Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Book III

I Now since Virtue is concerned with the regulation of feelings and actions, and praise and blame arise upon such as are voluntary, while for the involuntary allowance is made, and sometimes compassion is excited, it is perhaps a necessary task for those who are investigating the nature of Virtue to draw out the distinction between what is voluntary and what involuntary; and it is certainly useful for legislators, with respect to the assigning of honours and punishments.


Involuntary actions then are thought to be of two kinds, being done either on compulsion, or by reason of ignorance. An action is, properly speaking, compulsory, when the origination is external to the agent, being such that in it the agent (perhaps we may more properly say the patient) contributes nothing; as if a wind were to convey you anywhere, or men having power over your person.

But when actions are done, either from fear of greater evils, or from some honourable motive, as, for instance, if you were ordered to commit some base act by a despot who had your parents or children in his power, and they were to be saved upon your compliance or die upon your refusal, in such cases there is room for a question whether the actions are voluntary or involuntary.

A similar question arises with respect to cases of throwing goods overboard in a storm: abstractedly no man throws away his property willingly, but with a view to his own and his shipmates' safety any one would who had any sense.

The truth is, such actions are of a mixed kind, but are most like voluntary actions; for they are choiceworthy at the time when they are being done, and the end or object of the action must be taken with reference to the actual occasion. Further, we must denominate an action voluntary or involuntary at the time of doing it: now in the given case the man acts voluntarily, because the originating of the motion of his limbs in such actions rests with himself; and where the origination is in himself it rests with himself to do or not to do.

Such actions then are voluntary, though in the abstract perhaps involuntary because no one would choose any of such things in and by itself.

But for such actions men sometimes are even praised, as when they endure any disgrace or pain to secure great and honourable equivalents; if 'vice versâ', then they are blamed, because it shows a base mind to endure things very disgraceful for no honourable object, or for a trifling one.

For some again no praise is given, but allowance is made; as where a man does what he should not by reason of such things as overstrain the powers of human nature, or pass the limits of human endurance.

Some acts perhaps there are for which compulsion cannot be pleaded, but a man should rather suffer the worst and die; how absurd, for instance, are the pleas of compulsion with which Alcmaeon in Euripides' play excuses his matricide!

But it is difficult sometimes to decide what kind of thing should be chosen instead of what, or what endured in preference to what, and much moreso to abide by one's decisions: for in general the alternatives are painful, and the actions required are base, and so praise or blame is awarded according as persons have been compelled or no.

1110b What kind of actions then are to be called compulsory? may we say, simply and abstractedly whenever the cause is external and the agent contributes nothing; and that where the acts are in themselves such as one would not wish but choiceworthy at the present time and in preference to such and such things, and where the origination rests with the agent, the actions are in themselves involuntary but at the given time and in preference to such and such things voluntary; and they are more like voluntary than involuntary, because the actions consist of little details, and these are voluntary.

But what kind of things one ought to choose instead of what, it is not easy to settle, for there are many differences in particular instances.

But suppose a person should say, things pleasant and honourable exert a compulsive force (for that they are external and do compel); at that rate every action is on compulsion, because these are universal motives of action.

Again, they who act on compulsion and against their will do so with pain; but they who act by reason of what is pleasant or honourable act with pleasure.

It is truly absurd for a man to attribute his actions to external things instead of to his own capacity for being easily caught by them; or, again, to ascribe the honourable to himself, and the base ones to pleasure.

So then that seems to be compulsory "whose origination is from without, the party compelled contributing nothing." Now every action of which ignorance is the cause is not-voluntary, but that only is involuntary which is attended with pain and remorse; for clearly the man who has done anything by reason of ignorance, but is not annoyed at his own action, cannot be said to have done it 'with' his will because he did not know he was doing it, nor again 'against' his will because he is not sorry for it.

So then of the class "acting by reason of ignorance," he who feels regret afterwards is thought to be an involuntary agent, and him that has no such feeling, since he certainly is different from the other, we will call a not-voluntary agent; for as there is a real difference it is better to have a proper name.

Again, there seems to be a difference between acting 'because of' ignorance and acting 'with' ignorance: for instance, we do not usually assign ignorance as the cause of the actions of the drunken or angry man, but either the drunkenness or the anger, yet they act not knowingly but with ignorance.

Again, every bad man is ignorant what he ought to do and what to leave undone, and by reason of such error men become unjust and wholly evil.

[Sidenote: 1111a] Again, we do not usually apply the term involuntary when a man is ignorant of his own true interest; because ignorance which affects moral choice constitutes depravity but not involuntariness: nor does any ignorance of principle (because for this men are blamed) but ignorance in particular details, wherein consists the action and wherewith it is concerned, for in these there is both compassion and allowance, because he who acts in ignorance of any of them acts in a proper sense involuntarily.

It may be as well, therefore, to define these particular details; what they are, and how many; viz. who acts, what he is doing, with respect to what or in what, sometimes with what, as with what instrument, and with what result (as that of preservation, for instance), and how, as whether softly or violently.

All these particulars, in one and the same case, no man in his senses could be ignorant of; plainly not of the agent, being himself. But what he is doing a man may be ignorant, as men in speaking say a thing escaped them unawares; or as Aeschylus did with respect to the Mysteries, that he was not aware that it was unlawful to speak of them; or as in the case of that catapult accident the other day the man said he discharged it merely to display its operation. Or a person might suppose a son to be an enemy, as Merope did; or that the spear really pointed was rounded off; or that the stone was a pumice; or in striking with a view to save might kill; or might strike when merely wishing to show another, as people do in sham-fighting.

