The question might be asked,; what we mean by saying that we must
become just by doing just acts, and temperate by doing temperate acts;
for if men do just and temperate acts, they are already just and
temperate, exactly as, if they do what is in accordance with the
laws of grammar and of music, they are grammarians and musicians.
Or is this not true even of the arts? It is possible to do something
that is in accordance with the laws of grammar, either by chance or at
the suggestion of another. A man will be a grammarian, then, only when
he has both done something grammatical and done it grammatically;
and this means doing it in accordance with the grammatical knowledge
Again, the case of the arts and that of the virtues are not similar;
for the products of the arts have their goodness in themselves, so
that it is enough that they should have a certain character, but if
the acts that are in accordance with the virtues have themselves a
certain character it does not follow that they are done justly or
temperately. The agent also must be in a certain condition when he
does them; in the first place he must have knowledge, secondly he must
choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes, and thirdly
his action must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character.
These are not reckoned in as conditions of the possession of the arts,
except the bare knowledge; but as a condition of the possession of the
virtues knowledge has little or no weight, while the other
conditions count not for a little but for everything, i.e. the very
conditions which result from often doing just and temperate acts.
Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as
the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who does
these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them as
just and temperate men do them. It is well said, then, that it is by
doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing
temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would
have even a prospect of becoming good.
But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think
they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving
somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do
none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be
made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not
be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.
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