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Chapter i

Is activity threefold?
Are things done out of fear of a greater evil or for the sake of some good voluntary or involuntary?
Should somebody be compelled to do evil?
Does ignorance excuse sin?

NASMUCH as political life respects and has regard for the passions of the mind and the activities of the will, now reason appears to demand that with a few words I dispute what are the first principles of action and what are its kinds. For it is the task of the man who philosophizes aright not only to investigate things themselves, but also the causes of things, since just as fruit grows from the root rather than the bark of plants, so the greatest usage of things arises from causes rather than effects. Lest, being placed in the theater of political life, we miss the target of virtue like untrained archers, here a threefold distinction of activity is offered, namely that some acts are voluntary, others violent, and yet others mixed, and, as it were, middling. The voluntary act is that which is conceived by the intellect and brought to completion by the government of the will, or, if you please, which has the will itself for its first principle and cause. For the will, seated as it were on the quarterdeck, steers us into harbor if it is righteous; otherwise, it steers towards ruination and destruction. Hence the quality of every action is readily perceived, whether it arises from a well-affected or ill-affected will. Violent activity is proximately defined to be of a sort whose extrinsic first principle is such that the doer or sufferer cannot withstand it by resisting, as if the wind had driven a man onto a reef, or if a stronger enemy should place someone in harm’s way. For the former cannot overcome Aeolus, the latter cannot get the best of Mars, even if he resists with all his might. Finally mixed or middling activity is that which appears to occur in part extrinsically by force, in part intrinsically by will, as when a storm has arisen at sea, the casting of property and wealth overboard is called voluntary with respect to the will, but violent with respect to the storm. But this kind of activities appears to pertain to the will because of election rather than to force because of compulsion. For the will cannot be forced and compelled, and so (to define each point summarily) something is violent when we are compelled by force, unwilling when we are moved with difficulty, voluntary when we are gladly enticed, and lastly mixed when we are swayed in either direction, as if wavering.
2. Now follows a second question, namely whether the things which we do out of fear of a greater evil, or for the sake of some good, are voluntary or involuntary. As is now clear, every human action is either spontaneous (under which is subsumed the mixed kind) or violent (under which is subsumed by analogy the involuntary kind). As Burleus says, we are concerned with the mixed or unwilling kind. For fear engenders vexation, good incites the will. Because of fear of greater evil occur, for example, the abandonment of goods during a storm lest a sinking occur, or the perpetual imprisonment of a sovereign lest an enemy invasion transpire. Because of the hope of some good it happens, for example, that someone lies for profit or burns down Diana’s temple to gain a reputation. Aristotle’s example in the text is if a tyrant, who is master of someone’s parents and children, should propose he do something shameful under the condition that, if he does the deed, they will be safe and sound, but if not, they will be killed. Now the point of doubt is whether in these or similar situations we act freely or against our will. To resolve the question in a word, if you consider the fear of evil, I think we act unwillingly, but willingly, if you consider the hope and expectation of a good. For in fear there is a certain compulsion, but in a hoped-for good there is a certain sweet persuasion that we should undertake any crime. Nevertheless that divine sentiment of Aristotle is to be inscribed in men’s minds with golden letters, namely that no mortal man should be compelled to the commission of a cruel felony either by fear of a greater evil or the motive of a more conspicuous good, even if the most exquisite tortures and afflictions are set before him, nay, even if he must immediately suffer the most cruel death. Wherefore, even if some sad and lamentable evils must sometimes be endured, such as drinking the hemlock along with Socrates, evil, base and felonious deeds must never be committed, even if a tyrant elect to threaten steel or promise gold. That old distinction between the evil of the guilt and the evil of the punishment is not inappropriate: no man should ever commit and perpetrate the former, but undergo and suffer the latter when just circumstances apply: if Nero should command Paul to be taken off to the sword, Peter to the cross, it is to be tolerated, since this is an evil of the penalty; if he should bid them deny Christ, this is not to be tolerated, since it is an evil of the guilt.
3. Now the last question of this chapter comes up for discussion, whether ignorance excuses an offence. An appendix to this is whether a drunken man deserves a double penalty. It is a mark of extreme foolishness to say “I did not think,” but it is a mark of greater madness to say, having committed a crime, “I was ignorant.” We can err, since this is human, but we should not be ignorant, which is an offence. For dense ignorance is as far removed from pardon as is malice is from great virtue. But if chagrin sometimes attend upon the offending man (and that not of despair, which is monstrous, but of contrition and repentance, which the Philosopher calls praiseworthy in the text), Plato thought he is to be drawn tovirtue by having pardon conceded him, and not always to be deterred by having a penalty inflicted. Thus ignorance is either native and simple, as in chattel and those who are slaves by nature, which provides a kind of excuse, or it is dense and supine in impious criminals, which does not diminish but rather aggravates their guilt, which does not remove but rather enhances it. Hence Aristotle concludes that the drunkard deserves a double punishment: one for his drunkenness, another because of his ignorance. For just as there is venom in wine, so there is malfeasance in voluntary ignorance, and indeed ignorance itself is an offence. So the end of this chapter there follows the wholesome advice that in every action of life we should diligently consider the circumstances, namely what, who, where, when, how, in what manner, and for what reason. “Who” signifies the person, “what” the
thing and the manner, “where” and “when” the place and time, “why” the cause, “in what manner” the means and instrument. and “for what reason” the end. Among these, the Philosopher urges us to weigh the end most of all: for in the end is motion and repose, motion inasmuch as it incites us to act, repose inasmuch as it closes and brings to perfection every action with a certain honeyed delight.