Now since ignorance is possible in respect to all these details in which the action consists, he that acted in ignorance of any of them is thought to have acted involuntarily, and he most so who was in ignorance as regards the most important, which are thought to be those in which the action consists, and the result.

Further, not only must the ignorance be of this kind, to constitute an action involuntary, but it must be also understood that the action is followed by pain and regret.

Now since all involuntary action is either upon compulsion or by reason of ignorance, Voluntary Action would seem to be "that whose origination is in the agent, he being aware of the particular details in which the action consists."

For, it may be, men are not justified by calling those actions involuntary, which are done by reason of Anger or Lust.

Because, in the first place, if this be so no other animal but man, and not even children, can be said to act voluntarily. Next, is it meant that we never act voluntarily when we act from Lust or Anger, or that we act voluntarily in doing what is right and involuntarily in doing what is discreditable? The latter supposition is absurd, since the cause is one and the same. Then as to the former, it is a strange thing to maintain actions to be involuntary which we are bound to grasp at: now there are occasions on which anger is a duty, and there are things which we are bound to lust after, health, for instance, and learning.

Again, whereas actions strictly involuntary are thought to be attended with pain, those which are done to gratify lust are thought to be pleasant.

Again: how does the involuntariness make any difference between wrong actions done from deliberate calculation, and those done by reason of anger? for both ought to be avoided, and the irrational feelings are thought to be just as natural to man as reason, and so of course must be such actions of the individual as are done from Anger and Lust. It is absurd then to class these actions among the involuntary.


Having thus drawn out the distinction between voluntary and involuntary action our next step is to examine into the nature of Moral Choice, because this seems most intimately connected with Virtue and to be a more decisive test of moral character than a man's acts are.

Now Moral Choice is plainly voluntary, but the two are not co-extensive, voluntary being the more comprehensive term; for first, children and all other animals share in voluntary action but not in Moral Choice; and next, sudden actions we call voluntary but do not ascribe them to Moral Choice.

Nor do they appear to be right who say it is lust or anger, or wish, or opinion of a certain kind; because, in the first place, Moral Choice is not shared by the irrational animals while Lust and Anger are. Next; the man who fails of self-control acts from Lust but not from Moral Choice; the man of self-control, on the contrary, from Moral Choice, not from Lust. Again: whereas Lust is frequently opposed to Moral Choice, Lust is not to Lust.

Lastly: the object-matter of Lust is the pleasant and the painful, but of Moral Choice neither the one nor the other. Still less can it be Anger, because actions done from Anger are thought generally to be least of all consequent on Moral Choice.

Nor is it Wish either, though appearing closely connected with it; because, in the first place, Moral Choice has not for its objects impossibilities, and if a man were to say he chose them he would be thought to be a fool; but Wish may have impossible things for its objects, immortality for instance.

Wish again may be exercised on things in the accomplishment of which one's self could have nothing to do, as the success of any particular actor or athlete; but no man chooses things of this nature, only such as he believes he may himself be instrumental in procuring.

Further: Wish has for its object the End rather, but Moral Choice the means to the End; for instance, we wish to be healthy but we choose the means which will make us so; or happiness again we wish for, and commonly say so, but to say we choose is not an appropriate term, because, in short, the province of Moral Choice seems to be those things which are in our own power.

Neither can it be Opinion; for Opinion is thought to be unlimited in its range of objects, and to be exercised as well upon things eternal and impossible as on those which are in our own power: again, Opinion is logically divided into true and false, not into good and bad as Moral Choice is.

However, nobody perhaps maintains its identity with Opinion simply; but it is not the same with opinion of any kind, because by choosing good and bad things we are constituted of a certain character, but by having opinions on them we are not.

Again, we choose to take or avoid, and so on, but we opine what a thing is, or for what it is serviceable, or how; but we do not opine to take or avoid.

Further, Moral Choice is commended rather for having a right object than for being judicious, but Opinion for being formed in accordance with truth.

Again, we choose such things as we pretty well know to be good, but we form opinions respecting such as we do not know at all.

And it is not thought that choosing and opining best always go together, but that some opine the better course and yet by reason of viciousness choose not the things which they should.

It may be urged, that Opinion always precedes or accompanies Moral Choice; be it so, this makes no difference, for this is not the point in question, but whether Moral Choice is the same as Opinion of a certain kind.

Since then it is none of the aforementioned things, what is it, or how is it characterised? Voluntary it plainly is, but not all voluntary action is an object of Moral Choice. May we not say then, it is "that voluntary which has passed through a stage of previous deliberation?" because Moral Choice is attended with reasoning and intellectual process. The etymology of its Greek name seems to give a hint of it, being when analysed "chosen in preference to somewhat else."


Well then; do men deliberate about everything, and is anything soever the object of Deliberation, or are there some matters with respect to which there is none? (It may be as well perhaps to say, that by "object of Deliberation" is meant such matter as a sensible man would deliberate upon, not what any fool or madman might.)

Well: about eternal things no one deliberates; as, for instance, the universe, or the incommensurability of the diameter and side of a square.

Nor again about things which are in motion but which always happen in the same way either necessarily, or naturally, or from some other cause, as the solstices or the sunrise.

Nor about those which are variable, as drought and rains; nor fortuitous matters, as finding of treasure.

Nor in fact even about all human affairs; no Lacedæmonian, for instance, deliberates as to the best course for the Scythian government to adopt; because in such cases we have no power over the result.

