Nicomachean Ethics

by Aristotle
translated by W. D. Ross
Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Book VI Book VII Book VIII Book IX Book X



SINCE we have previously said that one ought to choose that which is
intermediate, not the excess nor the defect, and that the intermediate
is determined by the dictates of the right rule, let us discuss the
nature of these dictates. In all the states of character we have
mentioned, as in all other matters, there is a mark to which the man
who has the rule looks, and heightens or relaxes his activity
accordingly, and there is a standard which determines the mean
states which we say are intermediate between excess and defect,
being in accordance with the right rule. But such a statement,
though true, is by no means clear; for not only here but in all
other pursuits which are objects of knowledge it is indeed true to say
that we must not exert ourselves nor relax our efforts too much nor
too little, but to an intermediate extent and as the right rule
dictates; but if a man had only this knowledge he would be none the
wiser e.g. we should not know what sort of medicines to apply to our
body if some one were to say 'all those which the medical art
prescribes, and which agree with the practice of one who possesses the
art'. Hence it is necessary with regard to the states of the soul also
not only that this true statement should be made, but also that it
should be determined what is the right rule and what is the standard
that fixes it.
We divided the virtues of the soul and a said that some are
virtues of character and others of intellect. Now we have discussed in
detail the moral virtues; with regard to the others let us express our
view as follows, beginning with some remarks about the soul. We said
before that there are two parts of the soul-that which grasps a rule
or rational principle, and the irrational; let us now draw a similar
distinction within the part which grasps a rational principle. And let
it be assumed that there are two parts which grasp a rational
principle-one by which we contemplate the kind of things whose
originative causes are invariable, and one by which we contemplate
variable things; for where objects differ in kind the part of the soul
answering to each of the two is different in kind, since it is in
virtue of a certain likeness and kinship with their objects that
they have the knowledge they have. Let one of these parts be called
the scientific and the other the calculative; for to deliberate and to
calculate are the same thing, but no one deliberates about the
invariable. Therefore the calculative is one part of the faculty which
grasps a rational principle. We must, then, learn what is the best
state of each of these two parts; for this is the virtue of each.

The virtue of a thing is relative to its proper work. Now there
are three things in the soul which control action and truth-sensation,
reason, desire.
Of these sensation originates no action; this is plain from the fact
that the lower animals have sensation but no share in action.
What affirmation and negation are in thinking, pursuit and avoidance
are in desire; so that since moral virtue is a state of character
concerned with choice, and choice is deliberate desire, therefore both
the reasoning must be true and the desire right, if the choice is to
be good, and the latter must pursue just what the former asserts.
Now this kind of intellect and of truth is practical; of the intellect
which is contemplative, not practical nor productive, the good and the
bad state are truth and falsity respectively (for this is the work
of everything intellectual); while of the part which is practical
and intellectual the good state is truth in agreement with right
The origin of action-its efficient, not its final cause-is choice,
and that of choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end. This
is why choice cannot exist either without reason and intellect or
without a moral state; for good action and its opposite cannot exist
without a combination of intellect and character. Intellect itself,
however, moves nothing, but only the intellect which aims at an end
and is practical; for this rules the productive intellect, as well,
since every one who makes makes for an end, and that which is made
is not an end in the unqualified sense (but only an end in a
particular relation, and the end of a particular operation)-only
that which is done is that; for good action is an end, and desire aims
at this. Hence choice is either desiderative reason or ratiocinative
desire, and such an origin of action is a man. (It is to be noted that
nothing that is past is an object of choice, e.g. no one chooses to
have sacked Troy; for no one deliberates about the past, but about
what is future and capable of being otherwise, while what is past is
not capable of not having taken place; hence Agathon is right in

For this alone is lacking even to God,
To make undone things thathave once been done.)

The work of both the intellectual parts, then, is truth. Therefore
the states that are most strictly those in respect of which each of
these parts will reach truth are the virtues of the two parts.

