Book 02
Chapter 05
Virtue is a kind of wit.

Next we have to figure out which of the three kinds of things in the soul virtue is. And what three things do we mean here? The three kinds of things we have in our souls are (1) things with which we feel what happens to us and are moved (passions), (2) things in us which can get triggered or drawn on and they give us a kind of energy and make us to do things (emotions), and (3) things by which we take what we have at hand (so to speak) and form up our will to make something of them (wits). Virtue has got to be one of these three. Let's go over the three again with examples. We have (1) Offense and empathy: Things in us by which we are moved. (2) Anger and tender feeling: emotions which press on us to act. (3) Cool head and warm heart: These are things by which we take things in the right way or the wrong way, how we deal with our feelings and emotions.

Well, we can say that neither virtues nor vices are that which moves us. You can tell this if you think about how it would sound to say that so-and-so was congratulated for feeling this passion or for having this emotion. Well, then again, perhaps you may think of a time when someone was blamed for being angry over something they should not have been. Well, here they are being blamed because they took the thing in the wrong way. They were blamed for how they reacted or expressed their anger. But no one is blamed because they have in them the human emotion of anger. Sometimes it is right to be angry with certain things.

The key here is choice. People do not choose their emotions or passions. (They may choose whether to suppress their feelings or rouse themselves, but this is not the same as choosing to be angry. Even for cases where it seems like people can make themselves angry, you will see that people must first have some pretext by which to work themselves into such a state.) But virtue and vice do involve choice. Also, when we talk of passions and emotions, we talk of being moved to this or that. But when we talk of virtues and vices, we do not talk of being moved, but rather of being the type of person that will do this or that. A brave person will stand up for what is right, for instance. A coward will bail out at the first sign of trouble.

We can also mention here that we have our emotions and passions by nature. We are not good or bad because of what we have by nature. (We went over this at the start of this second book.)

So we can see that we should put the virtues and the vices in the class of things by which we take what happens with us and then make of it what we will (which we do that with our wits).


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