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On Moral Virtue
by [?]

Sec. I. I propose to discuss what is called and appears to be moral virtue (which differs mainly from contemplative virtue in that it has emotion for its matter, and reason for its form), what its nature is, and how it subsists, and whether that part of the soul which takes it in is furnished with reason of its own, or participates in something foreign, and if the latter, whether as things that are mixed with something better than themselves, or rather as that which is subject to superintendence and command, and may be said to share in the power of that which commands. For I think it is clear that virtue can exist and continue altogether free from matter and mixture. My best course will be to run briefly over the views of others, not so much to display my research as because, when their ideas have been set forth, mine will become more clear and be on a firmer basis.

Sec. II. Menedemus of Eretria took away the number and differences of virtues, on the ground that virtue was one though it had many names; for that just as mortal is synonymous with man, so temperance and bravery and justice were the same thing. And Aristo of Chios also made virtue one in substance, and called it soundness of mind: its diversities and varieties only existing in certain relations, as if one called our sight when it took in white objects white-sight, and when it took in black objects black-sight, and so on. For virtue, when it considers what it ought to do and what it ought not to do, is called prudence; and when it curbs passion, and sets a fit and proper limit to pleasure, it is called self-control; and when it is associated with our dealings and covenants with one another, it is called justice; just as a knife is one article, though at different times it cuts different things in half: and so, too, fire acts on different matter though it has but one property. And Zeno of Cittium seems to incline somewhat to the same view, as he defines prudence in distribution as justice, in choice as self-control, in endurance as fortitude: and those who defend these views maintain that by the term prudence Zeno means knowledge. But Chrysippus, thinking each particular virtue should be arranged under its particular quality, unwittingly stirred up, to use Plato’s language, “a whole swarm of virtues,”[219] unusual and unknown. For as from brave we get bravery, and from mild mildness, and from just justice, so from acceptable he got acceptableness, and from good goodness, and from great greatness, and from the honourable honourableness, and he made virtues of many other such clevernesses, affabilities, and versatilities, and filled philosophy, which did not at all require it, with many strange names.

Sec. III. Now all these agree in supposing virtue to be a disposition and faculty of the governing part of the soul set in motion by reason, or rather to be reason itself conformable and firm and immutable. They think further that the emotional and unreasoning part of the soul is not by any natural difference distinct from the reasoning part, but that that same part of the soul, which they call intellect and the leading principle of action, being altogether diverted and changed by the passions, and by the alterations which habit or disposition have brought about, becomes either vice or virtue, without having in itself any unreasoning element, but that it is called unreasoning when, by the strong and overpowering force of appetite, it launches out into excesses contrary to the direction of reason. For passion, according to them, is only vicious and intemperate reason, getting its strength and power from bad and faulty judgement. But all of those philosophers seem to have been ignorant that we are all in reality two-fold and composite, though they did not recognize it, and only saw the more evident mixture of soul and body. And yet that there is in the soul itself something composite and two-fold and dissimilar (the unreasoning part of it, as if another body, being by necessity and nature mixed up with and united to reason), seems not to have escaped the notice even of Pythagoras, as we infer from his zeal for music, which he introduced to calm and soothe the soul, as knowing that it was not altogether amenable to precept and instruction, or redeemable from vice only by reason, but that it needed some other persuasion and moulding and softening influence to co-operate with reason, unless it were to be altogether intractable and refractory to philosophy. And Plato saw very plainly and confidently and decidedly that the soul of this universe is not simple or uncomposite or uniform, but is made up of forces that work uniformly and differently, in the one case it is ever marshalled in the same order and moves about in one fixed orbit, in the other case it is divided into motions and orbits contrary to each other and changing about, and thus generates differences in things. So, too, the soul of man, being a part or portion of the soul of the universe, and compounded upon similar principles and proportions, is not simple or entirely uniform, but has one part intelligent and reasoning, which is intended by nature to rule and dominate in man, and another part unreasoning, and subject to passion and caprice, and disorderly, and in need of direction. And this last again is divided into two parts, one of which, being most closely connected with the body, is called desire, and the other, sometimes taking part with the body, sometimes with reason, lending its influence against the body, is called anger. And the difference between reason and sense on the one hand, and anger and desire on the other, is shown by their antipathy to one another, so that they are often at variance with one another as to what is best.[220] These were at first[221] the views of Aristotle, as is clear from his writings, though afterwards he joined anger to desire, as if anger were nothing but a desire and passion for revenge. However, he always considered the emotional and unreasoning part of the soul as distinct from the reasoning, not that it is altogether unreasoning as the perceptive, or nutritive, or vegetative portions of the soul, for these are always deaf and disobedient to reason, and in a certain sense are off-shoots from the flesh, and altogether attached to the body; but the emotional, though it is destitute of any reason of its own, yet is naturally inclined to listen to reason and sense, and turn and submit and mould itself accordingly, unless it be entirely corrupted by brute pleasure and a life of indulgence.