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Now of Justs and Lawfuls each bears to the acts which embody and exemplify it the relation of an universal to a particular; the acts being many, but each of the principles only singular because each is an universal. And so there is a difference between an unjust act and the abstract Unjust, and the just act and the abstract Just: I mean, a thing is unjust in itself, by nature or by ordinance; well, when this has been embodied in act, there is an unjust act, but not till then, only some unjust thing. And similarly of a just act. (Perhaps [Greek: dikaiopragaema] is more correctly the common or generic term for just act, the word [Greek: dikaioma], which I have here used, meaning generally and properly the act corrective of the unjust act.) Now as to each of them, what kinds there are, and how many, and what is their object-matter, we must examine afterwards.
VIII] For the present we proceed to say that, the Justs and the Unjusts being what have been mentioned, a man is said to act unjustly or justly when he embodies these abstracts in voluntary actions, but when in involuntary, then he neither acts unjustly or justly except accidentally; I mean that the being just or unjust is really only accidental to the agents in such cases.
So both unjust and just actions are limited by the being voluntary or the contrary: for when an embodying of the Unjust is voluntary, then it is blamed and is at the same time also an unjust action: but, if voluntariness does not attach, there will be a thing which is in itself unjust but not yet an unjust action.
By voluntary, I mean, as we stated before, whatsoever of things in his own power a man does with knowledge, and the absence of ignorance as to the person to whom, or the instrument with which, or the result with which he does; as, for instance, whom he strikes, what he strikes him with, and with what probable result; and each of these points again, not accidentally nor by compulsion; as supposing another man were to seize his hand and strike a third person with it, here, of course, the owner of the hand acts not voluntarily, because it did not rest with him to do or leave undone: or again, it is conceivable that the person struck may be his father, and he may know that it is a man, or even one of the present company, whom he is striking, but not know that it is his father. And let these same distinctions be supposed to be carried into the case of the result and in fact the whole of any given action. In fine then, that is involuntary which is done through ignorance, or which, not resulting from ignorance, is not in the agent’s control or is done on compulsion.
I mention these cases, because there are many natural *[Sidenote: 1135b] things which we do and suffer knowingly but still no one of which is either voluntary or involuntary, growing old, or dying, for instance.
Again, accidentality may attach to the unjust in like manner as to the just acts. For instance, a man may have restored what was deposited with him, but against his will and from fear of the consequences of a refusal: we must not say that he either does what is just, or does justly, except accidentally: and in like manner the man who through compulsion and against his will fails to restore a deposit, must be said to do unjustly, or to do what is unjust, accidentally only.
Again, voluntary actions we do either from deliberate choice or without it; from it, when we act from previous deliberation; without it, when without any previous deliberation. Since then hurts which may be done in transactions between man and man are threefold, those mistakes which are attended with ignorance are, when a man either does a thing not to the man to whom he meant to do it, or not the thing he meant to do, or not with the instrument, or not with the result which he intended: either he did not think he should hit him at all, or not with this, or this is not the man he thought he should hit, or he did not think this would be the result of the blow but a result has followed which he did not anticipate; as, for instance, he did it not to wound but merely to prick him; or it is not the man whom, or the way in which, he meant.
Now when the hurt has come about contrary to all reasonable expectation, it is a Misadventure; when though not contrary to expectation yet without any viciousness, it is a Mistake; for a man makes a mistake when the origination of the cause rests with himself, he has a misadventure when it is external to himself. When again he acts with knowledge, but not from previous deliberation, it is an unjust action; for instance, whatever happens to men from anger or other passions which are necessary or natural: for when doing these hurts or making these mistakes they act unjustly of course and their actions are unjust, still they are not yet confirmed unjust or wicked persons by reason of these, because the hurt did not arise from depravity in the doer of it: but when it does arise from deliberate choice, then the doer is a confirmed unjust and depraved man.
And on this principle acts done from anger are fairly judged not to be from malice prepense, because it is not the man who acts in wrath who is the originator really but he who caused his wrath. And again, the question at issue in such cases is not respecting the fact but respecting the justice of the case, the occasion of anger being a notion of injury. I mean, that the parties do not dispute about the fact, as in questions of contract (where one of the two must be a rogue, unless real forgetfulness can be pleaded), but, admitting the fact, they dispute on which side the justice of the case lies (the one who plotted against the other, i.e. the real aggressor, of course, cannot be ignorant), so that the one thinks there is injustice committed while the other does not.
11364] Well then, a man acts unjustly if he has hurt another of deliberate purpose, and he who commits such acts of injustice is ipso facto an unjust character when they are in violation of the proportionate or the equal; and in like manner also a man is a just character when he acts justly of deliberate purpose, and he does act justly if he acts voluntarily.
Then as for involuntary acts of harm, they are either such as are excusable or such as are not: under the former head come all errors done not merely in ignorance but from ignorance; under the latter all that are done not from ignorance but in ignorance caused by some passion which is neither natural nor fairly attributable to human infirmity.
IX] Now a question may be raised whether we have spoken with sufficient distinctness as to being unjustly dealt with, and dealing unjustly towards others. First, whether the case is possible which Euripides has put, saying somewhat strangely,
“My mother he hath slain; the tale is short, Either he willingly did slay her willing, Or else with her will but against his own.”
I mean then, is it really possible for a person to be unjustly dealt with with his own consent, or must every case of being unjustly dealt with be against the will of the sufferer as every act of unjust dealing is voluntary?