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REFLECTON OF THE MORAL MIRROR
Which could serve by way of Commentary
on the Great Ethics of Aristotle,
written by John Case, Doctor of Medicine and
Sometime Fellow of the College of
St. John the Forerunner, Oxford
GREETINGS TO A MOST WORTHY MAN, ZEALOUS AMONG THE FIRST FOR GOOD LETTERS, RICHARD FETTIPLACE ESQUIRE, HIS SINGULAR FRIEND
HINKING much and often with myself (most friendly sir) what token soe’er of true love and of grateful spirit for your benefits I, now an old man, might at length bequeath to you, nothing else certainly than some monument of native wit, in which you indeed do most delight, do I find worthy of you. For he rightly indeed said:
The fame that books make will be eternal.
In order that there be had an eternal memory of your name and of your illustrious and ancient family, a little monument of native wit have I writ about the Great Ethics, which now, in the name and patronage of the Fettiplaces, I first bring forth into the light. Of the Great Ethics I say, because great Aristotle, whom I interpret, gave to these books the name of great ethics; and rightly to be sure, for in them, as in the treasuries of the greatest men, are the truest riches, arms, and banners of fortune (I mean the virtues of mind and morals), in which true nobility and honor consist. Receive therefore (noted sir) a token of my old age and of my good will. May he, your little Fettiplace, the flower of the family, the great hope of your posterity, also receive it. May the youth remember that an old man once gave this mirror to his father and to him, in which he may see the reflection of the virtues. And perhaps, as the solar rays reflected in a 7glass opposite the sun excite a greater flame and heat, so will the images indeed of the virtues, seen by him in this mirror, effect a more ardent desire and thirst for good letters. They will at least teach him this, to hold the study of virtue of greater worth than the insignia of honor, even if he has carried these off from many, great, and ancient families. For if you hear me, your ancestor William Fettiplace Esq., who was benefactor to Queen’s College Oxford — now most flourishing in letters and learned men — did not merit a lesser praise than others of your name and house who gave their life as a pledge to the their nation. O how few gentlemen today are benefactors to letters and the learned! But you have the best example which you may imitate. What do I urge? I will not add spur to runner. For I know your counsel in this matter, I know your favorable spirit. I will continue. The gift which now I offer you (generous sir) is as a grain, perhaps of little weight, yet of great love, which love demands an equal love. If therefore you love me, it is enough for me. For I ask for nothing beyond love. Farewell, 20 September, 1596, from my home in Oxford.
I remain, ever zealous of your interest,
TO THE KIND READER
LEVEN years ago (benevolent reader) I wrote a book on the Ethics of Aristotle, which I named then The Moral Mirror on this account, that in it are easily seen the express forms and images of the virtues. Mindful of my promise from that time, I have for my part not been idle. Rather, insofar as I was able, I gave it my attention so that (having published the oracles of universal philosophy) I might, to the best of my ability, at last satisfy you (to whom I have destined all my lucubrations and studies). But I was thoroughly deceived in my hope. For after I completed the work, the printer refused me the press — his justification, as he said, for the refusal was lest, if the book were perhaps printed elsewhere, he would himself incur a great loss in business, as occured two or three times concerning my commentary Politics. I admitted the justice of his argument, I hid the work, and indeed opportunely, both because I could not complete so great a thing at my own cost and because new stars in philosophy had arisen, I mean Pererius, Zabarella, Pacius, the College of Coimbra, and other very learned men, who, discoursing on the same material, have easily surpassed all the commentators of this age. Lest, therefore, I should (as they say) light a candle in sunlight, or take owls to Athens, I gladly bade myself to a just silence. But, overcome at length against my wishes and more or less coerced by the assiduous and importunate prayers of my friends, I again published, and like a farmer I now till new fields which other farmers, if I may so speak, have hitherto not tilled. By these fields I mean the books of the Economics and of the Great Ethics, the expounding of which very few commentators or none at all have toiled over. From thence there has for me been greater labor and sweat, but for you there will, I hope, by all means be richer fruit. But this new little work (zealous reader) I name the reflection of my moral mirror. Reflection, I say, because the same images and forms of the virtues are offered to those who look into these books which formerly appeared in the books of the Ethics. But with the rays of your mind collected, as it were, in the center of the mirror, you might perhaps feel from the reflection a greater force and heat of virtue than you perceived before from your first look into the mirror. For I attempt in this epitome to set alight little flames in the souls of youths and not so much to display the adorned virtues themselves as to draw them by examples to their kiss and embrace. I for my part am now doing this for this reason, that I see these chaste virgins, that is the virtues, everywhere languishing. But what is mind without virtue? The poet teaches you:
The mind lacking in virtue is the sea without fish, the sky without birds, the world without stars, the earth without plants.
Why, therefore, do you delay? Why do you withdraw your foot from the threshold of virtue? The times indeed are grievous, the wounds of the vices lethal; therefore one must not delay. Hear another poet:
I see that a wound, which was at first curable, incur great loss when the cure is long delayed.
2. If here you urge that there is altogether no need for this reflection of the mirror, since you may look into the mirror of the virtue sitself, you surely err. For, as by natural reflection the appearances of things are multiplied and abide more deeply expressed and fixed in the senses, so the images of the virtues, made more numerous and more efficacious by the force of this reflection, move human spirits much more vehemently. For many appearances are multiplied in this way, as it were: that is, many laws, many precepts of the virtues, which are omitted by the philosopher in the Ethics. Let, therefore, this treatment of morals be a medium connecting the Ethics and Politics, as was the road from Thebes to Athens. What more? If you heed me, undertake this moral journey; follow, if it please you, this path of morals. If you delight in the precepts, imitate them. They are the precepts of the best virtues, therefore it behooves you to imitate them. Farewell. November 26, 1596, from my home in Oxford.
I remain, ever zealous of your interest,
ON THE MIRROR AND THE REFLECTION OF THE MIRROR
I am not so ugly. I saw myself recently in that mirror which Case fashioned and in the reflection of the mirror, when, the glass sending it back, it returned the clear light.
For the cherishing hand and eloquent pen of Case has brought this matter, fetched from the citadel of the Stagirite, into his Moral Mirror and his Reflection of the Mirror, like a new Archytas, who sent back the many rays of ruddy Phoebus from one mirror to the sunrise, each one of which is said to have given birth to new light because he knew how to return the brightness in an opposing body.
While (poor me!) I contemplate in this mirror that mountain of Sinai which resounded to twice five words and a resounding trumpet, which was remoulded with earthquake, and with fire, I am too ugly, more deformed than dirt itself. For this shows to me the face of innate evil, and the crimes I committed from my tender years. But while I look into the mirror which Christ Jesus fashioned from the Gospel Book, I see destroyed by the bronze the filth which Moses sent. Looking at this mirror I am seen myself to be more comely than Daphnis, if the image do not deceive me.
THOMAS HOLLAND, REGIUS PROFESSSOR OF SACRED THEOLOGY
In the mirror, in the reflection of the mirror, Case, the good will see that he rises, the bad whence he falls. Does the Basilisk attack you, that he may destroy with his hostile eye? Through your art, he perishes by his own deceits. The mirror confronts him, he throws his venom at the mirror, he sees himself by reflection of the mirror, thence he perishes.
M. G. M. D. ST. JOHN’S
You teach morals, Case; let these times learn morals. But let our times learn good morals, which you, Case, teach in your mirror and reflection of the mirror. Let the mirror displease him whom an evil life pleases.
B. WARNER M. D.
Behold the rays, repulsed, return to their beginning, and the fresh reflection of the mirror brings back the first morals.
There are not new things here. For the angle of reflection and of incidence is the same, the same vision, and the same light, the medium remaining the same; nor does this light differ from that, except that the virtue of the reflection itself is made stronger by the one that is incident.
RICHARD LATEWAR, ST. JOHN’S
A SIX-LINE POEM ON THE REFLECTION OF THE MORAL MIRROR BY JOHN CASE OF OXFORD
The mirror casts things seen before the zealous eye, but things just seen are wont to flow from the eye. The reflection still guards the likeness which it cast, nor does it allow to flow from the eye things seen from afar. Case now binds himself to you in two ways, thanks to whom you see things seen and grasp them even when they are far off.
H. PRICE, ST. JOHN’S
Whether the treatise on the Great Ethics is the work of Aristotle.
Whether it is part rather of civil than of moral science.
INCE Aristotle was a master of brevity and the oracle of the whole of philosophy, it will perhaps seem remarkable to someone why, when 10 books about morals had already been brought into the light, another work should finally be added about altogether the same material in almost the same order and treated in the same method. I admit, indeed, that some people, and these educated ones, have serious doubts about the matter, and for this cause alone they altogether expunge this work from the canon of Aristotle’s works as being apocryphal and spurious. But indulge me, zealous reader, if I should depart from their judgment and opinion, especially since I assert them to be calculations without counting, shadows of reasons without weight, mere assertions, and arguments that do not conclude. For, in a word, so as to repulse the battering-ram by whose force and impetus they strive mightily to tear down this noble edifice of Morals, the thing is indeed a nothing that they urge so often and so much, namely that Aristotle does not use circular arguments in his writing and proof.
2. For they say he only speaks aphorisms, and in both his philosophy about things and about morals he delivers axioms, does not draw out long lines, reaches his conclusions with admirable force of intellect, and flees all prolixity of speech and all tedium as monsters that infest philosophers and philosophy. Why therefore does he make an elephant out of a gnat? Why does he roll the same stone thousands of times and go back to the beginning? Why does he treat the same subject, the same moral precepts, the same laws of the virtues and vices, when he has already demonstrated all these things more than enough in ten books of the Ethics? Aristotle was a philosopher and a teacher, and therefore he would not say the same thing twice nor would he, as they say, put before us twice-boiled cabbage. Therefore let this book of the Great Ethics be deleted, since indeed it does not at all bear the mark of that very great genius of the great Aristotle.
3. You accuse the philosopher falsely in this, where you yourself are rightly to be condemned. For he once, but you a hundred times, says the same thing in different words. The sum of all you say is this: Aristotle wrote the Ethics, therefore he did not write the Great Ethics. I deny your argument; how do you prove it? Because it is the same subject and the same order in both cases. But if you pay careful attention, it is not so. For although human life, endowed with the ornaments of mind and morals is, as you say, the matter and subject in each volume, yet there it is taken in a stricter fashion and here in a more diffuse one. In fact, in the Ethics the philosopher considers the singular respect, but in the Great Ethics he considers the common one, or a power of treating it that is universal. There he intends to make you virtuous and wise; here he intends to make this man and that man too good; here he intends to make man in his species virtuous and wise. Thus, as there is one virtue of the good man and another of a good citizen, and nevertheless they is not always different if you consider the essence of the virtue (since the difference is, for the most part, only in the existence and the manner), so there is a different subject matter of each treatise, namely of this treatise and of that one, although, if you consider human life as it subsists in its own power and not as it exists in its various manners, it is not a subject matter that is altogether diverse in nature.
4. Let me proceed more openly: there is one and the same subject matter of logic and of rhetoric (as the philosopher and the orator teach), namely things probable, but it becomes different and is not the same when a diverse respect of treating it is added. So virtue, or human life as needing to be cultivated with virtue, is the same and yet a diverse subject matter, if in this case and in that case it be considered in a different manner.
5. It is the flimsiest objection, therefore ,which you urge about its being the same subject matter and the same material; and indeed what you urge about its being the same order and method of treating virtue is, were it possible, flimsier than the flimsiest. I call on your knowledge and your conscience: when you read each volume, you will certainly find a great difference. For as the blacksmith and the soldier each handle the same sword, but when it is placed in the hands of each, it is made by the respect itself to be a different subject, so too the moral philosopher in the Ethics and the political or civil philosopher here in this place, while treating the same field of virtue and of human life, have different modes and goals of treatment. Besides, in the former book the order of teaching is observed, but in this the order of nature. For there the particular teachings of morals, and here the general precepts of civil life, are handed on by the philosopher. I say civil, because here the philosopher, sitting as it were at the gate of the city, wisely reads out the axioms of civil life to those who are about to enter in. Of civil life, I say again, since this treatise of the Great Ethics regards political and civil science. If you urge that I prove this, I reply that Aristotle at the beginning of this work proves the very thing in eloquent words. For thus are his words in the text: “Since we have chosen to speak about morals it will be worth the trouble first to examine of what faculty morals is itself a part. To speak in few words, it seems to be part of nothing other than the civil faculty.”
6. He adds reasons: first, that in civil government nothing can be rightly managed by anyone unless he be good; second, because no one is truly prudent and political who has neglected the virtues of moral character. From hence he infers his conclusion in these words: “because of the fact that the business and treatise is about morals, it is part of the civil faculty,” and again, “this universal treatise has rightly obtained the name of civil and not moral.”
7. But why, perhaps you ask, all this quotation from Aristotle? So that, indeed, you may understand that this part of philosophy is partly composed of ethical and partly of political science, and yet in its subject, nature, and order it differs greatly from both. For as speech (that part of discrete quantity) is made up of time and number and yet is not time or number but something distinct from each, so this treatise or doctrine of the Great Ethics is composed of both ethical and political precepts although nevertheless it is said to be neither the former nor the latter science. I mean that it is not called the one or the other science absolutely, but in its respect I judge, with Aristotle, that it is more to be called civil (of which it is a part) than moral.
8. Besides, it can, as a part, be considered in two ways, either in comparison with the whole or absolutely by itself in its proper function and faculty: thus, this discipline of the Great Ethics, if it be referred as a part to political science, is rightly called civil, but if it be considered in itself and its own worth, it has a new form, name, matter, and function, and it is called Great Moral Science. It is great, indeed, not in the bulk and size of its volume (for there are in it only two books and fifty-two chapters), but great as a precious gem, though it be small, is said to be great, in virtue. There is (says the philosopher) more of heat and salt in the sea than of cold and wet, that is, more of salt and heat in virtue than of cold and wet in weight. So in this little work there is little mass but great virtue. That is why one should consider in it not the magnitude of the work but the great richness of the matter of virtue that is treated and the great genius of the author.
9. What remains? Namely that I show, to be sure, that it is not absurd for the master of brevity to repeat often the same terms, nay to treat very often the same things and the same themes about things, if in each case, in this case and that, there be not at all the same rationale. And lest I go on longer, who does not know that the ten categories are treated by the philosopher among the elements of Logic, again in the Topics, and again a third time in the Metaphysics? Who does not know that the elements are defined once in the De Caelo, again in the Meteorologica, and again finally in the book of Elements? But I will rest with these examples, lest I should seem to have an excessive enthusiasm for topical places and examples. The reason, then, by which some try to prove that this work was not by Aristotle (because herein and in the Ethics there is frequent demonstration made of the same things and the same virtues) is no reason at all.
10. Believe me, most humane reader, the repetition is not vain or otiose, first, because it is of the best things, namely the virtues, which cannot sufficiently be impressed and inculcated on human souls; second ,because this treatise is, as it were, an epitome and summary table or collection of everything that has been dealt with more fully in the Ethics; third, because some things are here added and discussed that are not dealt with there; and finally, because here (as I showed above) everything is not dealt with in the same way or order or sense. For the Ethics has regard to individuals, this epitome to the multitude, and the science of politics to the whole city. The error and opinion, therefore, of those who for that reason dismiss this work from Aristotle is eradicated, for this work is, as it were a mirror, in which the images of everything in the Ethics are reflected. Why should I say more? The synod of the patriarchs in philosophy has, from the time in which the philosopher lived, given its approbation to this work; all translators and almost all interpreters recognize in it the voice, the style, the acumen of Aristotle. It is a mark, then, of great ignorance and of perversity to repudiate it.
11. Thus far of the first conclusion of this chapter, in which the philosopher teaches that this treatise of the Great Ethics belongs to civil discipline, to which I have taken the opportunity to attach a few little arguments whereby the opinion is refuted of those who want these books to be erased from the catalog of his works.
12. As to the analysis of the things which are pursued in this chapter, it is as follows. The philosopher proves in the first place that virtue is not to be defined merely so as to be acknowledged, but so that, once defined, its power, work, and example might live more deeply impressed on mortal souls. Then he refutes Pythagoras who defined the virtues as numbers, Socrates who defined them as sciences, and Plato who defined them as ideas. Afterwards he demonstrates his own purpose and order, namely that he is going to begin from the definition and division of the good wherein the end of this science is found. Next, he distinguishes this good into absolute and comparative. Lastly he discusses and more accurately undoes the errors of Pythagoras and Socrates and Plato about numbers, sciences, and ideas, and rightly urges that virtue is not a number, as Pythagoras dreamed, for it is not the case that all justice is either equal or unequal; that it is not a science, for virtue is found in action but science in theory and contemplation; that it is not an idea, for perfection of soul is something inherent but the idea is a metaphysical form and divorced and separated from things themselves.
