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Classical Ethics, Lesson 13. Book I, Chapter 13

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Prelection

Lesson

Since, however, felicity is a certain energy of the soul, according to perfect virtue, we must direct our attention to virtue; for perhaps we shall thus also speculate better concerning felicity. But it seems that he who is skilled in the administration of public affairs, labours especially about this; for he wishes to make the citizens worthy persons, and obedient to the laws; and as an example of these we have the legislators of the Cretans and Lacedaemonians, and any others there may have been of this kind. If, however, the speculation itself is of the political science, it is evident that the enquiry will be conformable to our intention from the beginning. But our discussion must be concerning virtue, viz. human virtue; for we investigate human good, and human felicity; and we call human virtue, not the virtue of the body, but of the soul; and we say that felicity is the energy of the soul. If, however, this be the case, it is evident that he who is skilled in the administration of public affairs, ought to know whatever pertains to the soul; just as he who intends to cure the eyes ought to have a knowledge of the whole body; and this in a greater degree, by how much more honourable, and excellent, the political is than the medicinal science. Of physicians, likewise, the more elegant are busily employed about the knowledge of the body. He, therefore, who is skilled in the administration of public affairs, must direct his attention to the soul; but he must direct his attention to it for the sake of these things, and so far as is sufficient to the objects of enquiry. For to consider the soul still more accurately, is perhaps more laborious and difficult than the present discussion requires. We have also said some things sufficiently concerning it in our popular writings, and those must be consulted; such as that one part of the soul is irrational, but another rational. But whether these parts are separated, in the same manner as the parts of the body, and every thing which is partible, or they are two parts in definition alone, and are naturally inseparable, as in the periphery of a circle the convex and the concave, is of no consequence in the present discussion. Of the irrational part, however, one part resembles the common and vegetative power; I mean the power which is the cause of nutrition and increase. For such a power as this may be admitted to exist in every thing that is nourished, in embryos, and also in perfect animals; since it is more reasonable that this power should exist in them than any other. The virtue, therefore, of this power appears to be common and not human. For this part seems especially to energize in sleep, but a good and a bad man can in the smallest degree be distinguished in sleep; whence it is said that the happy differ in no respect from the miserable during the half of life. But this happens reasonably; for sleep is an inactivity both of the worthy and the depraved soul; except so far as certain motions gradually arrive at the soul, and on this account the phantasms of worthy are better than those of worthless men. But of these things enough. The nutritive part, therefore, must be omitted, since it is naturally destitute of human virtue. There appears, however, to be another certain irrational nature of the soul, which nevertheless participates in a certain respect of reason; for we praise the reason of the continent, and also of the incontinent man, and that part of the soul which possesses reason; for it rightly excites to the most excellent deeds. There appears, however, to be in them, i. e. both in the continent and incontinent, something else naturally contrary to reason, which wars against and resists reason. For, indeed, as the paralyzed parts of the body, if we wish to move them to the right hand, are on the contrary moved to the left, thus, also, it is in the soul. For the impulses of the incontinent are in a direction contrary to the dictates of reason. In bodies, however, we see that which is moved contrary [to the intention of the will], but in the soul we do not see [that which is moved contrary to reason ;] though perhaps we ought nevertheless to think that in the soul, also, there is something opposite to reason, which is adverse and proceeds in a direction contrary to it; but it is of no consequence in what manner it is different from reason. This part, however, appears, as we have said, to participate of reason. It is obedient, therefore, to the reason of the continent man; and perhaps it is still more obedient to the reason of the temperate and brave man; for all things are in concord with his reason. It appears, therefore, that the irrational part is twofold; for the vegetable part in no respect participates of reason; but the part which desires, and, in short, the oiectic part, participate in a certain respect of reason, so far as they are attentive and obedient to it. In this way, therefore, we say that a man has a regard for, or pays attention to his father and his friends, and not after the same manner as he has a regard for the mathematical sciences. But that the irrational part is in a certain respect obedient to reason, admonition and all reproof and exhortation indicate. If, however, it be requisite to say that this part also possesses reason, that which possesses reason will be twofold; the one, indeed, properly, and in itself; but the other resembling a child attentive to his father. Virtue, likewise, is distributed according to this difference. For we say that of the virtues some are dianoëtic or belong to the power which reasons scientifically, but others ethical. And we denominate, indeed, wisdom, intelligence, and prudence, dianoetic virtues; but liberality and temperance ethical virtues. For when we speak concerning the manners of a man, we do not say that he is wise, or intelligent, but that he is mild or temperate. We likewise praise a wise man according to habit; but we call the laudable habits, virtues.

Assessment

Classical Ethics Assessment