Let us begin, then, from the beginning, and discuss these states
once more. Let it be assumed that the states by virtue of which the
soul possesses truth by way of affirmation or denial are five in
number, i.e. art, scientific knowledge, practical wisdom,
philosophic wisdom, intuitive reason; we do not include judgement
and opinion because in these we may be mistaken.
Now what scientific knowledge is, if we are to speak exactly and not
follow mere similarities, is plain from what follows. We all suppose
that what we know is not even capable of being otherwise; of things
capable of being otherwise we do not know, when they have passed
outside our observation, whether they exist or not. Therefore the
object of scientific knowledge is of necessity. Therefore it is
eternal; for things that are of necessity in the unqualified sense are
all eternal; and things that are eternal are ungenerated and
imperishable. Again, every science is thought to be capable of being
taught, and its object of being learned. And all teaching starts
from what is already known, as we maintain in the Analytics also;
for it proceeds sometimes through induction and sometimes by
syllogism. Now induction is the starting-point which knowledge even of
the universal presupposes, while syllogism proceeds from universals.
There are therefore starting-points from which syllogism proceeds,
which are not reached by syllogism; it is therefore by induction
that they are acquired. Scientific knowledge is, then, a state of
capacity to demonstrate, and has the other limiting characteristics
which we specify in the Analytics, for it is when a man believes in
a certain way and the starting-points are known to him that he has
scientific knowledge, since if they are not better known to him than
the conclusion, he will have his knowledge only incidentally.
Let this, then, be taken as our account of scientific knowledge.

In the variable are included both things made and things done;
making and acting are different (for their nature we treat even the
discussions outside our school as reliable); so that the reasoned
state of capacity to act is different from the reasoned state of
capacity to make. Hence too they are not included one in the other;
for neither is acting making nor is making acting. Now since
architecture is an art and is essentially a reasoned state of capacity
to make, and there is neither any art that is not such a state nor any
such state that is not an art, art is identical with a state of
capacity to make, involving a true course of reasoning. All art is
concerned with coming into being, i.e. with contriving and considering
how something may come into being which is capable of either being
or not being, and whose origin is in the maker and not in the thing
made; for art is concerned neither with things that are, or come
into being, by necessity, nor with things that do so in accordance
with nature (since these have their origin in themselves). Making
and acting being different, art must be a matter of making, not of
acting. And in a sense chance and art are concerned with the same
objects; as Agathon says, 'art loves chance and chance loves art'.
Art, then, as has been is a state concerned with making, involving a
true course of reasoning, and lack of art on the contrary is a state
concerned with making, involving a false course of reasoning; both are
concerned with the variable.

Regarding practical wisdom we shall get at the truth by
considering who are the persons we credit with it. Now it is thought
to be the mark of a man of practical wisdom to be able to deliberate
well about what is good and expedient for himself, not in some
particular respect, e.g. about what sorts of thing conduce to health
or to strength, but about what sorts of thing conduce to the good life
in general. This is shown by the fact that we credit men with
practical wisdom in some particular respect when they have
calculated well with a view to some good end which is one of those
that are not the object of any art. It follows that in the general
sense also the man who is capable of deliberating has practical
wisdom. Now no one deliberates about things that are invariable, nor
about things that it is impossible for him to do. Therefore, since
scientific knowledge involves demonstration, but there is no
demonstration of things whose first principles are variable (for all
such things might actually be otherwise), and since it is impossible
to deliberate about things that are of necessity, practical wisdom
cannot be scientific knowledge nor art; not science because that which
can be done is capable of being otherwise, not art because action
and making are different kinds of thing. The remaining alternative,
then, is that it is a true and reasoned state of capacity to act
with regard to the things that are good or bad for man. For while
making has an end other than itself, action cannot; for good action
itself is its end. It is for this reason that we think Pericles and
men like him have practical wisdom, viz. because they can see what
is good for themselves and what is good for men in general; we
consider that those can do this who are good at managing households or
states. (This is why we call temperance (sophrosune) by this name;
we imply that it preserves one's practical wisdom (sozousa tan
phronsin). Now what it preserves is a judgement of the kind we have
described. For it is not any and every judgement that pleasant and
painful objects destroy and pervert, e.g. the judgement that the
triangle has or has not its angles equal to two right angles, but only
judgements about what is to be done. For the originating causes of the
things that are done consist in the end at which they are aimed; but
the man who has been ruined by pleasure or pain forthwith fails to see
any such originating cause-to see that for the sake of this or because
of this he ought to choose and do whatever he chooses and does; for
vice is destructive of the originating cause of action.) Practical
wisdom, then, must be a reasoned and true state of capacity to act
with regard to human goods. But further, while there is such a thing
as excellence in art, there is no such thing as excellence in
practical wisdom; and in art he who errs willingly is preferable,
but in practical wisdom, as in the virtues, he is the reverse.
Plainly, then, practical wisdom is a virtue and not an art. There
being two parts of the soul that can follow a course of reasoning,
it must be the virtue of one of the two, i.e. of that part which forms
opinions; for opinion is about the variable and so is practical
wisdom. But yet it is not only a reasoned state; this is shown by
the fact that a state of that sort may forgotten but practical
wisdom cannot.

