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On Moral Virtue
by [?]

“The town is full of incense, and at once
Resounds with triumph-songs and bitter wailing.”[228]

Such is the state of soul of the continent person owing to his conflicting condition. On the same grounds they consider incontinence to be something less than vice, but intemperance to be a complete vice. For it, having both its appetite and reason depraved, is by the one carried away to desire disgraceful things,[229] by the other, through bad judgement consenting to desire, loses even the perception of wrongdoing. But incontinence keeps its judgement sound through reason, but is carried away against its judgement by passion which is too strong for reason, whence it differs from intemperance. For in the one case reason is mastered by passion, in the other it does not even make a fight against it, in the one case it opposes its desires even when it follows them, in the other it is their advocate and even leader, in the one case it gladly participates in what is wrong, in the other sorrowfully, in the one case it willingly rushes into what is disgraceful, in the other it abandons the honourable unwillingly. And as there is a difference in their deeds, so no less manifest is the difference in their language. For these are the expressions of the intemperate. “What grace or pleasure in life is there without golden Aphrodite? May I die, when I care no longer for these things!” And another says, “To eat, to drink, to enjoy the gifts of Aphrodite is everything, for all other things I look upon as supplementary,” as if from the bottom of his soul he gave himself up to pleasures, and was completely subverted by them. And not less so he who said, “Let me be ruined, it is best for me,” had his judgement diseased through his passion. But the sayings of incontinence are quite different, as

“My nature forces me against my judgement,”[230]


“Alas! it is poor mortals’ plague and bane,
To know the good, yet not the good pursue.”[231]

And again–

“My anger draws me on, has no control,
‘Tis but a sandy hook against a tempest.”

Here he compares not badly to a sandy hook, a sorry kind of anchor, the soul that is unsettled and has no steady reason, but surrenders judgment through flabbiness and feebleness. And not unlike this image are the lines,

“As some ship moored and fastened to the shore,
If the wind blows, the cables cannot hold it.”

By cables he means the judgement which resists what is disgraceful, though sometimes it gives way under a tremendous storm of passion. For indeed it is with full sail that the intemperate man is borne on to pleasure by his desires, and surrenders himself to them, and even plays the part of pilot to the vessel; whereas the incontinent man is dragged sidelong into the disgraceful, and is its victim, as it were, while he desires eagerly to resist and overcome his passion, as Timon bantered Anaxarchus: “The recklessness and frantic energy of Anaxarchus to rush anywhere seemed like a dog’s courage, but he being aware of it was miserable, so people said, but his voluptuous nature ever plunged him into excesses again, nature which even most sophists are afraid of.” For neither is the wise man continent but temperate, nor the fool incontinent but intemperate; for the one delights in what is good, and the other is not vexed at what is bad. Incontinence, therefore, is a mark of a sophistical soul, endued with reason which cannot abide by what it knows to be right.

