Nicomachean Ethics (Chase)/Book Six

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52713The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle — Book SixD. P. ChaseAristotle



Having stated in a former part of this treatise that men should choose the mean instead of either the excess or defect, and that the mean is according to the dictates of Right Reason; we will now proceed to explain this term.

For in all the habits which we have expressly mentioned, as likewise in all the others, there is, so to speak, a mark with his eye fixed on which the man who has Reason tightens or slacks his rope;[1] and there is a certain limit of those mean states which we say are in accordance with Right Reason, and lie between excess on the one hand and defect on the other.

Now to speak thus is true enough but conveys no very definite meaning: as, in fact, in all other pursuits requiring attention and diligence on which skill and science are brought to bear; it is quite true of course to say that men are neither to labour nor relax too much or too little, but in moderation, and as Right Reason directs; yet if this were all a man had he would not be greatly the wiser; as, for instance, if in answer to the question, what are proper applications to the body, he were to be told, “Oh! of course, whatever the science of medicine, and in such manner as the physician, directs.”

And so in respect of the mental states it is requisite not merely that this should be true which has been already stated, but further that it should be expressly laid down what Right Reason is, and what is the definition of it.

Now in our division of the Excellences of the Soul, we said there were two classes, the Moral and the Intellectual: 1139athe former we have already gone through; and we will now proceed to speak of the others, premising a few words respecting the Soul itself. It was stated before, you will remember, that the Soul consists of two parts, the Rational, and Irrational: we must now make a similar division of the Rational.

Let it be understood then that there are two parts of the Soul possessed of Reason; one whereby we realise those existences whose causes cannot be otherwise than they are, and one whereby we realise those which can be otherwise than they are[2] (for there must be, answering to things generically different, generically different parts of the soul naturally adapted to each, since these parts of the soul possess their knowledge in virtue of a certain resemblance and appropriateness in themselves to the objects of which they are percipients);[3] and let us name the former, “that which is apt to know,” the latter, “that which is apt to calculate” (because deliberating and calculating are the same, and no one ever deliberates about things which cannot be otherwise than they are: and so the Calculative will be one part of the Rational faculty of the soul).

We must discover, then, which is the best state of each of these, because that will be the Excellence of each; and this again is relative to the work each has to do.[4]


There are in the Soul three functions on which depend moral action and truth; Sense, Intellect, Appetition, whether vague Desire or definite Will. Now of these Sense is the originating cause of no moral action, as is seen from the fact that brutes have Sense but are in no way partakers of moral action.

[Intellect and Will are thus connected,] what in the Intellectual operation is Affirmation and Negation that in the Will is Pursuit and Avoidance, And so, since Moral Virtue is a State apt to exercise Moral Choice and Moral Choice is Will consequent on deliberation, the Reason must be true and the Will right,[5] to constitute good Moral Choice, and what the Reason affirms the Will must pursue. [6]

Now this Intellectual operation and this Truth is what bears upon Moral Action; of course truth and falsehood must be the good and the bad of that Intellectual Operation which is purely Speculative and concerned neither with action nor production, because this is manifestly the work of every Intellectual faculty, while of the faculty which is of a mixed Practical and Intellectual nature the work is that Truth which, as I have described above, corresponds to the right movement of the Will.

Now the starting-point of moral action is Moral Choice (I mean, what actually sets it in motion, not the final cause)[7], and of Moral Choice, Appetition, and Reason directed to a certain result: and thus Moral Choice is neither independent of intellect, i.e. intellectual operation, nor of a certain moral state: for right or wrong action cannot exist independently of operation of the Intellect and moral character.

But operation of the Intellect by itself moves nothing, only when directed to a certain result, i.e. exercised in Moral 1139b Action (I say nothing of its being exercised in production, because this function is originated by the former: every one who makes makes with a view to somewhat further; and that which is or may be made is not an End in itself, but only relatively to somewhat else, and belonging to some one: I whereas that which is or may be done is an End in itself, because acting well is an End in itself, and this is the object of the Will): and so Moral Choice is either Intellect put in a position of Will-ing, or Appetition subjected to an Intellectual Process. And such a Cause is Man.

But nothing which is done and past can be the object of Moral Choice; for instance, no man chooses to have sacked Troy; because, in fact, no one ever deliberates about what is past but only about that which is future and which may therefore be influenced, whereas what has been cannot not have been: and so Agathon is right in saying,

"Of this alone is Deity bereft,
To make undone whatever hath been done."

Thus then the Truth is the work of both the Parts of the Soul; those states therefore are the Excellences of each in which each will best attain truth.


Commencing then from the point stated above we will now speak of these Excellences again. Let those faculties whereby the Soul attains truth in Affirmation or Negation, be assumed to be in number five:[8] viz. Art, Knowledge, Practical Wisdom, Science, Intuition (Supposition and Opinion I do not include, because by these one may go wrong).

What Knowledge is is plain from the following considerations, if one is to speak accurately instead of being led away by resemblances. We all conceive that what we strictly speaking know cannot be otherwise than it is, because as to those things which can be otherwise than they are we are uncertain whether they are or are not the moment they cease to be within the sphere of our actual observation.

So then, whatever comes within the range of Knowledge is by necessity, and therefore eternal (because all things are so which exist necessarily)[9], and all eternal things are without beginning and indestructible.

Again, all Knowledge is thought to be capable of being taught,[10] and what comes within its range capable of being learned. And all teaching is based upon previous knowledge (a statement you will find in the Analytics also)[11]; for there are two ways of teaching, by Syllogism and by Induction. In fact, Induction is the source of universal propositions, and Syllogism reasons from these universals.[12] Syllogism then may reason from principles which cannot be themselves proved Syllogistically; and therefore must be proved by Induction.

So Knowledge is “a state or mental faculty apt to demonstrate syllogistically,”[13] etc., as in the Analytics: because a man, strictly and properly speaking, knows, when he establishes his conclusion in a certain way and the principles I are known to him: for if they are not better known to him than the conclusion such knowledge as he has will be merely accidental.


