Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Book VII


Next we must take a different point to start from, and observe that of what is to be avoided in respect of moral character there are three forms; Vice, Imperfect Self-Control, and Brutishness. Of the two former it is plain what the contraries are, for we call the one Virtue, the other Self-Control; and as answering to Brutishness it will be most suitable to assign Superhuman, i.e. heroical and godlike Virtue, as, in Homer, Priam says of Hector "that he was very excellent, nor was he like the offspring of mortal man, but of a god." and so, if, as is commonly said, men are raised to the position of gods by reason of very high excellence in Virtue, the state opposed to the Brutish will plainly be of this nature: because as brutes are not virtuous or vicious so neither are gods; but the state of these is something more precious than Virtue, of the former something different in kind from Vice.

And as, on the one hand, it is a rare thing for a man to be godlike (a term the Lacedaemonians are accustomed to use when they admire a man exceedingly; [Greek:seios anhæp] they call him), so the brutish man is rare; the character is found most among barbarians, and some cases of it are caused by disease or maiming; also such men as exceed in vice all ordinary measures we therefore designate by this opprobrious term. Well, we must in a subsequent place make some mention of this disposition, and Vice has been spoken of before: for the present we must speak of Imperfect Self-Control and its kindred faults of Softness and Luxury, on the one hand, and of Self-Control and Endurance on the other; since we are to conceive of them, not as being the same states exactly as Virtue and Vice respectively, nor again as differing in kind. [Sidenote:1145b] And we should adopt the same course as before, i.e. state the phenomena, and, after raising and discussing difficulties which suggest themselves, then exhibit, if possible, all the opinions afloat respecting these affections of the moral character; or, if not all, the greater part and the most important: for we may consider we have illustrated the matter sufficiently when the difficulties have been solved, and such theories as are most approved are left as a residuum.

The chief points may be thus enumerated. It is thought,

I. That Self-Control and Endurance belong to the class of things good and praiseworthy, while Imperfect Self-Control and Softness belong to that of things low and blameworthy.

II. That the man of Self-Control is identical with the man who is apt to abide by his resolution, and the man of Imperfect Self-Control with him who is apt to depart from his resolution.

III. That the man of Imperfect Self-Control does things at the instigation of his passions, knowing them to be wrong, while the man of Self-Control, knowing his lusts to be wrong, refuses, by the influence of reason, to follow their suggestions.

IV. That the man of Perfected Self-Mastery unites the qualities of Self-Control and Endurance, and some say that every one who unites these is a man of Perfect Self-Mastery, others do not.

V. Some confound the two characters of the man who has 'no' Self-Control, and the man of 'Imperfect Self-Control', while others distinguish between them.

VI. It is sometimes said that the man of Practical Wisdom cannot be a man of Imperfect Self-Control, sometimes that men who are Practically Wise and Clever are of Imperfect Self-Control.

VII. Again, men are said to be of Imperfect Self-Control, not simply but with the addition of the thing wherein, as in respect of anger, of honour, and gain.

These then are pretty well the common statements.


Now a man may raise a question as to the nature of the right conception in violation of which a man fails of Self-Control.

That he can so fail when 'knowing' in the strict sense what is right some say is impossible: for it is a strange thing, as Socrates thought, that while Knowledge is present in his mind something else should master him and drag him about like a slave. Socrates in fact contended generally against the theory, maintaining there is no such state as that of Imperfect Self-Control, for that no one acts contrary to what is best conceiving it to be best but by reason of ignorance what is best.

With all due respect to Socrates, his account of the matter is at variance with plain facts, and we must inquire with respect to the affection, if it be caused by ignorance what is the nature of the ignorance: for that the man so failing does not suppose his acts to be right before he is under the influence of passion is quite plain.

There are people who partly agree with Socrates and partly not: that nothing can be stronger than Knowledge they agree, but that no man acts in contravention of his conviction of what is better they do not agree; and so they say that it is not Knowledge, but only Opinion, which the man in question has and yet yields to the instigation of his pleasures.

[Sidenote:1146a] But then, if it is Opinion and not Knowledge, that is it the opposing conception be not strong but only mild (as in the case of real doubt), the not abiding by it in the face of strong lusts would be excusable: but wickedness is not excusable, nor is anything which deserves blame.

Well then, is it Practical Wisdom which in this case offers opposition: for that is the strongest principle? The supposition is absurd, for we shall have the same man uniting Practical Wisdom and Imperfect Self-Control, and surely no single person would maintain that it is consistent with the character of Practical Wisdom to do voluntarily what is very wrong; and besides we have shown before that the very mark of a man of this character is aptitude to act, as distinguished from mere knowledge of what is right; because he is a man conversant with particular details, and possessed of all the other virtues.

Again, if the having strong and bad lusts is necessary to the idea of the man of Self-Control, this character cannot be identical with the man of Perfected Self-Mastery, because the having strong desires or bad ones does not enter into the idea of this latter character: and yet the man of Self-Control must have such: for suppose them good; then the moral state which should hinder a man from following their suggestions must be bad, and so Self-Control would not be in all cases good: suppose them on the other hand to be weak and not wrong, it would be nothing grand; nor anything great, supposing them to be wrong and weak.

Again, if Self-Control makes a man apt to abide by all opinions without exception, it may be bad, as suppose the case of a false opinion: and if Imperfect Self-Control makes a man apt to depart from all without exception, we shall have cases where it will be good; take that of Neoptolemus in the Philoctetes of Sophocles, for instance: he is to be praised for not abiding by what he was persuaded to by Ulysses, because he was pained at being guilty of falsehood.

Or again, false sophistical reasoning presents a difficulty: for because men wish to prove paradoxes that they may be counted clever when they succeed, the reasoning that has been used becomes a difficulty: for the intellect is fettered; a man being unwilling to abide by the conclusion because it does not please his judgment, but unable to advance because he cannot disentangle the web of sophistical reasoning.