But we do deliberate respecting such practical matters as are in our own power (which are what are left after all our exclusions).

I have adopted this division because causes seem to be divisible into nature, necessity, chance, and moreover intellect, and all human powers.

And as man in general deliberates about what man in general can effect, so individuals do about such practical things as can be effected through their own instrumentality.

[Sidenote: 1112b] Again, we do not deliberate respecting such arts or sciences as are exact and independent: as, for instance, about written characters, because we have no doubt how they should be formed; but we do deliberate on all buch things as are usually done through our own instrumentality, but not invariably in the same way; as, for instance, about matters connected with the healing art, or with money-making; and, again, more about piloting ships than gymnastic exercises, because the former has been less exactly determined, and so forth; and more about arts than sciences, because we more frequently doubt respecting the former.

So then Deliberation takes place in such matters as are under general laws, but still uncertain how in any given case they will issue, 'i.e.' in which there is some indefiniteness; and for great matters we associate coadjutors in counsel, distrusting our ability to settle them alone.

Further, we deliberate not about Ends, but Means to Ends. No physician, for instance, deliberates whether he will cure, nor orator whether he will persuade, nor statesman whether he will produce a good constitution, nor in fact any man in any other function about his particular End; but having set before them a certain End they look how and through what means it may be accomplished: if there is a choice of means, they examine further which are easiest and most creditable; or, if there is but one means of accomplishing the object, then how it may be through this, this again through what, till they come to the first cause; and this will be the last found; for a man engaged in a process of deliberation seems to seek and analyse, as a man, to solve a problem, analyses the figure given him. And plainly not every search is Deliberation, those in mathematics to wit, but every Deliberation is a search, and the last step in the analysis is the first in the constructive process. And if in the course of their search men come upon an impossibility, they give it up; if money, for instance, be necessary, but cannot be got: but if the thing appears possible they then attempt to do it.

And by possible I mean what may be done through our own instrumentality (of course what may be done through our friends is through our own instrumentality in a certain sense, because the origination in such cases rests with us). And the object of search is sometimes the necessary instruments, sometimes the method of using them; and similarly in the rest sometimes through what, and sometimes how or through what.

So it seems, as has been said, that Man is the originator of his actions; and Deliberation has for its object whatever may be done through one's own instrumentality, and the actions are with a view to other things; and so it is, not the End, but the Means to Ends on which Deliberation is employed.

[Sidenote: III3a]

Nor, again, is it employed on matters of detail, as whether the substance before me is bread, or has been properly cooked; for these come under the province of sense, and if a man is to be always deliberating, he may go on 'ad infinitum'.

Further, exactly the same matter is the object both of Deliberation and Moral Choice; but that which is the object of Moral Choice is thenceforward separated off and definite, because by object of Moral Choice is denoted that which after Deliberation has been preferred to something else: for each man leaves off searching how he shall do a thing when he has brought the origination up to himself, 'i.e'. to the governing principle in himself, because it is this which makes the choice. A good illustration of this is furnished by the old regal constitutions which Homer drew from, in which the Kings would announce to the commonalty what they had determined before.

Now since that which is the object of Moral Choice is something in our own power, which is the object of deliberation and the grasping of the Will, Moral Choice must be "a grasping after something in our own power consequent upon Deliberation:" because after having deliberated we decide, and then grasp by our Will in accordance with the result of our deliberation.

Let this be accepted as a sketch of the nature and object of Moral Choice, that object being "Means to Ends."

[Sidenote: IV] That Wish has for its object-matter the End, has been already stated; but there are two opinions respecting it; some thinking that its object is real good, others whatever impresses the mind with a notion of good.

Now those who maintain that the object of Wish is real good are beset by this difficulty, that what is wished for by him who chooses wrongly is not really an object of Wish (because, on their theory, if it is an object of wish, it must be good, but it is, in the case supposed, evil). Those who maintain, on the contrary, that that which impresses the mind with a notion of good is properly the object of Wish, have to meet this difficulty, that there is nothing naturally an object of Wish but to each individual whatever seems good to him; now different people have different notions, and it may chance contrary ones.

But, if these opinions do not satisfy us, may we not say that, abstractedly and as a matter of objective truth, the really good is the object of Wish, but to each individual whatever impresses his mind with the notion of good. And so to the good man that is an object of Wish which is really and truly so, but to the bad man anything may be; just as physically those things are wholesome to the healthy which are really so, but other things to the sick. And so too of bitter and sweet, and hot and heavy, and so on. For the good man judges in every instance correctly, and in every instance the notion conveyed to his mind is the true one.

For there are fair and pleasant things peculiar to, and so varying with, each state; and perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the good man is his seeing the truth in every instance, he being, in fact, the rule and measure of these matters.

The multitude of men seem to be deceived by reason of pleasure, because though it is not really a good it impresses their minds with the notion of goodness, so they choose what is pleasant as good and avoid pain as an evil.

Now since the End is the object of Wish, and the means to the End of Deliberation and Moral Choice, the actions regarding these matters must be in the way of Moral Choice, 'i.e.' voluntary: but the acts of working out the virtues are such actions, and therefore Virtue is in our power.

And so too is Vice: because wherever it is in our power to do it is also in our power to forbear doing, and 'vice versâ': therefore if the doing (being in a given case creditable) is in our power, so too is the forbearing (which is in the same case discreditable), and 'vice versâ'.

