previous next

We must not however rest content with stating this general definition, but must show that it applies to the particular virtues. In practical philosophy, although universal principles have a wider application,1 those covering a particular part of the field possess a higher degree of truth; because conduct deals with particular facts, and our theories are bound to accord with these.

Let us then take the particular virtues from the diagram.2 [2]

The observance of the mean in fear and confidence is Courage. The man that exceeds in fearlessness not designated by any special name (and this the case with many of the virtues and vices); he that exceeds in confidence is Rash; he that exceeds in fear and is deficient in confidence is Cowardly. [3] In respect of pleasures and pains—not all of them, and to a less degree in respect of pains3—the observance of the mean is Temperance, the excess Profligacy. Men deficient in the enjoyment of pleasures scarcely occur, and hence this character also has not been assigned a name, but we may call it Insensible. [4] In regard to giving and getting money, the observance of the mean is Liberality; the excess and deficiency are Prodigality and Meanness,4 but the prodigal man and the mean man exceed and fall short in opposite ways to one another: the prodigal exceeds in giving and is deficient in getting, whereas the mean man exceeds in getting and is deficient in giving. [5] For the present then we describe these qualities in outline and summarily, which is enough for the purpose in hand; but they will be more accurately defined later. [6]

There are also other dispositions in relation to money, namely, the mode of observing the mean called Magnificence (the magnificent man being different from the liberal, as the former deals with large amounts and the latter with small ones), the excess called Tastelessness or Vulgarity, and the defect called Paltriness. These are not the same as Liberality and the vices corresponding to it; but the way in which they differ will be discussed later. [7]

In respect of honor and dishonor, the observance of the mean is Greatness of Soul, the excess a sort of Vanity, as it may be called, and the deficiency, Smallness of Soul. [8] And just as we said that Liberality is related to Magnificence, differing from it in being concerned with small amounts of money, so there is a certain quality related to Greatness of Soul, which is concerned with great honors, while this quality itself is concerned with small honors; for it is possible to aspire to minor honors in the right way, or more than is right, or less. He who exceeds in these aspirations is called ambitious, he who is deficient, unambitious; but the middle character has no name, and the dispositions of these persons are also unnamed, except that that of the ambitious man is called Ambitiousness. Consequently the extreme characters put in a claim to the middle position, and in fact we ourselves sometimes call the middle person ambitious and sometimes unambitious: we sometimes praise a man for being ambitious, sometimes for being unambitious. [9] Why we do so shall be discussed later; for the present let us classify the remaining virtues and vices on the lines which we have laid down. [10]

In respect of anger also we have excess, deficiency, and the observance of the mean. These states are virtually without names, but as we call a person of the middle character gentle, let us name the observance of the mean Gentleness, while of the extremes, he that exceeds may be styled irascible and his vice Irascibility, and he that is deficient, spiritless, and the deficiency Spiritlessness. [11]

There are also three other modes of observing a mean which bear some resemblance to each other, and yet are different; all have to do with intercourse in conversation and action, but they differ in that one is concerned with truthfulness of speech and behavior, and the other with pleasantness, in its two divisions of pleasantness in social amusement and pleasantness in the general affairs of life. We must then discuss these qualities also, in order the better to discern that in all things the observance of the mean is to be praised, while the extremes are neither right nor praiseworthy, but reprehensible. Most of these qualities also are unnamed, but in these as in the other cases we must attempt to coin names for them ourselves, for the sake of clearness and so that our meaning may be easily followed. [12]

In respect of truth then, the middle character may be called truthful, and the observance of the mean Truthfulness5; pretence in the form of exaggeration is Boastfulness, and its possessor a boaster; in the form of understatement, Self-depreciation, and its possessor the self-depreciator. [13]

In respect of pleasantness and social amusement, the middle character is witty and the middle disposition Wittiness; the excess is Buffoonery and its possessor a buffoon; the deficient man may be called boorish, and his disposition Boorishness. In respect of general pleasantness in life, the man who is pleasant in the proper manner is friendly, and the observance of the mean is Friendliness; he that exceeds, if from no interested motive, is obsequious, if for his own advantage, a flatterer; he that is deficient, and unpleasant in all the affairs of life, may be called quarrelsome and surly. [14]

There are also modes of observing a mean in the sphere of and in relation to the emotions. For6 in these also one man is spoken of as moderate and another as excessive—for example the bashful man whose modesty takes alarm at everything; while he that is deficient in shame, or abashed at nothing whatsoever, is shameless, and the man of middle character modest. For though Modesty is not a virtue, it is praised, and so is the modest man. [15]

Again, Righteous Indignation is the observance of a mean between Envy and Malice,7 and these qualities are concerned with pain and pleasure felt at the fortunes of one's neighbors. The righteously indignant man is pained by undeserved good fortune; the jealous man exceeds him and is pained by all the good fortune of others;8 while the malicious man so far falls short of being pained that he actually feels pleasure. [16]

These qualities however it will be time to discuss in another place. After them we will treat Justice,9 distinguishing its two kinds—for it has more than one sense—and showing in what way each is a mode of observing the mean. [And we will deal similarly with the logical virtues.10]

1 Or ‘have a wider acceptance.’

2 Here apparently the lecturer displayed a table of virtues (like the one in Aristot. Eud. Eth. 1220b 37), exhibiting each as a mean between two vices of excess and defect in respect of a certain class of action or feeling. This is developed in detail in Bk. 3. 6-end and Bk. 4.

3 This parenthesis looks like an interpolation from 3.10.1.

4 The Greek word is the negative of that translated Liberality, but ‘illiberality’ and ‘illiberal’ we do not usually employ with reference to money.

5 From Bk. 4.7 it appears that the quality intended is sincerity of speech and conduct in the matter of asserting one's own merits. The observance of the mean in this respect is there said to have no name; and here the form of expression apologizes for using ‘Truthfulness’ in so limited a sense. The defect in this respect Aristotle expresses by εἰρωνεία, a word specially associated with the affectation of ignorance practised by Socrates. Neither this nor its other shades of meaning correspond very closely to that of its English derivative irony.

6 This sentence in the mss. follows the next one.

7 See 6.18 (and note): there envy and ‘rejoicing-in-evil’ come in a list of emotions in which a due mean is impossible; and in Aristot. Rh. 1386b 34 they are said to be two sides of the same character. The present attempt to force them into the scheme as opposite extremes is not very successful, and it is noteworthy that this group of qualities is omitted in Bk. 4.

8 It is difficult not to think that some words have been lost here, such as ‘and the righteously indignant man is pained by the undeserved misfortune of others.’

9 Bk. 6

10 Grant rightly rejects this sentence, since the intellectual virtues are nowhere else thus designated by Aristotle, nor does he regard them as modes of observing a mean.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 2.1220b
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1386b
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: