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‘For no one is likely to feel indignant with one who becomes just, or brave, or acquires any virtue in general’, (that is, one who by exercise and cultivation attains to any special virtue, or to a virtuous character in general)—‘nor indeed is compassion’ (the plur. ἔλεοι indicates the various acts, states, moments of the feeling) ‘bestowed upon (applied to) the opposites of these’ (vices, namely, which ought to be the case, if the others were true)—‘but to wealth and power and such like, all such things, namely, to speak in general terms (without mentioning possible exceptions, ἁπλῶς opposed to καθ᾽ ἕκαστον), as the good (alone) deserve’.

So far the meaning is clear; the good as a general rule are entitled to the enjoyment of wealth and power and the like, and when they do acquire them we feel no indignation because we know they deserve them; it is upon the undeserving that our indignation is bestowed. But as the text stands, and as far as I can see there is no other way of understanding it, there is another class of persons, viz. those who are endowed with natural or personal advantages, such as birth or beauty, which, being independent of themselves and mere gifts of nature, cannot be objects of moral indignation, though they may be of envy, who are coupled with the morally good as deserving of wealth and power. This however cannot possibly be Aristotle's meaning: birth and beauty certainly have no claim per se to any other advantages. When a bad man makes his way to wealth or power, we infer that they have been acquired by fraud or injustice, and thence that he is undeserving of them, which excites our indignation; but no such inference can be drawn from the possession of birth or beauty, there is no such thing as illicit, or undeserved possession of them. Aristotle seems to have meant, what Victorius attributes to him, that, besides moral excellence, natural gifts and excellences are also exempt from righteous indignation, for the reason above given—that they are gifts of nature, and the possessors are in no way responsible for them: and this is fully confirmed by the connexion of what immediately follows. Bekker, Spengel, Buhle and the rest are alike silent upon the difficulty, and Victorius, though he puts what is probably the right interpretation upon the passage, has not one word to shew how such interpretation can be extracted from the received text.

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