Let thus much be accepted as a definition of Knowledge. 1140a Matter which may exist otherwise than it actually does in any given case (commonly called Contingent) is of two kinds, that which is the object of Making, and that which is the object of Doing; now Making and Doing are two different things (as we show in the exoteric treatise), and so that state of mind, conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Do, is distinct from that also conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Make: and for this reason they are not included one by the other, that is, Doing is not Making, nor Making Doing.[14] Now as Architecture is an Art,[15] and is the same as “a certain state of mind, conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Make,” and as there is no Art which is not such a state, nor any such state which is not an Art, Art, in its strict and proper sense, must be “a state of mind, conjoined with true Reason, apt to Make.”

Now all Art has to do with production, and contrivance, and seeing how any of those things may be produced which may either be or not be, and the origination of which rests with the maker and not with the thing made.

And, so neither things which exist or come into being necessarily, nor things in the way of nature, come under the province of Art, because these are self-originating. And since Making and Doing are distinct, Art must be concerned with the former and not the latter. And in a certain sense Art and Fortune are concerned with the same things, as, Agathon says by the way,

“Art Fortune loves, and is of her beloved.”

So Art, as has been stated, is “a certain state of mind, apt to Make, conjoined with true Reason;” its absence, on the contrary, is the same state conjoined with false Reason, and both are employed upon Contingent matter.


As for Practical Wisdom, we shall ascertain its nature by examining to what kind of persons we in common language ascribe it.[16]

It is thought then to be the property of the Practically Wise man to be able to deliberate well respecting what is good and expedient for himself, not in any definite line,[17] as what is conducive to health or strength, but what to living well. A proof of this is that we call men Wise in this or that, when they calculate well with a view to some good end in a case where there is no definite rule. And so, in a general way of speaking, the man who is good at deliberation will be Practically Wise. Now no man deliberates respecting things which cannot be otherwise than they are, nor such as lie not within the range of his own action: and so, since Knowledge requires strict demonstrative reasoning, of which Contingent matter does not admit (I say Contingent matter, because all matters of deliberation must be Contingent and deliberation cannot take place with respect 1140b to things which are Necessarily), Practical Wisdom cannot be Knowledge nor Art; nor the former, because what falls under the province of Doing must be Contingent; not the latter, because Doing and Making are different in kind.

It remains then that it must be “a state of mind true, conjoined with Reason, and apt to Do, having for its object those things which are good or bad for Man:” because of Making something beyond itself is always the object, but cannot be of Doing because the very well-doing is in itself an End.

For this reason we think Pericles and men of that stamp to be Practically Wise, because they can see what is good for themselves and for men in general, and we also think those to be such who are skilled in domestic management or civil government. In fact, this is the reason why we call the habit of perfected self-mastery by the name which in Greek it bears, etymologically signifying “that which preserves the Practical Wisdom:”[18] for what it does preserve is the Notion I have mentioned, i.e. of one's own true interest.

For it is not every kind of Notion which the pleasant and the painful corrupt and pervert, as, for instance, that “the three angles of every rectilineal triangle are equal to two right angles,” but only those bearing on moral action.

For the Principles of the matters of moral action are the final cause of them:[19] now to the man who has been corrupted by reason of pleasure or pain the Principle immediately becomes obscured, nor does he see that it is his duty to choose and act in each instance with a view to this final cause and by reason of it: for viciousness has a tendency to destroy the moral Principle: and so Practical Wisdom must be “a state conjoined with reason, true, having human good for its object, and apt to do.”

Then again Art admits of degrees of excellence, but Practical Wisdom does not:[20] and in Art he who goes wrong purposely is preferable to him who does so unwittingly, but not so in respect of Practical Wisdom or the other Virtues.[21] It plainly is then an Excellence of a certain kind, and not an Art.

Now as there are two parts of the Soul which have Reason, it must be the Excellence of the Opinionative [which we called before calculative or deliberative], because both Opinion and Practical Wisdom are exercised upon Contingent matter. And further, it is not simply a state conjoined with Reason, as is proved by the fact that such a state may be forgotten and so lost while Practical Wisdom cannot.


Now Knowledge is a conception concerning universals and Necessary matter, and there are of course certain First Principles in all trains of demonstrative reasoning (that is of all Knowledge because this is connected with reasoning): that faculty, then, which takes in the first principles of that which comes under the range of Knowledge, cannot be either Knowledge, or Art, or Practical Wisdom: not Knowledge, because what is the object of Knowledge must be derived from demonstrative reasoning; not either of the other two, because they are exercised upon Contingent matter only. Nor can it be Science which takes in these,1141a because the Scientific Man must in some cases depend on demonstrative Reasoning.

It comes then to this: since the faculties whereby we always attain truth and are never deceived when dealing with matter Necessary or even Contingent are Knowledge, Practical Wisdom, Science, and Intuition, and the faculty which takes in First Principles cannot be any of the three first; the last, namely Intuition, must be it which performs this function.


Science is a term we use principally in two meanings: in the first place, in the Arts we ascribe it to those who carry their arts to the highest accuracy;[22] Phidias, for instance, we call a Scientific or cunning sculptor; Polycleitus a Scientific or cunning statuary; meaning, in this instance, nothing else by Science than an excellence of art: in the other sense, we think some to be Scientific in a general way, not in any particular line or in any particular thing, just as Homer says of a man in his Margites; “Him the Gods made neither a digger of the ground, nor ploughman, nor in any other way Scientific.”

So it is plain that Science must mean the most accurate of all Knowledge; but if so, then the Scientific man must not merely know the deductions from the First Principles but be in possession of truth respecting the First Principles. So that Science must be equivalent to Intuition and Knowledge;[23] it is, so to speak, Knowledge of the most precious objects, with a head on.

I say of the most precious things, because it is absurd to suppose πολιτικὴ,[24] or Practical Wisdom, to be the highest, unless it can be shown that Man is the most excellent of all that exists in the Universe. Now if “healthy” and “good” are relative terms, differing when applied to men or to fish, but “white” and “straight” are the same always, men must allow that the Scientific is the same always, but the Practically Wise varies: for whatever provides all things well for itself, to this they would apply the term Practically Wise, and commit these matters to it; which is the reason, by the way, that they call some brutes Practically Wise, such that is as plainly have a faculty of forethought respecting their own subsistence.

And it is quite plain that Science and πολιτικὴ cannot be identical: because if men give the name of Science to that faculty which is employed upon what is expedient for themselves, there will be many instead of one, because there is not one and the same faculty employed on the good of all animals collectively, unless in the same sense as you may say there is one art of healing with respect to all living beings.