Scientific knowledge is judgement about things that are universal
and necessary, and the conclusions of demonstration, and all
scientific knowledge, follow from first principles (for scientific
knowledge involves apprehension of a rational ground). This being
so, the first principle from which what is scientifically known
follows cannot be an object of scientific knowledge, of art, or of
practical wisdom; for that which can be scientifically known can be
demonstrated, and art and practical wisdom deal with things that are
variable. Nor are these first principles the objects of philosophic
wisdom, for it is a mark of the philosopher to have demonstration
about some things. If, then, the states of mind by which we have truth
and are never deceived about things invariable or even variable are
scientific knowlededge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, and
intuitive reason, and it cannot be any of the three (i.e. practical
wisdom, scientific knowledge, or philosophic wisdom), the remaining
alternative is that it is intuitive reason that grasps the first

Wisdom (1) in the arts we ascribe to their most finished
exponents, e.g. to Phidias as a sculptor and to Polyclitus as a
maker of portrait-statues, and here we mean nothing by wisdom except
excellence in art; but (2) we think that some people are wise in
general, not in some particular field or in any other limited respect,
as Homer says in the Margites,

Him did the gods make neither a digger nor yet a ploughman
Nor wise in anything else.

Therefore wisdom must plainly be the most finished of the forms of
knowledge. It follows that the wise man must not only know what
follows from the first principles, but must also possess truth about
the first principles. Therefore wisdom must be intuitive reason
combined with scientific knowledge-scientific knowledge of the highest
objects which has received as it were its proper completion.
Of the highest objects, we say; for it would be strange to think
that the art of politics, or practical wisdom, is the best
knowledge, since man is not the best thing in the world. Now if what
is healthy or good is different for men and for fishes, but what is
white or straight is always the same, any one would say that what is
wise is the same but what is practically wise is different; for it
is to that which observes well the various matters concerning itself
that one ascribes practical wisdom, and it is to this that one will
entrust such matters. This is why we say that some even of the lower
animals have practical wisdom, viz. those which are found to have a
power of foresight with regard to their own life. It is evident also
that philosophic wisdom and the art of politics cannot be the same;
for if the state of mind concerned with a man's own interests is to be
called philosophic wisdom, there will be many philosophic wisdoms;
there will not be one concerned with the good of all animals (any more
than there is one art of medicine for all existing things), but a
different philosophic wisdom about the good of each species.
But if the argument be that man is the best of the animals, this
makes no difference; for there are other things much more divine in
their nature even than man, e.g., most conspicuously, the bodies of
which the heavens are framed. From what has been said it is plain,
then, that philosophic wisdom is scientific knowledge, combined with
intuitive reason, of the things that are highest by nature. This is
why we say Anaxagoras, Thales, and men like them have philosophic
but not practical wisdom, when we see them ignorant of what is to
their own advantage, and why we say that they know things that are
remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless; viz.
because it is not human goods that they seek.
Practical wisdom on the other hand is concerned with things human
and things about which it is possible to deliberate; for we say this
is above all the work of the man of practical wisdom, to deliberate
well, but no one deliberates about things invariable, nor about things
which have not an end, and that a good that can be brought about by
action. The man who is without qualification good at deliberating is
the man who is capable of aiming in accordance with calculation at the
best for man of things attainable by action. Nor is practical wisdom
concerned with universals only-it must also recognize the particulars;
for it is practical, and practice is concerned with particulars.
This is why some who do not know, and especially those who have
experience, are more practical than others who know; for if a man knew
that light meats are digestible and wholesome, but did not know
which sorts of meat are light, he would not produce health, but the
man who knows that chicken is wholesome is more likely to produce
Now practical wisdom is concerned with action; therefore one
should have both forms of it, or the latter in preference to the
former. But of practical as of philosophic wisdom there must be a
controlling kind.