13. WAS THIS LITTLE WORK THE MAGNORUM MORALIUM WRITTEN BY ARISTOTLE HIMSELF?
That this is the work of Aristotle is proved by four arguments:
The consensus of the ages since the time Aristotle lived..
The judgment of the best translators who, in rendering it word for word, recognize the genuine style of Aristotle.
The opinion of the best interpreters who have found in this work the great and sharp genius, acumen, and judgment of Aristotle.
The statement of Aristotle himself who in his Politics insinuates that there are other moral precepts besides those of his Ethics.
OBJECTION These books and the Ethics have the same subject matter, the same order of treatment, the same list of virtues, of passions, and of vices, the same demonstration and conclusion in every case. It is probable, therefore, that Aristotle did not write these books, or at any rate he was being frivolous in going back to the beginning. The antecedent statement is clear about the subject matter, because that human life is to be cultivated with virtue is the subject of each; it is clear about the order, because the philosopher both here and there begins from the definition and division of the good, and then shows in what part of the soul the virtues and passions are located; it is clear about the list of virtues and vices, because he recognizes the individual virtues and passions in the same order and number as in the Ethics; it is clear finally about the conclusion, because both here and there he does not transmit different definitions of the virtues or different precepts. I conclude, therefore, that either this work is frivolous and otiose or that Aristotle did not write it.
REPLY All these things are, indeed, handled here and in the books of the Ethics but they are not handled in the same way or the same sense, as we showed above. For although the names of the subject matter and of the virtues and the vices and the passions are the same in each work, yet the respect (when it is often either a form in accidents and chance matters or when, if it itself change, it changes the form and essence) is different in one case and in the other. Once therefore the respect is changed, so is the sense of all these things. The subject is the same in name, but not the same in reality. And what I say about the subject I say the very same about the rest. For the subject, order, and demonstration of the virtues have regard to the species and not the individual, to the multitude not the singulars, to the common precepts, acts, and duties of civil life, not the private adornments and instructions of moral life. As far therefore as the universal differs from the singular, the many from the few, the common from the proper and private, so much do these differ from each other.
15. OBJECTION If there is the greatest distance between these two works, because here the use of everything is common and there individual, it would have been sufficient for Aristotle to have said to the reader at the end of the Ethics: “change the respect from the individual to the species, from one man to the multitude, from the private adornment of the soul to the public use of virtue, from a single life to civil life, from the few to the many, and then you will find great moral precepts from these little moral precepts.” For, certainly, I see nothing else to be changed. It is absurd therefore to ascribe so superfluous and otiose a work to the prince of philosophers.
REPLY What you urge is absurd. For if this were enough, why do you not think it is enough if I say to you, when you are reading the Categories in the Logic: “change the respect of all these things into ideas and you will find from these little beginnings the metaphysical secrets of things?” O otiose man, this is not enough, unless everything is made to fit the thing which is being dealt with. In the Ethics Aristotle aims only to make you and any individual man good; in these books, however, he has the multitude and civil life for this subject, he directs his precepts to it, he does not change his voice but his consideration, he lists the same virtues, passions, and vices, but he applies them differently; in the Ethics he strives to render men virtuous in their life alone, but here to render them virtuous in their life and in their office. But the virtue of the man is one thing, and of the office another; in the Ethics he chooses one virtue, that of the man, but here he chooses both.
16. OBJECTION The virtues, passions, and vices are defined in both books and are dealt with in the same way. For the nature of all of them is one and simple; so there is one definition and one demonstration from causes.
REPLY Of each single thing there is one nature, one definition, and one demonstration absolutely; but of all of them there is a double nature, one absolute and one relative. For virtue is defined one way in the category of quality and another way in the category of relation. I admit that in each work are found the definitions and demonstrations of the virtues and the vices and the passions, but (as I have often said) the respect is changed.
OBJECTION There have been almost no commentators ever of these books, therefore the proof (in your distinction) from the opinion of the most learned interpreters, whereby you arm yourself to urge that this was the work of Aristotle, is fallacious. And it is an absurdity in them that none of them has expounded a work that they so greatly praised.
REPLY I admit that very few or almost none have, as you say, been interpreters of this work. The reason is that, once the Ethics had been brought into the light, the philosopher seemed too open in these books to need interpreting. But when you urge that I was armed with the opinion of interpreters in proving that this work was by Aristotle, you interpret me badly. For by interpreters I understand, not expositors of this book by itself, but those who, after diligent and mature deliberation, numbered these books among the works of Aristotle. Add also that Jacques Lefèvre D’Étaples and Georgio Valla (not unlearned men) wrote scholia also on these books, armed with whose authority I assert what I said. Thus whether you mean interpreters of other books, or translators and expositors of these books, by the opinion of almost all the interpreters I say that this work was by Aristotle.
WHETHER THE TREATISE OF THE GREAT ETHICS IS PART
OF CIVIL AND NOT OF MORAL SCIENCE
OBJECTION This treatise is about morals, as its very name indicates; therefore it belongs rather to moral than to civil science. The argument is valid because the form, as they say, is what gives a thing its name and its being; therefore if its name is taken from morals, it is probable that it is more rightly called a part of moral than of civil science.
REPLY One must note that this work is not only given its name from morals but from Great Morals. But the Great Ethics teaches a common and not a private, a universal and not an individual, a political and civil and not a moral use of virtue. Hence in the text Aristotle rightly concludes that this treatise is part of civil and not of moral science.
18. OBJECTION Whether you consider the virtues of character or of the mind, whether the virtues and passions of the man or of the office, beyond doubt they all tend to this, to make men and citizens good. But moral philosophy, not civil philosophy, claims this work and office as proper to itself. Therefore this discipline, which aims at nothing else than that, regards moral science rather than civil science.
REPLY Your assumption is true not simply but in respect of the individual subject. For the moral philosopher and moral philosophy regard individuals and not the species or the multitude or the city. Besides they treat of virtues of the mind per accidens, as they say, and do not at all treat of the virtues of office. But this doctrine of the Great Ethics, being a sort of mean between the doctrine of the Ethics and of the Politics, defines the virtues of the character and of the mind, of the man and of the office, and it fits them not to a private use but to a public one. Hence it is called rather civil than moral science.
INCE my intention is not to pursue every single thing in these books in a very long string of words or a very accurate polish of discussion, I will think, zealous reader, that I have sufficiently fulfilled my office if, for your sake, I illustrate the individual chapters with a brief argument and analysis and if I deal in a more extensive manner with those things in them that are omitted in the Ethics. I will, therefore, go along with the philosopher who, in this chapter, posits a triple division of good and single division of end.
2. The first division of good is that one is honorable, another is laudable, another is of power, and another salutary. The honorable is that which in the text is also said to be divine, as mind, principle, and that sort of thing; laudable, as virtue; of power, as dominion, wealth, strength; salutary, as a strong constitution, and the external cause of health, exercise itself.
3. The second division of good (or rather, in my opinion, a reduction of the above quadruple division into a double division) is that among goods some are choosable per se and others are not; thus the honorable and laudable are goods per se, but the goods of power and the salutary goods (by which we understand the goods of the body and of fortune) are not good in their own right but are choosable, as they say, per accidens.
4. The third and last division of good is that among goods some are ends but others are not; ends, as health; not ends as a ration of food, exercise of the body, medicine, which are means of health.
5. There next follows a distinction of end, as that one is perfect and the other imperfect. The perfect end is that which, when present, we have no need of anything more, as felicity; an imperfect one is that which, when possessed, we want and long for something else.
6. What more? Towards this, certainly, all those things point which are said about good and end in the Ethics, so that once make the comparison and you should have it all straight. Every good, of course, is either internal or external. The internal are either absolute, as felicity and eternal contemplation of the first cause, or imperfect and means, as the moral virtues, in which the thirst of the human will is not, in its desiring, slaked or allayed. The external are such as the goods of fortune, which surge and ebb like the Euripus unless virtue dominate them, and the goods of the body, which are shadows unless the spirit preside over the same by reason and prudence.
7. This is the sum of the whole chapter. Now let me add a few things of scholastic and academic use, and thus will I proceed to discussion of other things.
8. OBJECTION It is vain to do through more things what can be done through fewer; therefore the good is badly divided here into a quadruple division since in the Ethics it is most rightly divided into only two.
REPLY It is vain to do through more things what can be done through fewer unless, as in this place, this be done for the sake of explanation.
OBJECTION Divine things, like God, spirit, soul, are here listed in the first place among honorable goods; but it does not belong to this instruction to deal with divine things; therefore the philosopher does not handle the good here rightly and properly.
REPLY Since honor is reverence shown to someone to indicate excellent good, it is impious to exclude divine things from honor. But there is something in what you urge, namely that human things and not divine things are here being demonstrated. I say, therefore (as I have often said), that Aristotle always draws us to higher things by his examples; for although in the Ethics, in these books, and in the Politics he is inculcating only moral and civil precepts and instructions for life, he is often pointing with his finger to heaven and the stars and, beyond these, to God and spirits; to which he judges that not a changeable but, so to speak, an essential honor is to be awarded, as he openly teaches in the Metaphysics. Since therefore in this place the philosopher has divided the honorable good into what is divine of its own force, by which without doubt he means God, and into what is divine by participation, by which term he means the celestial spirits and human spiritual souls, he aims thereby to have us refer all our duties and all our study of the virtues to the divine principle, namely to God, and to the divine subject, namely the human spirit (the seat and watch tower of the truest honor).
9. OBJECTION Every being that is better and more ancient is an honorable good, as Aristotle teaches in the text; therefore I do not see the reason why he does not list virtue among the honorable goods; rather he is unjust to exclude it.
REPLY Every being that is better per se, as God, or with respect to some second thing that is worse, as the soul with respect to the body, is said to be an honorable good, and thus he does not, in this place, exclude virtue; but the philosopher does not award honor to virtue as compared to felicity: praise is obviously what is owed to virtue as proper to it, and honor to felicity.
OBJECTION The end of anything whatever is said to be perfect; therefore the end is badly divided into perfect and imperfect — as if any end might be the imperfection of things.
REPLY Every end is perfect and the perfection also of that whose end it is (if it be compared with the thing itself of which it is the end), but if it be referred to a further end rightly may it be called an intermediate end and imperfect.
N this third chapter another division of goods is dealt with, and that the common one, namely that some goods are of the soul, as virtue, others of the body, as health and beauty, others of fortune, as wealth, friends, honor (he means external honor, not the internal honor that is proper to felicity). Of these goods the best are those of the soul, because they are divine; coming next to these are the goods of nature, because they are more stable than the fortuitous ones. But the goods of fortune scarcely well merit the name of goods, since in the absence of virtue they set with the sun, and drive, of their own force, rather towards evil than good, to ruin than to safety.
2. There emerges first from this a splendid division of the goods located in the soul, namely into prudence, virtue, and pleasure, to all which beatitude is attached as the reward and goal of acting in this life well. Prudence directs and defines what is to be done; virtue carries out what prudence dictates; pleasure gives to those who act well new energies, as it were, and new strength lest, tired out by the weariness of the journey, they should, as mortals, leave off their work. Felicity promises reward to labor and virtue, namely eternal honor.
3. By prudence understand right reason; by virtue both the moral and civil habit and adornment of mind; by pleasure true delight in the actions of virtue. Add to this what Aristotle adds in the text, namely that felicity is not an idle end, but is the life and acting itself of virtue. For quiet in virtue is as sleep in the eye, and perpetual and delightful action in virtue is as a perpetual and active power of seeing. Wherefore, as no one wants eyes simply for closing and sleeping but in order to see the objects of things as well, so no one longs for felicity in order to do nothing, but so that he might, by acting well, happily live and in perpetual living happily rest. For rest is not observed in cessation of work as in a house once it has been built, but in the action of an honest life as in the use of the built house.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE QUESTION
For moral as for civil life four things are required:
Direction, for which are required:
Premeditation or counsel. Right reason and moderation, all which are supplied for us by prudence.
Action, which is discerned in the executing of a work, and this is properly furnished by virtue.
Constancy of action, whose sole nurse is love of virtue and enjoyment therein.
Reward, which is either
inherent and possessed, as felicity.
inflowing and attributed, as internal honor, which follows upon felicity.
4. OBJECTION This division is deficient, therefore it is badly handled. I prove the antecedent: for among the goods of the spirit are listed in the Ethics the goods of the powers (among which are the virtues of the character and the mind), and no mention is made of these in this place.
REPLY You err, for the powers are referred to among the things that are in the spirit, and they are said to be neither goods nor evils of the spirit because neither by them nor by the passions are we denominated either good or bad, as the philosopher teaches in that place. If you urge that they are said to be good in the sense that the soul itself in its superior head is said to be good, since the first powers of the soul are said to be one with it, as the philosopher teaches in the De Anima, I reply that they are then indeed said to be goods and the same to be internal goods, but they are not external goods, which alone are what is being dealt with in this place.
OBJECTION Virtue and prudence do not differ by nature, since prudence is a species of virtue; but the members of a division ought to be opposites; therefore this division of goods of the soul into virtue and prudence is not rightly made.
REPLY Prudence is a species of virtue that is located in the mind and not in the appetite or will, and thus it is diverse and distinct from moral virtue, which is what the philosopher means here. Or, if it please, I reply that in divisions of accidents the opposition of the things is not required to be at its greatest, provided they differ in office, use, and end, as these do clearly differ among themselves, since each one of them is directed to diverse and distinct offices.
5. OBJECTION Pleasure is not at all a good; therefore it is not a good of the spirit. The antecedent is found in Aristotle’s Ethics, Books II and VII, where he proves that no passion – and pleasure is mentioned by name – is good. Besides, pleasure, since it is a passion in the appetite, is not in that part of the spirit whose goods are here being divided.
REPLY Pleasure is taken in two ways: either intrinsically, and thus it is a passion of the spirit that is generated along with virtue and is nourished by the actions of the same; or extrinsically, and thus it is a sensible passion that reaches its term in the senses and the appetite. The former is always the companion of virtue, but the latter is a beast and an associate of the vices which, unless it be held back by the reins of virtue, always bursts forth into evil and carries one off into the vices’ contagion. What need of more? The former pleasure is something good and a cause of good, and is here rightly placed among the goods of the spirit.
HE division of good and of end is followed by a discussion, not unknown to students of moral philosophy, of the best good and end, that is of felicity, and to the effect whether felicity consists in the action of virtue alone and is therefore seated in the most worthy part of the spirit as in a high citadel not vulnerable to the rocks cast by fortune. Let me touch on the whole matter in a word.
2. The spirit (as the philosopher here teaches) is, as it were, an artisan, and virtue in it is as its work; but as an artisan can adapt himself to more things than to the work which he makes, so the spirit can turn itself not only to virtue but also to things contrary and repugnant to virtue. It is indeed able of itself to live, to vegetate, to move, to understand, but without virtue it cannot at all live well. Besides, since to live and to act well are, we say, nothing other than to be blessed, it is certain that felicity lives in the action of virtue alone and not in idle habit or contemplation of mind. Infants, therefore, and children and inexperienced youths, who have scarcely yet reached the thresholds of virtue, cannot really be blessed; for felicity offers itself only to those who are perfected in age, judgment, and life.
3. Lastly, not only is it perfect action but perpetual action, and that in a perfect life. It is perpetual, therefore it is required that the subject of the same not be sleeping but be always revolving in circles, with the heaven, about virtue’s most stable center. This subject is as a star of heaven, namely the human mind, which, being of its nature divine, is never idle, never sleeping. But the nutritive soul and the other powers of the soul perish without sleep and alternating rest, and, just as the philosopher here in the text concludes, cannot be blessed nor do they themselves make blessed. With these things about felicity in place, he insinuates, no otherwise than in the Ethics, that the subject of virtue is appetite. But by appetite we understand here, as there, the will. For moral virtue is present inchoately in appetite but perfectly in the will. For the gem of reason, as virtue is, resides in the citadel of the mind and not in the cave of appetite.
4. OBJECTION Between theoretical felicity and practical felicity there is this difference, that the former remains always and the latter not always; therefore it is vain to require that it be perpetual for the latter and in an immortal subject.
