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With all due respect to Socrates, his account of the matter is at variance with plain facts, and we must inquire with respect to the affection, if it be caused by ignorance what is the nature of the ignorance: for that the man so failing does not suppose his acts to be right before he is under the influence of passion is quite plain.
There are people who partly agree with Socrates and partly not: that nothing can be stronger than Knowledge they agree, but that no man acts in contravention of his conviction of what is better they do not agree; and so they say that it is not Knowledge, but only Opinion, which the man in question has and yet yields to the instigation of his pleasures.
146a] But then, if it is Opinion and not Knowledge, that is it the opposing conception be not strong but only mild (as in the case of real doubt), the not abiding by it in the face of strong lusts would be excusable: but wickedness is not excusable, nor is anything which deserves blame.
Well then, is it Practical Wisdom which in this case offers opposition: for that is the strongest principle? The supposition is absurd, for we shall have the same man uniting Practical Wisdom and Imperfect Self-Control, and surely no single person would maintain that it is consistent with the character of Practical Wisdom to do voluntarily what is very wrong; and besides we have shown before that the very mark of a man of this character is aptitude to act, as distinguished from mere knowledge of what is right; because he is a man conversant with particular details, and possessed of all the other virtues.
Again, if the having strong and bad lusts is necessary to the idea of the man of Self-Control, this character cannot be identical with the man of Perfected Self-Mastery, because the having strong desires or bad ones does not enter into the idea of this latter character: and yet the man of Self-Control must have such: for suppose them good; then the moral state which should hinder a man from following their suggestions must be bad, and so Self-Control would not be in all cases good: suppose them on the other hand to be weak and not wrong, it would be nothing grand; nor anything great, supposing them to be wrong and weak.
Again, if Self-Control makes a man apt to abide by all opinions without exception, it may be bad, as suppose the case of a false opinion: and if Imperfect Self-Control makes a man apt to depart from all without exception, we shall have cases where it will be good; take that of Neoptolemus in the Philoctetes of Sophocles, for instance: he is to be praised for not abiding by what he was persuaded to by Ulysses, because he was pained at being guilty of falsehood.
Or again, false sophistical reasoning presents a difficulty: for because men wish to prove paradoxes that they may be counted clever when they succeed, the reasoning that has been used becomes a difficulty: for the intellect is fettered; a man being unwilling to abide by the conclusion because it does not please his judgment, but unable to advance because he cannot disentangle the web of sophistical reasoning.
Or again, it is conceivable on this supposition that folly joined with Imperfect Self-Control may turn out, in a given case, goodness: for by reason of his imperfection of self-control a man acts in a way which contradicts his notions; now his notion is that what is really good is bad and ought not to be done; and so he will eventually do what is good and not what is bad.
Again, on the same supposition, the man who acting on conviction pursues and chooses things because they are pleasant must be thought a better man than he who does so not by reason of a quasi-rational conviction but of Imperfect Self-Control: because he is more open to cure by reason of the possibility of his receiving a contrary conviction. But to the man of Imperfect Self-Control would apply the proverb, “when water chokes, what should a man drink then?” for had he never been convinced at all in respect of [Sidenote: 1146b] what he does, then by a conviction in a contrary direction he might have stopped in his course; but now though he has had convictions he notwithstanding acts against them.
Again, if any and every thing is the object-matter of Imperfect and Perfect Self-Control, who is the man of Imperfect Self-Control simply? because no one unites all cases of it, and we commonly say that some men are so simply, not adding any particular thing in which they are so.
Well, the difficulties raised are pretty near such as I have described them, and of these theories we must remove some and leave others as established; because the solving of a difficulty is a positive act of establishing something as true.
Now we must examine first whether men of Imperfect Self-Control act with a knowledge of what is right or not: next, if with such knowledge, in what sense; and next what are we to assume is the object-matter of the man of Imperfect Self-Control, and of the man of Self-Control; I mean, whether pleasure and pain of all kinds or certain definite ones; and as to Self-Control and Endurance, whether these are designations of the same character or different. And in like manner we must go into all questions which are connected with the present.
But the real starting point of the inquiry is, whether the two characters of Self-Control and Imperfect Self-Control are distinguished by their object-matter, or their respective relations to it. I mean, whether the man of Imperfect Self-Control is such simply by virtue of having such and such object-matter; or not, but by virtue of his being related to it in such and such a way, or by virtue of both: next, whether Self-Control and Imperfect Self-Control are unlimited in their object-matter: because he who is designated without any addition a man of Imperfect Self-Control is not unlimited in his object-matter, but has exactly the same as the man who has lost all Self-Control: nor is he so designated because of his relation to this object-matter merely (for then his character would be identical with that just mentioned, loss of all Self-Control), but because of his relation to it being such and such. For the man who has lost all Self-Control is led on with deliberate moral choice, holding that it is his line to pursue pleasure as it rises: while the man of Imperfect Self-Control does not think that he ought to pursue it, but does pursue it all the same.
Now as to the notion that it is True Opinion and not Knowledge in contravention of which men fail in Self-Control, it makes no difference to the point in question, because some of those who hold Opinions have no doubt about them but suppose themselves to have accurate Knowledge; if then it is urged that men holding Opinions will be more likely than men who have Knowledge to act in contravention of their conceptions, as having but a moderate belief in them; we reply, Knowledge will not differ in this respect from Opinion: because some men believe their own Opinions no less firmly than others do their positive Knowledge: Heraclitus is a case in point.
Rather the following is the account of it: the term knowing has two senses; both the man who does not use his Knowledge, and he who does, are said to know: there will be a difference between a man’s acting wrongly, who though possessed of Knowledge does not call it into operation, and his doing so who has it and actually exercises it: the latter is a strange case, but the mere having, if not exercising, presents no anomaly.