Or again, it is conceivable on this supposition that folly joined with Imperfect Self-Control may turn out, in a given case, goodness: for by reason of his imperfection of self-control a man acts in a way which contradicts his notions; now his notion is that what is really good is bad and ought not to be done; and so he will eventually do what is good and not what is bad.

Again, on the same supposition, the man who acting on conviction pursues and chooses things because they are pleasant must be thought a better man than he who does so not by reason of a quasi-rational conviction but of Imperfect Self-Control: because he is more open to cure by reason of the possibility of his receiving a contrary conviction. But to the man of Imperfect Self-Control would apply the proverb, "when water chokes, what should a man drink then?" for had he never been convinced at all in respect of [Sidenote: 1146b] what he does, then by a conviction in a contrary direction he might have stopped in his course; but now though he has had convictions he notwithstanding acts against them.

Again, if any and every thing is the object-matter of Imperfect and Perfect Self-Control, who is the man of Imperfect Self-Control simply? because no one unites all cases of it, and we commonly say that some men are so simply, not adding any particular thing in which they are so.

Well, the difficulties raised are pretty near such as I have described them, and of these theories we must remove some and leave others as established; because the solving of a difficulty is a positive act of establishing something as true.


Now we must examine first whether men of Imperfect Self-Control act with a knowledge of what is right or not: next, if with such knowledge, in what sense; and next what are we to assume is the object-matter of the man of Imperfect Self-Control, and of the man of Self-Control; I mean, whether pleasure and pain of all kinds or certain definite ones; and as to Self-Control and Endurance, whether these are designations of the same character or different. And in like manner we must go into all questions which are connected with the present.

But the real starting point of the inquiry is, whether the two characters of Self-Control and Imperfect Self-Control are distinguished by their object-matter, or their respective relations to it. I mean, whether the man of Imperfect Self-Control is such simply by virtue of having such and such object-matter; or not, but by virtue of his being related to it in such and such a way, or by virtue of both: next, whether Self-Control and Imperfect Self-Control are unlimited in their object-matter: because he who is designated without any addition a man of Imperfect Self-Control is not unlimited in his object-matter, but has exactly the same as the man who has lost all Self-Control: nor is he so designated because of his relation to this object-matter merely (for then his character would be identical with that just mentioned, loss of all Self-Control), but because of his relation to it being such and such. For the man who has lost all Self-Control is led on with deliberate moral choice, holding that it is his line to pursue pleasure as it rises: while the man of Imperfect Self-Control does not think that he ought to pursue it, but does pursue it all the same.

Now as to the notion that it is True Opinion and not Knowledge in contravention of which men fail in Self-Control, it makes no difference to the point in question, because some of those who hold Opinions have no doubt about them but suppose themselves to have accurate Knowledge; if then it is urged that men holding Opinions will be more likely than men who have Knowledge to act in contravention of their conceptions, as having but a moderate belief in them; we reply, Knowledge will not differ in this respect from Opinion: because some men believe their own Opinions no less firmly than others do their positive Knowledge: Heraclitus is a case in point.

Rather the following is the account of it: the term 'knowing' has two senses; both the man who does not use his Knowledge, and he who does, are said to 'know': there will be a difference between a man's acting wrongly, who though possessed of Knowledge does not call it into operation, and his doing so who has it and actually exercises it: the latter is a strange case, but the mere having, if not exercising, presents no anomaly.

[Sidenote:1147a] Again, as there are two kinds of propositions affecting action, universal and particular, there is no reason why a man may not act against his Knowledge, having both propositions in his mind, using the universal but not the particular, for the particulars are the objects of moral action.

There is a difference also in universal propositions; a universal proposition may relate partly to a man's self and partly to the thing in question: take the following for instance; "dry food is good for every man," this may have the two minor premisses, "this is a man," and "so and so is dry food;" but whether a given substance is so and so a man either has not the Knowledge or does not exert it. According to these different senses there will be an immense difference, so that for a man to 'know' in the one sense, and yet act wrongly, would be nothing strange, but in any of the other senses it would be a matter for wonder.

Again, men may have Knowledge in a way different from any of those which have been now stated: for we constantly see a man's state so differing by having and not using Knowledge, that he has it in a sense and also has not; when a man is asleep, for instance, or mad, or drunk: well, men under the actual operation of passion are in exactly similar conditions; for anger, lust, and some other such-like things, manifestly make changes even in the body, and in some they even cause madness; it is plain then that we must say the men of Imperfect Self-Control are in a state similar to these.

And their saying what embodies Knowledge is no proof of their actually then exercising it, because they who are under the operation of these passions repeat demonstrations; or verses of Empedocles, just as children, when first learning, string words together, but as yet know nothing of their meaning, because they must grow into it, and this is a process requiring time: so that we must suppose these men who fail in Self-Control to say these moral sayings just as actors do. Furthermore, a man may look at the account of the phænomenon in the following way, from an examination of the actual working of the mind: All action may be analysed into a syllogism, in which the one premiss is an universal maxim and the other concerns particulars of which Sense [moral or physical, as the case may be] is cognisant: now when one results from these two, it follows necessarily that, as far as theory goes the mind must assert the conclusion, and in practical propositions the man must act accordingly. For instance, let the universal be, "All that is sweet should be tasted," the particular, "This is sweet;" it follows necessarily that he who is able and is not hindered should not only draw, but put in practice, the conclusion "This is to be tasted." When then there is in the mind one universal proposition forbidding to taste, and the other "All that is sweet is pleasant" with its minor "This is sweet" (which is the one that really works), and desire happens to be in the man, the first universal bids him avoid this but the desire leads him on to taste; for it has the power of moving the various organs: and so it results that he fails in Self-Control, [Sidenote:1147b] in a certain sense under the influence of Reason and Opinion not contrary in itself to Reason but only accidentally so; because it is the desire that is contrary to Right Reason, but not the Opinion: and so for this reason brutes are not accounted of Imperfect Self-Control, because they have no power of conceiving universals but only of receiving and retaining particular impressions.

