The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle

By F. H. Peters; Aristotle | Go to book overview

BOOK II.
MORAL VIRTUE.

1. EXCELLENCE, then, being of these two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual excellence owes its birth and growth mainly to instruction, and so requires time and experience, while moral excellence is the result of habit or custom (ἔθος), and has accordingly in our language received a name formed by a slight change from ἔθος.*

Moral virtues is acquired by the repetition of the corresponding acts.

1

From this it is plain that none of the moral excel­ lences or virtues is implanted in us by nature; for that which is by nature cannot be altered by training. For instance, a stone naturally tends to fall downwards, and you could not train it to rise upwards, though you tried to do so by throwing it up ten thousand times, nor could you train fire to move downwards, nor accustom anything which naturally behaves in one way to behave in any other way.

2

The virtues, then, come neither by nature nor

8

____________________
*
ἔθος, custom; ἔθος, character; ἠθικὴ ἀρετή, moral excellence: we have no similar sequence, but the Latin mos, mores, from which "morality" comes, covers both ἔθος and ἦθος.
It is with the moral virtues that this and the three following books are exclusively concerned, the discussion of the intellectual virtues being postponed to Book VI. ἀρεταí is often used in these books, without any epithet, for " moral virtues," and perhaps is so used here.

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