The first principle of action is twofold:

External, and that either:

Attractive, as an object (e. g. an eloquent speech).
Compelling, as something violent (e. g. the force of a storm).

Internal, and that either

Primary, as will, whose object is the good.
Less primary, as intellect, whose object is the true.

Activity is called either:

Violent, and that either:


Simply, by means of an external first principle, for example a storm.

From that part commonly called unwilling, and this is either:

By means of ignorance, which sometimes impels us to evil by blind impulse.
By perturbation of the mind, by which Man is often driven to his ruin, as by a storm.

Voluntary, which is:

Unmediated, which cannot be impeded, such as to agree or refuse.
Mediated, which occurs mediated by some other potential, such as speaking and walking, and this can be impeded.

Mixed, which occurs:

By means of an external cause: thus it is called violent.
By means of an internal movement of the will: thus it is called voluntary.

4. OBJECTION There are more first principles of activity than these three which are enumerated. Therefore the question is ill-decided. The antecedent is proven, since sensation, appetite and passion are first principles of activity, as the Philosopher says at Ethics VI.i.
RESPONSE In Man, activities flowing from sensation, appetite and passion are recalled to the will as to their primary first principle. For sensation, appetite and passion are subjected to reason’s government and will’s domination, but when they are rebellious and refractory (as often occurs), activities that take their beginning from them are in a certain respect violent, like Hercules’ madness, and in a certain respect unwilling, as a young man’s blind love, which is followed by repentance. For we are said to act unwillingly when we regret what we have done.
OBJECTION If there is any voluntary activity, it is an activity of evil (to which we are more prone by our very nature), but an activity of evil is not voluntarily, and so no activity is voluntary. The major premise stands in Book VII of the Ethics. The minor is proven in the text of this chapter, where the Philosopher proves that all activities of wicked men are involuntary. The reason is that they occur thanks to ignorance. These are the words of the text: “What occurs out of imprudence is not entirely voluntary,” and a little later, “all wicked men are ignorant of what is to be done, and what to be avoided.”
RESPONSE All activities of the virtues and vices are indeed voluntary, but most all those of the vices, into which we easily slip, infected by nature’s poison. But to your reasoning I respond that ignorance is twofold, one of pure negation, the other of ill-disposition: the former is involuntary, by which a wholly ignorant man rushes into evil, but the other is voluntary, giving assent to an evil activity. When, therefore, the Philosopher says that wicked men are ignorant, he means that dense ignorance of evil disposition, bewitched by which men contumaciously wish to wallow in the darkness of ignorance.


Evil is twofold:

Of guilt, to which nobody should be impelled either by fear of a greater evil or hope for a greater good:

Lest there be scandal for another man.
Lest there be peril for oneself.
Lest there be injury for the commonwealth; for those who commit an evil violate the laws and work injury upon the commonwealth, as is said at Ethics V.iv.

Of punishment and loss, to which both the bad man can be compelled by the law, and the good man by force and tyranny, as he sometimes should be.

5. OBJECTION All things in which will is not present are involuntary. There is no will in actions committed out of fear. Therefore actions committed out of fear are not voluntary. The minor premise is proven, since something done out of fear is said to be done against one’s will. For it would not occur, were the fear to be removed.


Activity is considered with respect either to:

The impelling external first principle, for example a storm, and thus it is in part violent.
The internal first principle, namely the will and the mind, which command every passion and are thus said to be involuntary.

OBJECTION A young man incensed by concupiscence often does that which he otherwise would not do, if immune from passion. Therefore an activity performed in that very ardor does not appear to be voluntary.
RESPONSE Alcmaeon foolishly blamed his passion when he killed his mother, Aeschylus ridiculously blamed his ignorance when he revealed the mysteries, nowadays many men ineptly blame God and Fortune when they have acted amiss. For passions, ignorance, and Fortune do not render our activities involuntary. Indeed they make them more voluntary, since when incited by these goads the will gives its worst assent to these evils, which is the proper task of the will. Wherefore, even if when a man comes back to himself and is assaulted by chagrin and penitence that he has committed such deeds, nevertheless in their commission he has impiously exercised his freedom, or rather of his license, of will.
6. OBJECTION No evil can occur by the will out of hope or fear, therefore this question is ill-decided. The antecedent is proven, since God or the First Cause is the moving form and act of the will, from which derives no evil.
RESPONSE Since for a single effect it is necessary for two causes to conjoin, there can be a defect in action on the part of one cause, and not of the other. So, this being posited that God and will concur in giving assent, yet there can be a defect on the part of the will, there meanwhile being no cause of evil on the part of the divine godhead. For divine will, always exerting its influence for the good, is bound by no law to compel the will to the good. Therefore if the will departs from righteousness, the fault derives from itself, not from God.
OBJECTION In activities, the violent and the voluntary are not opposites, therefore activity is ill-divided into the violent, the voluntary, and the mixed. The antecedent is self-evident, since the throwing upwards of a stone is both violent and voluntary, and thus is saltation.
RESPONSE The throwing of the stone is both violent and voluntary, but in diverse respects. For it is violent with respect to the stone, but voluntary with respect to the man [doing the throwing.] Concerning saltation, I say that it is not contrary to nature, since it originates in an intrinsic first principle.