As to the manner in which the ignorance is removed and the man of Imperfect Self-Control recovers his Knowledge, the account is the same as with respect to him who is drunk or asleep, and is not peculiar to this affection, so physiologists are the right people to apply to. But whereas the minor premiss of every practical syllogism is an opinion on matter cognisable by Sense and determines the actions; he who is under the influence of passion either has not this, or so has it that his having does not amount to 'knowing' but merely saying, as a man when drunk might repeat Empedocles' verses; and because the minor term is neither universal, nor is thought to have the power of producing Knowledge in like manner as the universal term: and so the result which Socrates was seeking comes out, that is to say, the affection does not take place in the presence of that which is thought to be specially and properly Knowledge, nor is this dragged about by reason of the affection, but in the presence of that Knowledge which is conveyed by Sense.

Let this account then be accepted of the question respecting the failure in Self-Control, whether it is with Knowledge or not; and, if with knowledge, with what kind of knowledge such failure is possible.


The next question to be discussed is whether there is a character to be designated by the term "of Imperfect Self-Control" simply, or whether all who are so are to be accounted such, in respect of some particular thing; and, if there is such a character, what is his object-matter.

Now that pleasures and pains are the object-matter of men of Self-Control and of Endurance, and also of men of Imperfect Self-Control and Softness, is plain.

Further, things which produce pleasure are either necessary, or objects of choice in themselves but yet admitting of excess. All bodily things which produce pleasure are necessary; and I call such those which relate to food and other grosser appetities, in short such bodily things as we assumed were the Object-matter of absence of Self-Control and of Perfected Self-Mastery.

The other class of objects are not necessary, but objects of choice in themselves: I mean, for instance, victory, honour, wealth, and such-like good or pleasant things. And those who are excessive in their liking for such things contrary to the principle of Right Reason which is in their own breasts we do not designate men of Imperfect Self-Control simply, but with the addition of the thing wherein, as in respect of money, or gain, or honour, or anger, and not simply; because we consider them as different characters and only having that title in right of a kind of resemblance (as when we add to a man's name "conqueror in the Olympic games" the account of him as Man differs but little from the account of him as the Man who conquered in the Olympic games, but still it is different). And a proof of the real [Sidenote: 1148a] difference between these so designated with an addition and those simply so called is this, that Imperfect Self-Control is blamed, not as an error merely but also as being a vice, either wholly or partially; but none of these other cases is so blamed.

But of those who have for their object-matter the bodily enjoyments, which we say are also the object-matter of the man of Perfected Self-Mastery and the man who has lost all Self-Control, he that pursues excessive pleasures and too much avoids things which are painful (as hunger and thirst, heat and cold, and everything connected with touch and taste), not from moral choice but in spite of his moral choice and intellectual conviction, is termed "a man of Imperfect Self-Control," not with the addition of any particular object-matter as we do in respect of want of control of anger but simply.

And a proof that the term is thus applied is that the kindred term "Soft" is used in respect of these enjoyments but not in respect of any of those others. And for this reason we put into the same rank the man of Imperfect Self-Control, the man who has lost it entirely, the man who has it, and the man of Perfected Self-Mastery; but not any of those other characters, because the former have for their object-matter the same pleasures and pains: but though they have the same object-matter, they are not related to it in the same way, but two of them act upon moral choice, two without it. And so we should say that man is more entirely given up to his passions who pursues excessive pleasures, and avoids moderate pains, being either not at all, or at least but little, urged by desire, than the man who does so because his desire is very strong: because we think what would the former be likely to do if he had the additional stimulus of youthful lust and violent pain consequent on the want of those pleasures which we have denominated necessary?

Well then, since of desires and pleasures there are some which are in kind honourable and good (because things pleasant are divisible, as we said before, into such as are naturally objects of choice, such as are naturally objects of avoidance, and such as are in themselves indifferent, money, gain, honour, victory, for instance); in respect of all such and those that are indifferent, men are blamed not merely for being affected by or desiring or liking them, but for exceeding in any way in these feelings.

And so they are blamed, whosoever in spite of Reason are mastered by, that is pursue, any object, though in its nature noble and good; they, for instance, who are more earnest than they should be respecting honour, or their children or parents; not but what these are good objects and men are praised for being earnest about them: but still they admit of excess; for instance, if any one, as Niobe did, should fight even against the gods, or feel towards his father as Satyrus, who got therefrom the nickname of [Greek: philophator], [Sidenote: 1148b] because he was thought to be very foolish.

Now depravity there is none in regard of these things, for the reason assigned above, that each of them in itself is a thing naturally choiceworthy, yet the excesses in respect of them are wrong and matter for blame: and similarly there is no Imperfect Self-Control in respect of these things; that being not merely a thing that should be avoided but blameworthy.

But because of the resemblance of the affection to the Imperfection of Self-Control the term is used with the addition in each case of the particular object-matter, just as men call a man a bad physician, or bad actor, whom they would not think of calling simply bad. As then in these cases we do not apply the term simply because each of the states is not a vice, but only like a vice in the way of analogy, so it is plain that in respect of Imperfect Self-Control and Self-Control we must limit the names to those states which have the same object-matter as Perfected Self-Mastery and utter loss of Self-Control, and that we do apply it to the case of anger only in the way of resemblance: for which reason, with an addition, we designate a man of Imperfect Self-Control in respect of anger, as of honour or of gain.


As there are some things naturally pleasant, and of these two kinds; those, namely, which are pleasant generally, and those which are so relatively to particular kinds of animals and men; so there are others which are not naturally pleasant but which come to be so in consequence either of maimings, or custom, or depraved natural tastes: and one may observe moral states similar to those we have been speaking of, having respectively these classes of things for their object-matter.