Political wisdom and practical wisdom are the same state of mind,
but their essence is not the same. Of the wisdom concerned with the
city, the practical wisdom which plays a controlling part is
legislative wisdom, while that which is related to this as particulars
to their universal is known by the general name 'political wisdom';
this has to do with action and deliberation, for a decree is a thing
to be carried out in the form of an individual act. This is why the
exponents of this art are alone said to 'take part in politics'; for
these alone 'do things' as manual labourers 'do things'.
Practical wisdom also is identified especially with that form of
it which is concerned with a man himself-with the individual; and this
is known by the general name 'practical wisdom'; of the other kinds
one is called household management, another legislation, the third
politics, and of the latter one part is called deliberative and the
other judicial. Now knowing what is good for oneself will be one
kind of knowledge, but it is very different from the other kinds;
and the man who knows and concerns himself with his own interests is
thought to have practical wisdom, while politicians are thought to
be busybodies; hence the word of Euripides,

But how could I be wise, who might at ease,
Numbered among the army's multitude,
Have had an equal share?
For those who aim too high and do too much.

Those who think thus seek their own good, and consider that one
ought to do so. From this opinion, then, has come the view that such
men have practical wisdom; yet perhaps one's own good cannot exist
without household management, nor without a form of government.
Further, how one should order one's own affairs is not clear and needs
What has been said is confirmed by the fact that while young men
become geometricians and mathematicians and wise in matters like
these, it is thought that a young man of practical wisdom cannot be
found. The cause is that such wisdom is concerned not only with
universals but with particulars, which become familiar from
experience, but a young man has no experience, for it is length of
time that gives experience; indeed one might ask this question too,
why a boy may become a mathematician, but not a philosopher or a
physicist. It is because the objects of mathematics exist by
abstraction, while the first principles of these other subjects come
from experience, and because young men have no conviction about the
latter but merely use the proper language, while the essence of
mathematical objects is plain enough to them?
Further, error in deliberation may be either about the universal
or about the particular; we may fall to know either that all water
that weighs heavy is bad, or that this particular water weighs heavy.
That practical wisdom is not scientific knowledge is evident; for it
is, as has been said, concerned with the ultimate particular fact,
since the thing to be done is of this nature. It is opposed, then,
to intuitive reason; for intuitive reason is of the limiting
premisses, for which no reason can be given, while practical wisdom is
concerned with the ultimate particular, which is the object not of
scientific knowledge but of perception-not the perception of qualities
peculiar to one sense but a perception akin to that by which we
perceive that the particular figure before us is a triangle; for in
that direction as well as in that of the major premiss there will be a
limit. But this is rather perception than practical wisdom, though
it is another kind of perception than that of the qualities peculiar
to each sense.