Ignorance is either:

Native in children and those servile by nature, which in a certain manner excuses the fault, since it is not voluntary.
Unwilling in those in sound condition, not in a condition to learn and do the good, for example if a man in bondage among the Turks would hope to learn of Faith and religion, but is unable to do so, being oppressed by the tyrant, and such ignorance excuses error.
Dense or supine out of contrariness, occurring those having the good ability but not desiring to learn and do the good, and this ignorance is far from excusing fault, for it itself is a fault.

Dense ignorance aggravates the fault, since it it occurs:

Out of idleness, as in the slothful.
Out of self-love, as in the prideful.
Out of malice, as in desperadoes, whose motto is “I refuse the knowledge of your ways.”

7. OBJECTION Some ignorance is purely privative. Therefore this threefold distinction of ignorance is insufficient.
RESPONSE The answer must be made that privative ignorance is either entirely irrelevant to our subject, or (and I like this better) it is comprehended by analogy under unwilling ignorance.
OBJECTION Nature is a kindly mother of us all, and if we follow her we never stray from the truth, as Cicero attests. Therefore there is no native ignorance.
RESPONSE Nature creates the slave and the dunce, and yet she is the mother of us all. For it is useful for the slave to be a slave, it is useful to many to be ignorant of deep matters, or otherwise the commonwealth (which is the daughter of nature) cannot flourish and be preserved. Nevertheless what the orator says is true about us not erring if we follow nature. The sage does not err, the slave does not err, if the both of them heed nature according to their endowments.


Something voluntary is understood in two ways, either as:

An activity deriving from an active first principle with a perfect understanding of the end, and thus beasts and boys do not act freely.
An activity deriving from an active first principle with an imperfect understanding of the end, and thus in the text beasts and boys are said to act voluntarily.


It is better to die, since:

That which is base engenders infamy after death: it is therefore better to die for virtue rather than live in ignominy.
That which is base makes one wretched: it is therefore better to die with dignity than live in slavery to sin; for, as the Philosopher says, sin is a kind of death and corruption of the mind.
That which is base makes an enemy out of God, because He is the supreme, simple and unalterable Good.



That which is violent is understood in two ways, either as it is:

Opposed to the natural, and is such in things both animate and inanimate.
Opposed to the voluntary, and is such only as it is presented to things that possess intention; but understood in this way it is always involuntary.



An act of the will is twofold:

Primary, which closely adheres to the essence of will, such as to say yes and now, and this is not compelled.
Less primary, which arises from some other potential intermediating, such as speaking and walking, and this is sometimes involuntary and, as they say, “against Minerva’s will.”


It is not, unless it occurs because of native and unwilling ignorance, since it is done more voluntarily when done by dense ignorance.


It obeys the will more, since it is:

The internal first principle of the same.
A free agent, by no means compelled by any necessity.


It is, because of:

The consent of the will, when it is moved by passion.
The appetite of delight, when it is overcome by pleasure.

Chapter ii

What is election, and is it will, anger, greed, or opinion?
Is every voluntary thing elective?

INCE election is the scales for weighing all human activities, which we employ in every step we take in life as a norm, and since without election chaff is taken for grain, slag for gold, shadow for light, i. e., bad for good, the Philosopher decided to append a treatment of election to his treatment of the distinction of activity. For, as is said at the start of this chapter, morals are distinguished more by election than by action. For election is a free and self-determined activity of the mind, by which the better is adopted in good things and the worse in avoided in bad and doubtful ones, or (if this please you better) election is the approval of the means which seems best for achieving an end, accomplished by the means of a preceding deliberation. And albeit it is wholly voluntary, the voluntary is something with a broader scope than is election. For boys and beasts are reckoned to have a kind of share of volition, but not of election.
2. These things being posited, it is asked whether election is will, anger, desire, or opinion. In the first place, it is denied to be will, since will deals with the end, election with the means to the end. Will is often concerned with impossibilities, but election only with things within our power. Will is a potential, whereas election is a certain activity of the will itself. It is also denied to be either anger or desire, since beasts ungoverned by election and counsel often seethe with those passions. Furthermore, since nothing is more hostile to election than desire, nothing more repugnant to counsel than anger and rashness, it would be absurd to call election either anger or desire. Finally, it is proven by three arguments taken from the text that it is not opinion, since opinion concerns the entity and the nonentity, whereas election only concerns those things that exist. Again, opinion is true or false, but election good or bad. Finally, opinion is conjoined with a certain fear, but election with a certain certitude and cognition. For we choose the things we know to be best, but we have opinions about those things to which we assent not without fear.
3. If someone should urge that this question whether election is will, or whether it is anger, desire or opinion, is raised inconsiderately, since nobody is to imprudent as to assert they are, I join Borrhaus in replying that we should hear, not the words, but rather their sense, which is whether election is present in all the things done because of will, anger, desire or opinion. The Philosopher clearly implies this at the chapter’s end, where he concludes that every voluntary act is not an act of election, unless deliberation has preceded it.

