Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

LCL 73: 324-325

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iἘπεὶ δὲ τυγχάνομεν πρότερον εἰρηκότες ὅτι δεῖ τὸ μέσον αἱρεῖσθαι καὶ1 μὴ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν μηδὲ τὴν ἔλλειψιν, τὸ δὲ μέσον ἐστὶν ὡς ὁ λόγος20 ὁ ὀρθὸς λέγει, τοῦτο διέλωμεν.

Ἐν πάσαις γὰρ ταῖς εἰρημέναις ἕξεσι, καθάπερ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων, ἐστί τις σκοπὸς πρὸς ὃν ἀποβλέπων ὁ τὸν λόγον ἔχων ἐπιτείνει καὶ ἀνίησιν, καί τις ἐστὶν ὅρος τῶν μεσοτήτων, ἃς μεταξύ φαμεν εἶναι τῆς ὑπερβολῆς καὶ τῆς ἐλλείψεως, 2οὔσας κατὰ τὸν ὀρθὸν λόγον. ἔστι δὲ τὸ μὲν25 εἰπεῖν οὕτως ἀληθὲς μέν, οὐθὲν δὲ σαφές. καὶ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς ἄλλαις ἐπιμελείαις, περὶ ὅσας ἐστὶν ἐπιστήμη, τοῦτ᾿ ἀληθὲς μὲν εἰπεῖν, ὅτι οὔτε πλείω οὔτε ἐλάττω δεῖ πονεῖν οὐδὲ ῥᾳθυμεῖν, ἀλλὰ τὰ μέσα καὶ ὡς ὁ ὀρθὸς λόγος· τοῦτο δὲ μόνον ἔχων ἄν τις οὐθὲν ἂν εἰδείη πλέον, οἷον30 ποῖα δεῖ προσφέρεσθαι πρὸς τὸ σῶμα, εἴ τις εἴπειεν ὅτι ὅσα ἡ ἰατρικὴ κελεύει καὶ ὡς ὁ ταύτην ἔχων. 3διὸ δεῖ καὶ περὶ τὰς τῆς ψυχῆς ἕξεις μὴ μόνον

  • 1καὶ om. ΚbΓ.
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Nicomachean Ethics, VI.

Book VI

iWe have already saida that it is right to choose theBk. VI. The Intellectual Virtues. c. i. The Right Principle. Which determines the Mean for Moral Virtue, is now to be defined.mean and to avoid excess and deficiency, and that the mean is prescribed by the right principle. Let us now analyse the latter notion.

In the case of each of the moral qualities or dispositions that have been discussed, as with all the other virtues also, there is a certain mark to aim at, on which the man who knows the principle involved fixes his gaze, and increases or relaxes the tensionb accordingly; there is a certain standard determining those modes of observing the mean which we define as lying between excess and defect, being in conformity 2with the right principle. This bare statement however, although true, is not at all enlightening. In all departments of human endeavour that have been reduced to a science, it is true to say that effort ought to be exerted and relaxed neither too much nor too little, but to the medium amount, and as the right principle decides. Yet a person knowing this truth will be no wiser than before: for example, he will not know what medicines to take merely from being told to take everything that medical science or a medical expert would prescribe. 3Hence with respect to the qualities of the soul also,

  • aCf.II. vi., esp. § 15.
  • bThe words denote tightening and loosening a bowstring, and also tuning a lyre. The former image is suggested by the preceding words, but the latter perhaps is a better metaphor for that avoidance of the too much and the too little which, according to Aristotle, constitutes right conduct.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-nicomachean_ethics.1926