REPLY Active and theoretical felicity do not differ in their essence but in their mode. Therefore, although active felicity, as regards the transient act, ceases (since a man blessed dies), nevertheless as regards the immanent action it remains perpetually.
OB JECTION A sleeper does not cease to be happy; for sleep is not the tying up or privation of virtue but of the senses; therefore the philosopher teaches badly that sleepers cannot be blessed.
REPLY Badly indeed do you interpret the text; of course neither here nor in the Ethics does he deny felicity to sleepers; but he shows this fact, that felicity could not lie in those faculties of the spirit that death and sleep can oppress and overtake, such as are all the irrational powers of the soul, which are restored by sleep; but the part in which felicity lives is always awake.
S mention has been made of the soul, in whose powers and parts the virtues and their perfection, felicity, is seated, here the philosopher suitably divides the same into two parts, namely into the rational and what has no share of reason. In the former the virtues of the mind are located, and in the latter the virtues of morals. On the virtues of the mind per se no praise is bestowed, but on the virtues of morals praise is bestowed as their proper wages. Hence, lest we lose this praise and reward of virtue, he brings caution and advice to bear lest, when we have once acquired virtue, we should fall away to this or that side. For as, he says, the strength of the body languishes by too much exercise and labor of the same, and again, as health fails from too much drinking and gorging (as is the case with many today) or from long abstinence (as is the case with very few today), so the virtues of morals are corrupted by excess and deficiency, but are preserved by a moderate use. For example, if someone is so fearless as not to fear God, he is not brave but mad; but if, on the contrary, he is so fearful as to fear everything, he is not called brave but cowardly and mean.
2. OBJECTION In the end of the first book of the Ethics the philosopher has these words: we praise, he says, the wise man; and again near the end of this book, he concludes that the prudent are to be praised, because prudence is a virtue; therefore it is not wise or prudent of him to deny that very thing in this place.
REPLY The virtues of the mind, to which the philosopher here denies praise, are considered in two ways: either for the strength and powers of the spirit, by which Man is more disposed to the use of reason, and in this way they are not laudable; or for the habits of the mind that are acquired, not by the force of nature, but by study, and in this way they are praised in their own right; not per se, however, but insofar as they are joined with the virtues of morals, which alone make us good and laudable.
3.OBJECTION Each and every virtue of the mind is numbered in the text, namely art, science, skill, prudence, and wisdom; it is probable, therefore, that the habits of the spirit and not the powers are to be understood.
REPLY Pay attention to the fact that they are not called in the text by the same names as you use; for there the names are more of powers than acts, more of disposition than of habit, as prudence, wisdom, ingenuity, docility, and memory. But neither in this way nor in that are the virtues of the mind per se and by their own force much praised.
4. OBJECTION Wisdom, prudence, and the other virtues of the mind are in the more divine part of the spirit, and concern a more divine matter or subject and are referred to a more noble end than the moral virtues: therefore it is very absurd, what you say, that these virtues per se and by their own force merit no praise. The antecedent is clear from the comparison of the virtues of each kind. For the virtues of the mind have as their subject the part of the spirit possessed of reason, but the virtues of morals the part of the spirit that is altogether lacking in reason. Again, the virtues of the mind claim as their proper object eternal truth, and the virtues of morals the unstable good of fortune, as courage danger, liberality money, magnificence command; all of which are no more quickly prominent in the fortunate than they perish with the unfortunate. Lastly, the virtues of the mind are referred to theoretical felicity (which never fails), but the virtues of the morals to active felicity (which quickly fails).
5. Praise is twofold, divine and human; the former is by right due to the virtues of the mind (if they are perfect and are present in someone absolutely), but human praise, which is alone being dealt with here (and which is nothing other than the due reverence of the people bestowed on someone who is living well), is not due per se and by its own force. For the people do not praise men because of great wisdom but because of living rightly. Therefore the divinity of the subject or object or end, which the virtues of the mind deal with, does not make the prudent or wise to be good, but only the action of moral virtue provides that. And, to conclude briefly, although what you object be true, namely that that part of the soul in which the virtues of morals are present lacks reason, nevertheless it lacks it in such a way that it listens to reason like an obedient daughter and carries out the commands of prudence. What you add about fortune’s changeable goods is nothing and counts against itself. For it is matter of greater praise to hold back fortune than to conquer when no one is fighting against you. But the virtues of the mind have no commerce with the reefs and moods of fortune; but the moral virtues are always waging war against them.
6. OBJECTION Prudence awards praise to the individual actions of the virtues, and it determines how much praise each one of them deserves; the philosopher therefore seems to be unjust in not adorning the prudent with praise.
REPLY Prudence is considered in two ways: either for the habit of prescribing the circumstances, the moderation, the affection in the actions of virtues, and thus it is moral and does indeed merit praise; or only for right reason in discerning the true from the false, and thus it is simply a virtue of the mind, and does not per se make claim to praise.
N this chapter the philosopher teaches three things which were sufficiently demonstrated in the Ethics, namely that the virtue of morals is concerned with pleasure and pain, that the same is not acquired easily but with difficulty, and that hence it is in no way in us or conceded to us by nature. The first is evident, because nothing invades the camp of virtue more or more strongly than the passions; it is necessary therefore for virtue to fortify itself vigorously so that it may repel all the affections of the mind and subjugate them to itself for the use of life and of the city. The second Aristotle affirms from the name itself of this science. For the Greeks derived “morals” from mora or “delay” because the acquisition of virtue requires a long delay and great industry. The last one the philosopher concludes by reason and examples, because what is present within us by nature cannot be habituated otherwise, as you may never teach stones to fly upwards nor fire downwards by their own force, because nature has given the contrary to each in their origin; but the virtues can be disposed otherwise and are often changed into the contrary vices; therefore virtues are not present within by nature.
2. OBJECTION Pleasure and pain are not the principles or the subjects or the objects or the ends of the virtues; therefore the virtues are not concerned with them. The antecedent is proved because the principles of the virtues are the powers of the soul; the subjects are the mind and the will; the objects are the external things of the body and of fortune; the ends are perpetual action or abiding contemplation of the truth.
REPLY Pleasure and pain are not the proper but the common objects of the virtues, under which other affections, as hope and fear, are contained. But these two alone are mentioned because either pleasure or pain follows every moral action.
OBJECTION Pleasure is the proper object of continence; therefore it is not the common object of all the virtues. Besides, pleasure is a vice because it makes men vicious; but vice is opposite to virtue; therefore it is not the object of virtue.
REPLY Pleasure when formally taken for the effusion of the mind in the enjoyment or expectation of good is not the object of continence; but when pleasure is caught in material way from the enjoyable things perceived by taste it is said to be its proper object. To the second part of the argument I say that pleasure taken for lust is a vice, but taken for an affection or stimulus to evil it is not a vice, nor does it make people vicious.
O reach a surer way and reason of rightly defining virtue, it repays effort to touch in a few words upon the things that are in the mind, so that from them some elements may be culled whereby more accurately to define virtue. As the philosopher here teaches, therefore, there are in the mind three things, affections, powers, habits. Affections can be defined as natural motions or passions of the mind whereby we are impelled as by goads to good and bad; to good if we follow the moderating influence of reason, to bad if we follow the delight of the senses. Such are hope, fear, pleasure, pain, hatred, love, shame, impudence, and similar things. Powers are the natural faculties of the mind, whereby as by little flames we are made prone and docile to good or bad. But more so to good, because these powers are the seeds of virtues and because the good itself is the proper object of the will towards which it is borne by the force of its own nature; when corrupted, however, it often inclines to bad and is infected with a taste for bad and is choked by an immoderate appetite for the same. Habits, finally, are endowments and qualities of the mind acquired through many actions. Now when comparison is made, virtue is not an affection, and it is not a power; therefore virtue is defined as a habit. It is not an affection or a power because it is not given by nature; it is therefore a habit because it is acquired.
2. OBJECTION Affections in this chapter are said to be praiseworthy; therefore the virtues can be defined through affection.
REPLY Certain affections are said to be praiseworthy because of an imitation and likeness of virtue not because they are so per se, but because by reason of virtue (which they serve as footmen) they attain the shadow of praise, as shame, friendliness, and other measured affections cognate to these, to which other affections are opposed as vices to virtues.
OBJECTION Affections and powers are as it were the goads and stimuli whether to good or bad; therefore they do not seem to be sufficiently distinguished and separated by their definitions.
REPLY Affection is defined through the motion and power by the inclination and the name of power. In affection there is the flame, in power the tinder. For affection is a certain act but power a disposition, and is said to be (so that I may speak with the ancients) an hability, an aptitude, for action. When I say action I mean inchoate action not perfect action. For this is how Aristotle defines motion in the Physics.
Is there any moderation in the excess and deficiency of extreme affections?
O as to give a still better definition of virtue, the philosopher distinguishes habit into good and bad. Good habit is defined as what in moderating the passions turns itself neither to excess nor to deficiency. Hence the mean is born, that golden rule and form of virtue, whence now virtue can rightly be defined as a good habit of will consisting in a mean, whose inseparable companion is praise and whose end is beatitude. To this the philosopher adds that there are certain affections so fierce and ferocious that no one among the wise should seek for either excess or deficiency in them. Such are inveterate hatred, fury, impudence. But Aristotle’s example in the text is a most foul stain on life and reputation, namely adultery, for which, as he here says, no moderating exists or can be found. For whether the adulterer has subdued a noble woman or a woman of low condition, he is called an adulterer no less with the one than with the other. He is a monster in both cases, who has violated the bond, the unity, the compact of nature. There is no prayer for an adulterer, no excuse of adultery, no moderating of the crime. The foul pleasure has infected the world, lust fans the flames, license of life has made a conflagration; nothing therefore is now left save the conflagration. But here let me restrain myself, lest I name the conflagration of Gehenna.
Affections are either:
Moderated, in which there can be excess or defect.
Extreme, and these are considered in a twofold way, either:
As regards the disposition or motion in them, and thus they can have an excess and a defect.
s regards the action born from their violence, and thus there is no moderation of excess and defect in them, as is discerned in the case of adultery, theft, and murder.
OBJECTION Sins are not equal according to Aristotle; therefore extreme affections, materially taken for adultery, theft, murder, and other evil deeds, can have an excess and defect.
REPLY The deeds in which extreme affections erupt, like adultery, to which inhuman lust gives birth, and murder, in which fierce envy ends, these deeds, I say, can be considered in two ways; either per se in the nature of the evil which is committed, and thus the excess and defect have no moderation; or per accidens with respect to the place, the person, and other circumstances, and thus the balance weighed by justice admits of intension or remission.
3. OBJECTION Adultery and many other vices are themselves excesses; therefore they cannot have an excess. For extremes in the same genus are not surpassed by another extreme.
REPLY It is true that they cannot be surpassed in the same genus. But if they are compared with others, they can receive a more and less.
N the Ethics it is sufficiently noted that virtue is enclosed on each side by two extremes, and that the same can be opposed to one of them more than to the other. This is how fortitude is between fear and daring; how liberality is between prodigality and avarice; how all the other virtues hang in the middle between their extremes like the points of circles. But to this middle now excess and now defect, whether by its nature or in respect of customs and our infirmity, is more opposed. Thus avarice by its own nature is more opposed to liberality than prodigality is, since the reduction of the former to the mean is more difficult than of the later un respect of customs and our infirmity. In this way the vice toward which, either by custom of life or infirmity of our nature, we are more prone is always to be held more dangerous to virtue, and thus sometimes the vice which by nature is less repugnant to virtue is more opposed to the same in respect of us. Hence the philosopher infers the conclusion that it is very difficult to be virtuous, first by comparison had of our proneness to evil, then by reason posited of the extremes and of the evil affections by which the journey towards virtue is rendered long and arduous, and finally because to find the middle or target in any art attaches only to the wise. This fact the philosopher shows by the likeness of the center and the circle in geometry. Besides, notwithstanding these impediments, he here defends, against Socrates, the view that the virtues and affections for the same are placed in our power. For otherwise, as he teaches, legislators would be unjust to inflict punishment on the many and by rewards to entice citizens to virtue.
2. OBJECTION Virtue is said to be a mean and an equal with respect to the vices; therefore one of the extremes is not more opposed to it than the other. The antecedent is from Aristotle’s Ethics, 2 and 5.
REPLY Virtue is a mean or an equality of proportion not of weight; it is geometrical, as they say, and not arithmetical, as we taught in the Ethics.
OBJECTION Respect does not change the nature of opposed things; therefore the respect of customs or of our infirmity does not make things that are opposed to each other by their own force to differ in more or less. The antecedent is evident, because respect only changes the essence in things relative, not in things absolute, as are the extremes that are opposed to the virtues.
REPLY Respect here does not change indeed the essence of the extremes but the reason and manner in rejecting evil and in acquiring good. Thus there is no change in the essence of the things but a greater or lesser opposition in relation to the customs and infirmity of life which render now these and now those vices familiar to us.
join these two chapters for two reasons; one is that the first of them cannot be rightly understood without the second; the other is that what is handled in each was treated at the end of the preceding chapter against Socrates. The matter of each is that axiom of the Peripatetics: our being good or bad is placed in our power. This whole thing is treated physically and mathematically in this first chapter and in this way. Every physical substance is a productive cause of what is like it in the same species, as is evident in plants and animals. For a certain force is innate in females committed to earth of procreating a plant similar in species, and among animals a lion generates a lion and a man a man. The philosopher adds to this axiom that a physical thing does not just produce a thing similar in species but also a partner and associate of all its properties. For nature is magnificent and, when pregnant, does not only produce daughters, that is, effects, but also freely concedes to them her own endowments, powers, and properties. Thus nature is a mother to all and a stepmother to none. The philosopher proves this very thing with geometrical examples, where some things are disposed as principles and others as effects. For example the triangle is a principle and a quadrangle an effect. As therefore a triangle has the sum of its angles equal to two right angles, so a quadrangle also has its angles equal to four right angles. What is the point of all this? So that you may understand what is said in the eleventh chapter through a comparison of natural and moral things. For up to this point we have spoken of what is dealt with in the tenth chapter. You see now proved this aphorism of the philosophers, that each thing is born to produce a thing cognate to itself and alike in species. So, therefore, let it be that a man produces a man; this man (an excellent work of nature) is defined as an animal capable of reason. As thus defined a man does not sleep in idleness; he is born indeed to act.
2. Wherefore, as from certain principles and causes he is naturally fit to procreate an essential image of himself in substance, so is it morally necessary that he be author and principle of his own actions which are produced by his choice and purpose. Otherwise, to what purpose was mind given to Man? To what purpose will? To what purpose other divine faculties and active powers replete with actions to women? What? Are they to be causes and not produce anything? Or mothers and not give birth? ’Tis certainly a thing impossible to happen. Mind therefore and will are principles of action in Man, and Man himself, that I may speak along with Aristotle, is author and cause of actions. Wherefore the philosopher concludes that it is fixed in Man to become good or bad by his actions. Surely he sits at the helm of the ship, and is free to dash against the rocks or sail into the port of happiness.
The principle of actions is twofold, either:
Divine and this only God is, on whom all other second causes of things and actions depend.
Human, which is either:
Internal, which is either:
Remote. as the soul itself in its substance..
Proximate, as the will and intellect, which are parts of the soul.
External, which is either:
Common, as deliberation abnout what to do.
Personal, as choice of the better.
OBJECTION No mention is made of Man in this distinction; therefore it regards not the question in which it is asked whether Man is principle of his actions.
REPLY Although there is no express mention of man, yet man is naturally understood under all these headings, but especially under the name of the human soul which is the form of Man. For Man is said to be principle of his actions in accord with his soul.
4. OBJECTION Aristotle never laid down that God was cause and author of our actions; therefore it is idle in this distinction to imagine this cause.
REPLY You err, for he very often does this, as in Physics, Book VIII, where he calls God the first, eternal, and infinite mover, because he moves everything always easily and powerfully; and in the last three Books of the Metaphysics, where he calls God one, immense, inifinite, being of beings, on whom all the essences of everything depend, and in whom, as he says, all things are moved. I say nothing here about the book De Mundo, where the philosopher speaks in a religious manner of God.
OBJECTION If Man is a free principle of his actions then each can truly say this, “It is in my power to be just, therefore I want to be the most just; similarly I want to be the most prudent; I wish to be the best.” But it is absurd to say this, as Aristotle says in the text, because thus is it not given to each man. Therefore it cannot be that he is a free principle of his actions.