But if it is in our power to do and to forbear doing what is creditable or the contrary, and these respectively constitute the being good or bad, then the being good or vicious characters is in our power.

As for the well-known saying, "No man voluntarily is wicked or involuntarily happy," it is partly true, partly false; for no man is happy against his will, of course, but wickedness is voluntary. Or must we dispute the statements lately made, and not say that Man is the originator or generator of his actions as much as of his children?

But if this is matter of plain manifest fact, and we cannot refer our actions to any other originations beside those in our own power, those things must be in our own power, and so voluntary, the originations of which are in ourselves.

Moreover, testimony seems to be borne to these positions both privately by individuals, and by law-givers too, in that they chastise and punish those who do wrong (unless they do so on compulsion, or by reason of ignorance which is not self-caused), while they honour those who act rightly, under the notion of being likely to encourage the latter and restrain the former. But such things as are not in our own power, 'i.e.' not voluntary, no one thinks of encouraging us to do, knowing it to be of no avail for one to have been persuaded not to be hot (for instance), or feel pain, or be hungry, and so forth, because we shall have those sensations all the same.

And what makes the case stronger is this: that they chastise for the very fact of ignorance, when it is thought to be self-caused; to the drunken, for instance, penalties are double, because the origination in such case lies in a man's own self: for he might have helped getting drunk, and this is the cause of his ignorance.

[Sidenote: III4'a'] Again, those also who are ignorant of legal regulations which they are bound to know, and which are not hard to know, they chastise; and similarly in all other cases where neglect is thought to be the cause of the ignorance, under the notion that it was in their power to prevent their ignorance, because they might have paid attention.

But perhaps a man is of such a character that he cannot attend to such things: still men are themselves the causes of having become such characters by living carelessly, and also of being unjust or destitute of self-control, the former by doing evil actions, the latter by spending their time in drinking and such-like; because the particular acts of working form corresponding characters, as is shown by those who are practising for any contest or particular course of action, for such men persevere in the acts of working.

As for the plea, that a man did not know that habits are produced from separate acts of working, we reply, such ignorance is a mark of excessive stupidity.

Furthermore, it is wholly irrelevant to say that the man who acts unjustly or dissolutely does not 'wish' to attain the habits of these vices: for if a man wittingly does those things whereby he must become unjust he is to all intents and purposes unjust voluntarily; but he cannot with a wish cease to be unjust and become just. For, to take the analogous case, the sick man cannot with a wish be well again, yet in a supposable case he is voluntarily ill because he has produced his sickness by living intemperately and disregarding his physicians. There was a time then when he might have helped being ill, but now he has let himself go he cannot any longer; just as he who has let a stone out of his hand cannot recall it, and yet it rested with him to aim and throw it, because the origination was in his power. Just so the unjust man, and he who has lost all self-control, might originally have helped being what they are, and so they are voluntarily what they are; but now that they are become so they no longer have the power of being otherwise.

And not only are mental diseases voluntary, but the bodily are so in some men, whom we accordingly blame: for such as are naturally deformed no one blames, only such as are so by reason of want of exercise, and neglect: and so too of weakness and maiming: no one would think of upbraiding, but would rather compassionate, a man who is blind by nature, or from disease, or from an accident; but every one would blame him who was so from excess of wine, or any other kind of intemperance. It seems, then, that in respect of bodily diseases, those which depend on ourselves are censured, those which do not are not censured; and if so, then in the case of the mental disorders, those which are censured must depend upon ourselves.

[Sidenote: III4'b'] But suppose a man to say, "that (by our own admission) all men aim at that which conveys to their minds an impression of good, and that men have no control over this impression, but that the End impresses each with a notion correspondent to his own individual character; that to be sure if each man is in a way the cause of his own moral state, so he will be also of the kind of impression he receives: whereas, if this is not so, no one is the cause to himself of doing evil actions, but he does them by reason of ignorance of the true End, supposing that through their means he will secure the chief good. Further, that this aiming at the End is no matter of one's own choice, but one must be born with a power of mental vision, so to speak, whereby to judge fairly and choose that which is really good; and he is blessed by nature who has this naturally well: because it is the most important thing and the fairest, and what a man cannot get or learn from another but will have such as nature has given it; and for this to be so given well and fairly would be excellence of nature in the highest and truest sense."

If all this be true, how will Virtue be a whit more voluntary than Vice? Alike to the good man and the bad, the End gives its impression and is fixed by nature or howsoever you like to say, and they act so and so, referring everything else to this End.

Whether then we suppose that the End impresses each man's mind with certain notions not merely by nature, but that there is somewhat also dependent on himself; or that the End is given by nature, and yet Virtue is voluntary because the good man does all the rest voluntarily, Vice must be equally so; because his own agency equally attaches to the bad man in the actions, even if not in the selection of the End.

If then, as is commonly said, the Virtues are voluntary (because we at least co-operate in producing our moral states, and we assume the End to be of a certain kind according as we are ourselves of certain characters), the Vices must be voluntary also, because the cases are exactly similar.

Well now, we have stated generally respecting the Moral Virtues, the genus (in outline), that they are mean states, and that they are habits, and how they are formed, and that they are of themselves calculated to act upon the circumstances out of which they were formed, and that they are in our own power and voluntary, and are to be done so as right Reason may direct.

[Sidenote: III5'a'] But the particular actions and the habits are not voluntary in the same sense; for of the actions we are masters from beginning to end (supposing of course a knowledge of the particular details), but only of the origination of the habits, the addition by small particular accessions not being cognisiable (as is the case with sicknesses): still they are voluntary because it rested with us to use our circumstances this way or that.

