Book 03
Chapter 05
We will have virtue if that really is what we want.

So, again, we wish and long for some end and we deliberate about the means to get that end. When we decide what to do and then we do it, the reason why it was done is because we wanted to do it (it was voluntary action).

Now, back to virtue. Before we were saying that having the virtue to do good things is like having strength to lift things. In the case of lifting something, what is the cause of the thing being moved? In other words, what is it that makes the thing move? It is the person that lifts it. And when someone does the right thing, what is the cause of that? The cause is the person that does the right thing. Having virtue means being the cause of good things happening. On the other hand, having the power to do something also means having the power to not do it, but something else instead. This means we have the power to do good or do bad. Good and bad are both things that we choose.

So the saying: "No one who is bad, wants to be so. No one who is good, does not want to be so." -- This saying seems to be part true and part false. It is true that there is not anyone who does not want to be good. But it is not true that no one wants to be bad. Why? Because if no one wanted to be bad then it would mean that people who do bad things are not the cause of those things. And so, can it then be true that people are the cause only of the good, but not the bad? No, we just went over how we are cause of what we do when we do something because we want to do it, because we think it will get us something that we want. We do not agree that people do not cause themselves to do things. If the thing is bad, then still the person who did the bad thing is the cause of it happening.

If you look, you will see most people agree with us on this. In private matters people deal with each other as if it were so. (They hold each other to things.) In public matters, the government sets up laws to penalize those who have done bad things (unless it is a special case where they were forced to or did not know what they were doing). The government also gives honor to people who have done great and noble things. This is because the government wants to get people to go towards doing good things and keep away from doing bad things; the government tries to reward good and penalize bad.

But no one tries to get people to do things that they are not able to do. For instance, we do not try to tell people to not feel hot if they are hot or not feel hungry if they are hungry. Those things come from nature. People are going to feel those sensations whether they want to or not. On the other hand, people are charged for their ignorance when they could have done something about it. For instance, if being drunk causes one to act in a way that is ignorant, and the person could have chosen not to get drunk, and they know full well how they can be when they are drunk -- if they still get drunk anyways and then go and act in an ignorant way and harm comes from it, then of course we charge them. Likewise also, we punish people that do not know the law when they ought to know it and they could well have known it. If someone could have taken care about something, it means they can do something to keep it from happening, which is practically the same as saying they can choose for it to not happen. OK, but then suppose it does happen; well, that is the opposite, and it is just about the same as if they had chosen to do it. If that is so, how are they not going to be charged with it? After all, they let it happen when they could have done something about it?

OK, but what if the person is just the type of person that does not take care about anything at all? It is not that they specifically chose not to take care about this one thing here, and so it is like they are letting that specific thing happen (and not others); no, they do not care about anything at all. Are they still now the cause that specific thing? It seems like they are not making any choice. Well, still they are the one who chose to be this kind of person, and how can they not know what kind of person they are choosing to be when they see other people who do the same? They can see how these people end up. They can also see there are plenty of people who do take care, and yet they choose not to be like those people. Rather they choose to do such things like, for instance, involving themselves in cheating and binge drinking and whatnot, and that leads them to be that type of person. It is like as if they are training to be an athlete of bad living.

It is not right to think that people that keep doing unjust things still really want to be just and not unjust, or that people who give themselves every pleasure still want to be temperate instead of self-indulgent. If they know what it is they are going to do, they should know where it will take them and what they will end up as being. If they keep choosing to go down that road then it must mean they want to get where it takes them.

And yet once they have gone down that road, they cannot get back to the good way so easy. It is like the case of someone doing something that makes them sick, if they stop doing it they do not immediately change back to being healthy. They first got themselves sick and now they have to get themselves well. Or it is like having a rock in your hand and you throw it into the air. Once you let it go, it is gone, and you cannot just wish and make it be right back in your hand. When it was in your hand, if you did not wish for it to go, that was the time for keeping it. After you chose to let it go, it was then out of your hands.

Like we have been saying, it is not just the vices of the soul that men actually do go for, but those of the body also, and we blame people over both of these. OK, no one blames someone for things about their body that they were born with. People cannot help such things, and there is no sense in blaming what cannot be helped. But those people who do not exercise or they drink too much, we do blame them because they are choosing things that are bad, and they should not be doing that. It is obvious with the body in cases where people are choosing bad things because you can plainly see in the body the bad that comes of it. It is the same also with things besides the body, even if it is not as obvious. I mean, it is same with the soul as the body, even if it is not as obvious that the things chosen are bad and the hurt they do to the soul. Still, it happens and, like with the body one can choose not to do what is bad for it, and if one chooses instead the bad things, then it makes sense to put blame on someone for doing that. Again, what is the same in both cases, body and soul, is that we blame people for doing things when those people could choose to do different.

Now there are some people who say that everyone goes after what appears to them as being good, based on the type of person that they are. What looks like it is good is different for different people. We are all born different and we like different things. Now, for some people, it may happen that some bad things look as though they are good. These people naturally like bad things (e.g. some people seem to naturally like to gossip or have quarrels) and they go after these bad things, thinking that they are really good. No one makes such mistakes as these on purpose.

What to say to that? After all, it suggests that if someone takes a natural liking to something bad, then they cannot really be blamed for going after it. Well, let us go with this a little and see if we like where it takes us. So, if what we see as good or bad is something that we are born with, then our destinies are already set and there can be no learning to choose what is good. The good man will see what is good as good and will go after it. The bad man will see what is bad as being good (though it is not) and go after it. In both cases, virtue and vice, the cause of the person being that kind of person is outside of them, and not who they are as an individual.

We will see, once again, the virtues and the vices are both voluntary. If the good man wants what he ought to want, and sees the way to it, and then he takes that way, then of course we are going to say he is voluntarily good, voluntarily virtuous. Likewise it must follow that the bad man is voluntarily vicious. He sees a path to something he ought not to want, but he takes it anyways. It does not matter how it comes to be that the good or bad man has set their eyes on what they want. It does not matter if that is completely due to nature or if it is partly also from the person. In either case, the person still has to then find a path to that thing and then take it. That is voluntary. Even if the bad man does not naturally see good and want it. Even if the bad man naturally sees bad and wants it. Still, the bad man must make an effort to find the path to it and take it. That is voluntary. We would also say that we make ourselves who we are. That includes becoming the kind of person that sees good and seeks it or does not.

So at this point, we have gone over the virtues in general and talked about how they relate to the other things we have been going over. Here I mean, that virtues are the means to a good end, getting something good done or making something good happen. We also said that the more we have of a virtue, the more that tends to show in the things we do. (So a liberal man will be seen helping friends.) But also we get the virtues by doing things that need it and build it up. Because we choose whether or not we want to put effort into having a virtue, being virtuous is a choice. It is the type of thing where you can do something about it, so that you will have it when you need it. One must not only want to do good, but also want to do what they need to in order to be able to do good.

Now let us take a close look at each of the virtues in detail. We can see the things (ends) they are about and in what way they get at each of those things. And let us begin with courage.


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