REPLY Aristotle responds to this argument in the text with a certain similitude like this: as a beautiful constitution of body is given to someone which he can for a time preserve by correct exercise, yet he cannot, when he wishes, always make the same to be the most beautiful, because from the beginning of his constitution something may have been lacking to prevent it being such; so although someone might propose to himself to be the most just or the most prudent, yet often he falls away from his hope, opinion, and proposal, because something was perhaps lacking in his very beginning to prevent him reaching so great perfection. For as in order to make a field or an intelligence most fertile there is required not only the work and industry of man but also fertility of soil and fruitfulness of intelligence, so in order to make us excellent in justice or prudence there is required a natural propensity for virtue over and above our eagerness.
5. OBJECTION This similitude does not hold in the text. For the principles and properties of the best constitution of health or of beauty are not in our power, but the principles of the virtues and of our actions are in our power, as the philosopher here proves; therefore this response is not valid. The antecedent is proved, because the principles of human constitution and health and beauty are natural and do not follow the bidding of the will or the command of the mind. But the principles of moral actions are the mind, will, deliberation, choice, as we taught above, all which things are subject to the scepter and command of Man.
REPLY There is something in what you urge, but notice that here by the impediments that very often hold us back from the perfection and virtue and of our will Aristotle understands certain natural weaknesses and infirmities of the body which the ancients are accustomed to call indispositions. These are, I say, in many people as troubles and clouds which impede the mind and will from enjoying what they wish in the best state of virtue and from attaining that perfection whither, by rising up, as is said, on both wings, they were to direct their flight.
HESE two chapters cohere like the two preceding and have one field and matter, which matter, more richly treated of, certainly brings more light to the question just disputed (about the actions that are located in our power). For in the first of these two chapters there is question about the actions of desire, and in the second about the actions of anger and fury, whether both the former and the latter are voluntary, as the actions of the virtues were before defined to be. The philosopher confirms that not only are the actions of those affections indeed voluntary but also (in my opinion indeed) the actions of all affections, since the affections and passions of the soul are subject to the command of mind and will. Thus no mortal can rightly defend himself and his shameful and wicked deeds because an impulse of fate or necessity made him evil, since the serpents of corrupt nature can be suffocated by reason in their eggs, as it were, and the tinder of sin suppressed by reason lest it burst out in flames.
2. The voluntary is here defined as all that we do when we are neither compelled by force nor are ignorant. But a more open statement must be made of this matter. It is certain that we are borne by some sort of appetite to everything that we do. But appetite is divided into three kinds, desire, anger, will. First to be considered is action done through desire, whether it is of the number of those things that are done voluntarily. The philosopher concludes that they are and gives the cause: since the things that are not done by us voluntarily but unwillingly are all done by us as compelled by force, yet on the things that are done by us through force or necessity, our spirit resisting, pain and sadness follow, while what happens by desire has an undivided will as its companion, therefore what we do by desire we do not do by force but voluntarily, not by necessity of fate but by free will. The philosopher concludes this chapter therefore and says that the incontinent and the intemperate have no excuse however much they think that they did the pleasant evil thing being overcome and impelled by their desires. Besides, he says, the incontinent are unjust and inflict injury on nature, city, and conjugal unity. But injury is defined as voluntary harm. The incontinent therefore do not sin by force or necessity but voluntarily. Oh great infirmity and blind ignorance of human nature, when so many Aegistheus’ and so many Phaedras live everywhere on fire with the torches of that desire! This response of Medea does not excuse her:
I see the better and approve it, but I follow the worse.
Nor this response to her nurse by Phaedra, wife of Theseus, burning with mad love for Hippolytus:
What you say I know to be true, nurse, but fury compels me to follow the worse; spirit, though knowing, returns and comes back headlong, in vain sane counsels desiring.
It is not so, Phaedra; it is not so. For the instructor of nature here teaches you that your desire is in your power and that your illicit and foul loves do not come from impulse or necessity but from corrupted will.
3.The second chapter follows, in which an objection from certain philosophers against this opinion about the actions of the incontinent is first opposed. The objection is this. The continent act voluntarily because praise follows their actions; therefore the incontinent do not act voluntarily. For of contraries there is a contrary account. And again, the principles in the actions of the continent and incontinent are contrary, namely right reason and concupiscence; therefore if the continent acts voluntarily the incontinent acts involuntarily. Lastly no one who knows evil does it except involuntarily; the incontinent does evil knowingly, according to this line of the comic poet:
Knowingly and willingly put I my hand in the flame.
Therefore the incontinent acts involuntarily and not voluntarily. Similar things, says Aristotle, can be said about anger and pleasure. Wherefore he omits other precepts about these things and we too, in imitation of his example, omit them, adding this only, that by desire, anger, and pleasure we understand not only these affections of the soul but also all the interior powers, but especially appetite, which is divided into the concupiscible, the irascible, and rational force and power, under which, in my opinion to be sure, all the other passions and motions are contained.
The actions that happen by the impetus of affection are proved to be voluntary, either by:
The internal cause of all actions, by the human soul that is, to whose command the remaining powers and their actions are subject.
Their effects, because these sorts of actions are repaid either with punishment or reward, which would certainly not be the case if they were not voluntary.
The examples of the incontinent and furious who inflict injury on others, which injury is a voluntary harming of others.
By absurdity, since otherwise there would be a necessity of fate to commit sin, as often as furious passion of spirit pushes us into shameful deeds.
5. OBJECTION Appetite is an irrational part of the spirit, therefore this part is badly divided into a concupiscible, irascible, and rational part; since the members are not convertible with the division in this way.
REPLY Appetite is indeed of its essence without reason, but in man it is made, through participation, capable of reason, and thus it is said to be sensitive will, which has light and reason from the intellect.
OBJECTION The philosopher concedes that often the divine parts of the soul, namely mind and the intellective will, are overcome by the appetite, the irrational part, and by the furies and affections of the same; therefore if mortals then commit some wickedness, let them say that they did it by force and necessity and not voluntarily or by free will. For whatever we do when overcome we do unwillingly and under compulsion.
REPLY This very thing the philosopher does not concede, nor do reason or philosophy. For mind and will cannot be overcome or laid prostrate unless we will. For they are by their own force and nature the incorporeal, divine, immortal parts of the soul, which easily quell the impetus and the darts of all the affections. Besides, it often happens, when they are in this mortal locus of the body, that they permit themselves to be infected and wounded by the poison and stings of those serpents, and, thus infected and wounded, they rush into the Scylla and Charybdis of evils and that not by force, not by fate, but by their calm and corrupted will.
6. OBJECTION No one does evil knowing it to be evil, as no one desires evil knowing it to be evil; but the incontinent knowingly does both; therefore some reason of desire is violent and not voluntary.
REPLY Pleasure always follows on desire, if you indulge it; therefore the action of desire, as the philosopher replies, is voluntary. For that reason one can sometimes do evil knowingly, because experience teaches that very many know indeed that they should not indulge pleasures, that injuries are not to be inflicted, and yet how many learned men are there who live in pleasure and luxury? Rather how many who glory in their wickedness and iniquity, not mindful of the fact that those who know the will of the Lord and do it not will be beaten with many stripes?
OBJECTION The continent act willingly; therefore the incontinent act unwillingly. Besides the continent and incontinent follow contrary principles of acting, reason and desire; therefore if the continent acts willingly, the incontinent acts unwillingly, because there is of contraries a contrary account.
REPLY To each argument taken from the text I reply together and once, namely that a contrary account for contraries does not always happen in everything. For thus it could be agrued in the same way that the workings of the virtues are not voluntary, because they are themselves true contraries between themselves. Therefore contraries have contrary workings as far as nature is concerned, but do not always have contrary workings as far as the disciplines are concerned. And, so as more fully to satisfy this reasoning, we deny that continence and incontinence and their principles are true contraries, that is opposites, which is where this axiom from the Topics has per se its principal place.
HESE two chapters I have rightly joined, both because they are brief and because they treat of one matter; since in both the violent and necessary are dealt with (so as to make intelligible the more exact account of the voluntary). Force and violence, as the philosopher teaches here, have place both in things that lack soul and in things with soul. Thus fire is sometimes by force taken downward and thus a stone sometimes upward; thus a horse is turned aside by the reins, and slowed down in its course by the hand of the rider. Any mortal things that act, therefore, against their nature and against their will, being impelled indeed by violent motion, are not willingly acted on. For violence, if you define it, is nothing other than the force of an exterior cause whereby movable things are impelled to action against their nature or their natural appetite. All things, therefore, that have in themselves an interior moving and efficient cause of their actions are not moved by violent motion. Indeed, those who act in part compelled by external force and in part persuaded and induced by an internal moving cause are said to act willingly and not unwillingly, just like sailors who not unwillingly cast away their goods in a storm from fear that the ship will perish. Here I add that those actions are not violent which happen when an external cause is assisting nature or cooperating with a natural and internal cause, as when someone supports a little boy with his hand and teaches him to walk or when someone removes an impediment to natural motion.
2. I will proceed to the next chapter in which the necessary is dealt with. I will solve everything in a word. Necessity is double, absolute and conditioned. The former is simple and the latter is said in part or in a certain respect. The former receives force from an external impelling cause, the latter has regard to an internal and external cause of action, and makes that action itself to be neither simply violent nor simply voluntary but mixed, which many call involuntary.
OBJECTION Natural actions are sometimes violent, therefore violent action is not always opposed to natural. The antecedent is proved by Book VII of the Physics, where the philosopher teaches that all natural things are moved extrinsically by something else that moves them; but the motion of things is defined as natural action.
REPLY Sufficient answer was made to this argument when we said that a motion or action is not violent if an external cause aids the internal cause of the thing. But every natural thing has an internal cause of its motion, which is aided by the external mover or principle or medium or instinct quality.
3. OBJECTION The rotation or revolution of the heavens is both violent and natural; therefore one of these actions is not opposed to the other. It is violent because each lower sphere is carried against nature by the force of the higher sphere. It is also natural because its revolving or turning in such a way about the center agrees with it by nature.
REPLY You are rolling the same stone and pay too little attention to the fact that there is in the heaven an internal cause of motion which is aided by an external moving cause. Besides, to satisfy you more truly, there is not here the same respect, since the motion of the heaven is not properly the action of the heaven and since the external force of the mover is not opposed to the internal faculty of the moved thing.
OBJECTION To resist the beauty of Venus and the pleasure of Mars is very difficult; it is not marvelous, therefore, if many truly say they sometimes sin by necessity, since it is when overcome by pleasure that they violate another’s bed, as held in the text.
REPLY You jest, or you do not see that difficulty does not impose necessity. For although it be very difficult to be virtuous or to resist pleasure, yet for the willing this difficulty makes for great praise and victory.
very beautiful distinction of the involuntary is delivered in this chapter and a very easy demonstration of the term by an example. This is indeed rightly done by the philosopher (as is everything), so that a picture of all human actions graphically depicted might hang before our eyes in which, as in a mirror, the wise may gaze at the theater of the world and the various actions of mortals therein, some of whom delight in tragedies and some in comedies. But, lest I cling too long to words, the involuntary is divided into three modes: according to necessity, when something is done because necessity impels the action so that a greater evil may be avoided – thus a sailor throws his merchandise into the sea; according to violence, when someone does something impelled by force – thus a thief is drawn unwillingly to jail, to chains, to the gallows; according to ignorance, when someone, by doing something, does that which he had not by premeditation decided to do – thus while throwing often a javelin at a target one by chance kills a man. But there is another example in the text of this last type, about a certain woman who gave a love potion to her friend so that she might draw him more strongly to her love. But when, after he had drunk it, she perceived that her friend had expired as if having received a lethal poison, she fled to the Areopagus, and, after being there apprehended and examined, she was released from sentence, judgment, and fear of death by the wise men of the Areopagus.
2. But here a question arises, whether involuntary action always renders a man blameless of harm. Certainly it renders him so if it happen either from conditioned necessity or by force and coercion. For in these two kinds choosing to do otherwise is hard or non-existent. But yet in the last kind of involuntary action, which is through ignorance, a man is not made blameless from harm, because forethought and deliberation whether such an event might follow would have preceded; for it is not the part of a wise man, when an error has been made, to say “I had not thought about it,” especially since he is cause and author of his own ignorance, which is thereby said not to be a simple one from nature but to be gross and supine.
3. Having posited these things, the philosopher infers the definition of the spontaneous, namely that it is all that which happens by proposal and forethought of spirit: such are all the actions of the wise, who do not live for the day nor do they consider only that which lies in front of their feet.
All human actions are either:
Necessary, and these same are either:
Simply so, which happens from the push of an external moving cause.
Or conditionally, which depend on both an internal and an external cause working together.
Violent, which always have an external cause violently moving, them internal cause resisting it.
Or involuntary, which happen either:
According to necessity, as to throw merchandise into the sea..
According to violence, as when one is impelled to go to the gallows or jail.
According to ignorance, as when an arrow shot at a target tranfixes a man, and this action is properly said to be involuntary in the proper sense, but the others accidentally.
Or spontaneous, which are either:
Simply voluntary, as those that have the will as their sole principle; all such actions are called moral.
In part, though they are more nearly voluntary, as those that have partly an external impelling cause and partly the will as greatest mover.
4. OBJECTION There are certain actions of fate, with which Aristotle deals both in the Physics and in other parts of philosophy, and the same are double: either those that happen by divine providence beyond or against nature, or those that depend on nature itself, and both of these are said to be necessary, about which no mention is made in this place. Therefore this proof of actions is not complete and absolute.
REPLY It is certain and cannot be denied that there are indeed actions of fate and that the same are necessary, because they depend immediately on potent and necessary causes, God and nature. But yet, so as to respond to the argument, no mention is made of them in this place for this reason, that here only human morals are being dealt with; or, if it please, I say that that these kinds of actions too are reduced analogically to necessary actions. Certainly those actions which happen by the connection and order of natural causes have an internal moving cause, and also those which are brought about by divine power do not lose their nature of moving, as is seen in the actions of monsters and in prodigies.
5. OBJECTION Involuntary actions (which are in this place most of all being dealt with) seem to be confounded with violent and necessary actions; certainly they happen either by force or necessity; therefore this division is badly given.
REPLY Those involuntary actions are indeed sorts of necessary and violent actions but not all involuntary actions are either necessary or violent. For those are properly said to be involuntary which happen to us beyond our intention and purpose.
OBJECTION An involuntary action lacks intention of evil, as is in the text; therefore it always renders a man blameless of harm. The reason holds because intending and premeditating wickedness render people guilty of the wickedness.
REPLY A lthough there is no intention of evil in an involuntary action, there is nevertheless neglect of good, namely of deliberation and forethought whether this evil could come from this or that action. Wherefore, it is because of omission of good, not intention of evil, because of ignorance, not malice, that often one is supposed author of an involuntary action. Thus he who kills a man by chance makes shipwreck, not of the life which he involuntary took from another, but of his own affairs and resources.
T is a thing most received and approved of by all that the action of virtue must come about from choice and purpose. With purpose, therefore, and choice does the philosopher here deal, so that what each is may be more rightly understood and that our steps may be better directed in this stadium of life in which each one tends to the target of virtue and felicity and draws others to the same target and goal by the example of his running and of his fighting well against the monsters of the vices. But, alas, how few exemplars are alive today. The sky is o’erspread with clouds; we rush into Orcus. But I run.
2. Purpose can in this place be defined as a fixed and certain determination of mind that this or that come about by motion. Companion of this is choice which in this chapter is distinguished from appetite, will, and opinion. For, to sum up everything in very few words, choice is not appetite, because it belongs only to men: appetite is also in beasts. It is not will, because this is often of things impossible, for example atheists and epicureans wish to be immortal in this life: but choice is only of things which are in our power. Besides will is of the end, but choice is only of things that tend to the end: therefore choice is not will. Lastly it is not opinion or thought, because these are often of things we cannot at all pursue by choice; the example in the text is this, that rather often we turn over and consider in our spirits the things that exist among the Indians (understand, if it please, gold and gems), and we fashion many thoughts in ourselves. However none of them do we pursue by choosing, since they are not placed within our power. Choice is not therefore the mind’s thinking, nor is it opinion.