Here we will resume the particular discussion of the Moral Virtues, and say what they are, what is their object-matter, and how they stand respectively related to it: of course their number will be thereby shown. First, then, of Courage. Now that it is a mean state, in respect of fear and boldness, has been already said: further, the objects of our fears are obviously things fearful or, in a general way of statement, evils; which accounts for the common definition of fear, viz. "expectation of evil."

Of course we fear evils of all kinds: disgrace, for instance, poverty, disease, desolateness, death; but not all these seem to be the object-matter of the Brave man, because there are things which to fear is right and noble, and not to fear is base; disgrace, for example, since he who fears this is a good man and has a sense of honour, and he who does not fear it is shameless (though there are those who call him Brave by analogy, because he somewhat resembles the Brave man who agrees with him in being free from fear); but poverty, perhaps, or disease, and in fact whatever does not proceed from viciousness, nor is attributable to his own fault, a man ought not to fear: still, being fearless in respect of these would not constitute a man Brave in the proper sense of the term.

Yet we do apply the term in right of the similarity of the cases; for there are men who, though timid in the dangers of war, are liberal men and are stout enough to face loss of wealth.

And, again, a man is not a coward for fearing insult to his wife or children, or envy, or any such thing; nor is he a Brave man for being bold when going to be scourged.

What kind of fearful things then do constitute the object-matter of the Brave man? first of all, must they not be the greatest, since no man is more apt to withstand what is dreadful. Now the object of the greatest dread is death, because it is the end of all things, and the dead man is thought to be capable neither of good nor evil. Still it would seem that the Brave man has not for his object-matter even death in every circumstance; on the sea, for example, or in sickness: in what circumstances then? must it not be in the most honourable? now such is death in war, because it is death in the greatest and most honourable danger; and this is confirmed by the honours awarded in communities, and by monarchs.

He then may be most properly denominated Brave who is fearless in respect of honourable death and such sudden emergencies as threaten death; now such specially are those which arise in the course of war.

[Sidenote: 1115b] It is not meant but that the Brave man will be fearless also on the sea (and in sickness), but not in the same way as sea-faring men; for these are light-hearted and hopeful by reason of their experience, while landsmen though Brave are apt to give themselves up for lost and shudder at the notion of such a death: to which it should be added that Courage is exerted in circumstances which admit of doing something to help one's self, or in which death would be honourable; now neither of these requisites attach to destruction by drowning or sickness.


Again, fearful is a term of relation, the same thing not being so to all, and there is according to common parlance somewhat so fearful as to be beyond human endurance: this of course would be fearful to every man of sense, but those objects which are level to the capacity of man differ in magnitude and admit of degrees, so too the objects of confidence or boldness.

Now the Brave man cannot be frighted from his propriety (but of course only so far as he is man); fear such things indeed he will, but he will stand up against them as he ought and as right reason may direct, with a view to what is honourable, because this is the end of the virtue.

Now it is possible to fear these things too much, or too little, or again to fear what is not really fearful as if it were such. So the errors come to be either that a man fears when he ought not to fear at all, or that he fears in an improper way, or at a wrong time, and so forth; and so too in respect of things inspiring confidence. He is Brave then who withstands, and fears, and is bold, in respect of right objects, from a right motive, in right manner, and at right times: since the Brave man suffers or acts as he ought and as right reason may direct.

Now the end of every separate act of working is that which accords with the habit, and so to the Brave man Courage; which is honourable; therefore such is also the End, since the character of each is determined by the End.

So honour is the motive from which the Brave man withstands things fearful and performs the acts which accord with Courage.

Of the characters on the side of Excess, he who exceeds in utter absence of fear has no appropriate name (I observed before that many states have none), but he would be a madman or inaccessible to pain if he feared nothing, neither earthquake, nor the billows, as they tell of the Celts.

He again who exceeds in confidence in respect of things fearful is rash. He is thought moreover to be a braggart, and to advance unfounded claims to the character of Brave: the relation which the Brave man really bears to objects of fear this man wishes to appear to bear, and so imitates him in whatever points he can; for this reason most of them exhibit a curious mixture of rashness and cowardice; because, affecting rashness in these circumstances, they do not withstand what is truly fearful.

[Sidenote: III6'a'] The man moreover who exceeds in feeling fear is a coward, since there attach to him the circumstances of fearing wrong objects, in wrong ways, and so forth. He is deficient also in feeling confidence, but he is most clearly seen as exceeding in the case of pains; he is a fainthearted kind of man, for he fears all things: the Brave man is just the contrary, for boldness is the property of the light-hearted and hopeful.

So the coward, the rash, and the Brave man have exactly the same object-matter, but stand differently related to it: the two first-mentioned respectively exceed and are deficient, the last is in a mean state and as he ought to be. The rash again are precipitate, and, being eager before danger, when actually in it fall away, while the Brave are quick and sharp in action, but before are quiet and composed.

Well then, as has been said, Courage is a mean state in respect of objects inspiring boldness or fear, in the circumstances which have been stated, and the Brave man chooses his line and withstands danger either because to do so is honourable, or because not to do so is base. But dying to escape from poverty, or the pangs of love, or anything that is simply painful, is the act not of a Brave man but of a coward; because it is mere softness to fly from what is toilsome, and the suicide braves the terrors of death not because it is honourable but to get out of the reach of evil.


