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Nicomachean Ethics
By Aristotle

Translated by W. D. Ross




Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit,
is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly
been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference
is found among ends; some are activities, others are products apart
from the activities that produce them. Where there are ends apart
from the actions, it is the nature of the products to be better than
the activities. Now, as there are many actions, arts, and sciences,
their ends also are many; the end of the medical art is health, that
of shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of economics
wealth. But where such arts fall under a single capacity- as bridle-making
and the other arts concerned with the equipment of horses fall under
the art of riding, and this and every military action under strategy,
in the same way other arts fall under yet others- in all of these
the ends of the master arts are to be preferred to all the subordinate
ends; for it is for the sake of the former that the latter are pursued.
It makes no difference whether the activities themselves are the ends
of the actions, or something else apart from the activities, as in
the case of the sciences just mentioned. 


If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for
its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this),
and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else
(for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our
desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and
the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence
on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be
more likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline
at least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or
capacities it is the object. It would seem to belong to the most authoritative
art and that which is most truly the master art. And politics appears
to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains which of the sciences
should be studied in a state, and which each class of citizens should
learn and up to what point they should learn them; and we see even
the most highly esteemed of capacities to fall under this, e.g. strategy,
economics, rhetoric; now, since politics uses the rest of the sciences,
and since, again, it legislates as to what we are to do and what we
are to abstain from, the end of this science must include those of
the others, so that this end must be the good for man. For even if
the end is the same for a single man and for a state, that of the
state seems at all events something greater and more complete whether
to attain or to preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end
merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for
a nation or for city-states. These, then, are the ends at which our
inquiry aims, since it is political science, in one sense of that


Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the
subject-matter admits of, for precision is not to be sought for alike
in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the crafts.
Now fine and just actions, which political science investigates, admit
of much variety and fluctuation of opinion, so that they may be thought
to exist only by convention, and not by nature. And goods also give
rise to a similar fluctuation because they bring harm to many people;
for before now men have been undone by reason of their wealth, and
others by reason of their courage. We must be content, then, in speaking
of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly
and in outline, and in speaking about things which are only for the
most part true and with premisses of the same kind to reach conclusions
that are no better. In the same spirit, therefore, should each type
of statement be received; for it is the mark of an educated man to
look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature
of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable
reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific

Now each man judges well the things he knows, and of these he is a
good judge. And so the man who has been educated in a subject is a
good judge of that subject, and the man who has received an all-round
education is a good judge in general. Hence a young man is not a proper
hearer of lectures on political science; for he is inexperienced in
the actions that occur in life, but its discussions start from these
and are about these; and, further, since he tends to follow his passions,
his study will be vain and unprofitable, because the end aimed at
is not knowledge but action. And it makes no difference whether he
is young in years or youthful in character; the defect does not depend
on time, but on his living, and pursuing each successive object, as
passion directs. For to such persons, as to the incontinent, knowledge
brings no profit; but to those who desire and act in accordance with
a rational principle knowledge about such matters will be of great

These remarks about the student, the sort of treatment to be expected,
and the purpose of the inquiry, may be taken as our preface.


Let us resume our inquiry and state, in view of the fact that all
knowledge and every pursuit aims at some good, what it is that we
say political science aims at and what is the highest of all goods
achievable by action. Verbally there is very general agreement; for
both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say
that it is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with
being happy; but with regard to what happiness is they differ, and
the many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former
think it is some plain and obvious thing, like pleasure, wealth, or
honour; they differ, however, from one another- and often even the
same man identifies it with different things, with health when he
is ill, with wealth when he is poor; but, conscious of their ignorance,
they admire those who proclaim some great ideal that is above their
comprehension. Now some thought that apart from these many goods there
is another which is self-subsistent and causes the goodness of all
these as well. To examine all the opinions that have been held were
perhaps somewhat fruitless; enough to examine those that are most
prevalent or that seem to be arguable. 

Let us not fail to notice, however, that there is a difference between
arguments from and those to the first principles. For Plato, too,
was right in raising this question and asking, as he used to do, 'are
we on the way from or to the first principles?' There is a difference,
as there is in a race-course between the course from the judges to
the turning-point and the way back. For, while we must begin with
what is known, things are objects of knowledge in two senses- some
to us, some without qualification. Presumably, then, we must begin
with things known to us. Hence any one who is to listen intelligently
to lectures about what is noble and just, and generally, about the
subjects of political science must have been brought up in good habits.
For the fact is the starting-point, and if this is sufficiently plain
to him, he will not at the start need the reason as well; and the
man who has been well brought up has or can easily get startingpoints.
And as for him who neither has nor can get them, let him hear the
words of Hesiod: 

Far best is he who knows all things himself; 
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right; 
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart 
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight. 

Let us, however, resume our discussion from the point at which we
digressed. To judge from the lives that men lead, most men, and men
of the most vulgar type, seem (not without some ground) to identify
the good, or happiness, with pleasure; which is the reason why they
love the life of enjoyment. For there are, we may say, three prominent
types of life- that just mentioned, the political, and thirdly the
contemplative life. Now the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish
in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts, but they get
some ground for their view from the fact that many of those in high
places share the tastes of Sardanapallus. A consideration of the prominent
types of life shows that people of superior refinement and of active
disposition identify happiness with honour; for this is, roughly speaking,
the end of the political life. But it seems too superficial to be
what we are looking for, since it is thought to depend on those who
bestow honour rather than on him who receives it, but the good we
divine to be something proper to a man and not easily taken from him.
Further, men seem to pursue honour in order that they may be assured
of their goodness; at least it is by men of practical wisdom that
they seek to be honoured, and among those who know them, and on the
ground of their virtue; clearly, then, according to them, at any rate,
virtue is better. And perhaps one might even suppose this to be, rather
than honour, the end of the political life. But even this appears
somewhat incomplete; for possession of virtue seems actually compatible
with being asleep, or with lifelong inactivity, and, further, with
the greatest sufferings and misfortunes; but a man who was living
so no one would call happy, unless he were maintaining a thesis at
all costs. But enough of this; for the subject has been sufficiently
treated even in the current discussions. Third comes the contemplative
life, which we shall consider later. 

The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth
is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful
and for the sake of something else. And so one might rather take the
aforenamed objects to be ends; for they are loved for themselves.
But it is evident that not even these are ends; yet many arguments
have been thrown away in support of them. Let us leave this subject,


We had perhaps better consider the universal good and discuss thoroughly
what is meant by it, although such an inquiry is made an uphill one
by the fact that the Forms have been introduced by friends of our
own. Yet it would perhaps be thought to be better, indeed to be our
duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to destroy what touches
us closely, especially as we are philosophers or lovers of wisdom;
for, while both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above
our friends. 

The men who introduced this doctrine did not posit Ideas of classes
within which they recognized priority and posteriority (which is the
reason why they did not maintain the existence of an Idea embracing
all numbers); but the term 'good' is used both in the category of
substance and in that of quality and in that of relation, and that
which is per se, i.e. substance, is prior in nature to the relative
(for the latter is like an off shoot and accident of being); so that
there could not be a common Idea set over all these goods. Further,
since 'good' has as many senses as 'being' (for it is predicated both
in the category of substance, as of God and of reason, and in quality,
i.e. of the virtues, and in quantity, i.e. of that which is moderate,
and in relation, i.e. of the useful, and in time, i.e. of the right
opportunity, and in place, i.e. of the right locality and the like),
clearly it cannot be something universally present in all cases and
single; for then it could not have been predicated in all the categories
but in one only. Further, since of the things answering to one Idea
there is one science, there would have been one science of all the
goods; but as it is there are many sciences even of the things that
fall under one category, e.g. of opportunity, for opportunity in war
is studied by strategics and in disease by medicine, and the moderate
in food is studied by medicine and in exercise by the science of gymnastics.
And one might ask the question, what in the world they mean by 'a
thing itself', is (as is the case) in 'man himself' and in a particular
man the account of man is one and the same. For in so far as they
are man, they will in no respect differ; and if this is so, neither
will 'good itself' and particular goods, in so far as they are good.
But again it will not be good any the more for being eternal, since
that which lasts long is no whiter than that which perishes in a day.
The Pythagoreans seem to give a more plausible account of the good,
when they place the one in the column of goods; and it is they that
Speusippus seems to have followed. 

But let us discuss these matters elsewhere; an objection to what we
have said, however, may be discerned in the fact that the Platonists
have not been speaking about all goods, and that the goods that are
pursued and loved for themselves are called good by reference to a
single Form, while those which tend to produce or to preserve these
somehow or to prevent their contraries are called so by reference
to these, and in a secondary sense. Clearly, then, goods must be spoken
of in two ways, and some must be good in themselves, the others by
reason of these. Let us separate, then, things good in themselves
from things useful, and consider whether the former are called good
by reference to a single Idea. What sort of goods would one call good
in themselves? Is it those that are pursued even when isolated from
others, such as intelligence, sight, and certain pleasures and honours?
Certainly, if we pursue these also for the sake of something else,
yet one would place them among things good in themselves. Or is nothing
other than the Idea of good good in itself? In that case the Form
will be empty. But if the things we have named are also things good
in themselves, the account of the good will have to appear as something
identical in them all, as that of whiteness is identical in snow and
in white lead. But of honour, wisdom, and pleasure, just in respect
of their goodness, the accounts are distinct and diverse. The good,
therefore, is not some common element answering to one Idea.

But what then do we mean by the good? It is surely not like the things
that only chance to have the same name. Are goods one, then, by being
derived from one good or by all contributing to one good, or are they
rather one by analogy? Certainly as sight is in the body, so is reason
in the soul, and so on in other cases. But perhaps these subjects
had better be dismissed for the present; for perfect precision about
them would be more appropriate to another branch of philosophy. And
similarly with regard to the Idea; even if there is some one good
which is universally predicable of goods or is capable of separate
and independent existence, clearly it could not be achieved or attained
by man; but we are now seeking something attainable. Perhaps, however,
some one might think it worth while to recognize this with a view
to the goods that are attainable and achievable; for having this as
a sort of pattern we shall know better the goods that are good for
us, and if we know them shall attain them. This argument has some
plausibility, but seems to clash with the procedure of the sciences;
for all of these, though they aim at some good and seek to supply
the deficiency of it, leave on one side the knowledge of the good.
Yet that all the exponents of the arts should be ignorant of, and
should not even seek, so great an aid is not probable. It is hard,
too, to see how a weaver or a carpenter will be benefited in regard
to his own craft by knowing this 'good itself', or how the man who
has viewed the Idea itself will be a better doctor or general thereby.
For a doctor seems not even to study health in this way, but the health
of man, or perhaps rather the health of a particular man; it is individuals
that he is healing. But enough of these topics. 


Let us again return to the good we are seeking, and ask what it can
be. It seems different in different actions and arts; it is different
in medicine, in strategy, and in the other arts likewise. What then
is the good of each? Surely that for whose sake everything else is
done. In medicine this is health, in strategy victory, in architecture
a house, in any other sphere something else, and in every action and
pursuit the end; for it is for the sake of this that all men do whatever
else they do. Therefore, if there is an end for all that we do, this
will be the good achievable by action, and if there are more than
one, these will be the goods achievable by action. 