3. Come then, since choice is none of the things mentioned and discussed, appetite, will, thought, it is left that it be some apprehension of means to the end, which are rightly called the circumstances of things and of persons, such as are what, how much, for the sake of what, of what sort, who, by what, in what, when, where, and how, which circumstances are in the text called by Aristotle things surrounding and encircling, means as it were. For with these discussed and considered in spirit, that is by deliberation, at length that is established which is better and preferable, then indeed there is excited in us for doing it a certain will and appetite, and we are then rightly said, when doing it from antecedent deliberation and will, to be acting from election or choice. Choice therefore is an interior act of will brought to perfection by thought and deliberation of spirit, which, once the appropriate means are placed in our power and discussed, directs will to the end. But here one must notice and observe that the whole of what always falls under our will is not to be chosen, since indeed very many things we do voluntarily before we deliberate about doing them, as we sit down, rise up, walk about; but, that I may so speak, whatever is choosable the same must also be voluntary and willing. This fact legislators also prove, who inflict heavier penalties on those who are offenders from choice than on those who commit a crime from the impetus of some passion.
4. Why say more? Choice is concerned only with things that can be done, where to do and not to do is located in us, which can also be done in this way or another, and wherein, lastly, it is granted to assign an end and cause because of which they happen. When I name the word end, or the cause because of which, I do not mean unquestionable causes or rather trivial things, as whether the quadrangle has its angles equal to right angles, or whether the name Archicles is correctly spelt, but I mean those things which have an undecided deliberation, in which there can be not only error of mind but also error of will.
OBJECTION Aristotle says in the first book of the Ethics that happiness is choosable; therefore choice is not only of the means but also of the end.
Choice is taken in to ways::
Commonly, and thus is of means and end.
Strictly, and this it is only of means tending to an end.
5. OBJECTION About things that are in a very open way distinct no doubt ought to be raised by the philosopher whether they are the same; but choice, appetite, will, opinion are things that are in a very open way distinct; therefore there should be no doubt about them, whether they are the same.
REPLY The minor of this syllogism is false. For if you understand that in the formal sense (as they say) appetite stands for appetition of things and will for intention of mind and opinion for assent of spirit, there will be a great likeness between them; for in every choice there is appetition of a thing, intention of mind, and lastly assent of mind for that which falls under choice.
OBJECTION In the Ethics Aristotle gives less consideration to doubts about anger and concupiscence, whether choice is this one or that; wherefore either he deals with this matter there in too superfluous a manner or here in too frigid a one.
REPLY He does not deal without proper consideration either here or there. For there he does not only describe appetite itself in general but also its parts specifically, and he proves that choice is altogether not appetite, because no species that falls under appetite, namely not cupidity and not anger and not will, is called choice.
HERE is yet one medium or instrument left to be discussed whereby human actions become virtuous, namely counsel or deliberation. For in addition to appetite and will for acting there is required counsel about what is to be done and judgment of the same thing that is done, lest, entangled in error, we should seem to be losing our effort and our oil in acting. The first of these, namely counsel, is called deliberation or consultation; the second, namely judgment, is called pronouncement or conclusion about actions. For a syllogism in morals is composed of counsel as major, of choice as minor, of judgment as conclusion. For one must first deliberate, then choose what is better from what has been deliberated, and finally make a judgment both about the things deliberated and the things chosen. For as in dialectic judgment is approval of the things found out, so in this place the ultimate pronouncement of the one consulting and choosing is made of things that are subject to each.
2. Why do I linger? Counsel, teaches the philosopher in this place and in the Ethics, is not about things trivial, not about things necessary, not about things certain, not about things natural, not about things placed outside our power, not about things sensible, not about conclusions of the arts or the principles of things, but about means that are contingent and regard the end, which is what is first proposed to those consulting and is what is ultimately reached by the means chosen. I do not urge that sole example which is had in the text, to wit that counsel is not for that reason sense because sense is not free to do this or that; but counsel is free and is of those things that are for the end, not of the end itself; and hence mistakes made in consultation are about things which are directed to the end and not about the end; but the causes of error in consultation are for the most part pleasure and pain, which instill hope and fear in the spirits of those consulting.
3. To these precepts conveyed about consultation there is added, partly at the end of this chapter and partly in the next chapter following, an annexed or adjunct treatise on virtue and the honorable. Adjunct is this, that virtue is of the end itself and of those things that tend to the end; therefore, says the philosopher here, nothing is better than virtue, not simply, but for attaining the best (he means felicity). But, however, as in architecture it is not only the science itself of building that must be sought for but also other instruments must be prepared, so in moral philosophy it is not only virtue, than which nothing is better, that must be acquired but also other means and ornaments (he means the goods of the body and of fortune) whereby you may more easily attain to what is greatest in the art. A second adjunct is about the honorable, because the honorable is not only end for virtue in general, but because each singular virtue has its particular good and thing honorable, and the same is what it especially has regard to. But someone will object that things are disposed in virtue as they are in the art of painting, where praise follows him who pursues the best means; therefore virtue is praiseworthy more with respect to the means to the end than with respect to the end, to which the virtuous main is borne only by his intention. Besides if the honorable that lies hid in the habit and spirit be the end of each virtue, then certainly it will be false that the action of virtue, which makes manifest and exposes the intention of the spirit to everyone, is better than the virtue itself. To the first of these objections the response is that the likeness between virtue and the art of painting does not altogether hold; to the second that a false and deceptive conclusion is inferred; for both is it the case that the action of virtue can be better than the virtue if it is continuous, and that the virtue itself can be praiseworthy in the habit if the best choice of the honorable has preceded it.
4. OBJECTION The causes of error in choice or consultation are ignorance, and the variety of means draws the minds of those consulting off into doubtful thinking; therefore pleasure and will are not rightly assigned here as causes.
REPLY Ignorance and the variety of means are indeed proximate causes of error, but the remote and common causes are pleasure and pain, under which we also understand here the other affections. For the doubting mind is drawn hither and thither by various affections, since the means by which the end is reached are uncertain and contingent; but the means of consultation are uncertain and not certain, contingent and not necessary; indeed there is altogether no consultation about certain and necessary things.
Is virtue more solicitous about the end than about the means to the end?
5. OBJECTION Prudence is a habit of rightly prescribing means; but prudence is a virtue; therefore virtue is more solicitous about means than ends.
REPLY Although prudence prescribes the means so that the steps of the virtuous may be directed to gaining the end, yet it considers the end itself more, from which, as something fixed and definite, it first begins, and to which, by discursive reason and consultation, it tends through the means.
OBJECTION Things are disposed in virtue as they are in art; but art is more solicitous about its means and instruments than about the end, as is clear in architecture; therefore virtue too is rather about the means than the end.
REPLY I first reply that the similitude does not hold; I next also say that art regards the end more than the means, because it has its praise and perfection in the end and not in the means.
OBJECTION The philosopher denies that there is any consultation at all about ends; therefore both art and virtue ought to be more solicitous about means than about the end.
REPLY Although the end is a thing certain, as a house in architecture, felicity in moral philosophy, and although there is no consultation at all about the end and about a thing that is certain, yet the end, as the perfection of life and art, is what anything whatever is solicitously borne toward by nature; the reason is that the conservation of things is in the end and not in the means to the end.
Is the honorable the end of each virtue?
6. OBJECTION The virtue itself is honorable; therefore it is not the end of virtue; and again, the habit is honorable; but the end of virtue is action; therefore the honorable is not the end of virtue.
REPLY Every virtue is honorable but not everything honorable is virtue, as is plain in good dispositions and actions which are not themselves virtues. I respond therefore that by honorable in this place is understood either the object or the use or the proper action of virtue about them both; which action is in its general acceptation beatitude and the end of all virtues; in its particular acceptation it is said to be the good and end of each virtue; the and thus the second part of the argument is solved, where by honorable you falsely understand the habit and not the action.
Does every action and investigation and knowledge of virtue begin from the end as its beginning principle and is it resolved into the same?
7. OBJECTION End and beginning principle are distinct; therefore it is not the case that every action and investigation and knowledge of virtue begins from the end as from its beginning principle.
REPLY End and beginning principle are distinct as far as the constitution of things and the carrying out of actions is concerned, but as far as the intention of the end is concerned the beginning principle is said to be first; for it is what first draws to action.
OBJECTION The mode of knowing things moral and natural is not diverse, but the demonstration and analysis of things natural is not in a circle from the end to the end; therefore this reasoning and investigation of virtue is not to be approved of. The minor is evident, because the resolution or analysis of things natural is from the end or the conclusion to the first principles and causes, and from thence there is no retrogression.
REPLY There is not the same reason of knowing things moral and natural, because natural principles are (as they say) in being, from which there is no need that there be resolution; but moral principles and ends are only in intention, from which the first movement of acting and inquiring arises; therefore there is need that in this analysis there be retrogression.
Is the loss of possessions an object of fortitude?
ITHERTO the philosopher has been dealing with virtue in general, now he deals with the singular parts and forms of the same: and first with fortitude, which is said to be the pillar of the city, the strength of justice, the bronze gate, as it were, of all the virtues. About it, and the rest of the virtues in order, we have said enough in our books on the Ethics: I will here, therefore, use laconic brevity.
2. First, Aristotle says, it is settled that fortitude concerns fear and daring, for it is the mean of each passion. Next he shows that it does not concern every fear; for there is fear in the loss and expending of things, and the brave man is not said to be the one who has control over this; in addition the brave man does not concern fear that exceeds human nature and powers, for the brave man should fear things which he cannot resist, as the wrath of God, thunder, the force of the sea; for he who does not fear these things is to be considered mad and not brave. It remains, therefore, that the brave man is intrepid about human fear which can be borne and overcome. The popular and multiple fortitude which he distinguishes in this place according to experience, knowledge, ignorance, and passion, is a deceptive one, and by whatever common opinion it seem to be courage yet is it none in fact: for experience does not by itself make brave soldiers; for fortitude is not knowledge of danger, as Socrates said, who is here refuted. Ignorance makes those inexperienced in war pugnacious but not brave; similarly mad passion, or dread of ignominy, can draw citizens into battle, as in that line of Homer who nicely introduces a Trojan citizen speaking thus:
What further? Fortitude, the virtue placed between fear and daring, is alone true which confidently undertakes human dangers in a just cause and does not fear death, but especially not that death which a menacing enemy threatens in a just war. It is only of this fortitude that the moderated passions of the spirit, anger and indignation, are the two spurs: anger, which ought to be a frenzy brief in war, so that, when blood is hot, blood is not too long spilt, for anger should not be bloodthirsty; indignation, whereby right is exercised over the possessions and goods of the vanquished in punishment for crime.
3. OBJECTION The enemy attacks goods and possessions; the man of daring is he who does not fear; therefore he who defends them is brave; so the very expenditure of things is object of fortitude.
REPLY It is an object per accidens, by reason of the danger which can arise from the expenditure and loss of things, but it is not per se an object.
Does fortitude concern dangers placed beyond human chance and powers?
OBJECTION It is the part of a brave man to fear such dangers, as the philosopher here teaches; therefore fortitude concerns them.
REPLY It concerns such dangers in part and in a certain respect (as they say), but not absolutely and simply; for the brave man fears them but, because he cannot resist them, therefore are they not said to be properly its object.
Does fortitude rest in the reason alone without any passion of the spirit?
4. OBJECTION Fortitude is a virtue; a virtue is a habit; but a habit is moved to its end by reason alone, not passion; therefore fortitude consists, by its force and nature, in reason alone without any passion.
REPLY Fortitude is an active habit, not an infused one; it requires therefore movement and passion, so that the spirit might be stirred up to fighting and war.
Is a sudden invasion, without declaration of war, a work of true fortitude?
OBJECTION It is a work of fear; therefore it is not a work of fortitude. The antecedent is proved, because an invasion is made suddenly for fear of the enemy, lest he attack us.
REPLY A sudden invasion is not a work of fear but of fortitude, if the cause and intention of war on each side be just, nor is an invasion made solely for fear of the enemy, but to repel a threatened danger; thus trick is routed by trick and violence threatened by violence inflicted.
Are stratagems of war acts of fortitude?
5. OBJECTION A just cause is always intended in war; therefore a trick is not permitted: but stratagems of war cannot be carried out without tricks; therefore they are not to be considered as works of fortitude (which in every action observes justice).
REPLY Stratagems are not properly tricks nor connected with tricks; indeed the end of stratagems is just, as defense of life, of parents, of fatherland, of religion; stratagems, therefore, which are ingenious sophisms for seizing the enemy, not malicious ambushes, are rightly to be named deeds of true fortitude and acts of a brave man.
HE whip and unconquered mistress of base pleasure, temperance, follows next, which renders stronger than Hercules the man in whom it is, as in the saying, stronger is he who conquers himself than he who conquers the strongest walls. For the strong man conquers the enemy but the temperate man himself, and easily destroys and overthrows the ambushes of the serpent (which is reared along with us in the bowels of our nature), I mean pleasure, which to resist, as the philosopher taught before, is a thing most difficult of all. This virtue is defined as a mean between intemperance and dullness, not the dullness of nature, but that made by the habit and austerity of a Stoic life, which today is said to be the blackest swan on earth, or a non-thing, were you to look for such a defect among mortals. But I jest. Pleasure is the object of this splendid virtue, but not the pleasure of every sense; surely those delighted and captivated by images, songs, and flowers, are not said to be self-controlled, but those only who are engaged without stint and with unceasing care in moderating the pleasures and allurements of taste and touch. But those who immoderately indulge in sex and the belly (delighting their senses in eatings and drinkings ad nauseam), they are most rightly defined as being intemperate. For intemperance is the spume of Venus, the sperm of pleasure, the venom of sense, the vomit of reason, the excrement of a body stuffed beyond just measure, and if aught beyond this might be said, the disorder and Gehenna of the mind; certainly, intemperance wounds not only the body, but also reputation and spirit. Oh foul intemperate, why do you so greatly pursue your foul gullet to your own ruin, and vomit out manna and quails? To be sure, you are a agreat glutton. But beware. For glad rags are a Gehenna, and in your banquets contain the worms of the conscience.
2. Of dullness and the vice of deficiency that is opposite to temperance I say nothing here. For I do not find any stumbling-bllacks anywhere among the mortals of this world other than the adamant ones of pleasure. Tell me by all means, if you please, who among mortals so abjures taste and touch that he would not long to lick or touch the ambrosia and nectar of pleasure? Certainly not he who would rather cut off his tongue with his teeth than press himself down, womanish, on a soft harlot. For very few there are today who, though having drawn back from the gypsum-encrusted hands of Venus, would give up rather the body’s gown than virtue’s crown.
OBJECTION All the senses are windows for pleasure, by the which we live more intemperately; therefore every pleasure is the object of temperance. The antecedent is proved because the images, songs, and perfumes of Venus infect sight, hearing, smell, and move to Venus.
REPLY It is per accidens and secondarily, not per se, that these things draw to intemperance; but only the pleasure of taste and touch is per se the object with which this virtue per se deals with its own force.
Is he who flees the evil of pleasure for fear of incurring disease, ill-fame, or poverty to be considered temperate or intemperate?
3. OBJECTION To flee from evil is to turn towards virtue: if anyone, therefore, for these causes contains himself from the evil of pleasure, he is rather to be considered temperate than intemperate. For in this way, by habituation, he could become good, so that what he did before unwillingly, he now does easily, spontaneously, and by will.
REPLY Intention is said to be the proof of action and the measure of virtue. To become good, therefore, it is not enough for you to turn from evil but to flee evil with a good intention.
OBJECTION He who tempers himself for the said reasons truly does temperate things; therefore he should, by these conjugates, be named temperate.
REPLY In the same way that it is not enough, in order to be truly just, that you do just things but that you do them justly, so it is not enough, in order to become temperate, that you do temperate things, unless in addition you live temperately. For the above conjugation is in word and not in reality or in meaning, so the reasoning does not hold.
Could unfeelingness for pleasure fall within human nature?
4. OBJECTION Privation in act and power cannot exist because it is a non-thing: but this unfeelingness is a privation of pleasure in act and power: therefore it cannot fall within human nature.
REPLY This vice is not a privation simply, but in a certain respect, because of how it works. For it is not called dullness of nature because it renders a man so stupefied that he does or can feel nothing of pleasure: but it is so called because it makes him slow, like a tortoise, in moving toward pleasure; and in this way it can exist.