Courage proper is somewhat of the kind I have described, but there are dispositions, differing in five ways, which also bear in common parlance the name of Courage.

We will take first that which bears most resemblance to the true, the Courage of Citizenship, so named because the motives which are thought to actuate the members of a community in braving danger are the penalties and disgrace held out by the laws to cowardice, and the dignities conferred on the Brave; which is thought to be the reason why those are the bravest people among whom cowards are visited with disgrace and the Brave held in honour.

Such is the kind of Courage Homer exhibits in his characters; Diomed and Hector for example. The latter says,

"Polydamas will be the first to fix Disgrace upon me."

Diomed again,

"For Hector surely will hereafter say, Speaking in Troy, Tydides by my hand"--

This I say most nearly resembles the Courage before spoken of, because it arises from virtue, from a feeling of shame, and a desire of what is noble (that is, of honour), and avoidance of disgrace which is base. In the same rank one would be inclined to place those also who act under compulsion from their commanders; yet are they really lower, because not a sense of honour but fear is the motive from which they act, and what they seek to avoid is not that which is base but that which is simply painful: commanders do in fact compel their men sometimes, as Hector says (to quote Homer again),

"But whomsoever I shall find cowering afar from the fight, The teeth of dogs he shall by no means escape."

[Sidenote: III6'h'] Those commanders who station staunch troops by doubtful ones, or who beat their men if they flinch, or who draw their troops up in line with the trenches, or other similar obstacles, in their rear, do in effect the same as Hector, for they all use compulsion.

But a man is to be Brave, not on compulsion, but from a sense of honour.

In the next place, Experience and Skill in the various particulars is thought to be a species of Courage: whence Socrates also thought that Courage was knowledge.

This quality is exhibited of course by different men under different circumstances, but in warlike matters, with which we are now concerned, it is exhibited by the soldiers ("the regulars"): for there are, it would seem, many things in war of no real importance which these have been constantly used to see; so they have a show of Courage because other people are not aware of the real nature of these things. Then again by reason of their skill they are better able than any others to inflict without suffering themselves, because they are able to use their arms and have such as are most serviceable both with a view to offence and defence: so that their case is parallel to that of armed men fighting with unarmed or trained athletes with amateurs, since in contests of this kind those are the best fighters, not who are the bravest men, but who are the strongest and are in the best condition.

In fact, the regular troops come to be cowards whenever the danger is greater than their means of meeting it; supposing, for example, that they are inferior in numbers and resources: then they are the first to fly, but the mere militia stand and fall on the ground (which as you know really happened at the Hermæum), for in the eyes of these flight was disgraceful and death preferable to safety bought at such a price: while "the regulars" originally went into the danger under a notion of their own superiority, but on discovering their error they took to flight, having greater fear of death than of disgrace; but this is not the feeling of the Brave man.

Thirdly, mere Animal Spirit is sometimes brought under the term Courage: they are thought to be Brave who are carried on by mere Animal Spirit, as are wild beasts against those who have wounded them, because in fact the really Brave have much Spirit, there being nothing like it for going at danger of any kind; whence those frequent expressions in Homer, "infused strength into his spirit," "roused his strength and spirit," or again, "and keen strength in his nostrils," "his blood boiled:" for all these seem to denote the arousing and impetuosity of the Animal Spirit.

[Sidenote: III7'a'] Now they that are truly Brave act from a sense of honour, and this Animal Spirit co-operates with them; but wild beasts from pain, that is because they have been wounded, or are frightened; since if they are quietly in their own haunts, forest or marsh, they do not attack men. Surely they are not Brave because they rush into danger when goaded on by pain and mere Spirit, without any view of the danger: else would asses be Brave when they are hungry, for though beaten they will not then leave their pasture: profligate men besides do many bold actions by reason of their lust. We may conclude then that they are not Brave who are goaded on to meet danger by pain and mere Spirit; but still this temper which arises from Animal Spirit appears to be most natural, and would be Courage of the true kind if it could have added to it moral choice and the proper motive. So men also are pained by a feeling of anger, and take pleasure in revenge; but they who fight from these causes may be good fighters, but they are not truly Brave (in that they do not act from a sense of honour, nor as reason directs, but merely from the present feeling), still they bear some resemblance to that character.

Nor, again, are the Sanguine and Hopeful therefore Brave: since their boldness in dangers arises from their frequent victories over numerous foes. The two characters are alike, however, in that both are confident; but then the Brave are so from the afore-mentioned causes, whereas these are so from a settled conviction of their being superior and not likely to suffer anything in return (they who are intoxicated do much the same, for they become hopeful when in that state); but when the event disappoints their expectations they run away: now it was said to be the character of a Brave man to withstand things which are fearful to man or produce that impression, because it is honourable so to do and the contrary is dishonourable.

For this reason it is thought to be a greater proof of Courage to be fearless and undisturbed under the pressure of sudden fear than under that which may be anticipated, because Courage then comes rather from a fixed habit, or less from preparation: since as to foreseen dangers a man might take his line even from calculation and reasoning, but in those which are sudden he will do so according to his fixed habit of mind.

Fifthly and lastly, those who are acting under Ignorance have a show of Courage and are not very far from the Hopeful; but still they are inferior inasmuch as they have no opinion of themselves; which the others have, and therefore stay and contest a field for some little time; but they who have been deceived fly the moment they know things to be otherwise than they supposed, which the Argives experienced when they fell on the Lacedæmonians, taking them for the men of Sicyon. We have described then what kind of men the Brave are, and what they who are thought to be, but are not really, Brave.