I mean the Brutish, as in the case of the female who, they say, would rip up women with child and eat the foetus; or the tastes which are found among the savage tribes bordering on the Pontus, some liking raw flesh, and some being cannibals, and some lending one another their children to make feasts of; or what is said of Phalaris. These are instances of Brutish states, caused in some by disease or madness; take, for instance, the man who sacrificed and ate his mother, or him who devoured the liver of his fellow-servant. Instances again of those caused by disease or by custom, would be, plucking out of hair, or eating one's nails, or eating coals and earth. ... Now wherever nature is really the cause no one would think of calling men of Imperfect Self-Control, ... nor, in like manner, such as are in a diseased state through custom.

[Sidenote:1149a] Obviously the having any of these inclinations is something foreign to what is denominated Vice, just as Brutishness is: and when a man has them his mastering them is not properly Self-Control, nor his being mastered by them Imperfection of Self-Control in the proper sense, but only in the way of resemblance; just as we may say a man of ungovernable wrath fails of Self-Control in respect of anger but not simply fails of Self-Control. For all excessive folly, cowardice, absence of Self-Control, or irritability, are either Brutish or morbid. The man, for instance, who is naturally afraid of all things, even if a mouse should stir, is cowardly after a Brutish sort; there was a man again who, by reason of disease, was afraid of a cat: and of the fools, they who are naturally destitute of Reason and live only by Sense are Brutish, as are some tribes of the far-off barbarians, while others who are so by reason of diseases, epileptic or frantic, are in morbid states.

So then, of these inclinations, a man may sometimes merely have one without yielding to it: I mean, suppose that Phalaris had restrained his unnatural desire to eat a child: or he may both have and yield to it. As then Vice when such as belongs to human nature is called Vice simply, while the other is so called with the addition of "brutish" or "morbid," but not simply Vice, so manifestly there is Brutish and Morbid Imperfection of Self-Control, but that alone is entitled to the name without any qualification which is of the nature of utter absence of Self-Control, as it is found in Man.


It is plain then that the object-matter of Imperfect Self-Control and Self-Control is restricted to the same as that of utter absence of Self-Control and that of Perfected Self-Mastery, and that the rest is the object-matter of a different species so named metaphorically and not simply: we will now examine the position, "that Imperfect Self-Control in respect of Anger is less disgraceful than that in respect of Lusts."

In the first place, it seems that Anger does in a way listen to Reason but mishears it; as quick servants who run out before they have heard the whole of what is said and then mistake the order; dogs, again, bark at the slightest stir, before they have seen whether it be friend or foe; just so Anger, by reason of its natural heat and quickness, listening to Reason, but without having heard the command of Reason, rushes to its revenge. That is to say, Reason or some impression on the mind shows there is insolence or contempt in the offender, and then Anger, reasoning as it were that one ought to fight against what is such, fires up immediately: whereas Lust, if Reason or Sense, as the case may be, merely says a thing is sweet, rushes to the enjoyment of it: and so Anger follows Reason in a manner, but Lust does not and is therefore more disgraceful: because he that cannot control his anger yields in a manner to Reason, but the other to his Lust and not to Reason at all. [Sidenote:1149b]

Again, a man is more excusable for following such desires as are natural, just as he is for following such Lusts as are common to all and to that degree in which they are common. Now Anger and irritability are more natural than Lusts when in excess and for objects not necessary. (This was the ground of the defence the man made who beat his father, "My father," he said, "used to beat his, and his father his again, and this little fellow here," pointing to his child, "will beat me when he is grown a man: it runs in the family." And the father, as he was being dragged along, bid his son leave off beating him at the door, because he had himself been used to drag his father so far and no farther.)

Again, characters are less unjust in proportion as they involve less insidiousness. Now the Angry man is not insidious, nor is Anger, but quite open: but Lust is: as they say of Venus,

"Cyprus-born Goddess, 'weaver of deceits'"

Or Homer of the girdle called the Cestus,

"Persuasiveness 'cheating' e'en the subtlest mind."

And so since this kind of Imperfect Self-Control is more unjust, it is also more disgraceful than that in respect of Anger, and is simply Imperfect Self-Control, and Vice in a certain sense. Again, no man feels pain in being insolent, but every one who acts through Anger does act with pain; and he who acts insolently does it with pleasure. If then those things are most unjust with which we have most right to be angry, then Imperfect Self-Control, arising from Lust, is more so than that arising from Anger: because in Anger there is no insolence.

Well then, it is clear that Imperfect Self-Control in respect of Lusts is more disgraceful than that in respect of Anger, and that the object-matter of Self-Control, and the Imperfection of it, are bodily Lusts and pleasures; but of these last we must take into account the differences; for, as was said at the commencement, some are proper to the human race and natural both in kind and degree, others Brutish, and others caused by maimings and diseases.

Now the first of these only are the object-matter of Perfected Self-Mastery and utter absence of Self-Control; and therefore we never attribute either of these states to Brutes (except metaphorically, and whenever any one kind of animal differs entirely from another in insolence, mischievousness, or voracity), because they have not moral choice or process of deliberation, but are quite different from that kind of creature just as are madmen from other men.

[Sidenote: 1150a] Brutishness is not so low in the scale as Vice, yet it is to be regarded with more fear: because it is not that the highest principle has been corrupted, as in the human creature, but the subject has it not at all.

It is much the same, therefore, as if one should compare an inanimate with an animate being, which were the worse: for the badness of that which has no principle of origination is always less harmful; now Intellect is a principle of origination. A similar case would be the comparing injustice and an unjust man together: for in different ways each is the worst: a bad man would produce ten thousand times as much harm as a bad brute.


Now with respect to the pleasures and pains which come to a man through Touch and Taste, and the desiring or avoiding such (which we determined before to constitute the object-matter of the states of utter absence of Self-Control and Perfected Self-Mastery), one may be so disposed as to yield to temptations to which most men would be superior, or to be superior to those to which most men would yield: in respect of pleasures, these characters will be respectively the man of Imperfect Self-Control, and the man of Self-Control; and, in respect of pains, the man of Softness and the man of Endurance: but the moral state of most men is something between the two, even though they lean somewhat to the worse characters.

