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ἀρετή] The definition of virtue here given compared with the celebrated one of Eth. Nic. II 6, init., and the detailed treatment of the list of virtues and the meagre and incomplete account here given of them, contrasted with the elaborate and ingenious analysis of them in the third and fourth books of the same work, is a most striking illustration of the difference between the point of view and method of treatment in the popular Rhetoric and comparatively scientific Ethics. For example, the definition here given coincides in no single point with that of the Ethics. It regards virtue solely on the side of its usefulness, probably because this feature of it is likely to produce the greatest effect upon the popular mind. Instead of a ἕξις it is a mere δύναμις, an undeveloped faculty or power—this is most expressly denied in Eth. N. II 4, 1106 a 5, —the προαίρεσις, the special moral element is omitted, as is also the doctrine of the mean in its application to virtue, and the standard by which this relative mean is to be determined. Regarded as a δύναμις, virtue is a practical faculty, employed in ‘providing and securing or keeping good things’—for oneself, apparently, by the exercise of any ἀρετή, excellence or accomplishment bodily or mental—and secondly, ‘a power of conferring benefits, or doing services, many and great, in fact all in everything (on all occasions)’. πάντων περὶ πάντα is doubtless, as Victorius intimates, a proverbial expression, more especially as it is found in a letter of Cicero to Cassius (ad Div. XV 17. 1, sed expecta πάντα περὶ πάντων1). This is the moral side of virtue so far as it appears in its usefulness to society.
1 Cicero has altered the form and the application of the proverb. In the text it means ‘all kinds on all occasions’, in Cicero it is ‘all the news about everything’.
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