Book 02
Chapter 01
Since we are not born already with virtue, we can and should work to get it.

Now let's go more into the difference between intellectual and moral virtue, the virtues that involve thinking and the ones that involve doing. Intellectual virtues get planted in us and grow up through instruction. Someone shows us the way and with time and experience we learn to follow it. Moral virtues, on the other hand, we get from being trained to have good habits.

Note here also, that even though you might have thought that some people are born with moral virtues, you can see that that is not so. None of the moral virtues exist by nature. How is that? Because nothing that by nature will go one way can ever be made to go a different way by training. By nature, rocks fall downward to the earth. If you throw a rock up ten thousand times and try to train it to go up, it will not work. That goes against the nature of the rock. Likewise, you cannot train fire to go downwards. Yet it is also the case that you cannot train rocks to go downward. But rocks do go downward? Yes, but you cannot train them to, because they already do that by nature. So in cases where things can be trained, that means it did not already have a nature in one way or another. Rather we say, that the thing has a nature that lets it form habits in different ways and we are using training to make for good habits.

For everything that comes to us by nature, we first have the potential to do it and second we actually do it. You can see this in the case of the five senses. It is not as though we get the potential to see things by looking at many things and then eventually we start to see. By nature we have sight and so we can already see. But with the virtues it is the opposite, we have to start trying things out first and later we learn to do them right. It is the same as with the arts. For the things have learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. For instance, people become builders by building things. If they improve over time then they become good builders, if not they are bad builders. Other people become musicians by playing music. If they learn to play well then they become good musicians and if not then they are bad musicians. If this were not so, then no one would ever need a teacher. They would be born already good or bad at their profession.

It is the same with the virtues. Imagine two people in a dangerous situation. One of them stands their ground and the other runs away. Imagine this happens again and again, each time with greater danger. The one who endures the fright and faces the danger becomes brave and the one who flees becomes cowardly. It is likewise with justice and temperance. One who acts justly becomes more and more a just person over time. One who keeps acting temperately becomes more and more a temperate person.

So we can see that a person's character is built up out of a person's actions over the course of time. So we ought to take care that we do the right things, because who we are and what we become will be based on that. There is no way anyone can say it is not such a big deal how a young person is brought up. No, it is a big deal and it makes a big difference, or rather, all the difference.


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