EST anger in the brave man become more agitated and add flames to his kindled strength, the mistress of anger, mildness herself, rightly follows in this place, which the philosopher defines to be a mean between anger in excess and slowness to anger, or absence of anger, in excess. He teaches that it is a mean or middle both from the general proposition that every virtue is a middle, and by special induction because no state not a virtue, if you go through them one by one, is defined as a mean. Then he describes the angry man who being moved on the slightest occasions or on none at all, without any consideration of the circumstances, burns on sight at anyone. His furious daughters are envy, hate, insult, slander, malice, and other furies, by which men are often scourged; but mildness, most friendly to human nature, extinguishes the torches of those furies and turns back their onset; for mildness is the curb of anger which, when mortals use, they are, from that very humanity, truly named human beings: the more therefore that men turn aside from that virtue the less are they to be called men. But oh, the iron age of the world, in which so many men, bewitched by Circe’s potions, are turned into the most savage wolves, bears, and lions! Cannibals we are, to be sure, and fatten ourselves on human blood. Everywhere well up the wounds of anger and furor, which by this medicine alone, namely mildness, are able to be cured.
2. About slowness to anger (which is the vice of deficiency opposed to mildness) what should I say in this place, since among mortals are found very few or almost none who with leaden feet to anger and revenge do come? Nevertheless this slowness has a definition. It is a certain absence of anger whereby we are provoked more slowly than we should be to a just anger. Rarely indeed does the double-edged sword of anger, blunted, fall without wound and without revenge from the hand of the enraged man.
OBJECTION These things are passions, therefore they are not vices. The antecedent is clear, because anger and its opposite are listed by Aristotle himself among the passions. The argument is valid because we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions.
REPLY By anger and its deficiency we understand, not passions, but vices combined with passions, for which apt names are wanting.
Can he who exacts revenge be said to be mild?
3. OBJECTION Revenge is the wound and effect of anger, therefore he who exacts revenge cannot be said to be humane and mild.
REPLY Revenge without justice and equity is the wound and effect of anger, but if it be exacted for correction of life and with love of the person, then is it said to be, as it were, the left hand of mildness. For mildness with its right hand comforts wounds, and with its left draws the criminal gently to virtue, just as devout parents sometimes beat their children whom yet they greatly love: so the mild seem sometimes to be more severe in avenging crime although, however, they remain always most humane without hatred of persons.
HE vehement thirst for gold (with which the world now seethes) certainly requires a cure, but no cure more salutary can be given than liberality, about which the philosopher disputes in these two chapters that now follow. For liberality is prodigality’s curb, greed’s loss, poverty’s consolation, the city’s refuge, for it often gives, very rarely receives, drives off into perpetual exile by its marvelous visage and command the dried up and the extravagant. Why say more? Aristotle concludes everything in very few words: liberality, he says, is a mean between prodigality and avarice; prodigality has no bottom because it pours out everything, avarice piles up purse on purse, treasure on treasure; for prodigality is the pouring out of things and the vice opposite by excess to liberality; avarice is, so to speak, the whirlpool and Charybdis of things, and the vice opposite by defect to liberality. The daughters and species of that monster are the four named in the text, whose sons are said to be penny-pinchers, cumin-plitters, pimps, and peddlers of trash. Penny-pinchers are dried-up and tenacious misers who snatch everything for themselves and do nothing good until they themselves are snatched off either to the gibbet or the grave or (not to say anything worse) to the infernal region with Dives. Splitters of cumin are those who service themselves with the wretchedest and least things, and would rather cut the same into parts than lay out anything for the use of others. Pimps and usurers, the odium of God and men, are named in the third place who with prodigal hand seize on base gain and profit, but who are greedy, because they go on greedily and deceitfully seizing others’ goods. Last of all the peddlers of trash and lying merchants are greedy because they lay out cheap wares for a great price so as altogether to deceive unwary buyers.
2. Having laid down these things the philosopher concludes to that famous maxim that evil is infinite but good is simple, single, and alone. For as in medicine health is one but the plagues and diseases that injure the workings of nature are a thousand, so in human life virtue is simple but the vices whereby we are hindered in the study of virtue are infinite. Finally he concludes both chapters with this question: whether it is permitted to the liberal man to earn and collect the monies with the expending of which he is always concerned. He replies that it is not permitted, for as it is not the job of the brave man to fashion his arms and instruments of war but to use them already fashioned, so it is not the work of the liberal man to earn his monies but to put the same to a just and honest use.
3. OBJECTION The receiving of money is an act either of necessity or of avarice, so no one is called liberal when he earns, certainly no one earns unless either compelled by necessity because of deficiency or moved by desire because of appetite, which could not be quenched by a Nile of riches.
REPLY No passage of time takes away the nature of liberality in the way that the light of the sun is sometime covered by night; so, while the liberal man is earning, the use of his liberality is darkened but is not taken away, because this act is not contrary to liberality, since if he never received he would be a parched and dried-up spring.
Is the desire for money more an object of avarice than money itself?
4.OBJECTION The miser sins more in his desire for money than in the money itself once acquired and kept, so the desire for money is more his object than money itself. The antecedent is proved, because the vice is not in the miser’s money but in his appetite.
REPLY Although the miser sin more in his desire for money than in the money itself once kept, yet it is less his object because that is said properly to be the object with which something is concerned externally. As therefore external color and not the power of seeing is properly the object of sight, so money and not the desire for money is properly the object of avarice or illiberality. Others reply to this objection that money is the extrinsic and mediate object of avarice but desire the internal and proximate object.
Is defect in giving and excess in receiving the only species of avarice?
OBJECTION Other species are dealt with in the text, therefore these do not seem to be its species. Besides avarice is itself an excess in receiving, so excess is not a species of it.
REPLY The other species in the text are reduced to these, and avarice is more truly said to be the vice in excess itself than excess.\
WO virtues follow that are very akin to fortitude and liberality, to wit magnanimity and magnificence, which can rightly be named great fortitude and great liberality. I will, therefore, use Laconic brevity in demonstrating each, and first magnanimity, which is defined as a mean between insolence as excess and pusillanimity as defect, whose object is honor, though not every honor, but that only which is demanded by those zealous of virtue who are most worthy of the summit of veneration. For honest men alone can rightly judge of the honor of the magnanimous man. With this honor the magnanimous man so deals that he would not refuse the offer of the same for his worth and merits, does not become insolent when he accepts it, does not become puffed up in spirit, despises no one, is affable, companionable, and mild to everyone, is not carried off by good fortune, is not laid low by bad fortune, is not, lastly, moved by the insults of wicked men.
2. But the insolent man is he who, although he should by right be held in contempt by everyone, thinks himself then more worthy than others of all applause and honor. Hence with unblushing face the monkeys of this world rush to the seats of honor where, the higher they climb, the more they show their ugliness, and the heavier they feel their precipitous fall. But, oh blind ambition, how many comedies and tragedies do you produce? Comedies, I say, when you make tree-trunks the kings of frogs, tragedies when you make foxes and vultures so.
3. Pusillanimity is a rare bird in this age of the world, for very few reject the sword of the magistrate or the golden diadem of the king when it is offered, but if there be pusillanimity, it is, as the philosopher here defines, indeed abjectness and lowness of spirit, whether in not seeking or in repudiating the honor which for their virtues men greatly deserve. Yet, however, if there be such men, they are either simple Homers or stupid philosophers (forgive me, Plato), who stand with empty purses before the doors while the Grylluses and the Gnathos insolently rush in, and, if a rebuff received is protested as an injury, the angels and guardians of Paradise put delays before those worthy of honor. But oh the ungrateful times, wherein just and learned sages only live in graves after their funeral! Justly does Boethius exclaim to God:
Why does inconstant fortune ply changes so great and weigh down the innocent with punishments due to crime, while perverse morals sit on their lofty throne and tread on holy necks inflicting harm in unjust turn?
4. It remains that I add a word about magnificence, which is a mean between vain ostentation or boasting as excess and parsimonious expense as defect, or, to define it in a word, is great liberality, dealing with laying out the great expenditures that are fitting to be done by the magnificent man. But if anyone lays out great expenditures where it is not expedient, he, to be sure, is boastful and conceited. An example is in the text about a feast-giver who most vainly takes his companions out for a nuptial banquet, for such is one who makes show of his opulence at a time when there is no need. The sparing man or the one who makes small, to speak with the ancients, is the contrary of the boaster. For he, when he is to celebrate a marriage, sets out turnips and is, contrary to a wedding’s dignity, sparing of delights. It remains, therefore, that the philosopher conclude that only the magnificent man is praiseworthy, because he, best observing the circumstances, lays out expenditures for the republic in a lordly manner.
OBJECTION Honor is the object of magnanimity, therefore it is not rightly defined as great fortitude, whose object is said to be fearful things.
REPLY Magnanimity is said analogically and not simply or absolutely to be fortitude.
Is making a claim to honor a work of virtue in a grand man?
5. OBJECTION Honor is the reward of felicity alone, so it is a work of insolence in a grand man to vindicate his claim to the same, or to esteem himself worthy of the same. The antecedent is from Aristotle, in the Ethics, where he proves that felicity alone is an honorable good, but here he calls the honor due the grand man an honorable good, and even teaches that it is the office of the grand man to vindicate his claim to the same honor.
REPLY It is a work of virtue in the grand man to make claim to his due honor, and even to esteem himself worthy of the same honor, but it is a work of insolence, as you say, to vindicate a claim unjustly. Further, when you say that honor is due to felicity alone, I reply that the honor there is to be understood solely as internal and not as external.
Is it the office of the magnanimous man to bear the insults of the wicked with a patient spirit?
6. OBJECTION It is the office of the just and brave man to take note of evil men and to punish their crimes, but the magnanimous man is just and brave, therefore he should rather punish these insults than bear them.
REPLY The magnanimous is an eagle and does not seize at flies, he is a lion and does not kill a mouse that is biting insects but spurns it; he is just if he punish, but just and brave if he despise, for the tongue of the wicked is the glory of the wise.
Are dress, gait, speech objects of magnificence?
OBJECTION Honorable expenditures are the object of magnificence, as is in the text, therefore these are not.
REPLY Honorable expenditures are per se its object, but these are said to be per accidens its object. For it is the mark of a grand man to regard the majesty of his place and his person, so his dress should be honorable, his gait grave, his speech wise.
EST I be more troublesome in my words than is proper, I will run quickly through the passions which are touched by Aristotle in a word. But as, in running to the Nile, the dog lapped up the purer water, so I too, in running by, will not pass over what is more deserving of note. I will leave the rest to those who read our Ethics. The first among these passions that arises is indignation, which the crowd takes to be a supercilious passion of spirit and the vice of a proud and insolent man, but while one should speak with the crowd one should think with the philosopher, who in this place defines the same as a praiseworthy passion and a mean between envy and perverse joy which he names malevolence. Or, if it please, it can be thus defined, as a just sadness, evident in the spirit of a good man and generated by the prosperity of the bad who misuse for wickedness the goods of body and fortune. Splendid that nemesis or indignation of the patient man Job, the most just of all, while the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power. Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
2. To the indignant man the envious man is contrary, who always gazes on anyone’s good work with jealous and sinister eyes, as in the line.
The envious man wastes away on another’s abundance.
For he is envious who bears with a sick spirit the virtues, the works, the fortunes of the good. This pernicious monster has his nests, his chicks, his dens, his poisons in every republic, city, family, house, everywhere spreads his virus, and lays wait on virtue only. Hence did Boethius splendidly sing,
Virtue lies ‘ in gloom, brilliant among the shadows.
3. Set against the envious man on one side is the malevolent man. For as the envious man is grieved at the good deeds of the good, so the malevolent man delights greatly in the evil deeds and outrages of the bad, nay whether he be good or bad, if he has done ill, it is dear to the malevolent man’s heart, who delights only in evil. I conclude, therefore, that only a man proved in virtue and outstanding in goodness holds the mean between envy and malice.
4. The second passion, which is dealt with in the next chapter, is called gravity, which, in my opinion, only differs by way of more and less from the affability that is dealt with in the Ethics. Can gravity therefore be thus defined, that it be a certain species of affability, instinct in great and honorific persons, the contrary of moroseness and empty delighting? Moroseness is a certain species of contention, and empty delighting is a species of flattery, hence the morose man is perverse in his morals, as the name indicates; a flatterer is said to be foolish in his morals, for the morose man lives Stoically, captivated by no one’s life or speech, but the flatterer, while he wishes to please everyone, offends the good. Today he is called a good fellow, a “bon compagnon”, who is offended by no one’s morals or talking; if he be with Plato he philosophizes; if with Cato he pretends gravity; if with Gnathon he is a parasite serving the needs of the time, becomes as it were a Proteus to everyone, clothes himself in all colors, is familiar with using the market. If you desire to know such people, they are dogs of the household, servants at the tables of the great, give and sing pleasing words. In good fortune they are at your side, in adverse fortune they flee away, they are constant only in this, that they are always constant in their fickleness.
5. The third passion is shame, a mean between impudence and numbness: this passion is defined as the redness of the human brow, the color of virtue, the ivy covering a crime. For the brow is the token of the mind, color the sign of virtue. Blood suffusing the face is proof of conscience and penance. Hence the saying: he is blushing; his case is saved. If you wish to define it more exactly, shame is indeed that affection of the spirit, a middling one, and the same very similar to virtue, which by a certain natural motion deters young men from committing disgrace and calls them from disgrace when committed to the tribunal and the forum, as it were, of their conscience and to penance. Young men, I say, not old, because shame is said to be a laudable passion in young men but not in the old; surely an old man, if he blush, has persisted into hardened crime. It is easy now to define the impudent man and his contrary the stupid and lazy man. He, therefore, is impudent who rubs all shame from his face and who, groomed by no fear of any thing or person or place, tells everyone everything that might have come into his mouth. There is almost no hope for the impudent, for being delighted with evils they dare every evil, and will always be bad at listening, if they do not at length become modest. Juvenal spoke rightly. For who, he says,
has made an end to his sinning, when he has recovered the redness that was once cast forth from his smoothened brow?
Let the impudent learn from this to rub their brows and to trim back their consciences within replete with blood.
6. The stupid man is contrary to the impudent because as the latter, going to the deficiency in lack of reddened brow, never blushes, so the former always shrinks from everything, is suffuse with too much blood, has no measure to his shame, and a nature astonished, which is stupefied and injured by the slightest things. Here I advise strict parents and teachers to attend diligently to the morals of their sons and pupils, and if they find any scrupulous by nature that they strive to recall them from their stupor and icy fear and turn them towards shame. But let them always beware (since childhood is liquefied wax) that they do not imprint and leave on their souls idols of impudence in place of images of confidence; certainly today many parents do thus gravely sin in the education of their sons, when they teach and permit them to chatter often, to swear, and to say or do everything just as it please. Far too often do I hear that most vain proverb: from a bad boy a good old man is born, but let them remember,
With what odor a new-made pot is once imbued, that will it keep long.
A bad raven lays a bad egg; of course a bad boy becomes a bad old man.
Should good men be sad when bad men sail with a favorable wind?
7. OBJECTION Though bad men are borne o’er the deep, into great shipwreck and eddies of evils often do they fall, so their success is their misery. When, therefore, bad men sail with a favorable wind, good men should not grieve but be glad rather, because the bad are then most in misery since they obtain everything at will; so I conclude, contrary to Aristotle, that the good man not here be indignant, because he is sad then, when he sees the bad being fortunate.
REPLY The affairs of the bad, when prosperous, are pernicious to the city, and in this respect therefore the indignant man is sad, lest the bad, using their good fortune, their power, their life, their example, should draw the good to shameful deeds. The good man therefore does not envy the bad their fortunes, but is grieved because they live shamefully when possessed of them.
OBJECTION One virtue is not contrary to another, for to be sure all the virtues are daughters of unity and connected among themselves, but the lordly virtue of magnificence despises those trivialities and empty shadows of the bad, nor is the grand man at all sad if the bad sail into port laden with gold from the Indies: therefore the indignant man is not affected by any sadness when he sees the bad flourishing.
REPLY The sense is the same in this and the previous argument, so the same response applies, namely that the indignant man does not take ill the goods of the bad but their ill use of good men. For he does not grieve that they have good things but that they abuse the same most evilly.
Are envy and malevolence the opposites of indignation?
8. OBJECTION The malevolent and the envious man are not contraries, therefore malevolence and envy are not opposites, and consequently not the opposites of indignation. The antecedent is proved because the envious man is malevolent.
REPLY The envious man is malevolent in the respect in which Aristotle takes the name of envy. For the envious is said to be sad when the good do well but the malevolent is said to be glad when the good or the bad are ruined.
OBJECTION Envy is a vice, therefore it is not opposed to indignation which is a passion. For as habit to habit, so passion to passion should be opposed and made contrary.
REPLY Envy is here taken for envying (which is a vicious passion), for envying is a motion of the spirit in the bad towards sadness, when those zealous of virtue flourish.
Is gravity a moral virtue distinct from affability?