So the argument has by a different course reached the same point;
but we must try to state this even more clearly. Since there are evidently
more than one end, and we choose some of these (e.g. wealth, flutes,
and in general instruments) for the sake of something else, clearly
not all ends are final ends; but the chief good is evidently something
final. Therefore, if there is only one final end, this will be what
we are seeking, and if there are more than one, the most final of
these will be what we are seeking. Now we call that which is in itself
worthy of pursuit more final than that which is worthy of pursuit
for the sake of something else, and that which is never desirable
for the sake of something else more final than the things that are
desirable both in themselves and for the sake of that other thing,
and therefore we call final without qualification that which is always
desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else.

Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for this
we choose always for self and never for the sake of something else,
but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for
themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still choose
each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness,
judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the
other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general,
for anything other than itself. 

From the point of view of self-sufficiency the same result seems to
follow; for the final good is thought to be self-sufficient. Now by
self-sufficient we do not mean that which is sufficient for a man
by himself, for one who lives a solitary life, but also for parents,
children, wife, and in general for his friends and fellow citizens,
since man is born for citizenship. But some limit must be set to this;
for if we extend our requirement to ancestors and descendants and
friends' friends we are in for an infinite series. Let us examine
this question, however, on another occasion; the self-sufficient we
now define as that which when isolated makes life desirable and lacking
in nothing; and such we think happiness to be; and further we think
it most desirable of all things, without being counted as one good
thing among others- if it were so counted it would clearly be made
more desirable by the addition of even the least of goods; for that
which is added becomes an excess of goods, and of goods the greater
is always more desirable. Happiness, then, is something final and
self-sufficient, and is the end of action. 

Presumably, however, to say that happiness is the chief good seems
a platitude, and a clearer account of what it is still desired. This
might perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function of
man. For just as for a flute-player, a sculptor, or an artist, and,
in general, for all things that have a function or activity, the good
and the 'well' is thought to reside in the function, so would it seem
to be for man, if he has a function. Have the carpenter, then, and
the tanner certain functions or activities, and has man none? Is he
born without a function? Or as eye, hand, foot, and in general each
of the parts evidently has a function, may one lay it down that man
similarly has a function apart from all these? What then can this
be? Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking what
is peculiar to man. Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition
and growth. Next there would be a life of perception, but it also
seems to be common even to the horse, the ox, and every animal. There
remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle;
of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of being obedient
to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought.
And, as 'life of the rational element' also has two meanings, we must
state that life in the sense of activity is what we mean; for this
seems to be the more proper sense of the term. Now if the function
of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational
principle, and if we say 'so-and-so-and 'a good so-and-so' have a
function which is the same in kind, e.g. a lyre, and a good lyre-player,
and so without qualification in all cases, eminence in respect of
goodness being idded to the name of the function (for the function
of a lyre-player is to play the lyre, and that of a good lyre-player
is to do so well): if this is the case, and we state the function
of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity or
actions of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function
of a good man to be the good and noble performance of these, and if
any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with
the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, human good turns
out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there
are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.

But we must add 'in a complete life.' For one swallow does not make
a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does
not make a man blessed and happy. 

Let this serve as an outline of the good; for we must presumably first
sketch it roughly, and then later fill in the details. But it would
seem that any one is capable of carrying on and articulating what
has once been well outlined, and that time is a good discoverer or
partner in such a work; to which facts the advances of the arts are
due; for any one can add what is lacking. And we must also remember
what has been said before, and not look for precision in all things
alike, but in each class of things such precision as accords with
the subject-matter, and so much as is appropriate to the inquiry.
For a carpenter and a geometer investigate the right angle in different
ways; the former does so in so far as the right angle is useful for
his work, while the latter inquires what it is or what sort of thing
it is; for he is a spectator of the truth. We must act in the same
way, then, in all other matters as well, that our main task may not
be subordinated to minor questions. Nor must we demand the cause in
all matters alike; it is enough in some cases that the fact be well
established, as in the case of the first principles; the fact is the
primary thing or first principle. Now of first principles we see some
by induction, some by perception, some by a certain habituation, and
others too in other ways. But each set of principles we must try to
investigate in the natural way, and we must take pains to state them
definitely, since they have a great influence on what follows. For
the beginning is thought to be more than half of the whole, and many
of the questions we ask are cleared up by it. 


We must consider it, however, in the light not only of our conclusion
and our premisses, but also of what is commonly said about it; for
with a true view all the data harmonize, but with a false one the
facts soon clash. Now goods have been divided into three classes,
and some are described as external, others as relating to soul or
to body; we call those that relate to soul most properly and truly
goods, and psychical actions and activities we class as relating to
soul. Therefore our account must be sound, at least according to this
view, which is an old one and agreed on by philosophers. It is correct
also in that we identify the end with certain actions and activities;
for thus it falls among goods of the soul and not among external goods.
Another belief which harmonizes with our account is that the happy
man lives well and does well; for we have practically defined happiness
as a sort of good life and good action. The characteristics that are
looked for in happiness seem also, all of them, to belong to what
we have defined happiness as being. For some identify happiness with
virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophic
wisdom, others with these, or one of these, accompanied by pleasure
or not without pleasure; while others include also external prosperity.
Now some of these views have been held by many men and men of old,
others by a few eminent persons; and it is not probable that either
of these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should
be right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.

With those who identify happiness with virtue or some one virtue our
account is in harmony; for to virtue belongs virtuous activity. But
it makes, perhaps, no small difference whether we place the chief
good in possession or in use, in state of mind or in activity. For
the state of mind may exist without producing any good result, as
in a man who is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the
activity cannot; for one who has the activity will of necessity be
acting, and acting well. And as in the Olympic Games it is not the
most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete
(for it is some of these that are victorious), so those who act win,
and rightly win, the noble and good things in life. 

Their life is also in itself pleasant. For pleasure is a state of
soul, and to each man that which he is said to be a lover of is pleasant;
e.g. not only is a horse pleasant to the lover of horses, and a spectacle
to the lover of sights, but also in the same way just acts are pleasant
to the lover of justice and in general virtuous acts to the lover
of virtue. Now for most men their pleasures are in conflict with one
another because these are not by nature pleasant, but the lovers of
what is noble find pleasant the things that are by nature pleasant;
and virtuous actions are such, so that these are pleasant for such
men as well as in their own nature. Their life, therefore, has no
further need of pleasure as a sort of adventitious charm, but has
its pleasure in itself. For, besides what we have said, the man who
does not rejoice in noble actions is not even good; since no one would
call a man just who did not enjoy acting justly, nor any man liberal
who did not enjoy liberal actions; and similarly in all other cases.
If this is so, virtuous actions must be in themselves pleasant. But
they are also good and noble, and have each of these attributes in
the highest degree, since the good man judges well about these attributes;
his judgement is such as we have described. Happiness then is the
best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world, and these attributes
are not severed as in the inscription at Delos- 

Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health;

But pleasantest is it to win what we love. 

For all these properties belong to the best activities; and these,
or one- the best- of these, we identify with happiness. 

Yet evidently, as we said, it needs the external goods as well; for
it is impossible, or not easy, to do noble acts without the proper
equipment. In many actions we use friends and riches and political
power as instruments; and there are some things the lack of which
takes the lustre from happiness, as good birth, goodly children, beauty;
for the man who is very ugly in appearance or ill-born or solitary
and childless is not very likely to be happy, and perhaps a man would
be still less likely if he had thoroughly bad children or friends
or had lost good children or friends by death. As we said, then, happiness
seems to need this sort of prosperity in addition; for which reason
some identify happiness with good fortune, though others identify
it with virtue. 


For this reason also the question is asked, whether happiness is to
be acquired by learning or by habituation or some other sort of training,
or comes in virtue of some divine providence or again by chance. Now
if there is any gift of the gods to men, it is reasonable that happiness
should be god-given, and most surely god-given of all human things
inasmuch as it is the best. But this question would perhaps be more
appropriate to another inquiry; happiness seems, however, even if
it is not god-sent but comes as a result of virtue and some process
of learning or training, to be among the most godlike things; for
that which is the prize and end of virtue seems to be the best thing
in the world, and something godlike and blessed. 

It will also on this view be very generally shared; for all who are
not maimed as regards their potentiality for virtue may win it by
a certain kind of study and care. But if it is better to be happy
thus than by chance, it is reasonable that the facts should be so,
since everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature
as good as it can be, and similarly everything that depends on art
or any rational cause, and especially if it depends on the best of
all causes. To entrust to chance what is greatest and most noble would
be a very defective arrangement. 

The answer to the question we are asking is plain also from the definition
of happiness; for it has been said to be a virtuous activity of soul,
of a certain kind. Of the remaining goods, some must necessarily pre-exist
as conditions of happiness, and others are naturally co-operative
and useful as instruments. And this will be found to agree with what
we said at the outset; for we stated the end of political science
to be the best end, and political science spends most of its pains
on making the citizens to be of a certain character, viz. good and
capable of noble acts. 

It is natural, then, that we call neither ox nor horse nor any other
of the animals happy; for none of them is capable of sharing in such
activity. For this reason also a boy is not happy; for he is not yet
capable of such acts, owing to his age; and boys who are called happy
are being congratulated by reason of the hopes we have for them. For
there is required, as we said, not only complete virtue but also a
complete life, since many changes occur in life, and all manner of
chances, and the most prosperous may fall into great misfortunes in
old age, as is told of Priam in the Trojan Cycle; and one who has
experienced such chances and has ended wretchedly no one calls happy.


Must no one at all, then, be called happy while he lives; must we,
as Solon says, see the end? Even if we are to lay down this doctrine,
is it also the case that a man is happy when he is dead? Or is not
this quite absurd, especially for us who say that happiness is an
activity? But if we do not call the dead man happy, and if Solon does
not mean this, but that one can then safely call a man blessed as
being at last beyond evils and misfortunes, this also affords matter
for discussion; for both evil and good are thought to exist for a
dead man, as much as for one who is alive but not aware of them; e.g.
honours and dishonours and the good or bad fortunes of children and
in general of descendants. And this also presents a problem; for though
a man has lived happily up to old age and has had a death worthy of
his life, many reverses may befall his descendants- some of them may
be good and attain the life they deserve, while with others the opposite
may be the case; and clearly too the degrees of relationship between
them and their ancestors may vary indefinitely. It would be odd, then,
if the dead man were to share in these changes and become at one time
happy, at another wretched; while it would also be odd if the fortunes
of the descendants did not for some time have some effect on the happiness
of their ancestors. 

But we must return to our first difficulty; for perhaps by a consideration
of it our present problem might be solved. Now if we must see the
end and only then call a man happy, not as being happy but as having
been so before, surely this is a paradox, that when he is happy the
attribute that belongs to him is not to be truly predicated of him
because we do not wish to call living men happy, on account of the
changes that may befall them, and because we have assumed happiness
to be something permanent and by no means easily changed, while a
single man may suffer many turns of fortune's wheel. For clearly if
we were to keep pace with his fortunes, we should often call the same
man happy and again wretched, making the happy man out to be chameleon
and insecurely based. Or is this keeping pace with his fortunes quite
wrong? Success or failure in life does not depend on these, but human
life, as we said, needs these as mere additions, while virtuous activities
or their opposites are what constitute happiness or the reverse.

The question we have now discussed confirms our definition. For no
function of man has so much permanence as virtuous activities (these
are thought to be more durable even than knowledge of the sciences),
and of these themselves the most valuable are more durable because
those who are happy spend their life most readily and most continuously
in these; for this seems to be the reason why we do not forget them.
The attribute in question, then, will belong to the happy man, and
he will be happy throughout his life; for always, or by preference
to everything else, he will be engaged in virtuous action and contemplation,
and he will bear the chances of life most nobly and altogether decorously,
if he is 'truly good' and 'foursquare beyond reproach'. 