Election is either:

Divine, thanks to which we are adopted as sons of God before the world’s foundation.

Human, which is twofold:

Inchoate according to natural instinct, and thus election is said to exist in boys and beasts.

Perfected, for which are required:

Intellect as its first principle.
Will as its subject.
Right reason as its means.
The end of the activity as a solid possession of the mind and not a good of fortune.

4. OBJECTION According to natural order, deliberation precedes election: for one first deliberates, then chooses. Therefore a treatment of deliberation should have preceded this treatment of election.
RESPONSE Although it may precede it according to natural order, yet according to the order of teaching it follows upon it. Hence it comes about that an end is treated before other causes, as is clear in Book I of the Ethics. For all our science arises from the end and the effect. So since choice is the end of deliberation, it is placed first in the scheme of our doctrine, albeit according to nature’s order and activity it follows.
OBJECTION Election is an approval of the end as well as the means, therefore it is wrongly limited to only the means. The antecedent is proven by the authority of the Philosopher in Book I, chapter vii, where he teaches that some ends are sought for the sake of something else, and some for their own sake, which is impossible if the end does not fall under the purview of election. For without election we do not distinguish the better end.


Election is understood in two ways:

Commonly for any act of the will, and thus it is understood there.
Strictly for an act of the will tending to an end by more assured means, and thus it is properly understood in this context.

OBJECTION We choose that which we know to be best, but we know the end is best. Therefore we choose the end. The major premise is Aristotle’s in this chapter.
RESPONSE The Philosopher is understood to be discussing the means, not the end, unless you care to understand the end to be a means, with election regarding this end as a means to accomplishing a further end.
5. OBJECTION In this context concupiscence is denied to be voluntary. Therefore the man inflamed by concupiscence does not sin. For every sin is voluntary.
RESPONSE He does not sin from the standpoint of the passion, which is natural, but from that of the assent he grants, which is voluntary.
OBJECTION In the text incontinent and impotent men are said to act according to desire rather than to will, to lust rather than election. Therefore all the activities of the virtues and the vices are not voluntary and elective. For incontinence is a vice, as proved in Book VII of the Ethics.
RESPONSE If will and election are understood strictly, the object of both is the good, and thus incontinent men are governed neither by election nor by will. But if these are understood generally and commonly, good and evil are made objects for both, and in this way intemperate men are said to act in accordance with both will and election. For just as the will is divided into good and bad, so election is divided into wholesome and corrupt: good men chose things which are good with healthy mind and counsel, bad men equipped with a depraved mind and judgment are enticed by bad things.
OBJECTION There is no affinity, there is no similarity between election and those four things from which it is distinguished in this chapter. Therefore this controversy is raised to no point. The antecedent is clear if you define each one: for will is a free potential of the soul, anger is a movement of the mind towards revenge, concupiscence is like a torch and kindling of the mind towards sin, opinion is a vague mental imagination of things by means of doubtful assent, and election is an approval of the best means for accomplishing an end.
RESPONSE The consequent and the things that follow therefrom are conceded. For the Philosopher is maintaining that these things are not at all confused with each other. Yet he draws the distinction because there were philosophers who thought they are confused.

Chapter iii

Do all things fall under deliberation?

concomitant of election is diligent and mature deliberation in the consideration of things, whose fruits are the righteous government of the commonwealth, and the banishment and eradication of fortune and all temerity from the citadel of the mind. Fortune is a blind mistress of human affairs, but in counsel there is a sure anchor for human activities. Alexander was mad when he obeyed passion, and Alexander flourished when he heeded counsel: stirred by madness, he slew Clitus, but fortified by counsel he wisely managed the commonwealth. Who fails to see the tragedies created by rashness? Therefore who scorns the asylum of consultation? But I am not playing the philosopher. In this context it is asked if all things fall under deliberation. The Philosopher denies this, since neither foolish things, nor assured things, nor eternal things, nor the outcomes of nature and fortune are referred to consultation. So we only take counsel about the things at our disposal and within our power, and which ought to be managed and administered by us, and indeed not all this, but only that which can be grasped by the intellect and be done in accordance with reason, and what is sufficiently doubtful and uncertain that they are not self-evident to everybody’s perception but rather present doubt to the wise. So, if you care to define it, deliberation is nothing other than a diligent and prudent meditation about future, doubtful and contingent things that are placed within our power, by which better means are chosen for the accomplishment of a hoped-for end. Or, again, deliberation is the mind’s intent meditation about future things placed within our power, which presents will and election with the best means. For just as a means of action is chosen by election, so it is discussed and demonstrated by deliberation.
2. Hence a certain distinction arises between the two, since election is an act of the will, but deliberation an act of the mind; election is certain, consultation doubtful; election follows counsel, consultation transpires before election. For first there is need of counsel, and then in due time for action, for I tell you that one must long deliberate about something to be done once. For otherwise too late there follows that saying of the repentant man, “I’m sorry.” The following virtues attend upon deliberation: prudence, expertise and prudence: prudence that we may avoid all folly, expertise to avoid all obtuseness, and prudence to avoid all temerity and passion in our deliberation. For prudent men rather than fools, sagacious men rather than sluggards, wide-awake men rather than the improvident are said to do a good job of taking counsel. Hence the man who counsels aright is defined as the principle and rule of his own actions: the principle with respect to his will, which is said to be the cause of his action, the rule with respect to right reason, which is called the rule of living.