[Sidenote: IX]

It must be remarked, however, that though Courage has for its object-matter boldness and fear it has not both equally so, but objects of fear much more than the former; for he that under pressure of these is undisturbed and stands related to them as he ought is better entitled to the name of Brave than he who is properly affected towards objects of confidence. So then men are termed Brave for withstanding painful things.

It follows that Courage involves pain and is justly praised, since it is a harder matter to withstand things that are painful than to abstain from such as are pleasant.

[Sidenote: 1117'b']

It must not be thought but that the End and object of Courage is pleasant, but it is obscured by the surrounding circumstances: which happens also in the gymnastic games; to the boxers the End is pleasant with a view to which they act, I mean the crown and the honours; but the receiving the blows they do is painful and annoying to flesh and blood, and so is all the labour they have to undergo; and, as these drawbacks are many, the object in view being small appears to have no pleasantness in it.

If then we may say the same of Courage, of course death and wounds must be painful to the Brave man and against his will: still he endures these because it is honourable so to do or because it is dishonourable not to do so. And the more complete his virtue and his happiness so much the more will he be pained at the notion of death: since to such a man as he is it is best worth while to live, and he with full consciousness is deprived of the greatest goods by death, and this is a painful idea. But he is not the less Brave for feeling it to be so, nay rather it may be he is shown to be more so because he chooses the honour that may be reaped in war in preference to retaining safe possession of these other goods. The fact is that to act with pleasure does not belong to all the virtues, except so far as a man realises the End of his actions.

But there is perhaps no reason why not such men should make the best soldiers, but those who are less truly Brave but have no other good to care for: these being ready to meet danger and bartering their lives against small gain.

Let thus much be accepted as sufficient on the subject of Courage; the true nature of which it is not difficult to gather, in outline at least, from what has been said.

[Sidenote: X]

Next let us speak of Perfected Self-Mastery, which seems to claim the next place to Courage, since these two are the Excellences of the Irrational part of the Soul.

That it is a mean state, having for its object-matter Pleasures, we have already said (Pains being in fact its object-matter in a less degree and dissimilar manner), the state of utter absence of self-control has plainly the same object-matter; the next thing then is to determine what kind of Pleasures.

Let Pleasures then be understood to be divided into mental and bodily: instances of the former being love of honour or of learning: it being plain that each man takes pleasure in that of these two objects which he has a tendency to like, his body being no way affected but rather his intellect. Now men are not called perfectly self-mastering or wholly destitute of self-control in respect of pleasures of this class: nor in fact in respect of any which are not bodily; those for example who love to tell long stories, and are prosy, and spend their days about mere chance matters, we call gossips but not wholly destitute of self-control, nor again those who are pained at the loss of money or friends.

[Sidenote: 1118'a']

It is bodily Pleasures then which are the object-matter of Perfected Self-Mastery, but not even all these indifferently: I mean, that they who take pleasure in objects perceived by the Sight, as colours, and forms, and painting, are not denominated men of Perfected Self-Mastery, or wholly destitute of self-control; and yet it would seem that one may take pleasure even in such objects, as one ought to do, or excessively, or too little.

So too of objects perceived by the sense of Hearing; no one applies the terms before quoted respectively to those who are excessively pleased with musical tunes or acting, or to those who take such pleasure as they ought.

Nor again to those persons whose pleasure arises from the sense of Smell, except incidentally: I mean, we do not say men have no self-control because they take pleasure in the scent of fruit, or flowers, or incense, but rather when they do so in the smells of unguents and sauces: since men destitute of self-control take pleasure herein, because hereby the objects of their lusts are recalled to their imagination (you may also see other men take pleasure in the smell of food when they are hungry): but to take pleasure in such is a mark of the character before named since these are objects of desire to him.

Now not even brutes receive pleasure in right of these senses, except incidentally. I mean, it is not the scent of hares' flesh but the eating it which dogs take pleasure in, perception of which pleasure is caused by the sense of Smell. Or again, it is not the lowing of the ox but eating him which the lion likes; but of the fact of his nearness the lion is made sensible by the lowing, and so he appears to take pleasure in this. In like manner, he has no pleasure in merely seeing or finding a stag or wild goat, but in the prospect of a meal.

The habits of Perfect Self-Mastery and entire absence of self-control have then for their object-matter such pleasures as brutes also share in, for which reason they are plainly servile and brutish: they are Touch and Taste.

But even Taste men seem to make little or no use of; for to the sense of Taste belongs the distinguishing of flavours; what men do, in fact, who are testing the quality of wines or seasoning "made dishes."

But men scarcely take pleasure at all in these things, at least those whom we call destitute of self-control do not, but only in the actual enjoyment which arises entirely from the sense of Touch, whether in eating or in drinking, or in grosser lusts. This accounts for the wish said to have been expressed once by a great glutton, "that his throat had been formed longer than a crane's neck," implying that his pleasure was derived from the Touch.

[Sidenote: 1118b] The sense then with which is connected the habit of absence of self-control is the most common of all the senses, and this habit would seem to be justly a matter of reproach, since it attaches to us not in so far as we are men but in so far as we are animals. Indeed it is brutish to take pleasure in such things and to like them best of all; for the most respectable of the pleasures arising from the touch have been set aside; those, for instance, which occur in the course of gymnastic training from the rubbing and the warm bath: because the touch of the man destitute of self-control is not indifferently of 'any' part of the body but only of particular parts.