Now many events happen by chance, and events differing in importance;
small pieces of good fortune or of its opposite clearly do not weigh
down the scales of life one way or the other, but a multitude of great
events if they turn out well will make life happier (for not only
are they themselves such as to add beauty to life, but the way a man
deals with them may be noble and good), while if they turn out ill
they crush and maim happiness; for they both bring pain with them
and hinder many activities. Yet even in these nobility shines through,
when a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through
insensibility to pain but through nobility and greatness of soul.

If activities are, as we said, what gives life its character, no happy
man can become miserable; for he will never do the acts that are hateful
and mean. For the man who is truly good and wise, we think, bears
all the chances life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances,
as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command
and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are
given him; and so with all other craftsmen. And if this is the case,
the happy man can never become miserable; though he will not reach
blessedness, if he meet with fortunes like those of Priam.

Nor, again, is he many-coloured and changeable; for neither will he
be moved from his happy state easily or by any ordinary misadventures,
but only by many great ones, nor, if he has had many great misadventures,
will he recover his happiness in a short time, but if at all, only
in a long and complete one in which he has attained many splendid

When then should we not say that he is happy who is active in accordance
with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods,
not for some chance period but throughout a complete life? Or must
we add 'and who is destined to live thus and die as befits his life'?
Certainly the future is obscure to us, while happiness, we claim,
is an end and something in every way final. If so, we shall call happy
those among living men in whom these conditions are, and are to be,
fulfilled- but happy men. So much for these questions. 


That the fortunes of descendants and of all a man's friends should
not affect his happiness at all seems a very unfriendly doctrine,
and one opposed to the opinions men hold; but since the events that
happen are numerous and admit of all sorts of difference, and some
come more near to us and others less so, it seems a long- nay, an
infinite- task to discuss each in detail; a general outline will perhaps
suffice. If, then, as some of a man's own misadventures have a certain
weight and influence on life while others are, as it were, lighter,
so too there are differences among the misadventures of our friends
taken as a whole, and it makes a difference whether the various suffering
befall the living or the dead (much more even than whether lawless
and terrible deeds are presupposed in a tragedy or done on the stage),
this difference also must be taken into account; or rather, perhaps,
the fact that doubt is felt whether the dead share in any good or
evil. For it seems, from these considerations, that even if anything
whether good or evil penetrates to them, it must be something weak
and negligible, either in itself or for them, or if not, at least
it must be such in degree and kind as not to make happy those who
are not happy nor to take away their blessedness from those who are.
The good or bad fortunes of friends, then, seem to have some effects
on the dead, but effects of such a kind and degree as neither to make
the happy unhappy nor to produce any other change of the kind.


These questions having been definitely answered, let us consider whether
happiness is among the things that are praised or rather among the
things that are prized; for clearly it is not to be placed among potentialities.
Everything that is praised seems to be praised because it is of a
certain kind and is related somehow to something else; for we praise
the just or brave man and in general both the good man and virtue
itself because of the actions and functions involved, and we praise
the strong man, the good runner, and so on, because he is of a certain
kind and is related in a certain way to something good and important.
This is clear also from the praises of the gods; for it seems absurd
that the gods should be referred to our standard, but this is done
because praise involves a reference, to something else. But if if
praise is for things such as we have described, clearly what applies
to the best things is not praise, but something greater and better,
as is indeed obvious; for what we do to the gods and the most godlike
of men is to call them blessed and happy. And so too with good things;
no one praises happiness as he does justice, but rather calls it blessed,
as being something more divine and better. 

Eudoxus also seems to have been right in his method of advocating
the supremacy of pleasure; he thought that the fact that, though a
good, it is not praised indicated it to be better than the things
that are praised, and that this is what God and the good are; for
by reference to these all other things are judged. Praise is appropriate
to virtue, for as a result of virtue men tend to do noble deeds, but
encomia are bestowed on acts, whether of the body or of the soul.
But perhaps nicety in these matters is more proper to those who have
made a study of encomia; to us it is clear from what has been said
that happiness is among the things that are prized and perfect. It
seems to be so also from the fact that it is a first principle; for
it is for the sake of this that we all do all that we do, and the
first principle and cause of goods is, we claim, something prized
and divine. 


Since happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect
virtue, we must consider the nature of virtue; for perhaps we shall
thus see better the nature of happiness. The true student of politics,
too, is thought to have studied virtue above all things; for he wishes
to make his fellow citizens good and obedient to the laws. As an example
of this we have the lawgivers of the Cretans and the Spartans, and
any others of the kind that there may have been. And if this inquiry
belongs to political science, clearly the pursuit of it will be in
accordance with our original plan. But clearly the virtue we must
study is human virtue; for the good we were seeking was human good
and the happiness human happiness. By human virtue we mean not that
of the body but that of the soul; and happiness also we call an activity
of soul. But if this is so, clearly the student of politics must know
somehow the facts about soul, as the man who is to heal the eyes or
the body as a whole must know about the eyes or the body; and all
the more since politics is more prized and better than medicine; but
even among doctors the best educated spend much labour on acquiring
knowledge of the body. The student of politics, then, must study the
soul, and must study it with these objects in view, and do so just
to the extent which is sufficient for the questions we are discussing;
for further precision is perhaps something more laborious than our
purposes require. 

Some things are said about it, adequately enough, even in the discussions
outside our school, and we must use these; e.g. that one element in
the soul is irrational and one has a rational principle. Whether these
are separated as the parts of the body or of anything divisible are,
or are distinct by definition but by nature inseparable, like convex
and concave in the circumference of a circle, does not affect the
present question. 

Of the irrational element one division seems to be widely distributed,
and vegetative in its nature, I mean that which causes nutrition and
growth; for it is this kind of power of the soul that one must assign
to all nurslings and to embryos, and this same power to fullgrown
creatures; this is more reasonable than to assign some different power
to them. Now the excellence of this seems to be common to all species
and not specifically human; for this part or faculty seems to function
most in sleep, while goodness and badness are least manifest in sleep
(whence comes the saying that the happy are not better off than the
wretched for half their lives; and this happens naturally enough,
since sleep is an inactivity of the soul in that respect in which
it is called good or bad), unless perhaps to a small extent some of
the movements actually penetrate to the soul, and in this respect
the dreams of good men are better than those of ordinary people. Enough
of this subject, however; let us leave the nutritive faculty alone,
since it has by its nature no share in human excellence.

There seems to be also another irrational element in the soul-one
which in a sense, however, shares in a rational principle. For we
praise the rational principle of the continent man and of the incontinent,
and the part of their soul that has such a principle, since it urges
them aright and towards the best objects; but there is found in them
also another element naturally opposed to the rational principle,
which fights against and resists that principle. For exactly as paralysed
limbs when we intend to move them to the right turn on the contrary
to the left, so is it with the soul; the impulses of incontinent people
move in contrary directions. But while in the body we see that which
moves astray, in the soul we do not. No doubt, however, we must none
the less suppose that in the soul too there is something contrary
to the rational principle, resisting and opposing it. In what sense
it is distinct from the other elements does not concern us. Now even
this seems to have a share in a rational principle, as we said; at
any rate in the continent man it obeys the rational principle and
presumably in the temperate and brave man it is still more obedient;
for in him it speaks, on all matters, with the same voice as the rational

Therefore the irrational element also appears to be two-fold. For
the vegetative element in no way shares in a rational principle, but
the appetitive and in general the desiring element in a sense shares
in it, in so far as it listens to and obeys it; this is the sense
in which we speak of 'taking account' of one's father or one's friends,
not that in which we speak of 'accounting for a mathematical property.
That the irrational element is in some sense persuaded by a rational
principle is indicated also by the giving of advice and by all reproof
and exhortation. And if this element also must be said to have a rational
principle, that which has a rational principle (as well as that which
has not) will be twofold, one subdivision having it in the strict
sense and in itself, and the other having a tendency to obey as one
does one's father. 

Virtue too is distinguished into kinds in accordance with this difference;
for we say that some of the virtues are intellectual and others moral,
philosophic wisdom and understanding and practical wisdom being intellectual,
liberality and temperance moral. For in speaking about a man's character
we do not say that he is wise or has understanding but that he is
good-tempered or temperate; yet we praise the wise man also with respect
to his state of mind; and of states of mind we call those which merit
praise virtues. 




Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual
virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching
(for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue
comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is
one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (habit).
From this it is also plain that none of the moral virtues arises in
us by nature; for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary
to its nature. For instance the stone which by nature moves downwards
cannot be habituated to move upwards, not even if one tries to train
it by throwing it up ten thousand times; nor can fire be habituated
to move downwards, nor can anything else that by nature behaves in
one way be trained to behave in another. Neither by nature, then,
nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted
by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.

Again, of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire
the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in
the case of the senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing
that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we
used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues
we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the
arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them,
we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyreplayers
by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate
by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. 

This is confirmed by what happens in states; for legislators make
the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish
of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark,
and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.

Again, it is from the same causes and by the same means that every
virtue is both produced and destroyed, and similarly every art; for
it is from playing the lyre that both good and bad lyre-players are
produced. And the corresponding statement is true of builders and
of all the rest; men will be good or bad builders as a result of building
well or badly. For if this were not so, there would have been no need
of a teacher, but all men would have been born good or bad at their
craft. This, then, is the case with the virtues also; by doing the
acts that we do in our transactions with other men we become just
or unjust, and by doing the acts that we do in the presence of danger,
and being habituated to feel fear or confidence, we become brave or
cowardly. The same is true of appetites and feelings of anger; some
men become temperate and good-tempered, others self-indulgent and
irascible, by behaving in one way or the other in the appropriate
circumstances. Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of
like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of
a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to
the differences between these. It makes no small difference, then,
whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth;
it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.


Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge
like the others (for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue
is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would
have been of no use), we must examine the nature of actions, namely
how we ought to do them; for these determine also the nature of the
states of character that are produced, as we have said. Now, that
we must act according to the right rule is a common principle and
must be assumed-it will be discussed later, i.e. both what the right
rule is, and how it is related to the other virtues. But this must
be agreed upon beforehand, that the whole account of matters of conduct
must be given in outline and not precisely, as we said at the very
beginning that the accounts we demand must be in accordance with the
subject-matter; matters concerned with conduct and questions of what
is good for us have no fixity, any more than matters of health. The
general account being of this nature, the account of particular cases
is yet more lacking in exactness; for they do not fall under any art
or precept but the agents themselves must in each case consider what
is appropriate to the occasion, as happens also in the art of medicine
or of navigation. 

But though our present account is of this nature we must give what
help we can. First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature
of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in
the case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things imperceptible
we must use the evidence of sensible things); both excessive and defective
exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which
is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that
which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it.
So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and courage and the
other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears everything and
does not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the
man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes
rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains
from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure,
as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage,
then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.

But not only are the sources and causes of their origination and growth
the same as those of their destruction, but also the sphere of their
actualization will be the same; for this is also true of the things
which are more evident to sense, e.g. of strength; it is produced
by taking much food and undergoing much exertion, and it is the strong
man that will be most able to do these things. So too is it with the
virtues; by abstaining from pleasures we become temperate, and it
is when we have become so that we are most able to abstain from them;
and similarly too in the case of courage; for by being habituated
to despise things that are terrible and to stand our ground against
them we become brave, and it is when we have become so that we shall
be most able to stand our ground against them. 


