We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain
that ensues on acts; for the man who abstains from bodily pleasures
and delights in this very fact is temperate, while the man who is
annoyed at it is self-indulgent, and he who stands his ground
against things that are terrible and delights in this or at least is
not pained is brave, while the man who is pained is a coward. For
moral excellence is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on
account of the pleasure that we do bad things, and on account of the
pain that we abstain from noble ones. Hence we ought to have been
brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says,
so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought;
for this is the right education.
Again, if the virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and
every passion and every action is accompanied by pleasure and pain,
for this reason also virtue will be concerned with pleasures and
pains. This is indicated also by the fact that punishment is inflicted
by these means; for it is a kind of cure, and it is the nature of
cures to be effected by contraries.
Again, as we said but lately, every state of soul has a nature
relative to and concerned with the kind of things by which it tends to
be made worse or better; but it is by reason of pleasures and pains
that men become bad, by pursuing and avoiding these- either the
pleasures and pains they ought not or when they ought not or as they
ought not, or by going wrong in one of the other similar ways that may
be distinguished. Hence men even define the virtues as certain
states of impassivity and rest; not well, however, because they
speak absolutely, and do not say 'as one ought' and 'as one ought not'
and 'when one ought or ought not', and the other things that may be
added. We assume, then, that this kind of excellence tends to do
what is best with regard to pleasures and pains, and vice does the
The following facts also may show us that virtue and vice are
concerned with these same things. There being three objects of
choice and three of avoidance, the noble, the advantageous, the
pleasant, and their contraries, the base, the injurious, the
painful, about all of these the good man tends to go right and the bad
man to go wrong, and especially about pleasure; for this is common
to the animals, and also it accompanies all objects of choice; for
even the noble and the advantageous appear pleasant.
Again, it has grown up with us all from our infancy; this is why
it is difficult to rub off this passion, engrained as it is in our
life. And we measure even our actions, some of us more and others
less, by the rule of pleasure and pain. For this reason, then, our
whole inquiry must be about these; for to feel delight and pain
rightly or wrongly has no small effect on our actions.
Again, it is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger, to use
Heraclitus' phrase', but both art and virtue are always concerned with
what is harder; for even the good is better when it is harder.
Therefore for this reason also the whole concern both of virtue and of
political science is with pleasures and pains; for the man who uses
these well will be good, he who uses them badly bad.
That virtue, then, is concerned with pleasures and pains, and that
by the acts from which it arises it is both increased and, if they are
done differently, destroyed, and that the acts from which it arose are
those in which it actualizes itself- let this be taken as said.
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