There is a difference between inquiry and deliberation; for
deliberation is inquiry into a particular kind of thing. We must grasp
the nature of excellence in deliberation as well whether it is a
form of scientific knowledge, or opinion, or skill in conjecture, or
some other kind of thing. Scientific knowledge it is not; for men do
not inquire about the things they know about, but good deliberation is
a kind of deliberation, and he who deliberates inquires and
calculates. Nor is it skill in conjecture; for this both involves no
reasoning and is something that is quick in its operation, while men
deliberate a long time, and they say that one should carry out quickly
the conclusions of one's deliberation, but should deliberate slowly.
Again, readiness of mind is different from excellence in deliberation;
it is a sort of skill in conjecture. Nor again is excellence in
deliberation opinion of any sort. But since the man who deliberates
badly makes a mistake, while he who deliberates well does so
correctly, excellence in deliberation is clearly a kind of
correctness, but neither of knowledge nor of opinion; for there is
no such thing as correctness of knowledge (since there is no such
thing as error of knowledge), and correctness of opinion is truth; and
at the same time everything that is an object of opinion is already
determined. But again excellence in deliberation involves reasoning.
The remaining alternative, then, is that it is correctness of
thinking; for this is not yet assertion, since, while even opinion
is not inquiry but has reached the stage of assertion, the man who
is deliberating, whether he does so well or ill, is searching for
something and calculating.
But excellence in deliberation is a certain correctness of
deliberation; hence we must first inquire what deliberation is and
what it is about. And, there being more than one kind of
correctness, plainly excellence in deliberation is not any and every
kind; for (1) the incontinent man and the bad man, if he is clever,
will reach as a result of his calculation what he sets before himself,
so that he will have deliberated correctly, but he will have got for
himself a great evil. Now to have deliberated well is thought to be
a good thing; for it is this kind of correctness of deliberation
that is excellence in deliberation, viz. that which tends to attain
what is good. But (2) it is possible to attain even good by a false
syllogism, and to attain what one ought to do but not by the right
means, the middle term being false; so that this too is not yet
excellence in deliberation this state in virtue of which one attains
what one ought but not by the right means. Again (3) it is possible to
attain it by long deliberation while another man attains it quickly.
Therefore in the former case we have not yet got excellence in
deliberation, which is rightness with regard to the
expedient-rightness in respect both of the end, the manner, and the
time. (4) Further it is possible to have deliberated well either in
the unqualified sense or with reference to a particular end.
Excellence in deliberation in the unqualified sense, then, is that
which succeeds with reference to what is the end in the unqualified
sense, and excellence in deliberation in a particular sense is that
which succeeds relatively to a particular end. If, then, it is
characteristic of men of practical wisdom to have deliberated well,
excellence in deliberation will be correctness with regard to what
conduces to the end of which practical wisdom is the true

Understanding, also, and goodness of understanding, in virtue of
which men are said to be men of understanding or of good
understanding, are neither entirely the same as opinion or
scientific knowledge (for at that rate all men would have been men
of understanding), nor are they one of the particular sciences, such
as medicine, the science of things connected with health, or geometry,
the science of spatial magnitudes. For understanding is neither
about things that are always and are unchangeable, nor about any and
every one of the things that come into being, but about things which
may become subjects of questioning and deliberation. Hence it is about
the same objects as practical wisdom; but understanding and
practical wisdom are not the same. For practical wisdom issues
commands, since its end is what ought to be done or not to be done;
but understanding only judges. (Understanding is identical with
goodness of understanding, men of understanding with men of good
understanding.) Now understanding is neither the having nor the
acquiring of practical wisdom; but as learning is called understanding
when it means the exercise of the faculty of knowledge, so
'understanding' is applicable to the exercise of the faculty of
opinion for the purpose of judging of what some one else says about
matters with which practical wisdom is concerned-and of judging
soundly; for 'well' and 'soundly' are the same thing. And from this
has come the use of the name 'understanding' in virtue of which men
are said to be 'of good understanding', viz. from the application of
the word to the grasping of scientific truth; for we often call such
grasping understanding.