We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain
that ensues on acts; for the man who abstains from bodily pleasures
and delights in this very fact is temperate, while the man who is
annoyed at it is self-indulgent, and he who stands his ground against
things that are terrible and delights in this or at least is not pained
is brave, while the man who is pained is a coward. For moral excellence
is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on account of the pleasure
that we do bad things, and on account of the pain that we abstain
from noble ones. Hence we ought to have been brought up in a particular
way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and
to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right education.

Again, if the virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and
every passion and every action is accompanied by pleasure and pain,
for this reason also virtue will be concerned with pleasures and pains.
This is indicated also by the fact that punishment is inflicted by
these means; for it is a kind of cure, and it is the nature of cures
to be effected by contraries. 

Again, as we said but lately, every state of soul has a nature relative
to and concerned with the kind of things by which it tends to be made
worse or better; but it is by reason of pleasures and pains that men
become bad, by pursuing and avoiding these- either the pleasures and
pains they ought not or when they ought not or as they ought not,
or by going wrong in one of the other similar ways that may be distinguished.
Hence men even define the virtues as certain states of impassivity
and rest; not well, however, because they speak absolutely, and do
not say 'as one ought' and 'as one ought not' and 'when one ought
or ought not', and the other things that may be added. We assume,
then, that this kind of excellence tends to do what is best with regard
to pleasures and pains, and vice does the contrary. 

The following facts also may show us that virtue and vice are concerned
with these same things. There being three objects of choice and three
of avoidance, the noble, the advantageous, the pleasant, and their
contraries, the base, the injurious, the painful, about all of these
the good man tends to go right and the bad man to go wrong, and especially
about pleasure; for this is common to the animals, and also it accompanies
all objects of choice; for even the noble and the advantageous appear

Again, it has grown up with us all from our infancy; this is why it
is difficult to rub off this passion, engrained as it is in our life.
And we measure even our actions, some of us more and others less,
by the rule of pleasure and pain. For this reason, then, our whole
inquiry must be about these; for to feel delight and pain rightly
or wrongly has no small effect on our actions. 

Again, it is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger, to use
Heraclitus' phrase', but both art and virtue are always concerned
with what is harder; for even the good is better when it is harder.
Therefore for this reason also the whole concern both of virtue and
of political science is with pleasures and pains; for the man who
uses these well will be good, he who uses them badly bad.

That virtue, then, is concerned with pleasures and pains, and that
by the acts from which it arises it is both increased and, if they
are done differently, destroyed, and that the acts from which it arose
are those in which it actualizes itself- let this be taken as said.


The question might be asked,; what we mean by saying that we must
become just by doing just acts, and temperate by doing temperate acts;
for if men do just and temperate acts, they are already just and temperate,
exactly as, if they do what is in accordance with the laws of grammar
and of music, they are grammarians and musicians. 

Or is this not true even of the arts? It is possible to do something
that is in accordance with the laws of grammar, either by chance or
at the suggestion of another. A man will be a grammarian, then, only
when he has both done something grammatical and done it grammatically;
and this means doing it in accordance with the grammatical knowledge
in himself. 

Again, the case of the arts and that of the virtues are not similar;
for the products of the arts have their goodness in themselves, so
that it is enough that they should have a certain character, but if
the acts that are in accordance with the virtues have themselves a
certain character it does not follow that they are done justly or
temperately. The agent also must be in a certain condition when he
does them; in the first place he must have knowledge, secondly he
must choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes, and thirdly
his action must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character. These
are not reckoned in as conditions of the possession of the arts, except
the bare knowledge; but as a condition of the possession of the virtues
knowledge has little or no weight, while the other conditions count
not for a little but for everything, i.e. the very conditions which
result from often doing just and temperate acts. 

Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as
the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who
does these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them
as just and temperate men do them. It is well said, then, that it
is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing
temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would
have even a prospect of becoming good. 

But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think
they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving
somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but
do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not
be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will
not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.


Next we must consider what virtue is. Since things that are found
in the soul are of three kinds- passions, faculties, states of character,
virtue must be one of these. By passions I mean appetite, anger, fear,
confidence, envy, joy, friendly feeling, hatred, longing, emulation,
pity, and in general the feelings that are accompanied by pleasure
or pain; by faculties the things in virtue of which we are said to
be capable of feeling these, e.g. of becoming angry or being pained
or feeling pity; by states of character the things in virtue of which
we stand well or badly with reference to the passions, e.g. with reference
to anger we stand badly if we feel it violently or too weakly, and
well if we feel it moderately; and similarly with reference to the
other passions. 

Now neither the virtues nor the vices are passions, because we are
not called good or bad on the ground of our passions, but are so called
on the ground of our virtues and our vices, and because we are neither
praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or
anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed,
but the man who feels it in a certain way), but for our virtues and
our vices we are praised or blamed. 

Again, we feel anger and fear without choice, but the virtues are
modes of choice or involve choice. Further, in respect of the passions
we are said to be moved, but in respect of the virtues and the vices
we are said not to be moved but to be disposed in a particular way.

For these reasons also they are not faculties; for we are neither
called good nor bad, nor praised nor blamed, for the simple capacity
of feeling the passions; again, we have the faculties by nature, but
we are not made good or bad by nature; we have spoken of this before.
If, then, the virtues are neither passions nor faculties, all that
remains is that they should be states of character. 

Thus we have stated what virtue is in respect of its genus.


We must, however, not only describe virtue as a state of character,
but also say what sort of state it is. We may remark, then, that every
virtue or excellence both brings into good condition the thing of
which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing be done
well; e.g. the excellence of the eye makes both the eye and its work
good; for it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well. Similarly
the excellence of the horse makes a horse both good in itself and
good at running and at carrying its rider and at awaiting the attack
of the enemy. Therefore, if this is true in every case, the virtue
of man also will be the state of character which makes a man good
and which makes him do his own work well. 

How this is to happen we have stated already, but it will be made
plain also by the following consideration of the specific nature of
virtue. In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible
to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of
the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate
between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean
that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one
and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that
which is neither too much nor too little- and this is not one, nor
the same for all. For instance, if ten is many and two is few, six
is the intermediate, taken in terms of the object; for it exceeds
and is exceeded by an equal amount; this is intermediate according
to arithmetical proportion. But the intermediate relatively to us
is not to be taken so; if ten pounds are too much for a particular
person to eat and two too little, it does not follow that the trainer
will order six pounds; for this also is perhaps too much for the person
who is to take it, or too little- too little for Milo, too much for
the beginner in athletic exercises. The same is true of running and
wrestling. Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but
seeks the intermediate and chooses this- the intermediate not in the
object but relatively to us. 

If it is thus, then, that every art does its work well- by looking
to the intermediate and judgling its works by this standard (so that
we often say of good works of art that it is not possible either to
take away or to add anything, implying that excess and defect destroy
the goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it; and good
artists, as we say, look to this in their work), and if, further,
virtue is more exact and better than any art, as nature also is, then
virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate. I mean
moral virtue; for it is this that is concerned with passions and actions,
and in these there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. For instance,
both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general
pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in
both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference
to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive,
and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this
is characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also
there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. Now virtue is concerned
with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and
so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success;
and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of
virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen,
it aims at what is intermediate. 

Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the
class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good
to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one
way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult- to
miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also,
then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of

For men are good in but one way, but bad in many. 

Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying
in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by
a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical
wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that
which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again
it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed
what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds
and chooses that which is intermediate. Hence in respect of its substance
and the definition which states its essence virtue is a mean, with
regard to what is best and right an extreme. 

But not every action nor every passion admits of a mean; for some
have names that already imply badness, e.g. spite, shamelessness,
envy, and in the case of actions adultery, theft, murder; for all
of these and suchlike things imply by their names that they are themselves
bad, and not the excesses or deficiencies of them. It is not possible,
then, ever to be right with regard to them; one must always be wrong.
Nor does goodness or badness with regard to such things depend on
committing adultery with the right woman, at the right time, and in
the right way, but simply to do any of them is to go wrong. It would
be equally absurd, then, to expect that in unjust, cowardly, and voluptuous
action there should be a mean, an excess, and a deficiency; for at
that rate there would be a mean of excess and of deficiency, an excess
of excess, and a deficiency of deficiency. But as there is no excess
and deficiency of temperance and courage because what is intermediate
is in a sense an extreme, so too of the actions we have mentioned
there is no mean nor any excess and deficiency, but however they are
done they are wrong; for in general there is neither a mean of excess
and deficiency, nor excess and deficiency of a mean. 


We must, however, not only make this general statement, but also apply
it to the individual facts. For among statements about conduct those
which are general apply more widely, but those which are particular
are more genuine, since conduct has to do with individual cases, and
our statements must harmonize with the facts in these cases. We may
take these cases from our table. With regard to feelings of fear and
confidence courage is the mean; of the people who exceed, he who exceeds
in fearlessness has no name (many of the states have no name), while
the man who exceeds in confidence is rash, and he who exceeds in fear
and falls short in confidence is a coward. With regard to pleasures
and pains- not all of them, and not so much with regard to the pains-
the mean is temperance, the excess self-indulgence. Persons deficient
with regard to the pleasures are not often found; hence such persons
also have received no name. But let us call them 'insensible'.

With regard to giving and taking of money the mean is liberality,
the excess and the defect prodigality and meanness. In these actions
people exceed and fall short in contrary ways; the prodigal exceeds
in spending and falls short in taking, while the mean man exceeds
in taking and falls short in spending. (At present we are giving a
mere outline or summary, and are satisfied with this; later these
states will be more exactly determined.) With regard to money there
are also other dispositions- a mean, magnificence (for the magnificent
man differs from the liberal man; the former deals with large sums,
the latter with small ones), an excess, tastelessness and vulgarity,
and a deficiency, niggardliness; these differ from the states opposed
to liberality, and the mode of their difference will be stated later.
With regard to honour and dishonour the mean is proper pride, the
excess is known as a sort of 'empty vanity', and the deficiency is
undue humility; and as we said liberality was related to magnificence,
differing from it by dealing with small sums, so there is a state
similarly related to proper pride, being concerned with small honours
while that is concerned with great. For it is possible to desire honour
as one ought, and more than one ought, and less, and the man who exceeds
in his desires is called ambitious, the man who falls short unambitious,
while the intermediate person has no name. The dispositions also are
nameless, except that that of the ambitious man is called ambition.
Hence the people who are at the extremes lay claim to the middle place;
and we ourselves sometimes call the intermediate person ambitious
and sometimes unambitious, and sometimes praise the ambitious man
and sometimes the unambitious. The reason of our doing this will be
stated in what follows; but now let us speak of the remaining states
according to the method which has been indicated. 

With regard to anger also there is an excess, a deficiency, and a
mean. Although they can scarcely be said to have names, yet since
we call the intermediate person good-tempered let us call the mean
good temper; of the persons at the extremes let the one who exceeds
be called irascible, and his vice irascibility, and the man who falls
short an inirascible sort of person, and the deficiency inirascibility.

