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Again, a man is more excusable for following such desires as are natural, just as he is for following such Lusts as are common to all and to that degree in which they are common. Now Anger and irritability are more natural than Lusts when in excess and for objects not necessary. (This was the ground of the defence the man made who beat his father, “My father,” he said, “used to beat his, and his father his again, and this little fellow here,” pointing to his child, “will beat me when he is grown a man: it runs in the family.” And the father, as he was being dragged along, bid his son leave off beating him at the door, because he had himself been used to drag his father so far and no farther.)

Again, characters are less unjust in proportion as they involve less insidiousness. Now the Angry man is not insidious, nor is Anger, but quite open: but Lust is: as they say of Venus,

  “Cyprus-born Goddess, weaver of deceits

Or Homer of the girdle called the Cestus,

  “Persuasiveness cheating e’en the subtlest mind.”

And so since this kind of Imperfect Self-Control is more unjust, it is also more disgraceful than that in respect of Anger, and is simply Imperfect Self-Control, and Vice in a certain sense. Again, no man feels pain in being insolent, but every one who acts through Anger does act with pain; and he who acts insolently does it with pleasure. If then those things are most unjust with which we have most right to be angry, then Imperfect Self-Control, arising from Lust, is more so than that arising from Anger: because in Anger there is no insolence.

Well then, it is clear that Imperfect Self-Control in respect of Lusts is more disgraceful than that in respect of Anger, and that the object-matter of Self-Control, and the Imperfection of it, are bodily Lusts and pleasures; but of these last we must take into account the differences; for, as was said at the commencement, some are proper to the human race and natural both in kind and degree, others Brutish, and others caused by maimings and diseases.

Now the first of these only are the object-matter of Perfected Self-Mastery and utter absence of Self-Control; and therefore we never attribute either of these states to Brutes (except metaphorically, and whenever any one kind of animal differs entirely from another in insolence, mischievousness, or voracity), because they have not moral choice or process of deliberation, but are quite different from that kind of creature just as are madmen from other men.

1150a] Brutishness is not so low in the scale as Vice, yet it is to be regarded with more fear: because it is not that the highest principle has been corrupted, as in the human creature, but the subject has it not at all.

It is much the same, therefore, as if one should compare an inanimate with an animate being, which were the worse: for the badness of that which has no principle of origination is always less harmful; now Intellect is a principle of origination. A similar case would be the comparing injustice and an unjust man together: for in different ways each is the worst: a bad man would produce ten thousand times as much harm as a bad brute.


Now with respect to the pleasures and pains which come to a man through Touch and Taste, and the desiring or avoiding such (which we determined before to constitute the object-matter of the states of utter absence of Self-Control and Perfected Self-Mastery), one may be so disposed as to yield to temptations to which most men would be superior, or to be superior to those to which most men would yield: in respect of pleasures, these characters will be respectively the man of Imperfect Self-Control, and the man of Self-Control; and, in respect of pains, the man of Softness and the man of Endurance: but the moral state of most men is something between the two, even though they lean somewhat to the worse characters.

Again, since of the pleasures indicated some are necessary and some are not, others are so to a certain degree but not the excess or defect of them, and similarly also of Lusts and pains, the man who pursues the excess of pleasant things, or such as are in themselves excess, or from moral choice, for their own sake, and not for anything else which is to result from them, is a man utterly void of Self-Control: for he must be incapable of remorse, and so incurable, because he that has not remorse is incurable. (He that has too little love of pleasure is the opposite character, and the man of Perfected Self-Mastery the mean character.) He is of a similar character who avoids the bodily pains, not because he cannot, but because he chooses not to, withstand them.

But of the characters who go wrong without choosing so to do, the one is led on by reason of pleasure, the other because he avoids the pain it would cost him to deny his lust; and so they are different the one from the other. Now every one would pronounce a man worse for doing something base without any impulse of desire, or with a very slight one, than for doing the same from the impulse of a very strong desire; for striking a man when not angry than if he did so in wrath: because one naturally says, “What would he have done had he been under the influence of passion?” (and on this ground, by the bye, the man utterly void of Self-Control is worse than he who has it imperfectly). However, of the two characters which have been mentioned [as included in that of utter absence of Self-Control], the one is rather Softness, the other properly the man of no Self-Control.

Furthermore, to the character of Imperfect Self-Control is opposed that of Self-Control, and to that of Softness that of Endurance: because Endurance consists in continued resistance but Self-Control in actual mastery, and continued resistance and actual mastery are as different as not being conquered is from conquering; and so Self-Control is more choiceworthy than Endurance.

150b] Again, he who fails when exposed to those temptations against which the common run of men hold out, and are well able to do so, is Soft and Luxurious (Luxury being a kind of Softness): the kind of man, I mean, to let his robe drag in the dirt to avoid the trouble of lifting it, and who, aping the sick man, does not however suppose himself wretched though he is like a wretched man. So it is too with respect to Self-Control and the Imperfection of it: if a man yields to pleasures or pains which are violent and excessive it is no matter for wonder, but rather for allowance if he made what resistance he could (instances are, Philoctetes in Theodectes’ drama when wounded by the viper; or Cercyon in the Alope of Carcinus, or men who in trying to suppress laughter burst into a loud continuous fit of it, as happened, you remember, to Xenophantus), but it is a matter for wonder when a man yields to and cannot contend against those pleasures or pains which the common herd are able to resist; always supposing his failure not to be owing to natural constitution or disease, I mean, as the Scythian kings are constitutionally Soft, or the natural difference between the sexes.

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