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each man's conception of his end is determined by his character, whatever that may be. Although therefore, on the hypothesis1 that each man is in a sense responsible for his moral disposition, he will in a sense be responsible for his conception of the good, if on the contrary this hypothesis be untrue, no man is responsible for his own wrongdoing. He does wrong through ignorance of the right end, thinking that wrongdoing will procure him his greatest Good; and his aim at his end2 is not of his own choosing. A man needs to be born with moral vision, so to speak, whereby to discern correctly and choose what is truly good. A man of good natural disposition is a man well endowed by nature in this respect; for if a thing is the greatest and noblest of gifts, and is something which cannot be acquired or learnt from another, but which a man will possess in such form as it has been bestowed on him at birth, a good and noble natural endowment in this respect will constitute a good disposition in the full and true meaning of the term.” [18]

Now if this theory be true, how will virtue be voluntary any more than vice? Both for the good man and the bad man alike, their view of their end is determined in the same manner, by nature or however it may be; and all their actions of whatever sort are guided by reference to their end as thus determined. [19] Whether then a man's view of his end, whatever it may be, is not given by nature but is partly due to himself, or whether, although his end is determined by nature, yet virtue is voluntary because the good man's actions to gain his end are voluntary, in either case vice will be just as much voluntary as virtue; for the bad man equally with the good possesses spontaneity in his actions, even if not in his choice of an end. [20] If then, as is said, our virtues are voluntary (and in fact we are in a sense ourselves partly the cause of our moral dispositions, and it is our having a certain character that makes us set up an end of a certain kind), it follows that our vices are voluntary also; they are voluntary in the same manner as our virtues. [21]

We have then now discussed in outline the virtues in general, having indicated their genus [namely, that it is a mean, and a disposition3] and having shown that they render us apt to do the same actions as those by which they are produced,4 and to do them in the way in which right reason may enjoin5; and that they depend on ourselves and are voluntary.67 [22] But our dispositions are not voluntary in the same way as are our actions. Our actions we can control from beginning to end, and we are conscious, of them at each stage.8 With our dispositions on the other hand, though we can control their beginnings,

1 This is Aristotle's view, which the imaginary objector challenges. It is not quite certain that his objection is meant to go as far as the point indicated by the inverted commas.

2 i.e., the end he aims at.

3 This clause looks like an interpolation: ἕξις is the genus of virtue, Bk. 2.5 fin., 6 init., μεσότης its differentia, 2.6.5,17.

4 See 2.2.8.

5 See 2.2.2. This clause in the mss. follows the next one.

6 See 5.2 and 20.

7 This section some editors place before 5.21, but it is rather a footnote to 5.14; and the opening words of 5.23 imply that a digression has been made.

8 τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστα seems to bear a somewhat different sense here from 1.15, καθ᾽ ἕκασταἄγνοια).

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