There are also three other means, which have a certain likeness to
one another, but differ from one another: for they are all concerned
with intercourse in words and actions, but differ in that one is concerned
with truth in this sphere, the other two with pleasantness; and of
this one kind is exhibited in giving amusement, the other in all the
circumstances of life. We must therefore speak of these too, that
we may the better see that in all things the mean is praise-worthy,
and the extremes neither praiseworthy nor right, but worthy of blame.
Now most of these states also have no names, but we must try, as in
the other cases, to invent names ourselves so that we may be clear
and easy to follow. With regard to truth, then, the intermediate is
a truthful sort of person and the mean may be called truthfulness,
while the pretence which exaggerates is boastfulness and the person
characterized by it a boaster, and that which understates is mock
modesty and the person characterized by it mock-modest. With regard
to pleasantness in the giving of amusement the intermediate person
is ready-witted and the disposition ready wit, the excess is buffoonery
and the person characterized by it a buffoon, while the man who falls
short is a sort of boor and his state is boorishness. With regard
to the remaining kind of pleasantness, that which is exhibited in
life in general, the man who is pleasant in the right way is friendly
and the mean is friendliness, while the man who exceeds is an obsequious
person if he has no end in view, a flatterer if he is aiming at his
own advantage, and the man who falls short and is unpleasant in all
circumstances is a quarrelsome and surly sort of person.

There are also means in the passions and concerned with the passions;
since shame is not a virtue, and yet praise is extended to the modest
man. For even in these matters one man is said to be intermediate,
and another to exceed, as for instance the bashful man who is ashamed
of everything; while he who falls short or is not ashamed of anything
at all is shameless, and the intermediate person is modest. Righteous
indignation is a mean between envy and spite, and these states are
concerned with the pain and pleasure that are felt at the fortunes
of our neighbours; the man who is characterized by righteous indignation
is pained at undeserved good fortune, the envious man, going beyond
him, is pained at all good fortune, and the spiteful man falls so
far short of being pained that he even rejoices. But these states
there will be an opportunity of describing elsewhere; with regard
to justice, since it has not one simple meaning, we shall, after describing
the other states, distinguish its two kinds and say how each of them
is a mean; and similarly we shall treat also of the rational virtues.


There are three kinds of disposition, then, two of them vices, involving
excess and deficiency respectively, and one a virtue, viz. the mean,
and all are in a sense opposed to all; for the extreme states are
contrary both to the intermediate state and to each other, and the
intermediate to the extremes; as the equal is greater relatively to
the less, less relatively to the greater, so the middle states are
excessive relatively to the deficiencies, deficient relatively to
the excesses, both in passions and in actions. For the brave man appears
rash relatively to the coward, and cowardly relatively to the rash
man; and similarly the temperate man appears self-indulgent relatively
to the insensible man, insensible relatively to the self-indulgent,
and the liberal man prodigal relatively to the mean man, mean relatively
to the prodigal. Hence also the people at the extremes push the intermediate
man each over to the other, and the brave man is called rash by the
coward, cowardly by the rash man, and correspondingly in the other

These states being thus opposed to one another, the greatest contrariety
is that of the extremes to each other, rather than to the intermediate;
for these are further from each other than from the intermediate,
as the great is further from the small and the small from the great
than both are from the equal. Again, to the intermediate some extremes
show a certain likeness, as that of rashness to courage and that of
prodigality to liberality; but the extremes show the greatest unlikeness
to each other; now contraries are defined as the things that are furthest
from each other, so that things that are further apart are more contrary.

To the mean in some cases the deficiency, in some the excess is more
opposed; e.g. it is not rashness, which is an excess, but cowardice,
which is a deficiency, that is more opposed to courage, and not insensibility,
which is a deficiency, but self-indulgence, which is an excess, that
is more opposed to temperance. This happens from two reasons, one
being drawn from the thing itself; for because one extreme is nearer
and liker to the intermediate, we oppose not this but rather its contrary
to the intermediate. E.g. since rashness is thought liker and nearer
to courage, and cowardice more unlike, we oppose rather the latter
to courage; for things that are further from the intermediate are
thought more contrary to it. This, then, is one cause, drawn from
the thing itself; another is drawn from ourselves; for the things
to which we ourselves more naturally tend seem more contrary to the
intermediate. For instance, we ourselves tend more naturally to pleasures,
and hence are more easily carried away towards self-indulgence than
towards propriety. We describe as contrary to the mean, then, rather
the directions in which we more often go to great lengths; and therefore
self-indulgence, which is an excess, is the more contrary to temperance.


That moral virtue is a mean, then, and in what sense it is so, and
that it is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the
other deficiency, and that it is such because its character is to
aim at what is intermediate in passions and in actions, has been sufficiently
stated. Hence also it is no easy task to be good. For in everything
it is no easy task to find the middle, e.g. to find the middle of
a circle is not for every one but for him who knows; so, too, any
one can get angry- that is easy- or give or spend money; but to do
this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time,
with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every
one, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable
and noble. 

Hence he who aims at the intermediate must first depart from what
is the more contrary to it, as Calypso advises- 

Hold the ship out beyond that surf and spray. 

For of the extremes one is more erroneous, one less so; therefore,
since to hit the mean is hard in the extreme, we must as a second
best, as people say, take the least of the evils; and this will be
done best in the way we describe. But we must consider the things
towards which we ourselves also are easily carried away; for some
of us tend to one thing, some to another; and this will be recognizable
from the pleasure and the pain we feel. We must drag ourselves away
to the contrary extreme; for we shall get into the intermediate state
by drawing well away from error, as people do in straightening sticks
that are bent. 

Now in everything the pleasant or pleasure is most to be guarded against;
for we do not judge it impartially. We ought, then, to feel towards
pleasure as the elders of the people felt towards Helen, and in all
circumstances repeat their saying; for if we dismiss pleasure thus
we are less likely to go astray. It is by doing this, then, (to sum
the matter up) that we shall best be able to hit the mean.

But this is no doubt difficult, and especially in individual cases;
for or is not easy to determine both how and with whom and on what
provocation and how long one should be angry; for we too sometimes
praise those who fall short and call them good-tempered, but sometimes
we praise those who get angry and call them manly. The man, however,
who deviates little from goodness is not blamed, whether he do so
in the direction of the more or of the less, but only the man who
deviates more widely; for he does not fail to be noticed. But up to
what point and to what extent a man must deviate before he becomes
blameworthy it is not easy to determine by reasoning, any more than
anything else that is perceived by the senses; such things depend
on particular facts, and the decision rests with perception. So much,
then, is plain, that the intermediate state is in all things to be
praised, but that we must incline sometimes towards the excess, sometimes
towards the deficiency; for so shall we most easily hit the mean and
what is right. 




Since virtue is concerned with passions and actions, and on voluntary
passions and actions praise and blame are bestowed, on those that
are involuntary pardon, and sometimes also pity, to distinguish the
voluntary and the involuntary is presumably necessary for those who
are studying the nature of virtue, and useful also for legislators
with a view to the assigning both of honours and of punishments. Those
things, then, are thought-involuntary, which take place under compulsion
or owing to ignorance; and that is compulsory of which the moving
principle is outside, being a principle in which nothing is contributed
by the person who is acting or is feeling the passion, e.g. if he
were to be carried somewhere by a wind, or by men who had him in their

But with regard to the things that are done from fear of greater evils
or for some noble object (e.g. if a tyrant were to order one to do
something base, having one's parents and children in his power, and
if one did the action they were to be saved, but otherwise would be
put to death), it may be debated whether such actions are involuntary
or voluntary. Something of the sort happens also with regard to the
throwing of goods overboard in a storm; for in the abstract no one
throws goods away voluntarily, but on condition of its securing the
safety of himself and his crew any sensible man does so. Such actions,
then, are mixed, but are more like voluntary actions; for they are
worthy of choice at the time when they are done, and the end of an
action is relative to the occasion. Both the terms, then, 'voluntary'
and 'involuntary', must be used with reference to the moment of action.
Now the man acts voluntarily; for the principle that moves the instrumental
parts of the body in such actions is in him, and the things of which
the moving principle is in a man himself are in his power to do or
not to do. Such actions, therefore, are voluntary, but in the abstract
perhaps involuntary; for no one would choose any such act in itself.

For such actions men are sometimes even praised, when they endure
something base or painful in return for great and noble objects gained;
in the opposite case they are blamed, since to endure the greatest
indignities for no noble end or for a trifling end is the mark of
an inferior person. On some actions praise indeed is not bestowed,
but pardon is, when one does what he ought not under pressure which
overstrains human nature and which no one could withstand. But some
acts, perhaps, we cannot be forced to do, but ought rather to face
death after the most fearful sufferings; for the things that 'forced'
Euripides Alcmaeon to slay his mother seem absurd. It is difficult
sometimes to determine what should be chosen at what cost, and what
should be endured in return for what gain, and yet more difficult
to abide by our decisions; for as a rule what is expected is painful,
and what we are forced to do is base, whence praise and blame are
bestowed on those who have been compelled or have not. 

What sort of acts, then, should be called compulsory? We answer that
without qualification actions are so when the cause is in the external
circumstances and the agent contributes nothing. But the things that
in themselves are involuntary, but now and in return for these gains
are worthy of choice, and whose moving principle is in the agent,
are in themselves involuntary, but now and in return for these gains
voluntary. They are more like voluntary acts; for actions are in the
class of particulars, and the particular acts here are voluntary.
What sort of things are to be chosen, and in return for what, it is
not easy to state; for there are many differences in the particular

But if some one were to say that pleasant and noble objects have a
compelling power, forcing us from without, all acts would be for him
compulsory; for it is for these objects that all men do everything
they do. And those who act under compulsion and unwillingly act with
pain, but those who do acts for their pleasantness and nobility do
them with pleasure; it is absurd to make external circumstances responsible,
and not oneself, as being easily caught by such attractions, and to
make oneself responsible for noble acts but the pleasant objects responsible
for base acts. The compulsory, then, seems to be that whose moving
principle is outside, the person compelled contributing nothing.

Everything that is done by reason of ignorance is not voluntary; it
is only what produces pain and repentance that is involuntary. For
the man who has done something owing to ignorance, and feels not the
least vexation at his action, has not acted voluntarily, since he
did not know what he was doing, nor yet involuntarily, since he is
not pained. Of people, then, who act by reason of ignorance he who
repents is thought an involuntary agent, and the man who does not
repent may, since he is different, be called a not voluntary agent;
for, since he differs from the other, it is better that he should
have a name of his own. 

Acting by reason of ignorance seems also to be different from acting
in ignorance; for the man who is drunk or in a rage is thought to
act as a result not of ignorance but of one of the causes mentioned,
yet not knowingly but in ignorance. 

Now every wicked man is ignorant of what he ought to do and what he
ought to abstain from, and it is by reason of error of this kind that
men become unjust and in general bad; but the term 'involuntary' tends
to be used not if a man is ignorant of what is to his advantage- for
it is not mistaken purpose that causes involuntary action (it leads
rather to wickedness), nor ignorance of the universal (for that men
are blamed), but ignorance of particulars, i.e. of the circumstances
of the action and the objects with which it is concerned. For it is
on these that both pity and pardon depend, since the person who is
ignorant of any of these acts involuntarily. 

Perhaps it is just as well, therefore, to determine their nature and
number. A man may be ignorant, then, of who he is, what he is doing,
what or whom he is acting on, and sometimes also what (e.g. what instrument)
he is doing it with, and to what end (e.g. he may think his act will
conduce to some one's safety), and how he is doing it (e.g. whether
gently or violently). Now of all of these no one could be ignorant
unless he were mad, and evidently also he could not be ignorant of
the agent; for how could he not know himself? But of what he is doing
a man might be ignorant, as for instance people say 'it slipped out
of their mouths as they were speaking', or 'they did not know it was
a secret', as Aeschylus said of the mysteries, or a man might say
he 'let it go off when he merely wanted to show its working', as the
man did with the catapult. Again, one might think one's son was an
enemy, as Merope did, or that a pointed spear had a button on it,
or that a stone was pumicestone; or one might give a man a draught
to save him, and really kill him; or one might want to touch a man,
as people do in sparring, and really wound him. The ignorance may
relate, then, to any of these things, i.e. of the circumstances of
the action, and the man who was ignorant of any of these is thought
to have acted involuntarily, and especially if he was ignorant on
the most important points; and these are thought to be the circumstances
of the action and its end. Further, the doing of an act that is called
involuntary in virtue of ignorance of this sort must be painful and
involve repentance. 