Again, since of the pleasures indicated some are necessary and some are not, others are so to a certain degree but not the excess or defect of them, and similarly also of Lusts and pains, the man who pursues the excess of pleasant things, or such as are in themselves excess, or from moral choice, for their own sake, and not for anything else which is to result from them, is a man utterly void of Self-Control: for he must be incapable of remorse, and so incurable, because he that has not remorse is incurable. (He that has too little love of pleasure is the opposite character, and the man of Perfected Self-Mastery the mean character.) He is of a similar character who avoids the bodily pains, not because he 'cannot', but because he 'chooses not to', withstand them.

But of the characters who go wrong without 'choosing' so to do, the one is led on by reason of pleasure, the other because he avoids the pain it would cost him to deny his lust; and so they are different the one from the other. Now every one would pronounce a man worse for doing something base without any impulse of desire, or with a very slight one, than for doing the same from the impulse of a very strong desire; for striking a man when not angry than if he did so in wrath: because one naturally says, "What would he have done had he been under the influence of passion?" (and on this ground, by the bye, the man utterly void of Self-Control is worse than he who has it imperfectly). However, of the two characters which have been mentioned [as included in that of utter absence of Self-Control], the one is rather Softness, the other properly the man of no Self-Control.

Furthermore, to the character of Imperfect Self-Control is opposed that of Self-Control, and to that of Softness that of Endurance: because Endurance consists in continued resistance but Self-Control in actual mastery, and continued resistance and actual mastery are as different as not being conquered is from conquering; and so Self-Control is more choiceworthy than Endurance.

[Sidenote:1150b] Again, he who fails when exposed to those temptations against which the common run of men hold out, and are well able to do so, is Soft and Luxurious (Luxury being a kind of Softness): the kind of man, I mean, to let his robe drag in the dirt to avoid the trouble of lifting it, and who, aping the sick man, does not however suppose himself wretched though he is like a wretched man. So it is too with respect to Self-Control and the Imperfection of it: if a man yields to pleasures or pains which are violent and excessive it is no matter for wonder, but rather for allowance if he made what resistance he could (instances are, Philoctetes in Theodectes' drama when wounded by the viper; or Cercyon in the Alope of Carcinus, or men who in trying to suppress laughter burst into a loud continuous fit of it, as happened, you remember, to Xenophantus), but it is a matter for wonder when a man yields to and cannot contend against those pleasures or pains which the common herd are able to resist; always supposing his failure not to be owing to natural constitution or disease, I mean, as the Scythian kings are constitutionally Soft, or the natural difference between the sexes.

Again, the man who is a slave to amusement is commonly thought to be destitute of Self-Control, but he really is Soft; because amusement is an act of relaxing, being an act of resting, and the character in question is one of those who exceed due bounds in respect of this.

Moreover of Imperfect Self-Control there are two forms, Precipitancy and Weakness: those who have it in the latter form though they have made resolutions do not abide by them by reason of passion; the others are led by passion because they have never formed any resolutions at all: while there are some who, like those who by tickling themselves beforehand get rid of ticklishness, having felt and seen beforehand the approach of temptation, and roused up themselves and their resolution, yield not to passion; whether the temptation be somewhat pleasant or somewhat painful. The Precipitate form of Imperfect Self-Control they are most liable to who are constitutionally of a sharp or melancholy temperament: because the one by reason of the swiftness, the other by reason of the violence, of their passions, do not wait for Reason, because they are disposed to follow whatever notion is impressed upon their minds.


Again, the man utterly destitute of Self-Control, as was observed before, is not given to remorse: for it is part of his character that he abides by his moral choice: but the man of Imperfect Self-Control is almost made up of remorse: and so the case is not as we determined it before, but the former is incurable and the latter may be cured: for depravity is like chronic diseases, dropsy and consumption for instance, but Imperfect Self-Control is like acute disorders: the former being a continuous evil, the latter not so. And, in fact, Imperfect Self-Control and Confirmed Vice are different in kind: the latter being imperceptible to its victim, the former not so.

[Sidenote: 1151a] But, of the different forms of Imperfect Self-Control, those are better who are carried off their feet by a sudden access of temptation than they who have Reason but do not abide by it; these last being overcome by passion less in degree, and not wholly without premeditation as are the others: for the man of Imperfect Self-Control is like those who are soon intoxicated and by little wine and less than the common run of men. Well then, that Imperfection of Self-Control is not Confirmed Viciousness is plain: and yet perhaps it is such in a way, because in one sense it is contrary to moral choice and in another the result of it: at all events, in respect of the actions, the case is much like what Demodocus said of the Miletians. "The people of Miletus are not fools, but they do just the kind of things that fools do;" and so they of Imperfect Self-Control are not unjust, but they do unjust acts.

But to resume. Since the man of Imperfect Self-Control is of such a character as to follow bodily pleasures in excess and in defiance of Right Reason, without acting on any deliberate conviction, whereas the man utterly destitute of Self-Control does act upon a conviction which rests on his natural inclination to follow after these pleasures; the former may be easily persuaded to a different course, but the latter not: for Virtue and Vice respectively preserve and corrupt the moral principle; now the motive is the principle or starting point in moral actions, just as axioms and postulates are in mathematics: and neither in morals nor mathematics is it Reason which is apt to teach the principle; but Excellence, either natural or acquired by custom, in holding right notions with respect to the principle. He who does this in morals is the man of Perfected Self-Mastery, and the contrary character is the man utterly destitute of Self-Control.

Again, there is a character liable to be taken off his feet in defiance of Right Reason because of passion; whom passion so far masters as to prevent his acting in accordance with Right Reason, but not so far as to make him be convinced that it is his proper line to follow after such pleasures without limit: this character is the man of Imperfect Self- Control, better than he who is utterly destitute of it, and not a bad man simply and without qualification: because in him the highest and best part, i.e. principle, is preserved: and there is another character opposed to him who is apt to abide by his resolutions, and not to depart from them; at all events, not at the instigation of passion. It is evident then from all this, that Self-Control is a good state and the Imperfection of it a bad one.

