Book 02
Chapter 04
To have success in what you do, make virtue in your soul.

Now, someone might ask us how we can say that we become just by doing just acts, since if we did them then that would that not mean we were already just? After all, if someone writes something according to the laws of grammar then does that not mean they are someone that knows grammar?

Well, no, we answer. After all, someone can write something that is grammatical without knowing grammar. They can do it because someone tells them what to write, and it is possible they can do it by chance. We only say they know grammar when they do something that shows they have the knowledge and they know how to use it.

Further, art and virtue are different on this point. If you make something that takes skill to do well, and it turns out that the work is good, then you have shown your skill and that is that. But with virtue, doing virtuous acts is not enough for a person to be virtuous. And what more is needed? First, the person has to know what they are doing (and not have someone else telling them to do it or from luck). Second, they must do it by choice. And third, them doing it must come from who they are as a person. Of these three, art only requires the first one (knowing what you are doing). With art, you can make something even though you do not want to. You can make something and not even like what you made. Still, you have the skill. With virtue, if you did not choose it, or it does not come from you, as a person, then it is not virtue.

So we have to be able to see the difference here. We can call an action just or temperate if it is what a just or temperate person would have done. But the person that does the action is not just or temperate unless the cause of their taking the action is because they have something in their soul which is as the soul of a just or temperate person is.

It is rightly said: to become just, do what is just and do it as the just person would do it; to become temperate, do what is temperate as the temperate person would do it. There is no other way to become good.

Yet most people do not do these things. They talk theory instead and think that makes them philosophers and think that they can become good like that. It is like as if they were patients listening to a doctor who is telling them what they must do to become well. The patient says: "Yes, Doctor, I will." to each thing the doctor says. And what then? The patient does none of things they were told to. By not taking action, such a patient will not make their body healthy. So likewise, by not taking action, a student of virtue will not make their soul healthy either.


« index »

« subscribe »

« home »