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[1234a] [1] he that exaggerates his merits is a charlatan, he that speaks of himself as he is is truthful and in Homer's phrase 'sagacious'; and in general the one is a lover of truth and the others lovers of falsehood.Wittiness1 also is a middle state, and the witty man is midway between the boorish or stiff man and the buffoon. For just as in the matter of food the squeamish man differs from the omnivorous in that the former takes nothing or little, and that reluctantly, and the latter accepts everything readily, so the boor stands in relation to the vulgar man or buffoon—the former takes no joke except with difficulty, the latter accepts everything easily and with pleasure. Neither course is right: one should allow some things and not others, and on principle,—that constitutes the witty man. The proof of the formula is the same as in the other cases: wittiness of this kind (not the quality2 to which we apply the term in a transferred sense) is a very becoming sort of character, and also a middle state is praiseworthy, whereas extremes are blameworthy. But as there are two kinds of wit (one consisting in liking a joke, even one that tells against oneself if it is funny, for instance a jeer, the other in the ability to produce things of this sort), these kinds of wit differ from one another, but both are middle states; [20] for a man who can produce jokes of a sort that will give pleasure to a person of good judgement even though the laugh is against himself will be midway between the vulgar man and the frigid. This is a better definition than that the thing said must not be painful to the victim whatever sort of man he may be—rather, it must give pleasure to the man in the middle position, since his judgement is good.

All these middle states, though praiseworthy, are not virtues, nor are the opposite states vices, for they do not involve purposive choice; they are all in the classification of the emotions, for each of them is an emotion. But because they are natural they contribute to the natural virtues; for, as will be said in what follows,3 each virtue exists both naturally and otherwise, that is, in conjunction with thought. Therefore envy contributes to injustice (for the actions that spring from it affect another person), and righteous indignation to justice, and modesty to temperance (owing to which people even define temperance as a species of emotion), and the sincere and false are respectively wise and foolish.4

And the mean is more opposed to the extremes than the extremes are to one another,

1 The term εὐτράπελος means literally 'able to turn easily,' versatile; it denotes both 'witty' and 'easy-going.'

2 Viz. βωμολοχία, 'buffoonery,' Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1128a 15.

3 Not in Eud. Eth, but cf. Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1144b 1-17.

4 Truthfulness and mendacity contribute to wisdom and folly as νέμεσις and φθόνος do to δικαιοσύνη and ἀδικία, and αἰδώς(and ἀναιδεία) to σωφροσύνη(and ἀκολασία).

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1128b
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1144b.1
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