Next comes the question, whether a man is a man of Self-Control for abiding by his conclusions and moral choice be they of what kind they may, or only by the right one; or again, a man of Imperfect Self-Control for not abiding by his conclusions and moral choice be they of whatever kind; or, to put the case we did before, is he such for not abiding by false conclusions and wrong moral choice?

Is not this the truth, that 'incidentally' it is by conclusions and moral choice of any kind that the one character abides and the other does not, but 'per se' true conclusions and right moral choice: to explain what is meant by incidentally, and 'per se'; suppose a man chooses or pursues this thing for the sake of that, he is said to pursue and choose that 'per se', but this only incidentally. For the term 'per se' we use commonly the word "simply," and so, in a way, it is opinion of any kind soever by which the two characters respectively abide or not, but he is "simply" entitled to the designations who abides or not by the true opinion.

There are also people, who have a trick of abiding by their, own opinions, who are commonly called Positive, as they who are hard to be persuaded, and whose convictions are not easily changed: now these people bear some resemblance to the character of Self-Control, just as the prodigal to the liberal or the rash man to the brave, but they are different in many points. The man of Self-Control does not change by reason of passion and lust, yet when occasion so requires he will be easy of persuasion: but the Positive man changes not at the call of Reason, though many of this class take up certain desires and are led by their pleasures. Among the class of Positive are the Opinionated, the Ignorant, and the Bearish: the first, from the motives of pleasure and pain: I mean, they have the pleasurable feeling of a kind of victory in not having their convictions changed, and they are pained when their decrees, so to speak, are reversed: so that, in fact, they rather resemble the man of Imperfect Self-Control than the man of Self-Control.

Again, there are some who depart from their resolutions not by reason of any Imperfection of Self-Control; take, for instance, Neoptolemus in the Philoctetes of Sophocles. Here certainly pleasure was the motive of his departure from his resolution, but then it was one of a noble sort: for to be truthful was noble in his eyes and he had been persuaded by Ulysses to lie.

So it is not every one who acts from the motive of pleasure who is utterly destitute of Self-Control or base or of Imperfect Self-Control, only he who acts from the impulse of a base pleasure.

Moreover as there is a character who takes less pleasure than he ought in bodily enjoyments, and he also fails to abide by the conclusion of his Reason, the man of Self-Control is the mean between him and the man of Imperfect Self-Control: that is to say, the latter fails to abide by them because of somewhat too much, the former because of somewhat too little; while the man of Self-Control abides by them, and never changes by reason of anything else than such conclusions.

Now of course since Self-Control is good both the contrary States must be bad, as indeed they plainly are: but because the one of them is seen in few persons, and but rarely in them, Self-Control comes to be viewed as if opposed only to the Imperfection of it, just as Perfected Self-Mastery is thought to be opposed only to utter want of Self-Control.

[Sidenote: 1152a] Again, as many terms are used in the way of similitude, so people have come to talk of the Self-Control of the man of Perfected Self-Mastery in the way of similitude: for the man of Self-Control and the man of Perfected Self-Mastery have this in common, that they do nothing against Right Reason on the impulse of bodily pleasures, but then the former has bad desires, the latter not; and the latter is so constituted as not even to feel pleasure contrary to his Reason, the former feels but does not yield to it. Like again are the man of Imperfect Self-Control and he who is utterly destitute of it, though in reality distinct: both follow bodily pleasures, but the latter under a notion that it is the proper line for him to take, his former without any such notion.


And it is not possible for the same man to be at once a man of Practical Wisdom and of Imperfect Self-Control: because the character of Practical Wisdom includes, as we showed before, goodness of moral character. And again, it is not knowledge merely, but aptitude for action, which constitutes Practical Wisdom: and of this aptitude the man of Imperfect Self-Control is destitute. But there is no reason why the Clever man should not be of Imperfect Self-Control: and the reason why some men are occasionally thought to be men of Practical Wisdom, and yet of Imperfect Self-Control, is this, that Cleverness differs from Practical Wisdom in the way I stated in a former book, and is very near it so far as the intellectual element is concerned but differs in respect of the moral choice.

Nor is the man of Imperfect Self-Control like the man who both has and calls into exercise his knowledge, but like the man who, having it, is overpowered by sleep or wine. Again, he acts voluntarily (because he knows, in a certain sense, what he does and the result of it), but he is not a confirmed bad man, for his moral choice is good, so he is at all events only half bad. Nor is he unjust, because he does not act with deliberate intent: for of the two chief forms of the character, the one is not apt to abide by his deliberate resolutions, and the other, the man of constitutional strength of passion, is not apt to deliberate at all.

So in fact the man of Imperfect Self-Control is like a community which makes all proper enactments, and has admirable laws, only does not act on them, verifying the scoff of Anaxandrides,

"That State did will it, which cares nought for laws;" whereas the bad man is like one which acts upon its laws, but then unfortunately they are bad ones. Imperfection of Self-Control and Self-Control, after all, are above the average state of men; because he of the latter character is more true to his Reason, and the former less so, than is in the power of most men.

Again, of the two forms of Imperfect Self-Control that is more easily cured which they have who are constitutionally of strong passions, than that of those who form resolutions and break them; and they that are so through habituation than they that are so naturally; since of course custom is easier to change than nature, because the very resemblance of custom to nature is what constitutes the difficulty of changing it; as Evenus says,

"Practice, I say, my friend, doth long endure, And at the last is even very nature."

We have now said then what Self-Control is, what Imperfection of Self-Control, what Endurance, and what Softness, and how these states are mutually related.


[Sidenote: II52b]

To consider the subject of Pleasure and Pain falls within the province of the Social-Science Philosopher, since he it is who has to fix the Master-End which is to guide us in dominating any object absolutely evil or good.