Now of lusts or desires some are thought to be universal, others peculiar and acquired; thus desire for food is natural since every one who really needs desires also food, whether solid or liquid, or both (and, as Homer says, the man in the prime of youth needs and desires intercourse with the other sex); but when we come to this or that particular kind, then neither is the desire universal nor in all men is it directed to the same objects. And therefore the conceiving of such desires plainly attaches to us as individuals. It must be admitted, however, that there is something natural in it: because different things are pleasant to different men and a preference of some particular objects to chance ones is universal. Well then, in the case of the desires which are strictly and properly natural few men go wrong and all in one direction, that is, on the side of too much: I mean, to eat and drink of such food as happens to be on the table till one is overfilled is exceeding in quantity the natural limit, since the natural desire is simply a supply of a real deficiency. For this reason these men are called belly-mad, as filling it beyond what they ought, and it is the slavish who become of this character.

But in respect of the peculiar pleasures many men go wrong and in many different ways; for whereas the term "fond of so and so" implies either taking pleasure in wrong objects, or taking pleasure excessively, or as the mass of men do, or in a wrong way, they who are destitute of all self-control exceed in all these ways; that is to say, they take pleasure in some things in which they ought not to do so (because they are properly objects of detestation), and in such as it is right to take pleasure in they do so more than they ought and as the mass of men do.

Well then, that excess with respect to pleasures is absence of self-control, and blameworthy, is plain. But viewing these habits on the side of pains, we find that a man is not said to have the virtue for withstanding them (as in the case of Courage), nor the vice for not withstanding them; but the man destitute of self-control is such, because he is pained more than he ought to be at not obtaining things which are pleasant (and thus his pleasure produces pain to him), and the man of Perfected Self-Mastery is such in virtue of not being pained by their absence, that is, by having to abstain from what is pleasant.

[Sidenote:III9a] Now the man destitute of self-control desires either all pleasant things indiscriminately or those which are specially pleasant, and he is impelled by his desire to choose these things in preference to all others; and this involves pain, not only when he misses the attainment of his objects but, in the very desiring them, since all desire is accompanied by pain. Surely it is a strange case this, being pained by reason of pleasure.

As for men who are defective on the side of pleasure, who take less pleasure in things than they ought, they are almost imaginary characters, because such absence of sensual perception is not natural to man: for even the other animals distinguish between different kinds of food, and like some kinds and dislike others. In fact, could a man be found who takes no pleasure in anything and to whom all things are alike, he would be far from being human at all: there is no name for such a character because it is simply imaginary.

But the man of Perfected Self-Mastery is in the mean with respect to these objects: that is to say, he neither takes pleasure in the things which delight the vicious man, and in fact rather dislikes them, nor at all in improper objects; nor to any great degree in any object of the class; nor is he pained at their absence; nor does he desire them; or, if he does, only in moderation, and neither more than he ought, nor at improper times, and so forth; but such things as are conducive to health and good condition of body, being also pleasant, these he will grasp at in moderation and as he ought to do, and also such other pleasant things as do not hinder these objects, and are not unseemly or disproportionate to his means; because he that should grasp at such would be liking such pleasures more than is proper; but the man of Perfected Self-Mastery is not of this character, but regulates his desires by the dictates of right reason.


Now the vice of being destitute of all Self-Control seems to be more truly voluntary than Cowardice, because pleasure is the cause of the former and pain of the latter, and pleasure is an object of choice, pain of avoidance. And again, pain deranges and spoils the natural disposition of its victim, whereas pleasure has no such effect and is more voluntary and therefore more justly open to reproach.

It is so also for the following reason; that it is easier to be inured by habit to resist the objects of pleasure, there being many things of this kind in life and the process of habituation being unaccompanied by danger; whereas the case is the reverse as regards the objects of fear.

Again, Cowardice as a confirmed habit would seem to be voluntary in a different way from the particular instances which form the habit; because it is painless, but these derange the man by reason of pain so that he throws away his arms and otherwise behaves himself unseemly, for which reason they are even thought by some to exercise a power of compulsion.

But to the man destitute of Self-Control the particular instances are on the contrary quite voluntary, being done with desire and direct exertion of the will, but the general result is less voluntary: since no man desires to form the habit.

[Sidenote: 1119b]

The name of this vice (which signifies etymologically unchastened-ness) we apply also to the faults of children, there being a certain resemblance between the cases: to which the name is primarily applied, and to which secondarily or derivatively, is not relevant to the present subject, but it is evident that the later in point of time must get the name from the earlier. And the metaphor seems to be a very good one; for whatever grasps after base things, and is liable to great increase, ought to be chastened; and to this description desire and the child answer most truly, in that children also live under the direction of desire and the grasping after what is pleasant is most prominently seen in these.

Unless then the appetite be obedient and subjected to the governing principle it will become very great: for in the fool the grasping after what is pleasant is insatiable and undiscriminating; and every acting out of the desire increases the kindred habit, and if the desires are great and violent in degree they even expel Reason entirely; therefore they ought to be moderate and few, and in no respect to be opposed to Reason. Now when the appetite is in such a state we denominate it obedient and chastened.

In short, as the child ought to live with constant regard to the orders of its educator, so should the appetitive principle with regard to those of Reason.

So then in the man of Perfected Self-Mastery, the appetitive principle must be accordant with Reason: for what is right is the mark at which both principles aim: that is to say, the man of perfected self-mastery desires what he ought in right manner and at right times, which is exactly what Reason directs. Let this be taken for our account of Perfected Self-Mastery.