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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: May 2018

Book VII

from Nicomachean Ethics


Chapter 1

Next we must make a fresh start, stating that there are three types of character to be avoided, namely, vice, incontinence, and brutishness. The contraries of two of these are clear; we call one virtue and the other self-control. What is contrary to brutishness might most appropriately be described as superhuman virtue, a virtue heroic and godlike; thus Homer depicts Priam saying of Hector that he was good in the extreme: ‘For he seemed not to be a child of a mortal man but of a god.’

So if, as they say, people become gods through superlative virtue, this must clearly be the sort of state opposed to brutishness. Just as no brute possesses vice or virtue, neither does a god; but the god’s state is more honourable than virtue, while that of the brute is in a different class from vice.

And, since it is unusual for a man to be godlike (as the Spartans are wont in their dialect to call someone they particularly admire, saying ‘He is a godlike fellow’), so the brutish person is also uncommon among human beings. He is found chiefly among non-Greeks, though some cases arise through disease and disability. We also use the term derogatorily to refer to those who surpass other human beings in their vice.

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Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
  • Online ISBN: 9781139600514
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