If it is urged that man is superior to all other animals, that makes no difference: for there are many other things more Godlike in their nature than Man, 1141b as, most obviously, the elements of which the Universe is composed.[25]

It is plain then that Science is the union of Knowledge and Intuition, and has for its objects those things which are most precious in their nature. Accordingly, Anexagoras, Thales, and men of that stamp, people call Scientific, but not Practically Wise because they see them ignorant of what concerns themselves; and they say that what they know is quite out of the common run certainly, and wonderful, and hard, and very fine no doubt, but still useless because they do not seek after what is good for them as men.

But Practical Wisdom is employed upon human matters, and such as are objects of deliberation (for we say, that to deliberate well is most peculiarly the work of the man who possesses this Wisdom), and no man deliberates about things which cannot be otherwise than they are, nor about any save those that have some definite End and this End good resulting from Moral Action; and the man to whom we should give the name of Good in Counsel, simply and without modification, is he who in the way of calculation has a capacity for attaining that of practical goods which is the best for Man.

Nor again does Practical Wisdom consist in a knowledge of general principles only, but it is necessary that one should know also the particular details, because it is apt to act, and action is concerned with details: for which reason sometimes men who have not much knowledge are more practical than others who have; among others, they who derive all they know from actual experience: suppose a man to know, for instance, that light meats are easy of digestion and wholesome, but not what kinds of meat are light, he will not produce a healthy state; that man will have a much better chance of doing so, who knows that the flesh of birds is light and wholesome. Since then Practical Wisdom is apt to act, one ought to have both kinds of knowledge, or, if only one, the knowledge of details rather than of Principles. So there will be in respect of Practical Wisdom the distinction of supreme and subordinate.[26]


Further: πολιτικὴ and Practical Wisdom are the same mental state, but the point of view is not the same.

Of Practical Wisdom exerted upon a community that which I would call the Supreme is the faculty of Legislation; the subordinate, which is concerned with the details, generally has the common name πολιτικὴ, and its functions are Action and Deliberation (for the particular enactment is a matter of action, being the ultimate issue of this branch of Practical Wisdom, and therefore people commonly say, that these men alone are really engaged in government, because they alone act, filling the same place relatively to legislators,[27] that workmen do to a master).

Again, that is thought to be Practical Wisdom in the most proper sense which has for its object the interest of the Individual: and this usually appropriates the common name: the others are called respectively Domestic Management,[28] Legislation, Executive Government divided into two branches, Deliberative and Judicial. Now of course, knowledge for one's self is one kind of knowledge, but it admits of many shades of difference: and it is a common notion that the man who knows and busies himself about his own concerns merely is the man of Practical Wisdom, 1142a while they who extend their solicitude to society at large are considered meddlesome.

Euripides has thus embodied this sentiment; “How,” says one of his Characters, “How foolish am I, who whereas I might have shared equally, idly numbered among the multitude of the army . . . for them that are busy and meddlesome [Jove hates],” because the generality of mankind seek their own good and hold that this is their proper business. It is then from this opinion that the notion has arisen that such men are the Practically-Wise. And yet it is just possible that the good of the individual cannot be secured independently of connection with a family or a community. And again, how a man should manage his own affairs is sometimes not quite plain, and must be made a matter of inquiry.[29]

A corroboration of what I have said is the fact,[30] that the young come to be geometricians, and mathematicians, and Scientific in such matters, but it is not thought that a young man can come to be possessed of Practical Wisdom: now the reason is, that this Wisdom has for its object particular facts, which come to be known from experience, which a young man has not because it is produced only by length of time.[31]

By the way, a person might also inquire why a boy may be made a mathematician but not Scientific or a natural philosopher. Is not this the reason? that mathematics are taken in by the process of abstraction,[32] but the principles of Science and natural philosophy must be gained by experiment; and the latter young men talk of but do not realise, while the nature of the former is plain and clear.

Again, in matter of practice, error attaches either to the general rule, in the process of deliberation, or to the particular fact: for instance, this would be a general rule, “All water of a certain gravity is bad;” the particular fact, “this water is of that gravity.”

And that Practical Wisdom is not knowledge is plain, for it has to do with the ultimate issue,[33] as has been said, because every object of action is of this nature.

To Intuition it is opposed, for this takes in those principles which cannot be proved by reasoning, while Practical Wisdom is concerned with the ultimate particular fact which cannot be realised by Knowledge but by Sense; I do not mean one of the five senses, but the same by which we take in the mathematical fact, that no rectilineal figure can be contained by less than three lines, i.e. that a triangle is the ultimate figure, because here also is a stopping point.

This however is Sense rather than Practical Wisdom, which is of another kind.[34]


Now the acts of inquiring and deliberating differ, though deliberating is a kind of inquiring. We ought to ascertain about Good Counsel likewise what it is, whether a kind of Knowledge, or Opinion, or Happy Conjecture, or some other kind of faculty. Knowledge it obviously is not, because men do not inquire about what they know, 1142b and Good Counsel is a kind of deliberation, and the man who is deliberating is inquiring and calculating.

Neither is it Happy Conjecture; because this is independent of reasoning, and a rapid operation; but men deliberate a long time, and it is a common saying that one should execute speedily what has been resolved upon in deliberation, but deliberate slowly.[35]

Quick perception of causes again is a different faculty from good counsel, for it is a species of Happy Conjecture. Nor is Good Counsel Opinion of any kind.

Well then, since he who deliberates ill goes wrong, and he who deliberates well does so rightly, it is clear that Good Counsel is rightness of some kind, but not of Knowledge nor of Opinion: for Knowledge cannot be called right because it cannot be wrong, and Rightness of Opinion is Truth: and again,[36] all which is the object of opinion is definitely marked out.

Still, however, Good Counsel is not independent of Reason, Does it remain then that it is a rightness of Intellectual Operation simply, because this does not amount to an assertion; and the objection to Opinion was that it is not a process of inquiry but already a definite assertion; whereas whosoever deliberates, whether well or ill, is engaged in inquiry and calculation.

Well, Good Counsel is a Rightness of deliberation, and so the first question must regard the nature and objects of deliberation. Now remember Rightness is an equivocal term; we plainly do not mean Rightness of any kind whatever; the ἀκρατὴς, for instance, or the bad man, will obtain by his calculation what he sets before him as an object, and so he may be said to have deliberated rightly in one sense, but will have attained a great evil. Whereas to have deliberated well is thought to be a good, because Good Counsel is Rightness of deliberation of such a nature as is apt to attain good.