Deliberation is understood either:

Commonly, for all disposition of future affairs, and thus astrologers are said to take consultation in their divinations and forecasts.
Properly, for the sage meditation on future affairs set within our power, and thus it is defined in this context, as above.

In deliberation, two things are considered:

The subject, which is:

The intellect, as it discusses an action.
The will, as it brings it to perfection.

The object, which ought to be:

1. Good, hence the bad is -
2. Human, hence the divine and eternal is -
3. Contingent, hence the necessary is -
4. Voluntary, hence the natural and the violent are -
5. Doubtful, hence the certain and the understood are -
6. Great and useful, hence the foolish and the trivial are -
7. Placed within human power, hence whatever is impossible (such as fate) is -
8. Future, hence whatever is present or past is -
9. Related to us and to the end, hence everything foreign and happenstance is excluded from deliberation.

3. OBJECTION Deliberation is a passion, therefore it does not have two subjects, namely intellect and will.
RESPONSE As election is inchoative in the mind but perfective in the will, so by contrast deliberation is inchoative in the will but perfective in the mind, so it can have two subjects.
OBJECTION Meditation is an immanent activity of the intellect, but deliberation is a transient one concerning an objective thing about which consultation occurs. Therefore it is ill-defined with reference to meditation.


Meditation is understood either as:

A reflection of the mind on itself, and so it is a kind of divine contemplation.
An intellectual discourse about things, and thus it is called a political and transitory operation of the soul.

OBJECTION Jurists consult about establishing laws which are not within their power, therefore some things fall under deliberation which are not placed within our power. The antecedent is clear, since jurists especially discuss what laws they should establish and in what manner, and then whether those they shall have established are destined to be wholesome. The minor premise is agreed, since laws are not within the powers of subjects, but in the hand and will of the sovereign.
RESPONSE Although jurists and subjects do not possess laws within their power, in every well-regulated commonwealth it is granted to sages to debate back and forth the establishment of laws. Wherefore although laws themselves are not within their power, nevertheless it is not denied that the establishment of and consultation about laws does fall within their power.
4. OBJECTION Many dangerous fellows sometimes deliberate by what means they may gain their wishes, as once did Catiline in conspiring against his Republic. Therefore it is not always requisite that the object of deliberation be good.
RESPONSE As bodily disease destroys a sound constitution, so the conspiracy of depraved men extinguishes all power and splendor of deliberation. For Catiline is said to have conspired, not consulted. Therefore the inquiry of bad men is to be called rashness rather than deliberation.
OBJECTION A house is the end of house-building, and yet concerning the house we consult whether it is destined to be wholesome or plaguey, handsome or ugly, pleasant or ill-starred. Therefore deliberation is not just about means.
RESPONSE The consultation about the house is not about the house as an end, is referred to a further end, for example health or human safety.


5. OBJECTION Election and consultation are not the same thing, therefore neither are the eligible thing and the consultable thing. The antecedent is proven, since election is an act of the will and consultation one of the intellect. The argument holds from considerations of etymological connection.
RESPONSE Just as the argument “whiteness and sweetness are not the same thing, therefore something white and something sweet are not the same thing” is a non sequitur, so this argument fails to hang together: “election and consultation are not the convertible terms, therefore that which falls under election is not subject to deliberation.” If you urge that the argument holds by etymological connections, I deny things are connected unless they are alike by comparison.



There is a twofold method of deliberation, either by means of:

Resolution, which is either:

Proper, from effects to germane and primary causes of things, which occurs rarely.
Improper, from effects to common causes, and thus it is understood in the present context.

Composition, which is also twofold:

Proper, from genuine causes to effects, as in demonstration in physics and mathematics.
Improper, from common causes to effects, as in dialectics, and such a method is better called inquiry than deliberation.

Chapter iv

Is true good the object of the will?

