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III4b] But suppose a man to say, “that (by our own admission) all men aim at that which conveys to their minds an impression of good, and that men have no control over this impression, but that the End impresses each with a notion correspondent to his own individual character; that to be sure if each man is in a way the cause of his own moral state, so he will be also of the kind of impression he receives: whereas, if this is not so, no one is the cause to himself of doing evil actions, but he does them by reason of ignorance of the true End, supposing that through their means he will secure the chief good. Further, that this aiming at the End is no matter of one’s own choice, but one must be born with a power of mental vision, so to speak, whereby to judge fairly and choose that which is really good; and he is blessed by nature who has this naturally well: because it is the most important thing and the fairest, and what a man cannot get or learn from another but will have such as nature has given it; and for this to be so given well and fairly would be excellence of nature in the highest and truest sense.”
If all this be true, how will Virtue be a whit more voluntary than Vice? Alike to the good man and the bad, the End gives its impression and is fixed by nature or howsoever you like to say, and they act so and so, referring everything else to this End.
Whether then we suppose that the End impresses each man’s mind with certain notions not merely by nature, but that there is somewhat also dependent on himself; or that the End is given by nature, and yet Virtue is voluntary because the good man does all the rest voluntarily, Vice must be equally so; because his own agency equally attaches to the bad man in the actions, even if not in the selection of the End.
If then, as is commonly said, the Virtues are voluntary (because we at least co-operate in producing our moral states, and we assume the End to be of a certain kind according as we are ourselves of certain characters), the Vices must be voluntary also, because the cases are exactly similar.
Well now, we have stated generally respecting the Moral Virtues, the genus (in outline), that they are mean states, and that they are habits, and how they are formed, and that they are of themselves calculated to act upon the circumstances out of which they were formed, and that they are in our own power and voluntary, and are to be done so as right Reason may direct.
III5a] But the particular actions and the habits are not voluntary in the same sense; for of the actions we are masters from beginning to end (supposing of course a knowledge of the particular details), but only of the origination of the habits, the addition by small particular accessions not being cognisiable (as is the case with sicknesses): still they are voluntary because it rested with us to use our circumstances this way or that.
Here we will resume the particular discussion of the Moral Virtues, and say what they are, what is their object-matter, and how they stand respectively related to it: of course their number will be thereby shown. First, then, of Courage. Now that it is a mean state, in respect of fear and boldness, has been already said: further, the objects of our fears are obviously things fearful or, in a general way of statement, evils; which accounts for the common definition of fear, viz. “expectation of evil.”
Of course we fear evils of all kinds: disgrace, for instance, poverty, disease, desolateness, death; but not all these seem to be the object-matter of the Brave man, because there are things which to fear is right and noble, and not to fear is base; disgrace, for example, since he who fears this is a good man and has a sense of honour, and he who does not fear it is shameless (though there are those who call him Brave by analogy, because he somewhat resembles the Brave man who agrees with him in being free from fear); but poverty, perhaps, or disease, and in fact whatever does not proceed from viciousness, nor is attributable to his own fault, a man ought not to fear: still, being fearless in respect of these would not constitute a man Brave in the proper sense of the term.
Yet we do apply the term in right of the similarity of the cases; for there are men who, though timid in the dangers of war, are liberal men and are stout enough to face loss of wealth.
And, again, a man is not a coward for fearing insult to his wife or children, or envy, or any such thing; nor is he a Brave man for being bold when going to be scourged.
What kind of fearful things then do constitute the object-matter of the Brave man? first of all, must they not be the greatest, since no man is more apt to withstand what is dreadful. Now the object of the greatest dread is death, because it is the end of all things, and the dead man is thought to be capable neither of good nor evil. Still it would seem that the Brave man has not for his object-matter even death in every circumstance; on the sea, for example, or in sickness: in what circumstances then? must it not be in the most honourable? now such is death in war, because it is death in the greatest and most honourable danger; and this is confirmed by the honours awarded in communities, and by monarchs.
He then may be most properly denominated Brave who is fearless in respect of honourable death and such sudden emergencies as threaten death; now such specially are those which arise in the course of war.
1115b] It is not meant but that the Brave man will be fearless also on the sea (and in sickness), but not in the same way as sea-faring men; for these are light-hearted and hopeful by reason of their experience, while landsmen though Brave are apt to give themselves up for lost and shudder at the notion of such a death: to which it should be added that Courage is exerted in circumstances which admit of doing something to help one’s self, or in which death would be honourable; now neither of these requisites attach to destruction by drowning or sickness.
Again, fearful is a term of relation, the same thing not being so to all, and there is according to common parlance somewhat so fearful as to be beyond human endurance: this of course would be fearful to every man of sense, but those objects which are level to the capacity of man differ in magnitude and admit of degrees, so too the objects of confidence or boldness.
Now the Brave man cannot be frighted from his propriety (but of course only so far as he is man); fear such things indeed he will, but he will stand up against them as he ought and as right reason may direct, with a view to what is honourable, because this is the end of the virtue.
Now it is possible to fear these things too much, or too little, or again to fear what is not really fearful as if it were such. So the errors come to be either that a man fears when he ought not to fear at all, or that he fears in an improper way, or at a wrong time, and so forth; and so too in respect of things inspiring confidence. He is Brave then who withstands, and fears, and is bold, in respect of right objects, from a right motive, in right manner, and at right times: since the Brave man suffers or acts as he ought and as right reason may direct.