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Nicomachean Ethics Much the same goes for self-control and incontinence. For there is nothing surprising in a person's succumbing to violent and excessive pleasures or pains; indeed, we shall pardon him if he resists, as do Theodectes' Philoctetes when bitten by the viper, 52 or Carcinus' Cercyon in the Alope, 53 and people who try to restrain their laughter and then let it out in a guffaw, as happened to Xenophantus. 54 But it is surprising if a person succumbs to pleasures that the majority can resist, and is unable to hold out against them, when this is not due to his hereditary nature or to disease, as is, for example, the hereditary softness one ®nds in Scythian kings, and that which distinguishes the female sex from the male. The lover of amusement also seems to be intemperate, but really he is soft. For amusement is relaxation, since it consists in rest, and the lover of amusement is one of those who go to excess in this. One kind of incontinence is impetuosity, the other is weakness. Weak people deliberate, but because of the way they are affected fail to stand by their decision, while impetuous people are led on by the way they are affected because they have not deliberated. For some people resemble those who are not tickled because they have tickled the other person beforehand; by noticing and seeing what is coming, and rousing themselves and their capacity for calculation, they do not succumb to what affects them, whether the thing is pleasant or painful. Excitable and passionate people are especially prone to impetuous incontinence. The excitable are too hasty, and the passionate too intense, to wait for reason, since they are disposed to follow their own mental impressions. Chapter 8 The intemperate person, as we said, is not the sort to have regrets, since he stands by his rational choice. But every incontinent person is the sort to have regrets. This is why things are not as we suggested in going through the puzzles, but the intemperate person is incurable, while the incontinent is curable. Wickedness is a chronically bad condition, and 52 Theodectes, fr. 5b Snell. Lycian poet, orator, and rhetorician, who probably lived mainly in Athens, where he in¯uenced Aristotle. 53 Carcinus, fr. 1b Snell. Carcinus the younger was a fourth-century tragic poet, often cited by Aristotle. Cercyon was distressed by his daughter's seduction. 54 Musician in Alexander's court. 132

Book VII thus like a disease such as dropsy or consumption, while incontinence is not chronic, and thus like epilepsy. And in general incontinence and vice are of different kinds, since an agent is not aware of his vice, whereas he is of his incontinence. Among incontinent people, those who are carried away are superior to those who have reason but do not stand by it. For those who do not stand by reason succumb to a weaker way of being affected, and do not, like the other type, act without previous deliberation. The incontinent person is like those who quickly get drunk on a small amount of wine, that is, on less than most people. Clearly, then, incontinence is not a vice (other than in a quali®ed sense, presumably), because incontinence is contrary to rational choice, while vice is in accordance with it. There is, however, a similarity in the actions that issue from them, as in the lines of Demodocus on the Milesians: Milesians are not stupid, But they do what stupid people do. 55 So also incontinent people are not unjust, but they will do unjust things. The incontinent person is the sort to pursue bodily pleasures that are excessive and contrary to correct reason, but not out of conviction; the intemperate person, however, does pursue them out of conviction, because he is just the sort to pursue them. So the incontinent can easily be persuaded to change his ways, while the intemperate cannot. For virtue preserves the ®rst principle, while wickedness ruins it, and in actions the end for which we act is the ®rst principle, as assumptions are in mathematics. In mathematics, it is not reason that teaches ®rst principles, nor is it in actions; rather it is virtue, either natural or habituated, that enables us to think correctly about the ®rst principle. A person like this, then, is temperate, and his contrary intemperate. But there is a type who tends to be carried away contrary to correct reason because of the ways he is affected. They overcome him to the extent that he does not act in accordance with correct reason, but not so that he becomes the sort to be convinced that he ought to pursue such pleasures unrestrainedly. This is the incontinent person, superior to the intemperate person, and not unquali®edly bad; for in him the best thing, the ®rst principle, is preserved. 55 Demodocus, fr. 1 Diehl. Early writer of satirical epigrams. 133 1151a

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