The foregoing discussion has indicated the answer to the question, Is it possible or not
for a man to commit injustice against himself? （1） One class of just
actions consists of those acts, in accordance with any virtue, which are ordained by
For instance, the law does not sanction
suicide （and what2
it does not
expressly sanction, it forbids）.
Further, when a
man voluntarily （which means with knowledge of the person affected and the
instrument employed） does an injury （not in retaliation） that
is against the law, he commits injustice. But he who kills himself in a fit of passion,
voluntarily does an injury （against the right principle3
） which the law does
Therefore the suicide commits injustice; but
against whom? It seems to be against the state rather than against himself; for he suffers
voluntarily, and nobody suffers injustice voluntarily. This is why the state exacts a
penalty; suicide is punished by certain marks of dishonor,4
being an offense against the state.
（2） Moreover, it is not possible to act unjustly towards oneself in the
sense in which a man is unjust who is a doer of injustice only and not universally wicked.
（This case is distinct from the former, because Injustice in one sense is a
special form of wickedness, like Cowardice, and does not imply universal wickedness; hence
it is necessary further to show that a man cannot commit injustice against himself in this
sense either.） For （a） if it were, it would be possible for the
same thing to have been taken away from and added to the same thing at the same time. But
this is impossible: justice and injustice always
necessarily imply more than one person.
（b） an act of injustice must be voluntary and done from choice, and also
unprovoked; we do not think that a man acts unjustly if having suffered he retaliates, and
gives what he got. But when a man injures himself, he both does and suffers the same thing
at the same time. Again （c） if a man could act unjustly towards himself,
it would be possible to suffer injustice voluntarily.
Furthermore （d） no one is guilty of injustice without committing some
particular unjust act; but a man cannot commit adultery with his own wife, or burglary on
his own premises, or theft of his own property.
（3） And generally, the question, Can a man act unjustly towards
himself? is solved by our decision upon the question, Can a man suffer injustice
（It is further manifest that, though both to suffer and to do injustice are
evils—for the former is to have less and the latter to have more than the mean,
to what is health-giving in medicine and
conducive to fitness in athletic training—nevertheless to do injustice is the
worse evil, for it is reprehensible, implying vice in the agent, and vice utter and
absolute—or nearly so, for it is true that not every unjust act voluntarily
committed implies vice—, whereas to suffer injustice does not necessarily imply
vice or injustice in the victim.
Thus in itself to suffer
injustice is the lesser evil, though accidentally it may be the greater. With this however science
is not concerned; science pronounces pIeurisy a more serious disorder than a sprain, in
spite of the fact that in certain circumstances a sprain may be accidentally worse than
pleurisy, as for instance if it should happen that owing to a sprain you fell and in
consequence of falling were taken by the enemy and killed.）
In a metaphorical and analogical sense however there is such a thing as justice, not
towards oneself but between different parts of one's nature; not, it is true, justice in
the full sense of the term, but such justice as subsists between master and slave, or
between the head of a household and his wife and children. For in the discourses on this
a distinction is set up between the
rational and irrational parts of the soul; and this is what leads people to suppose that
there is such a thing as injustice towards oneself, because these parts of the self may be
thwarted in their respective desires, so that there may be a sort of justice between them,
such as exists between ruler and subject.
So much may be said in description of Justice and of the other Moral Virtues.