But even this again you may get by false reasoning, and hit upon the right effect though not through right means,[37] your middle term being fallacious: and so neither will this be yet Good Counsel in consequence of which you get what you ought but not through proper means.

Again, one man may hit on a thing after long deliberation, another quickly. And so that before described will not be yet Good Counsel, but the Rightness must be with reference to what is expedient; and you must have a proper end in view, pursue it in a right manner and right time.

Once more. One may deliberate well either generally or towards some particular End.[38] Good counsel in the general then is that which goes right towards that which is the End in a general way of consideration; in particular, that which does so towards some particular End.[39]

Since then deliberating well is a quality of men possessed of Practical Wisdom, Good Counsel must be “Rightness in respect of what conduces to a given End, of which Practical Wisdom is the true conception.”


There is too the faculty of Judiciousness, and also its absence, 1143a in virtue of which we call men Judicious or the contrary.

Now Judiciousness is neither entirely identical with Knowledge or Opinion (for then all would have been Judicious), nor is it any one specific science, as medical science whose object matter is things wholesome; or geometry whose object matter is magnitude: for it has not for its object things which always exist and are immutable, nor of those things which come into being just any which may chance; but those in respect of which a man might doubt and deliberate.

And so it has the same object matter as Practical Wisdom; yet the two faculties are not identical, because Practical Wisdom has the capacity for commanding and taking the initiative, for its End is “what one should do or not do:” but Judiciousness is only apt to decide upon suggestions (though we do in Greek put “well” on to the faculty and its concrete noun, these really mean exactly the same as the plain words), and Judiciousness is neither the having Practical Wisdom, nor attaining it: but just as learning is termed συνιέναι when a man uses his knowledge, so judiciousness consists in employing the Opinionative faculty in judging concerning those things which come within the province of Practical Wisdom, when another enunciates them; and not judging merely, but judging well (for εὐ and καλῶς mean exactly the same thing). And the Greek name of this faculty is derived from the use of the term συνιέναι in learning:[40] μανθάνειν and συνιέναι being often used as synonymous.


The faculty called γνώμη, in right of which we call men εὐγνώμονες, or say they have γνώμη, is “the right judgment of the equitable man.” A proof of which is that we most commonly say that the equitable man has a tendency to make allowance, and the making allowance in certain cases is equitable. And συγγνώμη (the word denoting allowance) is right γνώμη having a capacity of making equitable decisions, By “right” I mean that which attains the True.

Now all these mental states tend to the same object,[41] as indeed common language leads us to expect: I mean, we speak of γνώμη, Judiciousness, Practical Wisdom, and Practical Intuition, attributing the possession of γνώμη and Practical Intuition to the same Individuals whom we denominate Practically-Wise and Judicious: because all these faculties are employed upon the extremes, i.e. on particular details;[42] and in right of his aptitude for deciding on the matters which come within the province of the Practically-Wise, a man is Judicious and possessed of good γνώμη; i.e. he is disposed to make allowance, for considerations of equity are entertained by all good men alike in transactions with their fellows.

And all matters of Moral Action belong to the class of particulars, otherwise called extremes: for the man of Practical Wisdom must know them, and Judiciousness and γνώμη are concerned with matters of Moral Actions, which are extremes.

Intuition, moreover, takes in the extremes at both ends:[43] I mean, the first and last terms must be taken in not by reasoning but by Intuition [so that Intuition comes to be of two kinds], and that which belongs to strict demonstrative reasonings takes in immutable, 1143b i.e. Necessary, first terms; while that which is employed in practical matters takes in the extreme, the Contingent, and the minor Premiss:[44] for the minor Premisses are the source of the Final Cause, Universals being made up out of Particulars.[45] To take in these, of course, we must have Sense, i.e. in other words Practical Intuition.

And for this reason these are thought to be simply gifts of nature; and whereas no man is thought to be Scientific by nature, men are thought to have γνώμη, and Judiciousness, and Practical Intuition: a proof of which is that we think these faculties are a consequence even of particular ages, and this given age has Practical Intuition and γνώμη, we say, as if under the notion that nature is the cause. And thus Intuition is both the beginning and end, because the proofs are based upon the one kind of extremes and concern the other.

And so one should attend to the undemonstrable dicta and opinions of the skilful,[46] the old and the Practically-Wise, no less than to those which are based on strict reasoning, because they see aright, having gained their power of moral vision from experience.


Well, we have now stated the nature and objects of Practical Wisdom and Science respectively, and that they belong each to a different part of the Soul. But I can conceive a person questioning their utility. “Science,” he would say, “concerns itself with none of the causes of human happiness (for it has nothing to do with producing anything):

Practical Wisdom has this recommendation, I grant, but where is the need of it, since its province is those things which are just and honourable, and good for man, and these are the things which the good man as such does; but we are not a bit the more apt to do them because we know them, since the Moral Virtues are Habits; just as we are not more apt to be healthy or in good condition from mere knowledge of what relates to these (I mean, of course, things so called not from their producing health, etc., but from their evidencing it in a particular subject)[47], for we are not more apt to be healthy and in good condition merely from knowing the art of medicine or training.

“If it be urged that knowing what is good does not by itself make a Practically-Wise man but becoming good; still this Wisdom will be no use either to those that are good, and so have it already, or to those who have it not; because it will make no difference to them whether they have it themselves or put themselves under the guidance of others who have; and we might be contented to be in respect of this as in respect of health: for though we wish to be healthy still we do not set about learning the art of healing.

“Furthermore, it would seem to be strange that, though lower in the scale than Science, it is to be its master; which it is, because whatever produces results takes the rule and directs in each matter.”

This then is what we are to talk about, for these are the only points now raised.

1144aNow first we say that being respectively Excellences of different parts of the Soul they must be choiceworthy, even on the supposition that they neither of them produce results.

In the next place we say that they do produce results; that Science makes Happiness, not as the medical art but as healthiness makes health:[48] because, being a part of Virtue in its most extensive sense, it makes a man happy by being possessed and by working.