What is called judgement, in virtue of which men are said to 'be
sympathetic judges' and to 'have judgement', is the right
discrimination of the equitable. This is shown by the fact that we say
the equitable man is above all others a man of sympathetic
judgement, and identify equity with sympathetic judgement about
certain facts. And sympathetic judgement is judgement which
discriminates what is equitable and does so correctly; and correct
judgement is that which judges what is true.
Now all the states we have considered converge, as might be
expected, to the same point; for when we speak of judgement and
understanding and practical wisdom and intuitive reason we credit
the same people with possessing judgement and having reached years
of reason and with having practical wisdom and understanding. For
all these faculties deal with ultimates, i.e. with particulars; and
being a man of understanding and of good or sympathetic judgement
consists in being able judge about the things with which practical
wisdom is concerned; for the equities are common to all good men in
relation to other men. Now all things which have to be done are
included among particulars or ultimates; for not only must the man
of practical wisdom know particular facts, but understanding and
judgement are also concerned with things to be done, and these are
ultimates. And intuitive reason is concerned with the ultimates in
both directions; for both the first terms and the last are objects
of intuitive reason and not of argument, and the intuitive reason
which is presupposed by demonstrations grasps the unchangeable and
first terms, while the intuitive reason involved in practical
reasonings grasps the last and variable fact, i.e. the minor
premiss. For these variable facts are the starting-points for the
apprehension of the end, since the universals are reached from the
particulars; of these therefore we must have perception, and this
perception is intuitive reason.
This is why these states are thought to be natural endowments-why,
while no one is thought to be a philosopher by nature, people are
thought to have by nature judgement, understanding, and intuitive
reason. This is shown by the fact that we think our powers
correspond to our time of life, and that a particular age brings
with it intuitive reason and judgement; this implies that nature is
the cause. (Hence intuitive reason is both beginning and end; for
demonstrations are from these and about these.) Therefore we ought
to attend to the undemonstrated sayings and opinions of experienced
and older people or of people of practical wisdom not less than to
demonstrations; for because experience has given them an eye they
see aright.
We have stated, then, what practical and philosophic wisdom are, and
with what each of them is concerned, and we have said that each is the
virtue of a different part of the soul.

Difficulties might be raised as to the utility of these qualities of
mind. For (1) philosophic wisdom will contemplate none of the things
that will make a man happy (for it is not concerned with any coming
into being), and though practical wisdom has this merit, for what
purpose do we need it? Practical wisdom is the quality of mind
concerned with things just and noble and good for man, but these are
the things which it is the mark of a good man to do, and we are none
the more able to act for knowing them if the virtues are states of
character, just as we are none the better able to act for knowing
the things that are healthy and sound, in the sense not of producing
but of issuing from the state of health; for we are none the more able
to act for having the art of medicine or of gymnastics. But (2) if
we are to say that a man should have practical wisdom not for the sake
of knowing moral truths but for the sake of becoming good, practical
wisdom will be of no use to those who are good; again it is of no
use to those who have not virtue; for it will make no difference
whether they have practical wisdom themselves or obey others who
have it, and it would be enough for us to do what we do in the case of
health; though we wish to become healthy, yet we do not learn the
art of medicine. (3) Besides this, it would be thought strange if
practical wisdom, being inferior to philosophic wisdom, is to be put
in authority over it, as seems to be implied by the fact that the
art which produces anything rules and issues commands about that
These, then, are the questions we must discuss; so far we have
only stated the difficulties.
(1) Now first let us say that in themselves these states must be
worthy of choice because they are the virtues of the two parts of
the soul respectively, even if neither of them produce anything.
(2) Secondly, they do produce something, not as the art of
medicine produces health, however, but as health produces health; so
does philosophic wisdom produce happiness; for, being a part of virtue
entire, by being possessed and by actualizing itself it makes a man
(3) Again, the work of man is achieved only in accordance with
practical wisdom as well as with moral virtue; for virtue makes us aim
at the right mark, and practical wisdom makes us take the right means.
(Of the fourth part of the soul-the nutritive-there is no such virtue;
for there is nothing which it is in its power to do or not to do.)
(4) With regard to our being none the more able to do because of our
practical wisdom what is noble and just, let us begin a little further
back, starting with the following principle. As we say that some
people who do just acts are not necessarily just, i.e. those who do
the acts ordained by the laws either unwillingly or owing to ignorance
or for some other reason and not for the sake of the acts themselves
(though, to be sure, they do what they should and all the things
that the good man ought), so is it, it seems, that in order to be good
one must be in a certain state when one does the several acts, i.e.
one must do them as a result of choice and for the sake of the acts
themselves. Now virtue makes the choice right, but the question of the
things which should naturally be done to carry out our choice
belongs not to virtue but to another faculty. We must devote our
attention to these matters and give a clearer statement about them.
There is a faculty which is called cleverness; and this is such as
to be able to do the things that tend towards the mark we have set
before ourselves, and to hit it. Now if the mark be noble, the
cleverness is laudable, but if the mark be bad, the cleverness is mere
smartness; hence we call even men of practical wisdom clever or smart.
Practical wisdom is not the faculty, but it does not exist without
this faculty. And this eye of the soul acquires its formed state not
without the aid of virtue, as has been said and is plain; for the
syllogisms which deal with acts to be done are things which involve
a starting-point, viz. 'since the end, i.e. what is best, is of such
and such a nature', whatever it may be (let it for the sake of
argument be what we please); and this is not evident except to the
good man; for wickedness perverts us and causes us to be deceived
about the starting-points of action. Therefore it is evident that it
is impossible to be practically wise without being good.