Since that which is done under compulsion or by reason of ignorance
is involuntary, the voluntary would seem to be that of which the moving
principle is in the agent himself, he being aware of the particular
circumstances of the action. Presumably acts done by reason of anger
or appetite are not rightly called involuntary. For in the first place,
on that showing none of the other animals will act voluntarily, nor
will children; and secondly, is it meant that we do not do voluntarily
any of the acts that are due to appetite or anger, or that we do the
noble acts voluntarily and the base acts involuntarily? Is not this
absurd, when one and the same thing is the cause? But it would surely
be odd to describe as involuntary the things one ought to desire;
and we ought both to be angry at certain things and to have an appetite
for certain things, e.g. for health and for learning. Also what is
involuntary is thought to be painful, but what is in accordance with
appetite is thought to be pleasant. Again, what is the difference
in respect of involuntariness between errors committed upon calculation
and those committed in anger? Both are to be avoided, but the irrational
passions are thought not less human than reason is, and therefore
also the actions which proceed from anger or appetite are the man's
actions. It would be odd, then, to treat them as involuntary.


Both the voluntary and the involuntary having been delimited, we must
next discuss choice; for it is thought to be most closely bound up
with virtue and to discriminate characters better than actions do.

Choice, then, seems to be voluntary, but not the same thing as the
voluntary; the latter extends more widely. For both children and the
lower animals share in voluntary action, but not in choice, and acts
done on the spur of the moment we describe as voluntary, but not as

Those who say it is appetite or anger or wish or a kind of opinion
do not seem to be right. For choice is not common to irrational creatures
as well, but appetite and anger are. Again, the incontinent man acts
with appetite, but not with choice; while the continent man on the
contrary acts with choice, but not with appetite. Again, appetite
is contrary to choice, but not appetite to appetite. Again, appetite
relates to the pleasant and the painful, choice neither to the painful
nor to the pleasant. 

Still less is it anger; for acts due to anger are thought to be less
than any others objects of choice. 

But neither is it wish, though it seems near to it; for choice cannot
relate to impossibles, and if any one said he chose them he would
be thought silly; but there may be a wish even for impossibles, e.g.
for immortality. And wish may relate to things that could in no way
be brought about by one's own efforts, e.g. that a particular actor
or athlete should win in a competition; but no one chooses such things,
but only the things that he thinks could be brought about by his own
efforts. Again, wish relates rather to the end, choice to the means;
for instance, we wish to be healthy, but we choose the acts which
will make us healthy, and we wish to be happy and say we do, but we
cannot well say we choose to be so; for, in general, choice seems
to relate to the things that are in our own power. 

For this reason, too, it cannot be opinion; for opinion is thought
to relate to all kinds of things, no less to eternal things and impossible
things than to things in our own power; and it is distinguished by
its falsity or truth, not by its badness or goodness, while choice
is distinguished rather by these. 

Now with opinion in general perhaps no one even says it is identical.
But it is not identical even with any kind of opinion; for by choosing
what is good or bad we are men of a certain character, which we are
not by holding certain opinions. And we choose to get or avoid something
good or bad, but we have opinions about what a thing is or whom it
is good for or how it is good for him; we can hardly be said to opine
to get or avoid anything. And choice is praised for being related
to the right object rather than for being rightly related to it, opinion
for being truly related to its object. And we choose what we best
know to be good, but we opine what we do not quite know; and it is
not the same people that are thought to make the best choices and
to have the best opinions, but some are thought to have fairly good
opinions, but by reason of vice to choose what they should not. If
opinion precedes choice or accompanies it, that makes no difference;
for it is not this that we are considering, but whether it is identical
with some kind of opinion. 

What, then, or what kind of thing is it, since it is none of the things
we have mentioned? It seems to be voluntary, but not all that is voluntary
to be an object of choice. Is it, then, what has been decided on by
previous deliberation? At any rate choice involves a rational principle
and thought. Even the name seems to suggest that it is what is chosen
before other things. 


Do we deliberate about everything, and is everything a possible subject
of deliberation, or is deliberation impossible about some things?
We ought presumably to call not what a fool or a madman would deliberate
about, but what a sensible man would deliberate about, a subject of
deliberation. Now about eternal things no one deliberates, e.g. about
the material universe or the incommensurability of the diagonal and
the side of a square. But no more do we deliberate about the things
that involve movement but always happen in the same way, whether of
necessity or by nature or from any other cause, e.g. the solstices
and the risings of the stars; nor about things that happen now in
one way, now in another, e.g. droughts and rains; nor about chance
events, like the finding of treasure. But we do not deliberate even
about all human affairs; for instance, no Spartan deliberates about
the best constitution for the Scythians. For none of these things
can be brought about by our own efforts. 

We deliberate about things that are in our power and can be done;
and these are in fact what is left. For nature, necessity, and chance
are thought to be causes, and also reason and everything that depends
on man. Now every class of men deliberates about the things that can
be done by their own efforts. And in the case of exact and self-contained
sciences there is no deliberation, e.g. about the letters of the alphabet
(for we have no doubt how they should be written); but the things
that are brought about by our own efforts, but not always in the same
way, are the things about which we deliberate, e.g. questions of medical
treatment or of money-making. And we do so more in the case of the
art of navigation than in that of gymnastics, inasmuch as it has been
less exactly worked out, and again about other things in the same
ratio, and more also in the case of the arts than in that of the sciences;
for we have more doubt about the former. Deliberation is concerned
with things that happen in a certain way for the most part, but in
which the event is obscure, and with things in which it is indeterminate.
We call in others to aid us in deliberation on important questions,
distrusting ourselves as not being equal to deciding. 

We deliberate not about ends but about means. For a doctor does not
deliberate whether he shall heal, nor an orator whether he shall persuade,
nor a statesman whether he shall produce law and order, nor does any
one else deliberate about his end. They assume the end and consider
how and by what means it is to be attained; and if it seems to be
produced by several means they consider by which it is most easily
and best produced, while if it is achieved by one only they consider
how it will be achieved by this and by what means this will be achieved,
till they come to the first cause, which in the order of discovery
is last. For the person who deliberates seems to investigate and analyse
in the way described as though he were analysing a geometrical construction
(not all investigation appears to be deliberation- for instance mathematical
investigations- but all deliberation is investigation), and what is
last in the order of analysis seems to be first in the order of becoming.
And if we come on an impossibility, we give up the search, e.g. if
we need money and this cannot be got; but if a thing appears possible
we try to do it. By 'possible' things I mean things that might be
brought about by our own efforts; and these in a sense include things
that can be brought about by the efforts of our friends, since the
moving principle is in ourselves. The subject of investigation is
sometimes the instruments, sometimes the use of them; and similarly
in the other cases- sometimes the means, sometimes the mode of using
it or the means of bringing it about. It seems, then, as has been
said, that man is a moving principle of actions; now deliberation
is about the things to be done by the agent himself, and actions are
for the sake of things other than themselves. For the end cannot be
a subject of deliberation, but only the means; nor indeed can the
particular facts be a subject of it, as whether this is bread or has
been baked as it should; for these are matters of perception. If we
are to be always deliberating, we shall have to go on to infinity.

The same thing is deliberated upon and is chosen, except that the
object of choice is already determinate, since it is that which has
been decided upon as a result of deliberation that is the object of
choice. For every one ceases to inquire how he is to act when he has
brought the moving principle back to himself and to the ruling part
of himself; for this is what chooses. This is plain also from the
ancient constitutions, which Homer represented; for the kings announced
their choices to the people. The object of choice being one of the
things in our own power which is desired after deliberation, choice
will be deliberate desire of things in our own power; for when we
have decided as a result of deliberation, we desire in accordance
with our deliberation. 

We may take it, then, that we have described choice in outline, and
stated the nature of its objects and the fact that it is concerned
with means. 


That wish is for the end has already been stated; some think it is
for the good, others for the apparent good. Now those who say that
the good is the object of wish must admit in consequence that that
which the man who does not choose aright wishes for is not an object
of wish (for if it is to be so, it must also be good; but it was,
if it so happened, bad); while those who say the apparent good is
the object of wish must admit that there is no natural object of wish,
but only what seems good to each man. Now different things appear
good to different people, and, if it so happens, even contrary things.

If these consequences are unpleasing, are we to say that absolutely
and in truth the good is the object of wish, but for each person the
apparent good; that that which is in truth an object of wish is an
object of wish to the good man, while any chance thing may be so the
bad man, as in the case of bodies also the things that are in truth
wholesome are wholesome for bodies which are in good condition, while
for those that are diseased other things are wholesome- or bitter
or sweet or hot or heavy, and so on; since the good man judges each
class of things rightly, and in each the truth appears to him? For
each state of character has its own ideas of the noble and the pleasant,
and perhaps the good man differs from others most by seeing the truth
in each class of things, being as it were the norm and measure of
them. In most things the error seems to be due to pleasure; for it
appears a good when it is not. We therefore choose the pleasant as
a good, and avoid pain as an evil. 


The end, then, being what we wish for, the means what we deliberate
about and choose, actions concerning means must be according to choice
and voluntary. Now the exercise of the virtues is concerned with means.
Therefore virtue also is in our own power, and so too vice. For where
it is in our power to act it is also in our power not to act, and
vice versa; so that, if to act, where this is noble, is in our power,
not to act, which will be base, will also be in our power, and if
not to act, where this is noble, is in our power, to act, which will
be base, will also be in our power. Now if it is in our power to do
noble or base acts, and likewise in our power not to do them, and
this was what being good or bad meant, then it is in our power to
be virtuous or vicious. 

The saying that 'no one is voluntarily wicked nor involuntarily happy'
seems to be partly false and partly true; for no one is involuntarily
happy, but wickedness is voluntary. Or else we shall have to dispute
what has just been said, at any rate, and deny that man is a moving
principle or begetter of his actions as of children. But if these
facts are evident and we cannot refer actions to moving principles
other than those in ourselves, the acts whose moving principles are
in us must themselves also be in our power and voluntary.

Witness seems to be borne to this both by individuals in their private
capacity and by legislators themselves; for these punish and take
vengeance on those who do wicked acts (unless they have acted under
compulsion or as a result of ignorance for which they are not themselves
responsible), while they honour those who do noble acts, as though
they meant to encourage the latter and deter the former. But no one
is encouraged to do the things that are neither in our power nor voluntary;
it is assumed that there is no gain in being persuaded not to be hot
or in pain or hungry or the like, since we shall experience these
feelings none the less. Indeed, we punish a man for his very ignorance,
if he is thought responsible for the ignorance, as when penalties
are doubled in the case of drunkenness; for the moving principle is
in the man himself, since he had the power of not getting drunk and
his getting drunk was the cause of his ignorance. And we punish those
who are ignorant of anything in the laws that they ought to know and
that is not difficult, and so too in the case of anything else that
they are thought to be ignorant of through carelessness; we assume
that it is in their power not to be ignorant, since they have the
power of taking care. 