HE entire preceding discussion about election and consultation would be feeble and without point if the object of the will (with which they are particularly concerned) were to remain not understood and undiscussed. For just as he who lacks wood strives in vain to build a ship, so he appears to choose and consult in vain who does not understand the manner and the means. Wherefore next, and opportunely, is its asked here if the object of the will (which election distinguishes and consultation discusses) is a genuine or specious good. It is not to be denied that sometimes a snake lurks in the grass, a scorpion under a rock, that men are often deceived by a beguiling appearance. For hyenas are possessed of a human voice, Sirens of a human face, but those rend with their fang, these consume everything with their appetite. To what end am I saying these things? So we may understand that by a show of virtue the will can be deceived and uncertain about the good not otherwise than the mind is with a show of truth about the true. For just as things that are genuinely such appear wholesome to men who are sound and well-affected, but everything is the contrary to the ailing, so things that are mostly truly good become objects for the well-regulated will, but the worst of things to the depraved will, under a show of being the best.
2. Wherefore, lest we go shamelessly astray in our progress and pursuit of virtue, at this point the Philosopher sets forth three opinions about the object of virtue. The first is that of the Pythagoreans, who believed that only evident good is made an object for the will, as long as it is in this body. The second belongs to the Stoics, who argued on the contrary that only the perfected good is its object. The third is that of the Peripatetics, who embraced both, i. e., both good and bad. For if you consider the essence of will, which is simple and divine, all classical interpreters maintain that its object is the perfected good, but if you consider its existence, which is often corrupted and depraved, they state that its object is the apparent good. I therefore conclude that, just as the intellect is like a tabula rasa in which every form of nature can be received, so the will is like melted wax in which can be imprinted all the goods that exist or appear to exist. For in it are sown the seeds of the virtues and the vices, which, when the fires of industry are applied to them like the sun’s rays, are called forth and break out into either the fruit of good or the bane of evil.

Will is twofold:

Natural, which is the ratiocinating power of the soul, thanks to which, because of the seeds of the virtues and vices located within it, Man can seek after a solid or an apparent good.

Moral, which is either:

Subject to reason, whose object is the true good, to which it is borne in accordance with its simple essence.
Overcome by the senses, whose object is called an apparent and specious good.

3. OBJECTION The will can seek after something in the same way in which the intellect presents that thing to the will as an object. The intellect often presents something to the will according to a calculation of evil. Therefore will can seek after this same thing according to a calculation of evil. The major premise is sound, since all things are first set before the intellect as an object, and then before the will. The minor is proven in Book III of De Anima, where the Philosopher proves that the intellect often perceives a thing as it is. Which things being conceded, it follows that the will may seek after something as simply evil, since the intellect has already set that thing before it as simply evil.
This argument persuaded Ockham to fancy that every perceptible entity is a proper object of the will, hence he infers that the will is so powerful that by its own force that it is able to seek after the good according to a calculation of good, and also after the evil according to a calculation of evil, and after both after a calculation of their existence. But since the will is a definite and distinct potential of the mind, and existing per se, it is necessary that it have a limited rather than a common object, a distinct one and not a confused one per se and in its own right. Wherefore I respond that even if the intellect makes something an object of the will according a calculation of evil which it has previously considered aright, yet will, enslaved to the passions, thirsts after this thing and seeks it according to a calculation of good.
OBJECTION Every sin perpetrated out of definite malice is acknowledged as an evil according to a calculation of evil. But pleasure is sometimes driven to the commission of sin out of fixed malice Therefore the will is borne to acknowledged evil according to a calculation of evil. The major is agreed in Book VII of the Ethics, where Aristotle proves that a man can be both possessed of knowledge and incontinent. The minor premise is proven by countless examples of many men who, acknowledging that God is the summum bonum, yet curse Him as the supreme evil.
RESPONSE I reply to your major premise that malice is a poison of the mind, which sometimes so infects both the intellect and the will that neither can the former conceive aright, nor the latter seek aright. Wherefore, even if sin is often committed out of definite malice, the malicious man nonetheless imagines he is committing a good deed, and therefore he commits it, not according to a calculation of evil, but according to a calculation and appearance of good.
4. OBJECTION The seeds and potentials of both the virtues and vices are equally within us, therefore the good are not presented to the will as objects any more than are the bad. The antecedent is in Book VII, chapter vii of the Ethics. The argument follows from a comparison of equals.
RESPONSE The will is considered either naturally, and as such it has an equal potential for both good and evil, or morally, and as such it does not. For in it, taken morally, two things must be weighed: preservation, and thus it is more swayed to the
good, and corruption or defect, and thus it is more swayed to the bad.
OBJECTION It is demonstrated above that the object of the will is the perfected good, if the will is considered in its simple essence. Therefore in this context it is ill answered that both good and evil are equally objects, if it is considered naturally.

The essence of will is twofold, either:

Absolute, simple and divine, and such it seeks after the perfected good as its proper object.
Respective, composite or human, and as such it is equally moved toward both: now intellect heeds right reason, now appetite heeds perturbation.

 Caput v

Is the will free?