We must therefore consider virtue also once more; for virtue too
is similarly related; as practical wisdom is to cleverness-not the
same, but like it-so is natural virtue to virtue in the strict
sense. For all men think that each type of character belongs to its
possessors in some sense by nature; for from the very moment of
birth we are just or fitted for selfcontrol or brave or have the other
moral qualities; but yet we seek something else as that which is
good in the strict sense-we seek for the presence of such qualities in
another way. For both children and brutes have the natural
dispositions to these qualities, but without reason these are
evidently hurtful. Only we seem to see this much, that, while one
may be led astray by them, as a strong body which moves without
sight may stumble badly because of its lack of sight, still, if a
man once acquires reason, that makes a difference in action; and his
state, while still like what it was, will then be virtue in the strict
sense. Therefore, as in the part of us which forms opinions there
are two types, cleverness and practical wisdom, so too in the moral
part there are two types, natural virtue and virtue in the strict
sense, and of these the latter involves practical wisdom. This is
why some say that all the virtues are forms of practical wisdom, and
why Socrates in one respect was on the right track while in another he
went astray; in thinking that all the virtues were forms of
practical wisdom he was wrong, but in saying they implied practical
wisdom he was right. This is confirmed by the fact that even now all
men, when they define virtue, after naming the state of character
and its objects add 'that (state) which is in accordance with the
right rule'; now the right rule is that which is in accordance with
practical wisdom. All men, then, seem somehow to divine that this kind
of state is virtue, viz. that which is in accordance with practical
wisdom. But we must go a little further. For it is not merely the
state in accordance with the right rule, but the state that implies
the presence of the right rule, that is virtue; and practical wisdom
is a right rule about such matters. Socrates, then, thought the
virtues were rules or rational principles (for he thought they were,
all of them, forms of scientific knowledge), while we think they
involve a rational principle.
It is clear, then, from what has been said, that it is not
possible to be good in the strict sense without practical wisdom,
nor practically wise without moral virtue. But in this way we may also
refute the dialectical argument whereby it might be contended that the
virtues exist in separation from each other; the same man, it might be
said, is not best equipped by nature for all the virtues, so that he
will have already acquired one when he has not yet acquired another.
This is possible in respect of the natural virtues, but not in respect
of those in respect of which a man is called without qualification
good; for with the presence of the one quality, practical wisdom, will
be given all the virtues. And it is plain that, even if it were of
no practical value, we should have needed it because it is the
virtue of the part of us in question; plain too that the choice will
not be right without practical wisdom any more than without virtue;
for the one deter, mines the end and the other makes us do the
things that lead to the end.
But again it is not supreme over philosophic wisdom, i.e. over the
superior part of us, any more than the art of medicine is over health;
for it does not use it but provides for its coming into being; it
issues orders, then, for its sake, but not to it. Further, to maintain
its supremacy would be like saying that the art of politics rules
the gods because it issues orders about all the affairs of the state.