But perhaps a man is the kind of man not to take care. Still they
are themselves by their slack lives responsible for becoming men of
that kind, and men make themselves responsible for being unjust or
self-indulgent, in the one case by cheating and in the other by spending
their time in drinking bouts and the like; for it is activities exercised
on particular objects that make the corresponding character. This
is plain from the case of people training for any contest or action;
they practise the activity the whole time. Now not to know that it
is from the exercise of activities on particular objects that states
of character are produced is the mark of a thoroughly senseless person.
Again, it is irrational to suppose that a man who acts unjustly does
not wish to be unjust or a man who acts self-indulgently to be self-indulgent.
But if without being ignorant a man does the things which will make
him unjust, he will be unjust voluntarily. Yet it does not follow
that if he wishes he will cease to be unjust and will be just. For
neither does the man who is ill become well on those terms. We may
suppose a case in which he is ill voluntarily, through living incontinently
and disobeying his doctors. In that case it was then open to him not
to be ill, but not now, when he has thrown away his chance, just as
when you have let a stone go it is too late to recover it; but yet
it was in your power to throw it, since the moving principle was in
you. So, too, to the unjust and to the self-indulgent man it was open
at the beginning not to become men of this kind, and so they are unjust
and selfindulgent voluntarily; but now that they have become so it
is not possible for them not to be so. 

But not only are the vices of the soul voluntary, but those of the
body also for some men, whom we accordingly blame; while no one blames
those who are ugly by nature, we blame those who are so owing to want
of exercise and care. So it is, too, with respect to weakness and
infirmity; no one would reproach a man blind from birth or by disease
or from a blow, but rather pity him, while every one would blame a
man who was blind from drunkenness or some other form of self-indulgence.
Of vices of the body, then, those in our own power are blamed, those
not in our power are not. And if this be so, in the other cases also
the vices that are blamed must be in our own power. 

Now some one may say that all men desire the apparent good, but have
no control over the appearance, but the end appears to each man in
a form answering to his character. We reply that if each man is somehow
responsible for his state of mind, he will also be himself somehow
responsible for the appearance; but if not, no one is responsible
for his own evildoing, but every one does evil acts through ignorance
of the end, thinking that by these he will get what is best, and the
aiming at the end is not self-chosen but one must be born with an
eye, as it were, by which to judge rightly and choose what is truly
good, and he is well endowed by nature who is well endowed with this.
For it is what is greatest and most noble, and what we cannot get
or learn from another, but must have just such as it was when given
us at birth, and to be well and nobly endowed with this will be perfect
and true excellence of natural endowment. If this is true, then, how
will virtue be more voluntary than vice? To both men alike, the good
and the bad, the end appears and is fixed by nature or however it
may be, and it is by referring everything else to this that men do
whatever they do. 

Whether, then, it is not by nature that the end appears to each man
such as it does appear, but something also depends on him, or the
end is natural but because the good man adopts the means voluntarily
virtue is voluntary, vice also will be none the less voluntary; for
in the case of the bad man there is equally present that which depends
on himself in his actions even if not in his end. If, then, as is
asserted, the virtues are voluntary (for we are ourselves somehow
partly responsible for our states of character, and it is by being
persons of a certain kind that we assume the end to be so and so),
the vices also will be voluntary; for the same is true of them.

With regard to the virtues in general we have stated their genus in
outline, viz. that they are means and that they are states of character,
and that they tend, and by their own nature, to the doing of the acts
by which they are produced, and that they are in our power and voluntary,
and act as the right rule prescribes. But actions and states of character
are not voluntary in the same way; for we are masters of our actions
from the beginning right to the end, if we know the particular facts,
but though we control the beginning of our states of character the
gradual progress is not obvious any more than it is in illnesses;
because it was in our power, however, to act in this way or not in
this way, therefore the states are voluntary. 

Let us take up the several virtues, however, and say which they are
and what sort of things they are concerned with and how they are concerned
with them; at the same time it will become plain how many they are.
And first let us speak of courage. 


That it is a mean with regard to feelings of fear and confidence has
already been made evident; and plainly the things we fear are terrible
things, and these are, to speak without qualification, evils; for
which reason people even define fear as expectation of evil. Now we
fear all evils, e.g. disgrace, poverty, disease, friendlessness, death,
but the brave man is not thought to be concerned with all; for to
fear some things is even right and noble, and it is base not to fear
them- e.g. disgrace; he who fears this is good and modest, and he
who does not is shameless. He is, however, by some people called brave,
by a transference of the word to a new meaning; for he has in him
something which is like the brave man, since the brave man also is
a fearless person. Poverty and disease we perhaps ought not to fear,
nor in general the things that do not proceed from vice and are not
due to a man himself. But not even the man who is fearless of these
is brave. Yet we apply the word to him also in virtue of a similarity;
for some who in the dangers of war are cowards are liberal and are
confident in face of the loss of money. Nor is a man a coward if he
fears insult to his wife and children or envy or anything of the kind;
nor brave if he is confident when he is about to be flogged. With
what sort of terrible things, then, is the brave man concerned? Surely
with the greatest; for no one is more likely than he to stand his
ground against what is awe-inspiring. Now death is the most terrible
of all things; for it is the end, and nothing is thought to be any
longer either good or bad for the dead. But the brave man would not
seem to be concerned even with death in all circumstances, e.g. at
sea or in disease. In what circumstances, then? Surely in the noblest.
Now such deaths are those in battle; for these take place in the greatest
and noblest danger. And these are correspondingly honoured in city-states
and at the courts of monarchs. Properly, then, he will be called brave
who is fearless in face of a noble death, and of all emergencies that
involve death; and the emergencies of war are in the highest degree
of this kind. Yet at sea also, and in disease, the brave man is fearless,
but not in the same way as the seaman; for he has given up hope of
safety, and is disliking the thought of death in this shape, while
they are hopeful because of their experience. At the same time, we
show courage in situations where there is the opportunity of showing
prowess or where death is noble; but in these forms of death neither
of these conditions is fulfilled. 


What is terrible is not the same for all men; but we say there are
things terrible even beyond human strength. These, then, are terrible
to every one- at least to every sensible man; but the terrible things
that are not beyond human strength differ in magnitude and degree,
and so too do the things that inspire confidence. Now the brave man
is as dauntless as man may be. Therefore, while he will fear even
the things that are not beyond human strength, he will face them as
he ought and as the rule directs, for honour's sake; for this is the
end of virtue. But it is possible to fear these more, or less, and
again to fear things that are not terrible as if they were. Of the
faults that are committed one consists in fearing what one should
not, another in fearing as we should not, another in fearing when
we should not, and so on; and so too with respect to the things that
inspire confidence. The man, then, who faces and who fears the right
things and from the right motive, in the right way and from the right
time, and who feels confidence under the corresponding conditions,
is brave; for the brave man feels and acts according to the merits
of the case and in whatever way the rule directs. Now the end of every
activity is conformity to the corresponding state of character. This
is true, therefore, of the brave man as well as of others. But courage
is noble. Therefore the end also is noble; for each thing is defined
by its end. Therefore it is for a noble end that the brave man endures
and acts as courage directs. 

Of those who go to excess he who exceeds in fearlessness has no name
(we have said previously that many states of character have no names),
but he would be a sort of madman or insensible person if he feared
nothing, neither earthquakes nor the waves, as they say the Celts
do not; while the man who exceeds in confidence about what really
is terrible is rash. The rash man, however, is also thought to be
boastful and only a pretender to courage; at all events, as the brave
man is with regard to what is terrible, so the rash man wishes to
appear; and so he imitates him in situations where he can. Hence also
most of them are a mixture of rashness and cowardice; for, while in
these situations they display confidence, they do not hold their ground
against what is really terrible. The man who exceeds in fear is a
coward; for he fears both what he ought not and as he ought not, and
all the similar characterizations attach to him. He is lacking also
in confidence; but he is more conspicuous for his excess of fear in
painful situations. The coward, then, is a despairing sort of person;
for he fears everything. The brave man, on the other hand, has the
opposite disposition; for confidence is the mark of a hopeful disposition.
The coward, the rash man, and the brave man, then, are concerned with
the same objects but are differently disposed towards them; for the
first two exceed and fall short, while the third holds the middle,
which is the right, position; and rash men are precipitate, and wish
for dangers beforehand but draw back when they are in them, while
brave men are keen in the moment of action, but quiet beforehand.

As we have said, then, courage is a mean with respect to things that
inspire confidence or fear, in the circumstances that have been stated;
and it chooses or endures things because it is noble to do so, or
because it is base not to do so. But to die to escape from poverty
or love or anything painful is not the mark of a brave man, but rather
of a coward; for it is softness to fly from what is troublesome, and
such a man endures death not because it is noble but to fly from evil.


Courage, then, is something of this sort, but the name is also applied
to five other kinds. 

First comes the courage of the citizen-soldier; for this is most like
true courage. Citizen-soldiers seem to face dangers because of the
penalties imposed by the laws and the reproaches they would otherwise
incur, and because of the honours they win by such action; and therefore
those peoples seem to be bravest among whom cowards are held in dishonour
and brave men in honour. This is the kind of courage that Homer depicts,
e.g. in Diomede and in Hector: 

First will Polydamas be to heap reproach on me then; and

For Hector one day 'mid the Trojans shall utter his vaulting

Afraid was Tydeides, and fled from my face. 

This kind of courage is most like to that which we described earlier,
because it is due to virtue; for it is due to shame and to desire
of a noble object (i.e. honour) and avoidance of disgrace, which is
ignoble. One might rank in the same class even those who are compelled
by their rulers; but they are inferior, inasmuch as they do what they
do not from shame but from fear, and to avoid not what is disgraceful
but what is painful; for their masters compel them, as Hector does:

But if I shall spy any dastard that cowers far from the fight,

Vainly will such an one hope to escape from the dogs. 

And those who give them their posts, and beat them if they retreat,
do the same, and so do those who draw them up with trenches or something
of the sort behind them; all of these apply compulsion. But one ought
to be brave not under compulsion but because it is noble to be so.

(2) Experience with regard to particular facts is also thought to
be courage; this is indeed the reason why Socrates thought courage
was knowledge. Other people exhibit this quality in other dangers,
and professional soldiers exhibit it in the dangers of war; for there
seem to be many empty alarms in war, of which these have had the most
comprehensive experience; therefore they seem brave, because the others
do not know the nature of the facts. Again, their experience makes
them most capable in attack and in defence, since they can use their
arms and have the kind that are likely to be best both for attack
and for defence; therefore they fight like armed men against unarmed
or like trained athletes against amateurs; for in such contests too
it is not the bravest men that fight best, but those who are strongest
and have their bodies in the best condition. Professional soldiers
turn cowards, however, when the danger puts too great a strain on
them and they are inferior in numbers and equipment; for they are
the first to fly, while citizen-forces die at their posts, as in fact
happened at the temple of Hermes. For to the latter flight is disgraceful
and death is preferable to safety on those terms; while the former
from the very beginning faced the danger on the assumption that they
were stronger, and when they know the facts they fly, fearing death
more than disgrace; but the brave man is not that sort of person.