Next, Man's work as Man is accomplished by virtue of Practical Wisdom and Moral Virtue, the latter giving the right aim and direction, the former the right means to its attainment;[49] but of the fourth part of the Soul, the mere nutritive principle, there is no such Excellence, because nothing is in its power to do or leave undone.[50]

As to our not being more apt to do what is noble and just by reason of possessing Practical Wisdom, we must begin a little higher up, taking this for our starting-point.[51] As we say that men may do things in themselves just and yet not be just men; for instance, when men do what the laws require of them, either against their will, or by reason of ignorance or something else, at all events not for the sake of the things themselves; and yet they do what they ought and all that the good man should do; so it seems that to be a good man one must do each act in a particular frame of mind, I mean from Moral Choice and for the sake of the things themselves which are done. Now it is Virtue which makes the Moral Choice right, but whatever is naturally required to carry out that Choice comes under the province not of Virtue but of a different faculty. We must halt, as it were, awhile, and speak more clearly on these points.

There is then a certain faculty, commonly named Cleverness, of such a nature as to be able to do and attain whatever conduces to any given purpose: now if that purpose be a good one the faculty is praiseworthy; if otherwise, it goes by a name which, denoting strictly the ability, implies the willingness to do anything; we accordingly call the Practically-Wise Clever, and also those who can and will do anything.[52]

Now Practical Wisdom is not identical with Cleverness, nor is it without this power of adapting means to ends: but this Eye of the Soul (as we may call it) does not attain its proper state without goodness, as we have said before and as is quite plain, because the syllogisms into which Moral Action may be analysed have for their Major Premiss, “since ————— is the End and the Chief Good”[53] (fill up the blank with just anything you please, for we merely want to exhibit the Form, so that anything will do), but how this blank should be filled is seen only by the good man: because Vice distorts the moral vision and causes men to be deceived in respect of practical principles.

It is clear, therefore, that a man cannot be a Practically-Wise,[54] without being a good, man.


We must inquire again also about Virtue: for it may be divided into Natural Virtue and Matured, 1144bwhich two bear to each other a relation similar to that which Practical Wisdom bears to Cleverness, one not of identity but resemblance. I speak of Natural Virtue, because men hold that each of the moral dispositions attach to us all somehow by nature:[55] we have dispositions towards justice, self-mastery and courage, for instance, immediately from our birth: but still we seek Goodness in its highest sense as something distinct from these,[56] and that these dispositions should attach to us in a somewhat different fashion. Children and brutes have these natural states, but then they are plainly hurtful unless combined with an intellectual element: at least thus much is matter of actual experience and observation, that as a strong body destitute of sight must, if set in motion, fall violently because it has not sight, so it is also in the case we are considering: but if it can get the intellectual element it then excels in acting. Just so the Natural State of Virtue, being like this strong body, will then be Virtue in the highest sense when it too is combined with the intellectual element.

So that, as in the case of the Opinionative faculty, there are two forms, Cleverness and Practical Wisdom; so also in the case of the Moral there are two, Natural Virtue and Matured; and of these the latter cannot be formed without Practical Wisdom.[57]

This leads some to say that all the Virtues are merely intellectual Practical Wisdom, and Socrates was partly right in his inquiry and partly wrong: wrong in that he thought all the Virtues were merely intellectual Practical Wisdom, right in saying they were not independent of that faculty.

A proof of which is that now all, in defining Virtue, add on the “state” [mentioning also to what standard it has reference, namely that] “which is accordant with Right Reason:” now “right” means in accordance with Practical Wisdom. So then all seem to have an instinctive notion that that state which is in accordance with Practical Wisdom is Virtue; however, we must make a slight change in their statement, because that state is Virtue, not merely which is in accordance with but which implies the possession of Right Reason; which, upon such matters, is Practical Wisdom. The difference between us and Socrates is this: he thought the Virtues were reasoning processes (i.e. that they were all instances of Knowledge in its strict sense), but we say they imply the possession of Reason.

From what has been said then it is clear that one cannot be, strictly speaking, good without Practical Wisdom nor Practically-Wise without moral goodness.

And by the distinction between Natural and Matured Virtue one can meet the reasoning by which it might be argued “that the Virtues are separable because the same man is not by nature most inclined to all at once so that he will have acquired this one before he has that other:" we would reply that this is possible with respect to the Natural Virtues but not with respect to those in right of which a man is denominated simply good: 1145a because they will all belong to him together with the one faculty of Practical Wisdom.

It is plain too that even had it not been apt to act we should have needed it, because it is the Excellence of a part of the Soul; and that the moral choice cannot be right independently of Practical Wisdom and Moral Goodness; because this gives the right End, that causes the doing these things which conduce to the End.

Then again, it is not Master of Science (i.e. of the superior part of the Soul), just as neither is the healing art Master of health; for it does not make use of it, but looks how it may come to be: so it commands for the sake of it but does not command it.

The objection is, in fact, about as valid as if a man should say πολιτικὴ governs the gods because it gives orders about all things in the communty.


On ἐπιστήμη, from I. Post. Analyt. chap. i. and ii.

(Such parts only are translated as throw light on the Ethics.)

All teaching, and all intellectual learning, proceeds on the basis of previous knowledge, as will appear on an examination of all. The Mathematical Sciences, and every other system, draw their conclusions in this method. So too of reasonings, whether by syllogism, or induction: for both teach through what is previously known, the former assuming the premisses as from wise men, the latter proving universals from the evidentness of the particulars. In like manner too rhetoricians persuade, either through examples (which amounts to induction), or through enthymemes (which amounts to syllogism).

Well, we suppose that we know things (in the strict and proper sense of the word) when we suppose ourselves to know the cause by reason of which the thing is to be the cause of it; and that this cannot be otherwise. It is plain that the idea intended to be conveyed by the term knowing is something of this kind; because they who do not really know suppose themselves thus related to the matter in hand and they who do know really are so that of whatsoever there is properly speaking Knowledge this cannot be otherwise than it is Whether or no there is another way of knowing we will say afterwards, but we do say that we know through demonstration, by which I mean a syllogism apt to produce Knowledge, i.e. in right of which through having it, we know.

If Knowledge then is such as we have described it, the Knowledge produced by demonstrative reasoning must be drawn from premisses true and first, and incapable of syllogistic proof, and better known, and prior in order of time, and causes of the conclusion, for so the principles will be akin to the conclusion demonstrated.

(Syllogism, of course there may be without such premisses, but it will not be demonstration because it will not produce knowledge).

