
Virtue, must be a state whereby Man comes to be good and whereby he will
Perform well his proper work. Now how this shall be it is true we have
Said already, but still perhaps it may throw light on the subject to see
What is its characteristic nature

In all quantity then, whether continuous or discrete, one may take the
Greater part, the less, or the exactly equal, and these either with
Reference to the thing itself, or relatively to us: and the exactly
Equal is a mean between excess and defect. Now by the mean of the thing
_i.e._ absolute mean, I denote that which is equidistant from either
Extreme (which of course is one and the same to all), and by the mean
Relatively to ourselves, that which is neither too much nor too little
For the particular individual. This of course is not one nor the same to
All: for instance, suppose ten is too much and two too little, people
Take six for the absolute mean; because it exceeds the smaller sum by
Exactly as much as it is itself exceeded by the larger, and this mean is
According to arithmetical proportion

[Sidenote: 1106_b_] But the mean relatively to ourselves must not be
So found ; for it does not follow, supposing ten minæ is too large a
Quantity to eat and two too small, that the trainer will order his man
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 sk** avoids excess and defect
But seeks for and chooses the mean, not the absolute but the relative

Now if all sk** 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
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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
Compa**ion, 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 cla** 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
Would determine."

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 pa**ions: 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:

[Sidenote: 1107b]

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):

[Sidenote: 1108a]

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 Pa**ionate, and
The faulty state Pa**ionateness, 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

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