But we may say more: an inquiry into their nature is absolutely necessary. First, because we maintained that Moral Virtue and Moral Vice are both concerned with Pains and Pleasures: next, because the greater part of mankind assert that Happiness must include Pleasure (which by the way accounts for the word they use, makarioz; chaireiu being the root of that word).

Now some hold that no one Pleasure is good, either in itself or as a matter of result, because Good and Pleasure are not identical. Others that some Pleasures are good but the greater number bad. There is yet a third view; granting that every Pleasure is good, still the Chief Good cannot possibly be Pleasure.

In support of the first opinion (that Pleasure is utterly not-good) it is urged that:

I. Every Pleasure is a sensible process towards a complete state; but no such process is akin to the end to be attained: 'e.g.' no process of building to the completed house.

2. The man of Perfected Self-Mastery avoids Pleasures.

3. The man of Practical Wisdom aims at avoiding Pain, not at attaining Pleasure.

4. Pleasures are an impediment to thought, and the more so the more keenly they are felt. An obvious instance will readily occur.

5. Pleasure cannot be referred to any Art: and yet every good is the result of some Art.

6. Children and brutes pursue Pleasures.

In support of the second (that not all Pleasures are good), That there are some base and matter of reproach, and some even hurtful: because some things that are pleasant produce disease.

In support of the third (that Pleasure is not the Chief Good), That it is not an End but a process towards creating an End.

This is, I think, a fair account of current views on the matter.


But that the reasons alleged do not prove it either to be not-good or the Chief Good is plain from the following considerations.

First. Good being either absolute or relative, of course the natures and states embodying it will be so too; therefore also the movements and the processes of creation. So, of those which are thought to be bad some will be bad absolutely, but relatively not bad, perhaps even choiceworthy; some not even choiceworthy relatively to any particular person, only at certain times or for a short time but not in themselves choiceworthy.

Others again are not even Pleasures at all though they produce that impression on the mind: all such I mean as imply pain and whose purpose is cure; those of sick people, for instance.

Next, since Good may be either an active working or a state, those [Greek: 'kinaeseis' or 'geneseis'] which tend to place us in our natural state are pleasant incidentally because of that *[Sidenote: 1153a] tendency: but the active working is really in the desires excited in the remaining (sound) part of our state or nature: for there are Pleasures which have no connection with pain or desire: the acts of contemplative intellect, for instance, in which case there is no deficiency in the nature or state of him who performs the acts.

A proof of this is that the same pleasant thing does not produce the sensation of Pleasure when the natural state is being filled up or completed as when it is already in its normal condition: in this latter case what give the sensation are things pleasant 'per se', in the former even those things which are contrary. I mean, you find people taking pleasure in sharp or bitter things of which no one is naturally or in itself pleasant; of course not therefore the Pleasures arising from them, because it is obvious that as is the classification of pleasant things such must be that of the Pleasures arising from them.

Next, it does not follow that there must be something else better than any given pleasure because (as some say) the End must be better than the process which creates it. For it is not true that all Pleasures are processes or even attended by any process, but (some are) active workings or even Ends: in fact they result not from our coming to be something but from our using our powers. Again, it is not true that the End is, in every case, distinct from the process: it is true only in the case of such processes as conduce to the perfecting of the natural state.

For which reason it is wrong to say that Pleasure is "a sensible process of production." For "process etc." should be substituted "active working of the natural state," for "sensible" "unimpeded." The reason of its being thought to be a "process etc." is that it is good in the highest sense: people confusing "active working" and "process," whereas they really are distinct.

Next, as to the argument that there are bad Pleasures because some things which are pleasant are also hurtful to health, it is the same as saying that some healthful things are bad for "business." In this sense, of course, both may be said to be bad, but then this does not make them out to be bad 'simpliciter': the exercise of the pure Intellect sometimes hurts a man's health: but what hinders Practical Wisdom or any state whatever is, not the Pleasure peculiar to, but some Pleasure foreign to it: the Pleasures arising from the exercise of the pure Intellect or from learning only promote each.

Next. "No Pleasure is the work of any Art." What else would you expect? No active working is the work of any Art, only the faculty of so working. Still the perfumer's Art or the cook's are thought to belong to Pleasure.

Next. "The man of Perfected Self-Mastery avoids Pleasures." "The man of Practical Wisdom aims at escaping Pain rather than at attaining Pleasure."

"Children and brutes pursue Pleasures."

One answer will do for all.

We have already said in what sense all Pleasures are good 'per se' and in what sense not all are good: it is the latter class that brutes and children pursue, such as are accompanied by desire and pain, that is the bodily Pleasures (which answer to this description) and the excesses of them: in short, those in respect of which the man utterly destitute of Self-Control is thus utterly destitute. And it is the absence of the pain arising from these Pleasures that the man of Practical Wisdom aims at. It follows that these Pleasures are what the man of Perfected Self-Mastery avoids: for obviously he has Pleasures peculiarly his own.

[Sidenote: XIII 1153'b'] Then again, it is allowed that Pain is an evil and a thing to be avoided partly as bad 'per se', partly as being a hindrance in some particular way. Now the contrary of that which is to be avoided, 'quâ' it is to be avoided, 'i.e.' evil, is good. Pleasure then must be 'a' good.

The attempted answer of Speusippus, "that Pleasure may be opposed and yet not contrary to Pain, just as the greater portion of any magnitude is contrary to the less but only opposed to the exact half," will not hold: for he cannot say that Pleasure is identical with evil of any kind. Again. Granting that some Pleasures are low, there is no reason why some particular Pleasure may not be very good, just as some particular Science may be although there are some which are low.

Perhaps it even follows, since each state may have active working unimpeded, whether the active workings of all be Happiness or that of some one of them, that this active working, if it be unimpeded, must be choiceworthy: now Pleasure is exactly this. So that the Chief Good may be Pleasure of some kind, though most Pleasures be (let us assume) low 'per se'.