True, they must be, because it is impossible to know that which is not.

First, that is indemonstrable, because, if demonstrable, he cannot be said to know them who has no demonstration of them for knowing such things as are demonstrable is the same as having demonstration of them.

Causes they must be, and better known, and prior in time, causes, because we then know when we are acquainted with the cause, and prior, if causes, and known beforehand, not merely comprehended in idea but known to exist (The terms prior, and better known, bear two senses for prior by nature and prior relatively to ourselves are not the same, nor better known by nature, and better known to us I mean, by prior and better known relatively to ourselves, such things as are nearer to sensation, but abstractedly so such as are further Those are furthest which are most universal those nearest which are particulars, and these are mutually opposed) And by first, I mean principles akin to the conclusion, for principle means the same as first And the principle or first step in demonstration is a proposition incapable of syllogistic proof, i. e. one to which there is none prior. Now of such syllogistic principles I call that a θέσις which you cannot demonstrate, and which is unnecessary with a view to learning something else. That which is necessary in order to learn something else is an Axiom.

Further, since one is to believe and know the thing by having a syllogism of the kind called demonstration, and what constitutes it to be such is the nature of the premisses, it is necessary not merely to know before, but to know better than the conclusion, either all or at least some of, the principles, because that which is the cause of a quality inhering in something else always inheres itself more as the cause of our loving is itself more lovable. So, since the principles are the cause of our knowing and believing we know and believe them more, because by reason of them we know also the conclusion following.

Further: the man who is to have the Knowledge which comes through demonstration must not merely know and believe his principles better than he does his conclusion, but he must believe nothing more firmly than the contradictories of those principles out of which the contrary fallacy may be constructed: since he who knows, is to be simply and absolutely infallible.

  1. I understand the illustration to be taken from the process of lowering a weight into its place; a block of marble, or stone, for instance, in a building.
  2. Called for convenience sake Necessary and Contingent matter.
  3. One man learns Mathematics more easily than another, in common language, he has a turn for Mathematics, i.e. something in his mental conformation answers to that science. The Phrenologist shows the bump denoting this aptitude.
  4. And therefore the question resolves itself into this, “What is the work of the Speculative, and what of the Practical, faculty of Reason.” See the description of ἀρετὴ, II. 5.
  5. πράξις is here used in its strict and proper meaning.
  6. That is to say, the Will waits upon deliberation in which Reason is the judge: when the decision is pronounced, the Will must act accordingly.
    The question at issue always is, Is this Good? because the Will is only moved by an impression of Good: the Decision then will be always Aye or No, and the mental hand is put forth to grasp in the former case, and retracted in the later.
    So far is what must take place in every Moral Action, right or wrong, the Machinery of the mind being supposed uninjured: but to constitute a good Moral Choice. i.e. a good Action, the Reason must have said Aye when it ought.
    The cases of faulty action will be, either when the Machinery is perfect but wrongly directed, as in the case of a deliberate crime; or when the direction given by the Reason is right but the Will does not move in accordance with that direction; in

    other words, when the Machinery is out of order; as in the case of the ἀκρατὴς—video meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor.

  7. See the note on Άρχὴ on page 4, l. 30.
  8. The mind attains truth, either for the sake of truth itself (ἁπλῶς), or for the sake of something further (ἕνεκά τινος). If the first, then either syllogistically (ἐπιστήμη), non-syllogistically (νοῦς), or by union of the two methods (σοφία). If the second, either with a view to act (φρόνησις), or with a view to make (τέχνη).
    Otherwise. The mind contemplates Matter Necessary or Contingent. If necessary, Principles (νοῦς), Deductions (ἐπιστήμη), or Mixed (σοφία). If Contingent, Action (φρόνησις), Production (τέχνη). (Giphanius quoted in Cardwell's notes.)
  9. The cobbler is at his last; why? to make shoes, which are to clothe the feet of some one: and the price to be paid, i.e. the produce of his industry, is to enable him to support his wife and children; thus his production is subordinate to Moral Action.
  10. It may be fairly presumed that Aristotle would not thus have varied his phrase without some real difference of meaning. That difference is founded, I think, on the two senses of ὄρεξις before alluded to (note, p. 53, l. 33). The first impulse of the mind towards Action may be given either by a vague desire or by the suggestion of Reason. The vague desire passing through the deliberate stage would issue in Moral Choice: Reason must enlist the Will before any Action can take place.
    Reason ought to be the originator in all cases, as Bishop Butler observes that Conscience should be: if this were so, every act of Moral Choice would be ὀρεκτικὸς νοῦς.
    But one obvious function of the feelings and passions in our composite nature is to instigate Action, when Reason and Conscience by themselves do not: so that as a matter of fact our Moral Choice is, in general, fairly described as ὄρεξις διανοητικὴ. See Bishop Butler's Sermon II. and the First upon Compassion.
  11. It is the opening statement of the Post. Analytics.
  12. Aristotle in his logical analysis of Induction, Prior. Analytics II. 25, defines it to be “the proving the inherence of the major term in the middle (i.e. proving the truth of the major premiss in fig. I.) through the minor term.” He presupposes a Syllogism in the first Figure with an universal affirmative conclusion, which reasons, of course, from an universal, which universal is to be taken as proved by Induction. His doctrine turns upon a canon which he there quotes. “If of one and the same term two others be predicated, one of which is coextensive with that one and the same, the other may be predicated of that which is thus coextensive.” The fact of this coextensiveness must be ascertained by νοῦς, in other words, by the Inductive Faculty. We will take Aldrich's instance.

    All Magnets attract iron
    Presupposed Syllogism reasoning from an universal.
    A B C are Magnets
    A B C attract iron.
    A B C attract iron (Matter of observation and experiment)
    All Magnets are A B C (Assumed by νοῦς, i.e. the Inductive faculty)
    All Magnets attract iron (Major premiss of the last Syllogism proved by taking the minor term of that for the middle term of this.)

    Or, according to the canon quoted above:

    A B C are Magnets.
    A B C attract iron.