9. OBJECTION Affability and gravity do not have the same opposites, therefore one is distinct from the other. The antecedent is plain, because moroseness and its contrary are opposites of gravity but flattery and contention the opposites of affability.
REPLY The opposites differ from one another in name and not in fact in each case, and the virtues themselves differ only in mode and reason and not in nature. For gravity is solely for old and great men, but affability is said to fit the high, the middle, and the low at every age.
OBJECTION Aristotle makes it a distinct virtue, therefore it should be held to be so.
REPLY He does not, for in the Ethics he deals with affability and not gravity and in these books he deals with gravity and not affability, which serves for argument that it is the same virtue, for otherwise he would have made distinct mention of each in each work, especially since here and there he deals with the number and the nature of the individual virtues.
Is shame a movement of nature?
10. OBJECTION Impudence is a movement of nature, therefore shame is not a movement of nature; the argument holds because of contraries there is, as to their nature, a contrary account.
REPLY Of contraries there is a contrary account as regards their proximate and proper nature in the species, not as regards their common and remote nature in the genus. But movement of nature is the genus in which all the passions agree. For all passions are rightly called movements of nature.
OBJECTION Shame is laudable, therefore shame is not a movement of nature.
REPLY It is laudable only in respect of the virtue with which it is connected, but not laudable per se, as the philosopher teaches in the Ethics.
Is it better to be impudent than stupid by nature?
11. OBJECTION Stupor in excess is a vicious passion, for the stupid and astonished man is always blushing for any the least reason, therefore it is better to be impudent than stupid and astonished; besides stupor is by nature more than impudence is, which is acquired usually by habit and use.
REPLY Although the stupid man blushes for any reason whatever, yet he causes less harm than the impudent man who, because of his effrontery, follows no measure and no reason, but rather this monster dares intrepidly to commit any crime and dares to defend it when committed, while the stupid man, dismayed by the exposure of his crime, is more easily recalled to a better life. Lastly, although it can be conceded that stupor is in some way more instinct in us by nature (for nature teaches little babes to blush), yet impudence is a greater evil, because the impudent adds to nature the evil habit of sinning. Each then is bad, but impudence is a greater bad.
N these three chapters that now come next, three other passions follow to do with speech, comity, friendliness, truthfulness: with speech, I say, because speech is the object common to them all, although their objects be different if they be considered properly and per se.
2. Comity is defined as a mean between scurrility as excess and boorishness as defect, whose proper object is the joke – not every joke, but that alone which, seasoned with the salt of cleverness, gives most delight. This virtue becomes the wise and saintly among mortals, for the minds of the wise are captivated by witticisms as by the best seasonings. The wise therefore are not the Aristarchuses of our days, who wish Seneca and Plautus to be expelled altogether from the theatre and the Roscii from the fellowship of mortals. Cato who never laughed, who scattered salt on Appius, and who was even himself compelled to smile at the wittinesses of the orator, did not therefore despise jokes; nay, none of the sages despised them; for witticisms applied at the right time are as it were the medicine of the listless spirit; comity therefore, which is the salt of cleverness, the seasoning of the tongue, the inventor of jokes, the consoler of life, and the very medicine of the soul, is to be admitted into the catalog of the virtues so that it might always attend the theatres of cities, the halls of princes, the tables of the noble, the muses of the wise, whence scurrility and boorishness, the vices opposed to it, are perpetually banished. For the scurrilous man is he who flings his vulgarities at everyone, at all times, without measure, without selection, as the fool twists his javelin. But the boor is on the opposing side, who neither himself ever wishes to make a joke nor allows jokes to be cast at him without rage and anger. What need of more? Let us hear Cicero on this matter: “We are not, he says, so brought forth by nature that we seem to be made for play and joking, but for strictness rather and for certain graver studies, yet it is permissilbe to use play and joking, but as we use sleep and certain kinds of rest when we have done enough in matters grave and serious; and that sort of joking should be, not excessive nor immodest, but straightforward and witty, for thus in the joking itself might some light of an honest mind shine forth.” Thus Cicero.
3. The next passion which arises to be dealt with is friendliness, not the real benevolence, so to call it, on which the Ethics dilates and on which he is to speak at the end of this work, but the nominal benevolence, so to call it, which is located in actions and words. I will not use riddles: by friendliness in this place he understands without doubt a species of affability, namely humanity in words and deeds, and he does not openly name it affability itself because as earlier he rightly comprehended modesty under magnanimity, which in subject, object, and end agrees with it, so here in this place he works affability in partly under gravity and partly under the name of friendliness, which indeed is made clearly apparent when he here defines friendliness to be a mean located between contention and flattery in actions and words; which definition conforms, on one side, with affability. In actions and words, he says, because this affable friendliness, so to call it, respects both words and deeds, and is composed of gravity, comity, and affability. But if you make the distinction properly and per se, I am not forgetful, as I said about these things in the Ethics, that affability is mistress in speech and words and comity in morals and deeds.
4. Of contention and flattery in this place I will say nothing, except what is permissible, that they are the same in name, and even the same in some degree of the thing, with the opposites of gravity, since gravity, affability, and the friendliness here located in the use of speech differ only in reason and not in nature, per accidens and not simply and per se. The same is to be said of magnanimity and modesty which are virtues akin and have one object, namely honor, and the same opposites, namely insolence, ambition, and pusillanimity, which however are discriminated in manner, that is according to more and less, and in existence, not in essence.
5. The third passion located in speech is truthfulness, which a long while ago, together with its sister conscience, was strangled by the cord of dissembling. I will deal with it, however, as Aristotle did with the void and the infinite. Truthfulness, therefore, is an affection of the spirit, a mean between dissembling and boasting, by the which endowed a man fills none with words, deceives none with lies; or it is a virtue, as the philosopher here defines it, by the which adorned a man admits to neither more nor fewer things said about him and given him in praise than are certain and tested. Truthfulness taken in the first way possesses in things said, in things done, in contracts, in commercial dealings with men one voice and one tongue in mouth and deed, and bears its breast naked and exposed, so that all may understand that it does not bear one thing in its mouth and another in its heart. Taken in the second way truthfulness casts off from us all selfishness and love of our own, does not allow us to be ambitious of greater praise than we deserve. To this virtue are opposed the lying boaster and dissembler, the former who extols himself falsely above measure, the latter who deceitfully excuses himself and his own; each is vain, each conceited, each desirous of unjust praise. The liar is defined in another way as he who covers the traps and deceits of his speech with the gown of truth; but the dissembler is he who is always eager to seem just, but is a wolf, and when in his words and deeds he is seen true he is a deceiver. It is therefore not permissible to lie, not permissible to engage in dissembling. For both lying and dissembling have the spirit and intention of deceiving. Let us say goodbye, therefore, to that old distinction about the officious lie; let us say goodbye to that proverb of ancient days: he who does not know how to dissemble does not know how to live. Let this golden thought finally be heard: truth is simple and does not seek out crooked ways.
6. T he doubt that follows in the text is this, whether all the means about which the philosopher has hitherto disputed are in themselves virtues. I reply that all besides indignation and shame can be called virtues because they are all acquired in dispositions.
Is it laudable to provoke jokes and laughter?
OBJECTION Laughter is a natural power, which is neither laudable nor blamable, as the philosopher earlier teaches, therefore it is not a work of virtue to provoke laughter, and, consequently, comity, which deals with provoking laughter and jokes, is not a virtue.
REPLY Laughter is taken either for a faculty of the soul or for the act of laughing and, in this case, whether for the act as moderated for relaxation or as unmoderated for excess. Taken in the first way it is not laudable or blamable, taken in the second way it is the object of comity, but in the third way it is the object of scurrility, about which the wise man said: I said of laughter, it is mad; to which I add this also: woe unto you that laugh now.
7. OBJECTION Dissembling is not the work of virtue, but in theatrical plays there is dissembling of things, morals, persons, and (something to be horrified of) apparent change of sex, when actors clad in the feigned dress of women, dance, play, and joke in the theatre. Of dancing I say nothing except what is accustomed to be said. No sober man dances. Finally the goal of playing and dancing is trivial delight, but the end of the virtues is eternal beatitude, therefore neither do plays nor dances regard comity.
REPLY Dissembling with intent of evil is not a work of virtue since it is itself a vice, but there is not properly dissembling of things or morals or persons in plays and dances but rather simulation and imitation. As to what you say one should be horrified of, actors clad in the feigned dress of women leaping about the stage, you are using a thunderous and sonorous word without just cause. For there is no change of sex but apparent change, and not even that, because it is known to all the spectators not to be a change but only a representation, or a signifying and giving expression to manners, and that for example of life, and for following it if good, or fleeing it if bad: and thus in Roscius (perhaps a most honorable man) there is no dissembling nor is there lying because when he acts or puts on the person of Lais he has no intention of deceiving men or of corrupting morals, but rather of informing and reforming them; surely this is the end of comedies and tragedies, that by living examples given expression to in the lively acting of Roscii men may be deterred from vices and impelled to virtue. Wherefore that is false which you bring forward at the end of your argumentation, namely that trivial delight is the only end of plays. For although in spectacles there is a certain laudable delight for a mind tired out by study and cares, these have, besides this, another end. What you add about dances is rather flimsy, if you mean those dances which are performed in display of a just victory, of decent joy, or of great liberty. For thus David and others frequently danced heartily; further I add this too, that a laudable and moderate use of dancing can, in marriages, be for delight of mind, and on other occasions too for exercise and relaxation of body, provided the musical instruments and the performers play the numbers and movements of virtue and not, as today, the numbers and movements of Venus and of wantonness.
Is friendliness here a passion or a habit?
8. Friendliness is said in the Ethics to be a passion, as is there evident, therefore it seems probable that it not be a habit in this place.
REPLY In the Ethics friendliness is the daughter of love, but here it is placed in the use and moderation of speech; there it is defined as benevolence, which is a passion, but here it is a certain species or part of affability, which is defined as a habit.
Is it permissible for a good man to glory of his virtues?
Neither do thou thyself or praise or blame thee.
Wherefore it seems absurd and improper that it be permissible for a man, endowed with truthfulness, not only to allow praises given him by others but also to proclaim his own praises of himself.
REPLY Most holy Job did not depart from virtue, neither was he a boaster among his insolent friends, and he recounted the honesty and innocency of his own previous life. Praise should most rarely be from you yourself, but sometimes it is most necessary, if it be true, if just, if done without any show of vanity.
Is a lie without the intention of deceiving a vice?
9. OBJECTION Intention is neither the form nor the end of virtue or of sin, but is as it were the first appearance offered to the mind whereby, as by kindled tinder, it is moved to act. Intention therefore makes neither vice nor the vicious man, and consequently a lie is not for this cause, or without this cause, said to be a vice.
REPLY The question is not about the simple intention, whereof you here expertly argue, but about the intention of deceiving, which is rightly called a composite intention, or an intention with addition, and this intention is indeed said in a way to be the form and the fashioner of a lie, wherefore without this it is not properly and per se a vice; besides, those lies per accidens , which are stated without intention of deceiving, can be sins, as idle lies and lies of story, if they be aimed at an evil end.
INCE I have elsewhere sufficiently interpreted the whole fifth book of the Ethics about justice, of these things which are in this chapter said of the same matter I will touch lightly. First therefore the philosopher distinguishes the name justice, so that justice be either legal or natural, legal again or absolute with respect to truth or in comparison to the use and custom of the place in which people live. Further, this justice is split into justice of exchange, which is seen in commercial transactions, and into justice of distribution, which is seen in the dividing up of honors. In each species of justice equality is observed but not the same equality. Hence one is said to be equality of weight and another equality of proportion. The equality of weight is sometimes called arithmetical and sometimes natural; that of proportion sometimes geometrical and sometimes artificial. With these things in place justice in its genus is defined as a mean between more and less, between too much and too little, between doing harm and suffering harm; conceived in this way justice is a lordly and communal virtue, and contains all the other moral virtues, since no action of virtue at all lives without the influence and rule of justice. But the proper definition is this, that justice is a virtue or a habit of giving each his own or, if it please, that it is a mean of proportion, between more and less, in whose balance all human actions and all and each single business of the city are most rightly weighed: of proportion, I say, and not of weight, for as there is not in natural things anything mixed in such complete equality that one element does not predominate over the other, so in moral things there is not anything so equally just that an order of prior and posterior is not observed. For whether you consider the justice of exchange or the justice of distribution, the best consonance and harmony is if prudence, both in exchanging things and in distributing honors, hold the lance of justice. That is, for example, if it prescribe that more of utility be awarded to those who labor more, more of honor to those who deserve more. This equality of proportion Plato observes in his Republic; the examples in the text are of a farmer who should produce food, an architect who should produce a house, a weaver clothing, a cobbler footwear, of each of whom the job, according to this proportion, is to serve the necessity of the other and to provide, in exchange, those things which each lacks. But since that exchange, however, from the demand and worth of things can neither arise nor be kept (as it sometimes happens that it cannot be), money has been invented as a measure of things, so that each one should get in exchange as much as he thinks useful or necessary for himself. Necessity, you see, has generated money, reason has made the same the sole measure of things, but avarice alone makes usury out of it. Oh the monstrosity of this age wherein the abuse of money is called the right use of it! Oh would that the wise should consider this one thing, that republics never flourish long which stuff themselves on gold so born! Stuff themselves, did I say? Nay, consume themselves away, should I rather say, because gold thus born in the belly’s flames (so to say) most quickly exchanges as much substance as it has into dross.
2. But let me continue. Having laid down the distinction between proportion and weight, Aristotle condemns the Pythagorean law of retaliation. For if this law be just, then a servant struck by a magistrate should be permitted to strike the magistrate back, but this is not permitted, so the law of retaliation is not just. That it is not permitted the philosopher proves from hence, because between a king and a subject, a father and a son, a master and a servant, the proportion is not to the weight, as they say, but to the justice, which, by the prescription of right reason and prudence, gives his own to each.
3. Once justice has been defined, certain doubts are resolved, as to how the right and the just differ, and how the unjust and injury do also. Why do I delay? The right and the just differ because the just is the command and mandate of the divine, or natural, or human law (for thus is law divided), but the right is the action and the carrying out of the law itself. The just, for example, is to return a deposit, and the right is the act itself of return. To the second doubt the philosopher responds that the unjust and injury also differ. For injury is voluntary harm to another, against the law of God, of nature, of the city; but the unjust consists not only in harm and an act of evil but also in an omission of good, as to refuse to retiurn a deposit to whom it should be repaid.
4. Besides these things briefly discussed, other doubts still follow in the text, about those who do and those who suffer injury, which I will resolve in their order and place with arguments adduced on this side and on that. In the meantime I will conclude, with Aristotle, that the one by one treatment of the virtues of character, of the subjects, objects, properties, purposes, to which they are referred is now finished. But as in medicine the prescriptions for health are written, collected, and furnished in vain unless they be applied to the healing of the infirmities of the body, so in moral philosophy, the prescripts of the virtues are vainly and idly delivered if, after being impressed and enclosed only in the spirit, they should lie hid as in sealed letters. It follows, therefore, that what is reason, what right reason, what prudence (which are as it were the rule and direction of human life in the formation of the actions of virtue) we should now define in a few words.
Is there any natural justice?
5. OBJECTION The seeds of the virtues alone are within us by nature, as the philosopher teaches in Book II of the Ethics, not the virtues themselves, therefore justice, which is a virtue, is not natural.
REPLY By natural justice in this place he understands the law of nature, which is the foundation of all justice and of all laws, for example, Do not do unto others as you would have them not do unto you. Besides, he implies, through natural justice, the proper and genuine force of each thing, as the force of light in the sun, of heat in fire, which cannot be otherwise. I reply therefore to the argument that the seeds of the moral virtues alone, not their acts, are within us by nature; but there are certain active powers and natural habits instinct in things which are often said to be natural laws and virtues by a philosopher, and thus is natural justice spoken of in this place.
Is there ever equality of weight in justice?
6. OBJECTION Two brothers or true friends can use equality with respect to weight in the division of things or of honors, therefore it can sometimes happen that equality with respect to weight exist in justice. The antecedent is proved, because mutual benevolence, and equal love among brothers and friends, can do this, so that in the distribution of things and of honors the equalization of weights might come about.
REPLY I ask first where are there such brothers, where such true friends? But if there are, this equilibrium of justice cannot be granted in everything, because things and honors are themselves changeable and cannot be so exactly balanced and equalized. Besides, this very thing is not accordant, if you regard the right of nature and human right, both because men’s wills are variable and their merits not equal, and because the natures of things themselves often regard the movement of fortune and not always the condition of virtue.