And for this reason all men think the happy life is pleasant, and interweave Pleasure with Happiness. Reasonably enough: because Happiness is perfect, but no impeded active working is perfect; and therefore the happy man needs as an addition the goods of the body and the goods external and fortune that in these points he may not be fettered. As for those who say that he who is being tortured on the wheel, or falls into great misfortunes is happy provided only he be good, they talk nonsense, whether they mean to do so or not. On the other hand, because fortune is needed as an addition, some hold good fortune to be identical with Happiness: which it is not, for even this in excess is a hindrance, and perhaps then has no right to be called good fortune since it is good only in so far as it contributes to Happiness.

The fact that all animals, brute and human alike, pursue Pleasure, is some presumption of its being in a sense the Chief Good;

("There must be something in what most folks say,") only as one and the same nature or state neither is nor is thought to be the best, so neither do all pursue the same Pleasure, Pleasure nevertheless all do. Nay further, what they pursue is, perhaps, not what they think nor what they would say they pursue, but really one and the same: for in all there is some instinct above themselves. But the bodily Pleasures have received the name exclusively, because theirs is the most frequent form and that which is universally partaken of; and so, because to many these alone are known they believe them to be the only ones which exist.

[Sidenote: II54a]

It is plain too that, unless Pleasure and its active working be good, it will not be true that the happy man's life embodies Pleasure: for why will he want it on the supposition that it is not good and that he can live even with Pain? because, assuming that Pleasure is not good, then Pain is neither evil nor good, and so why should he avoid it?

Besides, the life of the good man is not more pleasurable than any other unless it be granted that his active workings are so too.


Some inquiry into the bodily Pleasures is also necessary for those who say that some Pleasures, to be sure, are highly choiceworthy (the good ones to wit), but not the bodily Pleasures; that is, those which are the object-matter of the man utterly destitute of Self-Control.

If so, we ask, why are the contrary Pains bad? they cannot be (on their assumption) because the contrary of bad is good.

May we not say that the necessary bodily Pleasures are good in the sense in which that which is not-bad is good? or that they are good only up to a certain point? because such states or movements as cannot have too much of the better cannot have too much of Pleasure, but those which can of the former can also of the latter. Now the bodily Pleasures do admit of excess: in fact the low bad man is such because he pursues the excess of them instead of those which are necessary (meat, drink, and the objects of other animal appetites do give pleasure to all, but not in right manner or degree to all). But his relation to Pain is exactly the contrary: it is not excessive Pain, but Pain at all, that he avoids [which makes him to be in this way too a bad low man], because only in the case of him who pursues excessive Pleasure is Pain contrary to excessive Pleasure.

It is not enough however merely to state the truth, we should also show how the false view arises; because this strengthens conviction. I mean, when we have given a probable reason why that impresses people as true which really is not true, it gives them a stronger conviction of the truth. And so we must now explain why the bodily Pleasures appear to people to be more choiceworthy than any others.

The first obvious reason is, that bodily Pleasure drives out Pain; and because Pain is felt in excess men pursue Pleasure in excess, 'i.e.' generally bodily Pleasure, under the notion of its being a remedy for that Pain. These remedies, moreover, come to be violent ones; which is the very reason they are pursued, since the impression they produce on the mind is owing to their being looked at side by side with their contrary.

And, as has been said before, there are the two following reasons why bodily Pleasure is thought to be not-good.

1. Some Pleasures of this class are actings of a low nature, whether congenital as in brutes, or acquired by custom as in low bad men.

2. Others are in the nature of cures, cures that is of some deficiency; now of course it is better to have [the healthy state] originally than that it should accrue afterwards.

[Sidenote: 1154b] But some Pleasures result when natural states are being perfected: these therefore are good as a matter of result.

Again, the very fact of their being violent causes them to be pursued by such as can relish no others: such men in fact create violent thirsts for themselves (if harmless ones then we find no fault, if harmful then it is bad and low) because they have no other things to take pleasure in, and the neutral state is distasteful to some people constitutionally; for toil of some kind is inseparable from life, as physiologists testify, telling us that the acts of seeing or hearing are painful, only that we are used to the pain and do not find it out.

Similarly in youth the constant growth produces a state much like that of vinous intoxication, and youth is pleasant. Again, men of the melancholic temperament constantly need some remedial process (because the body, from its temperament, is constantly being worried), and they are in a chronic state of violent desire. But Pleasure drives out Pain; not only such Pleasure as is directly contrary to Pain but even any Pleasure provided it be strong: and this is how men come to be utterly destitute of Self-Mastery, 'i.e.' low and bad.

But those Pleasures which are unconnected with Pains do not admit of excess: 'i.e.' such as belong to objects which are naturally pleasant and not merely as a matter of result: by the latter class I mean such as are remedial, and the reason why these are thought to be pleasant is that the cure results from the action in some way of that part of the constitution which remains sound. By "pleasant naturally" I mean such as put into action a nature which is pleasant.

The reason why no one and the same thing is invariably pleasant is that our nature is, not simple, but complex, involving something different from itself (so far as we are corruptible beings). Suppose then that one part of this nature be doing something, this something is, to the other part, unnatural: but, if there be an equilibrium of the two natures, then whatever is being done is indifferent. It is obvious that if there be any whose nature is simple and not complex, to such a being the same course of acting will always be the most pleasurable.

For this reason it is that the Divinity feels Pleasure which is always one, 'i.e.' simple: not motion merely but also motionlessness acts, and Pleasure resides rather in the absence than in the presence of motion.

The reason why the Poet's dictum "change is of all things most pleasant" is true, is "a baseness in our blood;" for as the bad man is easily changeable, bad must be also the nature that craves change, 'i.e.' it is neither simple nor good.

We have now said our say about Self-Control and its opposite; and about Pleasure and Pain. What each is, and how the one set is good the other bad. We have yet to speak of Friendship.