Sec. VII. Such, then, are the differences between incontinence and intemperance, and continence and temperance have their counterpart and analogous differences; for remorse and trouble and annoyance are companions of continence, whereas in the soul of the temperate person there is everywhere such equability and calm and soundness, by which the unreasoning is adjusted and harmonized to reason, being adorned with obedience and wonderful mildness, that looking at it you would say with the poet, “At once the wind was laid, and a wondrous calm ensued, for the god allayed the fury of the waves,”[232] reason having extinguished the vehement and furious and frantic motions of the desires, and making those which nature necessarily requires sympathetic and obedient and friendly and co-operative in carrying purposes out in action, so that they do not outrun or come short of reason, or behave disorderly and disobediently, but that every appetite is tractable, “as sucking foal runs by the side of its dam.”[233] And this confirms the saying of Xenocrates about true philosophers, that they alone do willingly what all others do unwillingly at the compulsion of the law, as dogs are turned away from their pleasures by a blow, or cats by a noise, looking at nothing but their danger. It is clear then that there is in the soul a perception of such a generic and specific difference in relation to the desires, as of something fighting against and opposing them. But some say that there is no radical distinction difference or variance between reason and passion, but that there is a shifting of one and the same reason from one to the other, which escapes our notice owing to the sharpness and quickness of the change, so that we do not see at a glance that desire and repentance, anger and fear, giving way to what is disgraceful through passion, and recovery from the same, are the same natural property of the soul. For desire and fear and anger and the like they consider only depraved opinions and judgements, not in one portion of the soul only but in all its leading principles, inclinations and yieldings, and assents and impulses, and generally speaking in its energies soon changed, like the sallies of children, whose fury and excessive violence is unstable by reason of their weakness. But these views are, in the first place, contrary to evidence and observation; for no one observes in himself a change from passion to judgement, and from judgement back to passion; nor does anyone cease from loving when he reflects that it would be well to break the affair off and strive with all his might against it; nor again, does he put on one side reflection and judgement, when he gives way and is overcome by desire. Moreover, when he resists passion by reason, he does not escape passion altogether; nor again, when he is mastered by passion does he fail to discern his fault through reason: so that neither by passion does he abolish reason, nor does he by reason get rid of passion, but is tossed about to and fro alternately between passion and reason. And those who suppose that the leading principle in the soul is at one time desire, and at another time reason in opposition to desire, are not unlike people who would make the hunter and the animal he hunts one and the same person, but alternately changing from hunter to animal, from animal to hunter. As their eyesight is plainly deficient, so these are faulty in regard to their perceptions, seeing that they must perceive in themselves not a change of one and the same thing, but a difference and struggle between two opposing elements. “What then,” say they, “does not the deliberative element in a man often hold different views, and is it not swayed to different opinions as to expediency, and yet it is one and the same thing?” Certainly, I reply; but the case is not similar. For the rational part of the soul does not fight against itself, but though it has only one faculty, it makes use of different reasonings; or rather the reasoning is one, but employs itself in different subjects as on different matter. And so there is neither pain in reasonings without passion, nor are men compelled, as it were, to choose something contrary to their judgement, unless indeed some passion, as in a balance, secretly predominates in the scale. For this often happens, reason not opposing reason, but ambition, or contention, or favour, or jealousy, or fear opposing reason, that we do but think there is a difference between two reasons, as in the line, “They were ashamed to refuse, and feared to accept,”[234] or, “To die in battle is dreadful but glorious; but not to die, though cowardly, is more pleasant.” Moreover, in judgements about contracts passions come in and cause the greatest delay; and in the councils of kings those who speak to ingratiate themselves do not favour either of the two cases, but give themselves up to passion without regard to what is expedient; and so those that rule in aristocracies do not allow orators to be pathetic in their pleadings. For reasoning without passion has a direct tendency to justice, while if passion is infused, a contest and difference is excited between pleasure and pain on the one hand, and judgement and justice on the other. For otherwise how is it that in philosophical speculations people are with little pain frequently induced by others to change their opinions, and even Aristotle himself and Democritus and Chrysippus have rejected without trouble or pain, and even with pleasure, some of the opinions which they formerly advocated? For no passion stands in the way in the theoretic and scientific part of the soul, and the unreasoning element is quiet and gives no trouble therein. And so reason gladly inclines to the truth, when it is evident, and abandons error; for in it, and not in passion, lies a willingness to listen to conviction and to change one’s opinions on conviction. But the deliberations and judgements and arbitrations of most people as to matters of fact being mixed up with passion, give reason no easy or pleasant access, as she is held fast and incommoded by the unreasonable, which assails her through pleasure, or fear, or pain, or desire. And the decision in these cases lies with sense which has dealings with both passion and reason, for if one gets the better of the other the other is not destroyed, but only dragged along by force in spite of its resistance. For he who is dissatisfied with himself for falling in love calls in reason to his aid to overcome his passion, for both reason
and passion are in his soul, and he perceives they are contrary one to the other, and violently represses the inflammatory one of the two. On the other hand, in deliberations and speculations without passion (such as the contemplative part of the soul is most conversant with), if they are evenly balanced no decision takes place, but the matter is left in doubt, which is a sort of stationary position of the mind in conflicting arguments. But should there be any inclination to one of the two sides, the most powerful opinion carries the day, yet without giving pain or creating hostility. And, generally speaking, when reason seems opposed to reason, there is no perception of two distinct things, but only of one under different phases, whereas when the unreasoning has a controversy with reason, since there can be no victory or defeat without pain, forthwith they tear the soul in two,[235] and make the difference between them apparent.