    But νοῦς tells me that the term Magnets is coextensive with the term A B C, therefore of all Magnets I may predicate that they attract iron.
    Induction is said by Aristotle to be διὰ πάντων but he says in the same place that for this reason we must conceive (νοεῖν) the term containing the particular Instances (as A B C above), as composed of all the Individuals.
    If Induction implied actual examination of all particular instances it would cease to be Reasoning at all and sink into repeated acts of Simple Apprehension: it is really the bridging over of a chasm, not the steps cut in the rock on either side to enable us to walk down into and again out of it, It is a branch of probable Reasoning, and its validity depends entirely upon the quality of the particular mind which performs it. Rapid Induction has always been a distinguishing mark of Genius: the certainty produced by it is Subjective and not Objective. It may be useful to exhibit it Syllogistically, but the Syllogism which exhibits it is either nugatory, or contains a premise literally false. It will be found useful to compare on the subject of Induction as the term is used by Aristotle, Analytica Prior. II. 25, 26. Analytica Post. I. 1, 3, and I. Topics VI. I. and X.

  13. The reference is made to the Post Analyt. I. II. and it is impossible to understand the account of ἐπιστήμη without a perusal of the chapter; the additions to the definition referred to relate to the nature of the premisses from which ἐπιστήμη draws its conclusions: they are to be “true, first principles, incapable of any syllogistic proof, better known than the conclusion, prior to it, and causes or it.” (See the appendix to this Book.)
  14. This is the test of correct logical division, that the membra dividentia shall be opposed, i.e. not included the one by the other.
  15. The meaning of the ἐπεὶ appears to be this: the appeal is made in the first instance to popular language, just as it was in the case of ἐπιστήμη, and will be in those of φρόνησις and σοφία. We commonly call Architecture an Art, and it is so and so, therefore the name Art and this so and so are somehow connected: to prove that connection to be “coextensiveness,” we predicate one of the other and then simply convert the proposition; which is the proper test of any logical definition, or of any specific property. See the Topics, I. vi.
  16. See the parable of the unjust Steward, in which the popular sense of φρόνησις is strongly brought out; ἐπῄνεσεν ὁ κύριος τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ὅτι φρονίμως ἐποίησεν· ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου φρονιμώτεροι, κ. τ. λ.—Luke xvi. 8.
  17. Compare the ἁπλῶς and καθ ἕκαστα πεπαιδεύμενος of Book I. chap. 1.
  18. The two aspects under which Virtue may be considered as claiming the allegiance of moral agents are, that of being right, and that of being truly expedient; because Conscience and Reasonable Self-Love are the two Principles of our moral constitution naturally supreme: and “Conscience and Self-Love, if we understand our true happiness, always lead us the same way.” Bishop Butler, end of Sermon III.
    And again:
    “If by a sense of interest is meant a practical regard to what is upon the whole our Happiness: this is not only coincident with the principle of Virtue or Moral Rectitude, but is a part of the idea itself. And it is evident this Reasonable Self-Love wants to be improved as really as any principle in our nature.
    ...So little cause is there for Moralists to disclaim this principle.” From the note on sect. iv. of the chapter on Moral Discipline, Analogy, part I. chap. v.
  19. See the note on Ἀρχὴ on page 4, l. 30.
    The student will find it worth while to compare this passage with the following.—Chap. xiii. of this book beginning ἡ δ ἒξις τῶ ὄμματι τούτω κ. τ. λ.vii. 4. ἔτι καὶ ῶδε φυσικῶς. κ. τ. λ. viii. 9.—ἡ γὰρ ἀρετὴ καὶ ἡ µοχθηρία. κ. τ. λ.iii. 7 ad finem. εἰ δέ τις λέγοι. κ. τ. λ.
  20. This is not quite fair. Used in its strict sense, Art does not admit of degrees of excellence any more than Practical Wisdom. In popular language we use the term “wiser man,” as readily as “better artist:” really denoting in each case different degrees of approximation to Practical Wisdom and Art respectively; διὰ τὸ γίνεσθαι τοὺς ἐπαίνους δι᾿ ἀναφορᾶς. I. 12.
  21. He would be a better Chymist who should poison intentionally, than he on whose mind the prevailing impression was that “Epsom Salts mean Oxalic Acid; and Syrup of Senna Laudanum.”
  22. The term Wisdom is used in our English Translation of the Old Testament in the sense first given to Σορία here. “Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise-hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the Sanctuary.” Exodus xxxvi. 1.
  23. ἐπιστήμη and Νοῦς, (in the strict sense, for it is used in many different senses in this book) are different parts of the whole function σοφία; ἐπιστήμη takes in conclusions, drawn by strict reasoning from Principles of a certain kind which Νοῦς supplies. It is conceivable that a man might go on gaining these principles by Intuition and never reasoning from them, and so Νοῦς might exist independent of ἐπιστήμη, but not this without that. Put the two together, the head to the trunk, and you form the living being Σοφία. There are three branches of σοφία according to Greek Philosophy, Θεολογικὴ, Μαθηματικὴ, Φυσικὴ. Science is perhaps the nearest English term, but we have none really equivalent.
  24. πολιτικὴ is here used in its most extensive sense, φρόνησίς would be its chief Instrument.
  25. The faculty concerned with which is Φυσικὴ Σοφία.
  26. In every branch of Moral Action in which Practical Wisdom is employed there will be general principles, and the application of them; but in some branches there are distinct names appropriated to the operations of Practical Wisdom, in others there are not.
    Thus Practical Wisdom, when employed on the general principles of Civil Government, is called Legislation; as administering its particular functions it is called simply Government. In Domestic Management, there are of course general Rules, and also the particular application of them; but here the faculty is called only by one name. So too when Self-Interest is the object of Practical Wisdom.
  27. χειροτέχναι, “our mere Operatives in Public business.” (Chalmers.)
  28. Practical Wisdom may be employed either respecting

               Self, (which is φρόνησίς proper)
    or not-Self, i.e. either one's family=οἰκονομικὴ,
                           or one’s community=πολιτικὴ,

    but here the supreme and subordinate are distinguished; the former is νομοθετικὴ, the latter πολιτικὴ proper, whose functions are deliberation and the administration of justice.

