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Neither of these two classes of character is to be conceived as identical with Virtue and Vice, nor yet as different in kind from them.1. [5]

Our proper course with this subject as with others will be to present the various views about it, and then, after first reviewing the difficulties they involve, finally to establish if possible all or, if not all, the greater part and the most important of the opinions generally held with respect to these states of mind; since if the discrepancies can be solved, and a residuum of current opinion left standing, the true view will have been sufficiently established.1 1. [6]

Now the following opinions are held: (a) that Self-restraint and Endurance are good and praiseworthy dispositions, Unrestraint and Softness bad and blameworthy; (b) that the self-restrained man is the man who abides by the results of his calculations, the unrestrained, one who readily abandons the conclusion he has reached; (c) that the unrestrained man does things that he knows to be evil, under the influence of passion, whereas the self-restrained man, knowing that his desires are evil, refuses to follow them on principle; (d) that the temperate man is always self-restrained and enduring; but that the converse is invariably the case some deny, although others affirm it: the latter identify the unrestrained with the profligate and the profligate with the unrestrained promiscuously, the former distinguish between them.1. [7] (e) Sometimes it is said that the prudent man cannot be unrestrained, sometimes that some prudent and clever men are unrestrained. (f)Again, men are spoken of as unrestrained in anger, and in the pursuit of honor and of gain. These then are the opinions advanced.2.

The difficulties that may be raised are the following. (c) How can a man fail in self-restraint when believing correctly that what he does is wrong? Some people say that he cannot do so when he knows the act to be wrong; since, as Socrates held, it would be strange if, when a man possessed Knowledge, some other thing should overpower it, and ‘drag it about like a slave.’2 In fact Socrates used to combat the view3 altogether, implying that there is no such thing as Unrestraint, since no one, he held, acts contrary to what is best, believing what he does to be bad, but only through ignorance. 2. [2] Now this theory is manifestly at variance with plain facts; and we ought to investigate the state of mind in question more closely. If failure of self-restraint is caused by ignorance, we must examine what sort of ignorance it is. For it is clear that the man who fails in self-restraint does not think the action right before he comes under the influence of passion.—2. [3] But some thinkers accept the doctrine in a modified form. They allow that nothing is more powerful than knowledge, but they do not allow that no one acts contrary to what he opines to be the better course; and they therefore maintain that the unrestrained man when he succumbs to the temptations of pleasure possesses not Knowledge but only Opinion. 2. [4] And yet if it is really Opinion and not Knowledge—not a strong belief

1 Aristotle holds (1.8.7) that the opinions of the mass of mankind, and of philosophers, on matters of conduct are likely to be substantially true; although being stated from different points of view, and sometimes in ambiguous language, they often seem mutually contradictory. The business of Ethics is to state them clearly, examine their apparent contradictions, discard such parts of them as really refute each other, and elicit the common residuum of truth: see infra, 2.12.

2 A quotation from Plat. Prot. 352b

3 Viz., that a man may know the right and do the wrong.

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    • W. Walter Merry, James Riddell, D. B. Monro, Commentary on the Odyssey (1886), 9.297
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