do not dare call the will either an eagle, which looks upon the sun with open eyes, nor a stone, which is borne from aloft to the ground. Not an eagle, since it does not always fly aloft, not a stone, because it does not always fall to the ground: for sometimes it has lofty and divine designs, but not infrequently mortal and perishable ones. What then? Are we to think that the will has wings to clipped that it never soars and strives from the earth to the sky, from the darkness to the light, from its prison to liberty? Is it so overwhelmed by floods of evils, so oppressed by the chains of the passions that it never seems free and at liberty? It is not dead, yet it does not live. It is not blind, yet it does not see. For just as seed sown in the soil is not lifeless, yet does not sprout without the sun, as the eye is not blind in the dark, and yet does not see without light, so in Man the will is not dead and blind, but yet neither lives nor sees without the inspiration and influence of the First Mover. So (as the Philosopher teaches here) there is a certain freedom of will in Man’s activity. For if there is some free agent, such as God, if there is something that acts out of necessity, such as nature, there needs be some mean that is acting and also free, such as the will. For if extremes in nature are posited, it follows that means must also be posited. Furthermore, since no man is good against his will, since no man is evil except by choice, there appears to be a certain free ability in will, by the use of which Man can be both good and evil. Hence in the text Aristotle defines will as being the progenitor and cause of its own actions not otherwise than a father is of his children. To these remarks, two further arguments are added, one from the habit of lawmakers, another from the outcomes of things. The first is this. Without point is reward established for good men, without justice is punishment inflicted on the evil, if there is no freedom of doing good and avoiding evil. But in the commonwealth reward and punishment do not exist without point. Therefore there is a certain freedom of doing good and avoiding evil. Another syllogism runs as follows: sages urge us to good and discourage from evil without point, if there is no freedom of the will for both. But sages do not do this without point. Therefore within us is freedom of the mind to do both.
2. So we must dismiss the Stoics, who opine that all activity of the will originates in fatal necessity. Historians tell that Zeno’s slave once committed rape. The wretch was arrested, tried, and brought to the gallows. “Oh you wicked man,” said Zeno, “what drove you to this evil?” “Oh you fool of a philosopher,” said the slave, “who taught me this fate?” The philosopher fell silent and slunk away. I greatly fear lest we have many Zenos today who use fate to excuse their wicked lives, who indeed imagine that God, nature, fate, and Fortune, that blind mistress of human affairs, are the cause of sin in themselves. Assuredly, if free will exists in anything, it is most seen in the fact that we sin. The Author of Life is not the source of sin, since He, always exerting a goodly influence, is bound by no law to compel the will to good. I have written these things out of the Philosopher, yet in such a way that we might know and truly confess that this is not the work of a God Who wills or Who runs, but Who displays His mercy. For His is not Man’s way, nor is it within Man’s power to walk and direct his steps, since we are not sufficient to devise anything as if takes its origin in us, but rather our sufficiency comes from God. So you want to be free? Acknowledge you are a slave. For grace is given to the man who labors, glory to the man who perseveres. If anything good occurs, embrace it on the spot. But if anything evil, reject it immediately. For the Enemy conquers no man but the willing.

Freedom is proven by the Philosopher by these arguments, since

Election and deliberation are voluntary, which are companions and acts of the will.
The ability to act or not act is placed in us as something free and voluntary.
Will is the proximate first principle of its own activities.
Otherwise reward would be established for the good and punishment for the evil in the republic to no point.
Otherwise admonitions and counsels to embrace virtue and shun vice are idly given.

3. OBJECTION The text of Aristotle in this chapter teaches that we can no more depart from vice when we want than the infirm can be hale when they choose. Therefore free will for the good does not seem defended by Aristotle. A similar argument can be gathered from the other comparison made with the thrown stone, which nobody can stop when he wants.
RESPONSE By those comparisons Aristotle implies the extreme difficult of departing from vice, but he does not deny freedom of the will, nor does he conclude that it is an impossible ting.
OBJECTION That is free which is the cause of its own motion. Human will has another cause of its motion, namely God. Therefore the will is not free.
RESPONSE There the Philosopher means absolute essence and infinite freedom, which exists in God alone, and thus your major premise is to be understood.
OBJECTION An instrument is not a primary cause of activity. The will is an instrument of the First Cause, as the Philosopher attests in Book XI of the Metaphysics and in his book De Causis. The will is therefore not a primary and free cause of its own actions.
RESPONSE It is not an instrument like an axe, but rather an instrument like a slave, who can be the proximate and immediate cause of activities.
OBJECTION The intellect can be compelled. Therefore the will can be compelled, and in consequence it is not free. The antecedent is proven, since there is something simply true to which by the power of demonstration the mind is compelled to give its assent willy-nilly, for example the fact that the universe exits.
RESPONSE The judgment to which freedom is attributed is the judgment of election in the will, not of understanding in the intellect. So the comparison of the two is not like and equal.
OBJECTION Every object perfectly moving by its own potential of necessity moves the same thing, as the Philosopher attests in De Anima, Book III. But when it is apprehended the good is the perfect mover of the will. therefore a good (such as God and happiness) moves the will, and in consequence the will appears to be compelled and not to be free.
RESPONSE Your argument is denied, since herein the will is most discerned. For although the good moves the will most efficaciously, there is still no compulsion. For when will is moved it possesses an inclination to the contrary.
4. OBJECTION The good consisting in things (such as love) moves us more than the true consisting in reason (such as the knowledge of love). Therefore if the true compels the intellect by necessity, much more so does the good compel the will. Furthermore, what occurs naturally happens of necessity. The intellect naturally seeks out the
true, the will naturally seeks out the good Therefore there is a certain necessity, and not liberty, in the will itself.


Necessity is twofold:

Of compulsion and the consequent, as Boethius calls it, and thus the will is not moved objectively or naturally.
Of inclination or consequence, and thus it is moved in both ways; yet it is placed within its freedom to act to or not to act, for the object inclines the will out of necessity, but imposes on the will no absolute necessity of acting.

