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[1222a] [1] But we say that men are wicked owing to pleasures and pains, through pursuing and avoiding the wrong ones or in the wrong way. Hence all men readily define the virtues as insensitiveness or tranquillity in regard to pleasures and pains, and the vices by the opposite qualities.

But since it has been assumed1 that goodness is a state of character of a sort that causes men to be capable of doing the best actions and gives them the best disposition in regard to the greatest good, and the best and greatest good is that which is in accordance with right principle, and this is the mean between excess and deficiency relative to ourselves, it would necessarily follow that moral goodness corresponds with each particular middle state and is concerned with certain mean points in pleasures and pains and pleasant and painful things. And this middle state will sometimes be in pleasures (for even in these there is excess and deficiency), sometimes in pains, sometimes in both. For he that exceeds in feeling delight exceeds in the pleasant, and he that exceeds in feeling pain exceeds in the opposite—and this whether his feelings are excessive absolutely or excessive in relation to some standard, for instance are felt more than ordinary men feel them; whereas the good man feels in the proper way.— And since there is a certain state of character which results in its possessor's being in one instance such as to accept an excess and in another such as to accept a deficiency of the same thing, [20] it follows that as these actions are contrary to each other and to the mean, so also the states of character that cause them are contrary to each other and to virtue.

It comes about, however, that sometimes all the oppositions are more evident, sometimes those on the side of excess, in some cases those on the side of deficiency. The cause of this contrariety is that the resemblance does not always reach the same point of inequality in regard to the middle, but sometimes it may pass over more quickly from the excess, sometimes from the deficiency, to the middle state, the person farther removed from which seems to be more contrary: for instance, with regard to the body excess is more healthy and nearer the middle than deficiency in the case of exercises but deficiency than excess in the case of food. Consequently the states of will favorable to athletic training will be variously favorable to health according to the two different fields of choice—in the one case2 the over-energetic men <will be nearer the mean than the slack ones>, in the other3 the too hardy <will be nearer the mean than the self-indulgent ones>; and also the character contrary to the moderate and rational will be in the one case the slack and not both the slack and the over-energetic, and in the other case the self-indulgent and not the man who goes hungry. And this comes about because from the start our nature does not diverge from the mean in the same way as regards everything, but in energy we are deficient and in self-indulgence excessive, and this is also the same with regard the spirit. And we class as contrary to the mean the disposition to which we, and most men, are more liable to err; whereas the other passes unnoticed as if non-existent, because its rarity makes it not observed. For instance we count anger the contrary of gentleness and the passionate man the contrary of the gentle;

1 See 1218b 37 ff.

2 In respect of amount of exercise.

3 In respect of amount of food.

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