OBJECTION The law of retaliation observes the equality of weight, which the author of nature, God himself, has commanded. For what can be more equal in weight than to render an eye for an eye, a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth? If therefore this law be just, as it is, because Moses gave it, it follows that there does live in justice equality of weight. Besides, nature herself, the mother of civil justice, requires this weight, since she orders force to be repelled with force. Since, therefore, both nature and nature’s author require this equality of weight, I do not see the reason why Aristotle should reject the same.
REPLY Although the divine law commands the retaliation of punishment, it does not deny that a heavier punishment can be imposed on the guilty, if the circumstances draw the mind of the judge to inflicting a heavier one, as it is not enough (in the case of a scoundrel who tears out a king’s eye) to lose an eye for an eye, because a crime committed against a magistrate is graver, according to the divine law, than one committed against a private citizen. That this weight of justice be passed over is not required by nature, who has not shaped any body to be thus equally mixed and who, in her own justice, has made the grades and dignity of things unequal in weight though equal in proportion.
Is suffering wrong something voluntary?
8. OBJECTION It seems that it is, because suffering wrong is the vice opposed to justice, but every vice is voluntary, as Book III of the Ethics holds, therefore suffering wrong is something voluntary.
REPLY Suffering wrong can be taken in a double way, either for the passion and thus it is not a vice, or for the habit, whose name here escapes notice, and thus it is a vice opposed to justice and voluntary. For although the passion of wrong itself be not voluntary, yet the habit of suffering is said to be voluntary.
OBJECTION Someone to whom an equal share is due does not take his equal share but yields it to another, whether to a greater in age, or to one laboring under a greater necessity, or to one joined to him by friendship; but this man, whoever he is, willingly inflicts a wrong on himself, and he not unwillingly suffers the same when it is inflicted, therefore suffering a wrong seems to be a thing voluntary. Besides, the incontinent man hurts and offends himself willingly and knowingly, which hurt and offense are voluntary.
REPLY These two objections are in the text, to the first of which Aristotle responds that in that distribution there is no voluntary harm, and hence no wrong, but he who yields to others more of his estate or things than he himself takes up, seeks honor or love from those to whom he has yielded the greater share. To the second argument Aristotle responds that not every harm or offense is a wrong, although every wrong is a voluntary harm. Wherefore although the incontinent man knowingly harms soul and body, yet he does not inflict a wrong on himself, nor suffer it when inflicted, because no one willingly inflicts a wrong on himself. The reason is that the action and the passion in this case, namely the voluntary infliction and the force inflicted, are then present at once in one person, which indeed is contrary to nature.
Is equity, which moderates justice, a part of justice?
9. OBJECTION Equity hinders right (which is the execution of justice), therefore it does not seem to be a part of justice. The antecedent is proved, because equity turns back the sharp edge of justice, suggests mercy (which is compassion for another’s evil and misery) to the judge, silences the voice of strict law, moderates extreme right, concedes to princes the prerogative to connive and to spare.
REPLY Although equity softens the strictness of law and justice, yet it is not contrary but a virtue that is friend to both: it certainly most of all preserves the city, which must needs perish should the highest right (which is commonly called the highest wrong) always deploy its strength; equity, therefore, is as it were the right hand of justice, but strictness can be considered its left hand.
Is an agent to be called just who does what is just in ignorance?
10. OBJECTION So it seems, because everyone is called just from just action, so if he has done a just thing, he will have to be called just.
REPLY Will, knowledge, and persistence are required for every act of virtue, and here knowledge is lacking.
OBJECTION No one can do a just thing in ignorance, therefore the doubt is inane. The antecedent is clear, because ignorance is cause of every crime, as Aristotle teaches in Book III of the Ethics. But if it be cause of every crime, it seems that what he does in ignorance is altogether unjust, not just.
REPLY A deed is sometimes said to be just in respect of the matter but unjust in respect of the person, as when a bad judge, vanquished by importunity, concedes a right: or when, unknowingly attacking an enemy, one protects one’s father. Neither deed was just for the ignorant man if you look at the person, but each was just if you look at the subject matter. For it is just to attack an enemy and to protect a father.
Is someone who kills his father while supposing he is attacking an enemy thereby unjust?
11. OBJECTION There is nothing more heinous than to kill one’s father and no grosser ignorance than not to distinguish one’s father from an enemy, so whether you look at the parricide or the ignorance, he should be held of all most unjust.
REPLY The philosopher unties this knot in the text, and teaches that this son is not to be called unjust but rather an unhappy and unfortunate man. Here therefore a distinction must be made about ignorance, because one sort is simple, when no occasion of deliberating is given, and another is gross and supine, when a consideration of circumstances can be made before action. If the son ignorantly slaughtered his father in the first way, he is unfortunate; if he acted badly in ignorance in the second way, he is to be called an unjust parricide.
Is the suicide unjust?
12. OBJECTION He did this evil to himself in desperation, therefore he is not unjust.
REPLY Desperation is taken either for an enraged passion of spirit, and thus not per se but by reason of the vices with which the passion is conjoined does he do something unjust: or it is taken for a habit of fear often and vehemently wounding the consciences of men, and thus it is per se a vice and he does something simply unjust. The murderer of himself, however, is said to be in each way unjust and wicked; besides, when in this place the murderer of himself is not said to be unjust, the deed is not being approved of, the crime is not in any way being extenuated, but only the mode is being shown in which he is unjust. Another reply is made to this argument, namely that the murderer of himself is not unjust, that is, he is not doing a wrong to himself, for no one does wrong to himself, and this reply pleases me more; also, the murderer of himself does not do wrong to himself, because no one can act and suffer in the same respect, yet he does do wrong to nature, whose work he destroys, and to the city, whose laws he violates.
Is the just according to nature better than the just according to law?
13. OBJECTION Law is a certain perfection of nature, therefore the just according to law is better than the just according to nature. Besides, things just according to law depend on reason and virtue, which make the just better than what depends solely on nature.
REPLY The just according to nature is said in this place to be better than the just according to law with respect to the durability and firmness of its essence, because it can never change; but the legal just very often changes, nay is various and multiple, for what in one nation is just, that same thing is held unjust in another nation, and often even in the same city, if the state of the republic undergoes a change. In addition, the just according to nature is perpetual and unshaken and stays so everywhere, as parents rearing their children and pursuing the same with love. Nor is what you add true, namely that the just according to law always depends on reason and virtue, since very often unjust laws are enacted which have neither the shadow of reason nor the appearance of virtue.
Is one who knows that a false judge has given sentence about something, unjust if he do not carry it out?
14. OBJECTION No one would do evil knowingly and willingly. Therefore he who knows that a judge has passed an evil sentence about something is unjust if he carry out the same.
REPLY The public and the private good must here in this place be considered: the false sentence of a judge is to be carried out by the just, if you look to the good of the city, because the common good is always to be maintained. He is just, however, not as carrying out a false sentence but as carrying out a sentence just by law. For thus it often happens that the sentence of a judge be false in fact, if you look to the person, but true if you look to the law. For example: Aristides is accused; false witnesses leap forward, urge that he has committed a crime against the republic. The judge, informed by their testimony, condemns the innocent man; the one who has charge of the execution of the unjust law draws the innocent man, now condemned, to the axe; provided only he protest insofar as is within him: let the witnesses be refuted, let the judge be better informed, let the sentence, if it be possible, be revoked, and let the innocent man at last go free. Note that in this place the dispute is about civil and legal right, not about divine right; certainly nothing at all in accord with that should be done against knowledge and against conscience. For many former executioners are praised in the Church because they wished rather to be martyrs than the executioners of martyrs.
O that virtue might not lie only in the mind without act and without use, but be referred to the praise of the man in whom it is and to the honor of the city, the philosopher, after his tractate on the individual virtues, deals with both the subjects and the instruments of its act and its use. The subjects of the virtues are the two parts or powers of the soul, the mind and the appetite; the mind was before defined as what is in possession of reason, and the appetite as the part of the soul without share of reason. Again, the mind is divided into the part that gives advice and the part that contemplates; but these parts differ in the subjects wherein they are and the objects wherewith they are concerned. I say in their subjects because the part that consults is in the practical intellect, the part that contemplates in the theoretical and speculative intellect. I say in their objects because as sight, smelling, hearing are distinguished by color, smell, sound, so the power of consulting and the power of contemplating are distinguished by thing sensible and thing intellectual; for consulting is wholly in the things subject to the individual senses which fall under our choice, but contemplation is wholly in the universal things which altogether escape the senses. Finally this contemplative part is parceled out into five virtues of the mind, to wit, art, science, prudence, intelligence, wisdom, to which are here added ingenuity or cleverness and opinion.
2. Art is either liberal or mechanical. Art liberal is defined as the comprehending of many precepts tending to an end useful to the human race, whose end is action; art mechanical is that which is perfected by the hands and the use of the body, whose end is a product. Science is a habit of mind consisting of many demonstrations deduced from causes or effects. Prudence is a habit of right reason in prescribing the means and circumstances of the virtues. Intelligence is defined as a habit of principles: that is, that intelligence is defined as a virtue endowed with which we assent to the principles of things and of arts without looking for a reason from causes, so that we do not in our curiosity, and looking always for causes, go on to infinity. Wisdom is science at its fullest of things both divine and human. Ingenuity or cleverness is a habit partly natural and partly acquired of quickly finding the mean, whence men are said to be sagacious and clever, not cunning, as he shows in the text by the example of one Mentor, a famous jeweler. Opinion is an imperfect habit of mind whereby, not without fear of contradiction, we subscribe to and support the propositions of the arts.
3. Having laid down these definitions of the individual virtues, the philosopher compares the same among themselves and distinguishes them from each other and teaches the use of them in the inquiry into truth, which is the common object of the mind and of al the virtues within it. For as good is the object of character, so truth is the object of the mind, but this truth is either finite or infinite, the former is conjoined with things, but the latter separate, which he says is properly the object of wisdom. Hence let the blind see from Aristotle that God is the best and greatest, the transcendent and immutable infinite, both good and true, with which the philosopher dealt in the last books of the Ethics and the Metaphysics. Hence what he says in this place: wisdom is of all virtues the noblest, concerned by its own force only with the divine, eternal, and separate objects of the mind but most of all with the truth that cannot be changed – without doubt he means God – into which that no accident and no passion or cause of change can fall he most well maintains in the Metaphysics. What questions or doubts remain in this chapter are those whose exposition follows (with a few arguments brought to bear).
4. The conclusion about these things is that the mind is by far a diviner part of the spirit than the appetite or the will; also that wisdom is a more worthy virtue than prudence; that, finally, the theoretical and contemplative life is better than the active; because all the former are referred to far better subjects, means, objects, and ends than the latter.
5. OBJECTION Mind is an incorporeal and indivisible substance as the philosopher teaches in the Metaphysics and in the Books of De Anima, therefore it is not rightly divided into these parts: besides mind is taken only for the intellect, which is elsewhere more rightly divided by the philosopher into the simple and composite, the practical and the contemplative.
Mind is considered in a twofold way:
Either in its simple essence, and thus it is one, incorporeal, simple, divine, and indivisible substance subsisting of itself.
Or in its existence, and when comparison is made in this way to the ideas of things that it perceives, it is rightly divided into these parts. For if it concerns itself with the individual objects perceived by it through the mediation of the senses, it is the part that consults: if it busies itself about universal and divine objects carved out by its own power, it is the part that contemplates: to this also is reduced that division of the intellect into simple or contemplative, and into composite or practical and active: the simple intellect is referred of course to contemplation, the composite to consulting, action, and choice.
OBJECTION The part of the soul that consults is a certain active power of the intellect, but the intellect only concerns itself with universals, as the philosopher teaches in his books of demonstration: therefore the part of the soul that consults does not only concern itself with singulars and sensibles: besides, many things come into consulting that are not object of the senses.
Sensibles and singulars are considered in two ways:
Either really and immediately subject to sense, and in this way they are not objects of this part. For nothing sensible is in the mind.
Or intentionally, as they say, and in this way they are, but not properly and per se, but by reason of the senses from which these intentions are reflected no otherwise than as images from mirrors. As for what you urge, that many things fall under consulting that are not object of the senses, note that the question moves not only about sensible things but also about singular ones: but all the singular things do not, of their own force, fall under sense.
OBJECTION The contemplative part of the soul is concerned especially with inquiry into truth, but inquiry into truth is not only present in universals but also in singulars; therefore the contemplative part of the soul is not only present in universals. Besides, there is that old distinction, that art and prudence are of actions and singular things, but science, intelligence, and wisdom of universal things, which, once conceded, there follows this argument from the species to the genus. Art and prudence, which are parts and species of the contemplation of the soul, are concerned with singulars, therefore the contemplative part of the soul is not only concerned with universals.
The inquiry into truth about singular things is:
Either external and immediate through the senses, since the proper object of each sense is that about which, when the sense is well disposed, it does not err.
Or internal and mediated through a species. Taken in the first way it belongs to sense alone, but considered in the latter way it has regard to the mind, which collects singular things under the idea of the universal, perceives the things collected, and inquires, in art and prudence, into the things perceived; however it collects, discusses, and perceives in such a way that these virtues, namely art and prudence, are for that reason said to be concerned with singulars in consulting and choosing, because the primary things which they consider have, as it were, their risings and settings and their various changes.
OBJECTION Wisdom is a distinct species from science and intelligence, therefore it does not consist of them.
REPLY One species can occur materially in the constitution of another, as is clear in the species of number: for every lower number comes into the constitution of the higher. But since in this place the philosopher says that wisdom comes to be from science and intelligence, he insinuates without doubt nothing other than that, if you consider science, wisdom is concerned with necessary things and with demonstrations, but, if you consider intelligence, it is located in first causes and principles. However, in itself, it is a certain divine mirror beyond these (a mirror to wit of the immutable and infinite truth), wherein the human mind, with the residue of the body set aside, gazes at the metaphysical forms of all things.
OBJECTION Opinion is located in the inquiry of truth, therefore it is a virtue of the mind. Besides, here it is listed by Aristotle among the virtues of the mind.
REPLY Per se it is not a virtue, because it is not a settled habit of the spirit, but it is reduced to art of prudence.
Is sagacity a natural virtue?
OBJECTION Sagacity is defined as sharpness of wit, but sharpness of wit is natural; therefore sagacity is natural.
Sagacity or cleverness is taken in two ways, either:
For sharpness of wit, and thus it is a natural virtue.
For quickness of reasoning and of rightly finding middles, and thus it is said in this place to be a virtue of the mind.
OBJECTION A prudent man is he who observes all the circumstances in actions; but a very good artist observes all the circumstances in the work of his art; therefore a very good artist is rightly said to be prudent.
REPLY Aristotle denies in the text that a very good artist is or should be called prudent, and he adds the example of a certain very good sculptor or jeweler, namely Mentor, of whom Martial says:
Whose work is the drinking cup, learned Myos? Is it Myron’s? Is this the hand of Mentor? Or of Polyclytus?
He calls this Mentor cunning but not prudent, but I for my part believe that by cunning he understands in this place clever, not deceptive or fraudulent; when therefore the philosopher says a very good artist is not to be called prudent, he means, in my opinion indeed, that he is rather to be named clever than prudent, because cleverness is a lower virtue of the spirit than prudence; a very good artist is not therefore said to be prudent simply but in part, and this is the sense, as I think, of the text.
OBJECTION Prudence is inferior to wisdom, as in the text, therefore it does not have command over wisdom, and consequently it does not have command over all the virtues of the mind.
REPLY Prudence has command over all the virtues of the mind like a faithful steward in a family; for a wise man’s prudence is as it were a manager set over the family of all the virtues; and while it commands, prescribes, acts, wisdom itself rests in the citadel of contemplation.
Are the objects of the mind necessary things which cannot be otherwise?
OBJECTION Sometimes the intellect fails, therefore its objects are not necessary and not of the sort that cannot be otherwise; certainly if they were immutable and always necessary, the intellect would be in error.
REPLY The cause of error is not in the objects of the intellect, which are always the same, but in the means and manners of perceiving them. Besides note that here only universal things that are the proper objects of the intellect are being dealt with and these indeed are universal necessary things which cannot be otherwise, as the philosopher teaches in the Analytics. What? Is the human mind referred to beings universal, eternal, immutable, divine as to its proper objects? Good God; how therefore can it be that man should forget God? The philosopher and philosophy prove and acknowledge him; by their life and morals (O the times!) Christians deny him.