  29. But where can this be done, if there be no community? sec Horace's account of the way in which his father made him reap instruction from the examples in the society around him. I. Sat. iv. 105, etc. See also Bishop Butler, Analogy, part I. chap. v. sect. iii.
    The whole question of the Selfish Morality is treated in Bishop Butler's first three and the eleventh Sermons, in which he shows the coincidence in fact of enlightened Self—Love and Benevolence i.e. love of others. Compare also what is said in the first Book of this treatise, chap. v., about αὐταρκεία.
  30. More truly “implied,” namely, that Practical Wisdom results from experience.
  31. This observation seems to be introduced, simply because suggested by the last, and not because at all relevant to the matter in hand.
  32. An instance of Principles gained αἰσθήσει. (Book I. chap. viii.)
  33. Particulars are called ἔσχατα because they are last arrived at in the deliberative process; but a little further on we have the term applied to first principles, because they stand at one extremity, and facts at the other, of the line of action.
  34. I prefer the reading ἡ φρόνησις, which gives this sense; “Well, as I have said, Practical Wisdom is this kind of sense, and the other we mentioned is different in kind.” In a passage so utterly unimportant, and thrown in almost colloquially, it is not worth while to take much trouble about such a point.
  35. The definition of it in the Organon (Post. Analyt. I. xxiv.), “a happy conjecture of the middle term without time to consider of it.”
    The quæstio states the phænomena, and the middle term the causation the rapid ascertaining of which constitutes ἀγχινοία.

    All that receives light from the sun is bright on the side next to the sun.
    The moon receives light from the sun,
    .·. The moon is bright on the side next the sun.

    The ἀγχινοία consists in rapidly and correctly accounting for the observed fact, that the moon is bright on the side next to the sun.

  36. Opinion is a complete, deliberation an incomplete, mental act.
  37. The End does not sanctify the Means.
  38. The meaning is, there is one End including all others; and in this sense φρόνησις is concerned with means, not Ends: but there are also many subordinate Ends which are in fact Means to the Greet End of all. Good counsel has reference not merely to the grand End, but to the subordinate Ends which φρόνησις selects as being right means to the Grand End of all.
  39. The relative οὖ might be referred to τὸ σύμφερον, but that εὐβουλία has been already divided into two kinds, and this construction would restrict the name to one of them, namely that πρός τι τέλος as opposed to that πρός τὸ τέλος ἁπλῶς.
  40. We have no term which at all approximates to the meaning of this word, much less will our language admit of the play upon it which connects it with συγγνώμη.
  41. Meaning, of course, all those which relate to Moral Action. φρόνησις is equivalent to εὐβουλία, σύνεσις, γνώμη, and νοῦς (in the new sense here given to it).
    The faculty which guides us truly in all matters of Moral Action is φρόνησις, i.e. Reason directed by Goodness or Goodness informed by Reason. But just as every faculty of body and soul is not actually in operation at the same time, though the Man is acting, so proper names are given to the various Functions of Practical Wisdom.
    Is the φρόνιμος forming plans to attain some particular End? he is then εὔβουλος—is he passing under review the suggestions of others? he is συνετὸς—is he judging of the acts of others? he admits γνώμη to temper the strictness of justness—is he applying general Rules to particular cases? he is exercising νοῦς πρακτικὸς or αἴσθησις—while in each and all he is φρόνιμος.
  42. See note, on p. 140.
  43. There are cases where we must simply accept or reject without proof: either when Principles are propounded which are prior to all reasoning, or when particular facts are brought before us which are simply matters of αἴσθησις. Aristotle here brings both these cases within the province of νοῦς, i.e. he calls by this name the Faculty which attains Truth in each.
  44. i.e. of the συλλογισμοὶ τῶν πρακτῶν.
  45. See the note on Άρχὴ on p. 4, l. 30. As a matter of fact and mental experience the Major Premiss of the Practical Syllogism is wrought into the mind by repeatedly acting upon the Minor Premiss (i.e. by ἐθισμός).

        All that is pleasant is to be done.
        This is pleasant,
    .·. This is to be done.

    By habitually acting on the Minor Premiss. i.e. on the suggestions of ἐπιθυμία, a man comes really to hold the Major Premiss; Aristotle says of the man destitute of all self-control that he is firmly persuaded that it is his proper line to pursue the gratification of his bodily appetites, διὰ τὸ τοιοῦτος εἶναι οἷος διώκειν αὐτάς. And his analysis of ἀκρασία. (the state of progress towards this utter abandonment to passion) shows that each case of previous good resolution succumbing to temptation is attributable to ἐπιθυμία suggesting its own Minor Premiss in place of the right one. Book VII. 8 and 5.

  46. The consequentia is this:
    There are cases both of principles and facts which cannot admit of reasoning, and must be authoritatively determined by νοῦς. What makes νοῦς to be a true guide? only practice, i.e. Experience, and therefore, etc.
  47. This is a note to explain ὑγίεινα and εὐεκτικὰ; he gives these three uses of the term ὑγίεινον in the Topics, I. xiii. 10,
    ὑγίεινον λέγεται τὸ μὲν ὑγίειας ποιητικόν,
    τὸ δὲ φυλακτικὸν,
    τὸ δὲ σημαντικὸν.

    Of course the same will apply to εὐεκτικὸν.

  48. P. 146, l. 11. Healthiness is the formal cause of health.
    Medicine is the efficient

    See Book X. chap. iv. ὥσπερ οὐδ' ἡ ὑγίεια καὶ ὁ ἰατρὸς ὁμοίως αἰτία ἐστὶ τοῦ ὑγιαίνειν.

  49. φρὸνησις is here used in a partial sense to signify the Intellectual, as distinct from the Moral, element of Practical Wisdom.
  50. This is another case of an observation being thrown in obiter, not relevant to, but suggested by, the matter in hand.
  51. See Book II. chap. iii. and V. xiii.
  52. The article is supplied at πανούργους, because the abstract word has just been used expressly in a bad sense. “Up to anything” is the nearest equivalent to πανούργος, but too nearly approaches to a colloquial vulgarism.
  53. See the note on Άρχὴ on page 4, l. 30.
  54. “Look asquint on the face of truth.” Sir T. Browne, Religio Medici.
  55. The term σωφρονικοὶ must be understood as governing the signification of the other two terms, there being no single Greek term to denote in either case mere dispositions towards these Virtues.
  56. Compare the passage at the commencement of Book X. νῦν δὲ φαίνονται ... κατοκώχιμον ἐκ τῆς ἀρετῆς.
  57. It must be remembered, that φρόνησις is used throughout this chapter in two senses, its proper and complete sense of Practical Wisdom, and its incomplete one of merely the Intellectual Element of it.