Page 31 of 87
As for the excess, it occurs in all forms; men are angry with those with whom, and at things with which, they ought not to be, and more than they ought, and too hastily, and for too great a length of time. I do not mean, however, that these are combined in any one person: that would in fact be impossible, because the evil destroys itself, and if it is developed in its full force it becomes unbearable.
Now those whom we term the Passionate are soon angry, and with people with whom and at things at which they ought not, and in an excessive degree, but they soon cool again, which is the best point about them. And this results from their not repressing their anger, but repaying their enemies (in that they show their feeings by reason of their vehemence), and then they have done with it.
The Choleric again are excessively vehement, and are angry at everything, and on every occasion; whence comes their Greek name signifying that their choler lies high.
The Bitter-tempered are hard to reconcile and keep their anger for a long while, because they repress the feeling: but when they have revenged themselves then comes a lull; for the vengeance destroys their anger by producing pleasure in lieu of pain. But if this does not happen they keep the weight on their minds: because, as it does not show itself, no one attempts to reason it away, and digesting anger within one’s self takes time. Such men are very great nuisances to themselves and to their best friends.
Again, we call those Cross-grained who are angry at wrong objects, and in excessive degree, and for too long a time, and who are not appeased without vengeance or at least punishing the offender.
To Meekness we oppose the excess rather than the defect, because it is of more common occurrence: for human nature is more disposed to take than to forgo revenge. And the Cross-grained are worse to live with [than they who are too phlegmatic].
Now, from what has been here said, that is also plain which was said before. I mean, it is no easy matter to define how, and with what persons, and at what kind of things, and how long one ought to be angry, and up to what point a person is right or is wrong. For he that transgresses the strict rule only a little, whether on the side of too much or too little, is not blamed: sometimes we praise those who
126b] are deficient in the feeling and call them Meek, sometimes we call the irritable Spirited as being well qualified for government. So it is not easy to lay down, in so many words, for what degree or kind of transgression a man is blameable: because the decision is in particulars, and rests therefore with the Moral Sense. Thus much, however, is plain, that the mean state is praiseworthy, in virtue of which we are angry with those with whom, and at those things with which, we ought to be angry, and in right manner, and so on; while the excesses and defects are blameable, slightly so if only slight, more so if greater, and when considerable very blameable.
It is clear, therefore, that the mean state is what we are to hold to.
This then is to be taken as our account of the various moral states which have Anger for their object-matter.
Next, as regards social intercourse and interchange of words and acts, some men are thought to be Over-Complaisant who, with a view solely to giving pleasure, agree to everything and never oppose, but think their line is to give no pain to those they are thrown amongst: they, on the other hand, are called Cross and Contentious who take exactly the contrary line to these, and oppose in everything, and have no care at all whether they give pain or not.
Now it is quite clear of course, that the states I have named are blameable, and that the mean between them is praiseworthy, in virtue of which a man will let pass what he ought as he ought, and also will object in like manner. However, this state has no name appropriated, but it is most like Friendship; since the man who exhibits it is just the kind of man whom we would call the amiable friend, with the addition of strong earnest affection; but then this is the very point in which it differs from Friendship, that it is quite independent of any feeling or strong affection for those among whom the man mixes: I mean, that he takes everything as he ought, not from any feeling of love or hatred, but simply because his natural disposition leads him to do so; he will do it alike to those whom he does know and those whom he does not, and those with whom he is intimate and those with whom he is not; only in each case as propriety requires, because it is not fitting to care alike for intimates and strangers, nor again to pain them alike.
It has been stated in a general way that his social intercourse will be regulated by propriety, and his aim will be to avoid giving pain and to contribute to pleasure, but with a constant reference to what is noble and expedient.
His proper object-matter seems to be the pleasures and pains which arise out of social intercourse, but whenever it is not honourable or even hurtful to him to contribute to pleasure, in these instances he will run counter and prefer to give pain.
Or if the things in question involve unseemliness to the doer, and this not inconsiderable, or any harm, whereas his opposition will cause some little pain, here he will not agree but will run counter.
127a] Again, he will regulate differently his intercourse with great men and with ordinary men, and with all people according to the knowledge he has of them; and in like manner, taking in any other differences which may exist, giving to each his due, and in itself preferring to give pleasure and cautious not to give pain, but still guided by the results, I mean by what is noble and expedient according as they preponderate.
Again, he will inflict trifling pain with a view to consequent pleasure.
Well, the man bearing the mean character is pretty well such as I have described him, but he has no name appropriated to him: of those who try to give pleasure, the man who simply and disinterestedly tries to be agreeable is called Over-Complaisant, he who does it with a view to secure some profit in the way of wealth, or those things which wealth may procure, is a Flatterer: I have said before, that the man who is “always non-content” is Cross and Contentious. Here the extremes have the appearance of being opposed to one another, because the mean has no appropriate name.
The mean state which steers clear of Exaggeration has pretty much the same object-matter as the last we described, and likewise has no name appropriated to it. Still it may be as well to go over these states: because, in the first place, by a particular discussion of each we shall be better acquainted with the general subject of moral character, and next we shall be the more convinced that the virtues are mean states by seeing that this is universally the case.
In respect then of living in society, those who carry on this intercourse with a view to pleasure and pain have been already spoken of; we will now go on to speak of those who are True or False, alike in their words and deeds and in the claims which they advance.