(3) Passion also is sometimes reckoned as courage; those who act from
passion, like wild beasts rushing at those who have wounded them,
are thought to be brave, because brave men also are passionate; for
passion above all things is eager to rush on danger, and hence Homer's
'put strength into his passion' and 'aroused their spirit and passion
and 'hard he breathed panting' and 'his blood boiled'. For all such
expressions seem to indicate the stirring and onset of passion. Now
brave men act for honour's sake, but passion aids them; while wild
beasts act under the influence of pain; for they attack because they
have been wounded or because they are afraid, since if they are in
a forest they do not come near one. Thus they are not brave because,
driven by pain and passion, they rush on danger without foreseeing
any of the perils, since at that rate even asses would be brave when
they are hungry; for blows will not drive them from their food; and
lust also makes adulterers do many daring things. (Those creatures
are not brave, then, which are driven on to danger by pain or passion.)
The 'courage' that is due to passion seems to be the most natural,
and to be courage if choice and motive be added. 

Men, then, as well as beasts, suffer pain when they are angry, and
are pleased when they exact their revenge; those who fight for these
reasons, however, are pugnacious but not brave; for they do not act
for honour's sake nor as the rule directs, but from strength of feeling;
they have, however, something akin to courage. 

(4) Nor are sanguine people brave; for they are confident in danger
only because they have conquered often and against many foes. Yet
they closely resemble brave men, because both are confident; but brave
men are confident for the reasons stated earlier, while these are
so because they think they are the strongest and can suffer nothing.
(Drunken men also behave in this way; they become sanguine). When
their adventures do not succeed, however, they run away; but it was
the mark of a brave man to face things that are, and seem, terrible
for a man, because it is noble to do so and disgraceful not to do
so. Hence also it is thought the mark of a braver man to be fearless
and undisturbed in sudden alarms than to be so in those that are foreseen;
for it must have proceeded more from a state of character, because
less from preparation; acts that are foreseen may be chosen by calculation
and rule, but sudden actions must be in accordance with one's state
of character. 

(5) People who are ignorant of the danger also appear brave, and they
are not far removed from those of a sanguine temper, but are inferior
inasmuch as they have no self-reliance while these have. Hence also
the sanguine hold their ground for a time; but those who have been
deceived about the facts fly if they know or suspect that these are
different from what they supposed, as happened to the Argives when
they fell in with the Spartans and took them for Sicyonians.

We have, then, described the character both of brave men and of those
who are thought to be brave. 


Though courage is concerned with feelings of confidence and of fear,
it is not concerned with both alike, but more with the things that
inspire fear; for he who is undisturbed in face of these and bears
himself as he should towards these is more truly brave than the man
who does so towards the things that inspire confidence. It is for
facing what is painful, then, as has been said, that men are called
brave. Hence also courage involves pain, and is justly praised; for
it is harder to face what is painful than to abstain from what is

Yet the end which courage sets before it would seem to be pleasant,
but to be concealed by the attending circumstances, as happens also
in athletic contests; for the end at which boxers aim is pleasant-
the crown and the honours- but the blows they take are distressing
to flesh and blood, and painful, and so is their whole exertion; and
because the blows and the exertions are many the end, which is but
small, appears to have nothing pleasant in it. And so, if the case
of courage is similar, death and wounds will be painful to the brave
man and against his will, but he will face them because it is noble
to do so or because it is base not to do so. And the more he is possessed
of virtue in its entirety and the happier he is, the more he will
be pained at the thought of death; for life is best worth living for
such a man, and he is knowingly losing the greatest goods, and this
is painful. But he is none the less brave, and perhaps all the more
so, because he chooses noble deeds of war at that cost. It is not
the case, then, with all the virtues that the exercise of them is
pleasant, except in so far as it reaches its end. But it is quite
possible that the best soldiers may be not men of this sort but those
who are less brave but have no other good; for these are ready to
face danger, and they sell their life for trifling gains.

So much, then, for courage; it is not difficult to grasp its nature
in outline, at any rate, from what has been said. 


After courage let us speak of temperance; for these seem to be the
virtues of the irrational parts. We have said that temperance is a
mean with regard to pleasures (for it is less, and not in the same
way, concerned with pains); self-indulgence also is manifested in
the same sphere. Now, therefore, let us determine with what sort of
pleasures they are concerned. We may assume the distinction between
bodily pleasures and those of the soul, such as love of honour and
love of learning; for the lover of each of these delights in that
of which he is a lover, the body being in no way affected, but rather
the mind; but men who are concerned with such pleasures are called
neither temperate nor self-indulgent. Nor, again, are those who are
concerned with the other pleasures that are not bodily; for those
who are fond of hearing and telling stories and who spend their days
on anything that turns up are called gossips, but not self-indulgent,
nor are those who are pained at the loss of money or of friends.

Temperance must be concerned with bodily pleasures, but not all even
of these; for those who delight in objects of vision, such as colours
and shapes and painting, are called neither temperate nor self-indulgent;
yet it would seem possible to delight even in these either as one
should or to excess or to a deficient degree. 

And so too is it with objects of hearing; no one calls those who delight
extravagantly in music or acting self-indulgent, nor those who do
so as they ought temperate. 

Nor do we apply these names to those who delight in odour, unless
it be incidentally; we do not call those self-indulgent who delight
in the odour of apples or roses or incense, but rather those who delight
in the odour of unguents or of dainty dishes; for self-indulgent people
delight in these because these remind them of the objects of their
appetite. And one may see even other people, when they are hungry,
delighting in the smell of food; but to delight in this kind of thing
is the mark of the self-indulgent man; for these are objects of appetite
to him. 

Nor is there in animals other than man any pleasure connected with
these senses, except incidentally. For dogs do not delight in the
scent of hares, but in the eating of them, but the scent told them
the hares were there; nor does the lion delight in the lowing of the
ox, but in eating it; but he perceived by the lowing that it was near,
and therefore appears to delight in the lowing; and similarly he does
not delight because he sees 'a stag or a wild goat', but because he
is going to make a meal of it. Temperance and self-indulgence, however,
are concerned with the kind of pleasures that the other animals share
in, which therefore appear slavish and brutish; these are touch and
taste. But even of taste they appear to make little or no use; for
the business of taste is the discriminating of flavours, which is
done by winetasters and people who season dishes; but they hardly
take pleasure in making these discriminations, or at least self-indulgent
people do not, but in the actual enjoyment, which in all cases comes
through touch, both in the case of food and in that of drink and in
that of sexual intercourse. This is why a certain gourmand prayed
that his throat might become longer than a crane's, implying that
it was the contact that he took pleasure in. Thus the sense with which
self-indulgence is connected is the most widely shared of the senses;
and self-indulgence would seem to be justly a matter of reproach,
because it attaches to us not as men but as animals. To delight in
such things, then, and to love them above all others, is brutish.
For even of the pleasures of touch the most liberal have been eliminated,
e.g. those produced in the gymnasium by rubbing and by the consequent
heat; for the contact characteristic of the self-indulgent man does
not affect the whole body but only certain parts. 


Of the appetites some seem to be common, others to be peculiar to
individuals and acquired; e.g. the appetite for food is natural, since
every one who is without it craves for food or drink, and sometimes
for both, and for love also (as Homer says) if he is young and lusty;
but not every one craves for this or that kind of nourishment or love,
nor for the same things. Hence such craving appears to be our very
own. Yet it has of course something natural about it; for different
things are pleasant to different kinds of people, and some things
are more pleasant to every one than chance objects. Now in the natural
appetites few go wrong, and only in one direction, that of excess;
for to eat or drink whatever offers itself till one is surfeited is
to exceed the natural amount, since natural appetite is the replenishment
of one's deficiency. Hence these people are called belly-gods, this
implying that they fill their belly beyond what is right. It is people
of entirely slavish character that become like this. But with regard
to the pleasures peculiar to individuals many people go wrong and
in many ways. For while the people who are 'fond of so and so' are
so called because they delight either in the wrong things, or more
than most people do, or in the wrong way, the self-indulgent exceed
in all three ways; they both delight in some things that they ought
not to delight in (since they are hateful), and if one ought to delight
in some of the things they delight in, they do so more than one ought
and than most men do. 

Plainly, then, excess with regard to pleasures is self-indulgence
and is culpable; with regard to pains one is not, as in the case of
courage, called temperate for facing them or self-indulgent for not
doing so, but the selfindulgent man is so called because he is pained
more than he ought at not getting pleasant things (even his pain being
caused by pleasure), and the temperate man is so called because he
is not pained at the absence of what is pleasant and at his abstinence
from it. 

The self-indulgent man, then, craves for all pleasant things or those
that are most pleasant, and is led by his appetite to choose these
at the cost of everything else; hence he is pained both when he fails
to get them and when he is merely craving for them (for appetite involves
pain); but it seems absurd to be pained for the sake of pleasure.
People who fall short with regard to pleasures and delight in them
less than they should are hardly found; for such insensibility is
not human. Even the other animals distinguish different kinds of food
and enjoy some and not others; and if there is any one who finds nothing
pleasant and nothing more attractive than anything else, he must be
something quite different from a man; this sort of person has not
received a name because he hardly occurs. The temperate man occupies
a middle position with regard to these objects. For he neither enjoys
the things that the self-indulgent man enjoys most-but rather dislikes
them-nor in general the things that he should not, nor anything of
this sort to excess, nor does he feel pain or craving when they are
absent, or does so only to a moderate degree, and not more than he
should, nor when he should not, and so on; but the things that, being
pleasant, make for health or for good condition, he will desire moderately
and as he should, and also other pleasant things if they are not hindrances
to these ends, or contrary to what is noble, or beyond his means.
For he who neglects these conditions loves such pleasures more than
they are worth, but the temperate man is not that sort of person,
but the sort of person that the right rule prescribes. 


Self-indulgence is more like a voluntary state than cowardice. For
the former is actuated by pleasure, the latter by pain, of which the
one is to be chosen and the other to be avoided; and pain upsets and
destroys the nature of the person who feels it, while pleasure does
nothing of the sort. Therefore self-indulgence is more voluntary.
Hence also it is more a matter of reproach; for it is easier to become
accustomed to its objects, since there are many things of this sort
in life, and the process of habituation to them is free from danger,
while with terrible objects the reverse is the case. But cowardice
would seem to be voluntary in a different degree from its particular
manifestations; for it is itself painless, but in these we are upset
by pain, so that we even throw down our arms and disgrace ourselves
in other ways; hence our acts are even thought to be done under compulsion.
For the self-indulgent man, on the other hand, the particular acts
are voluntary (for he does them with craving and desire), but the
whole state is less so; for no one craves to be self-indulgent.

The name self-indulgence is applied also to childish faults; for they
bear a certain resemblance to what we have been considering. Which
is called after which, makes no difference to our present purpose;
plainly, however, the later is called after the earlier. The transference
of the name seems not a bad one; for that which desires what is base
and which develops quickly ought to be kept in a chastened condition,
and these characteristics belong above all to appetite and to the
child, since children in fact live at the beck and call of appetite,
and it is in them that the desire for what is pleasant is strongest.
If, then, it is not going to be obedient and subject to the ruling
principle, it will go to great lengths; for in an irrational being
the desire for pleasure is insatiable even if it tries every source
of gratification, and the exercise of appetite increases its innate
force, and if appetites are strong and violent they even expel the
power of calculation. Hence they should be moderate and few, and should
in no way oppose the rational principle-and this is what we call an
obedient and chastened state-and as the child should live according
to the direction of his tutor, so the appetitive element should live
according to rational principle. Hence the appetitive element in a
temperate man should harmonize with the rational principle; for the
noble is the mark at which both aim, and the temperate man craves
for the things be ought, as he ought, as when he ought; and when he
ought; and this is what rational principle directs. 

Here we conclude our account of temperance. 



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