OBJECTION What is present in something per se is present out of necessity. To wish the good is present in the will per se. therefore the will is compelled by necessity to wish the good, and so there is no freedom in it.
RESPONSE It naturally suits the will to wish the good. For otherwise it would be said to seek after the bad. And yet this desire suits it, not out of a compulsion of necessity, but of inclination. Others answer that this desire, understood as a primary potential, suits the will out of necessity, since it is created of the same essence. But understood as an act it does not suit it, since that is an external passion.


OBJECTION They appear to be so, since the good and the true (which is the object of both) can be of the same class, such as God, and since the will and the intellect make up a mind that is single in class.


The will is not the same potential as the mind:

Since they do not have the same object, although there be a single first principle of both the true and the good, such as God.
Since there is not the same manner of activity in both.
Since the will is concerned with things, but intellect with the logic of things.



The intellect seems a nobler potential:

Since it is simpler, for it is concerned with abstracts, but the will deals with things.
Since its activity is nobler, namely divine contemplation.
Since, being prior, it governs the will; for it creates objects for the will and prescribes to it what should be done and what avoided.


The will can be compared in two ways:

To human affairs that must be investigated by the powers of the mind, and as such it is inferior to the intellect.
To seeking after divine things, which are more excellent within the soul itself, and thus the will is more eminent. For it is more excellent to wish for God and to love Him than to recognize Him.



It appears that the intellect moves the will instead:

Since it is prior to the will; for nothing is loved until it is recognized.
Since it is an active potential, whereas the will is passive.
Since its function is to command, as is said in the last chapter of Book VII of the Ethics.


The will is considered with respect to either:

Intention, and thus it is moved by the intellect.
. The action and performance of things, and thus it moves and sways the intellect.



In intention two things are considered:

Its conception, and as such it is an act of the intellect.
Its relation to an end and a man’s dwelling upon it, and as such it is an act of the will.


Chapter vi

Is fortitude defined aright?
Is death in war an object of fortitude?
Should the brave man feel fear?

NASMUCH as the Philosopher has dealt with virtue generically, the sequel now is that he should deal with the virtues in their species, i. e., that he treat and define the individual species of the virtues in their due order. Therefore he takes his beginning from fortitude, the greatest of all the virtues, which is the pillar of the commonwealth, which is Man’s breastplate, in which is discerned the avoidance of war and the palm of peace. For from fortitude, as from the first source of duties, flows all duties of piety towards our parents, towards our nation, towards God. Aristotle defines it as a moral virtue located midway between fear and boldness, armed with which a man will freely and fearlessly undertake perils of death, and when he has undertaken them nobly see them through for equity’s sake. In war (where the common good and safety of the republic is at stake) its seeks its greatest triumphs. Hence, although the brave man does not refuse danger to his life in other just and honorable causes, yet he seeks honor especially out of the steel and flame of battle; hence death in war (the most terrible and fearful of all deaths) is said to be his proper object. For fame, the tongue and trumpet of immortality, attends on death in war, since, as says Seneca, this manner of death is possessed of more honor than danger, more glory than pain and suffering.
2. At this point it is to be noticed that the brave man has not turned his mind and heart to callous and iron to the degree that he cannot be stricken or softened by any buffet of fear; nay, there are very many things which a brave man ought to fear, such as infamy, heaven’s lightning, shipwreck, unjust bondage, and other similar things in which no room is granted for courage. For, as the Philosopher says in the text, there are certain things which he should dread. For the man who fears disgrace is upright and modest, but he who does not is bold and impudent. The courageous man is therefore full of courage in undertaking and undergoing the dangers that suddenly arise or otherwise occur among the tragedies of this life, for the sake of honor. Such was Aemilius, who freed his captive father, killed his enemy, and earned a statue. Such was Leonidas, who, as Justin tells us, defend his nation against a countless host of Persians. Such was King David who on behalf of his religion and divine worship stoutly put down and killed a monster of blasphemy, namely Goliath. I have cited these examples so you might understand that it is not the fight, but rather the cause, which creates and defines the brave man. For Ajax fought, but rage drove him; Catiline fought, but his inspiration was ambition. So just as the cause rather than the punishment makes a martyr, so the cause rather than the struggle makes a man brave and courageous.



Fortitude is either:

Natural, which exists in strength and sinew; thus a lion is called brave no less than a man.

Civic, which is understood either:

General, for martial, servile and legal fortitude, which are discussed below.
Strictly, for moral, as defined above.

Heavenly, which is an intrepid and perpetual constancy of a divinely-armed mined, by which a man, when he has once been endowed with it, fears no tyranny; thus Moses spiritedly thundered against Pharaoh, Elijah against Ahab, John against Herod.


Fortitude’s object is twofold:

Common, as every source of fear which human strength does not overcome, such as to die with Socrates, to struggle with Hector.

Proper, as death in war, which is said to be the object of fortitude, because it is:

Most difficult, because of the strife.
Most fair, because of the decorum.
Most honorable, because of the cause.
Most renowned, because of the reputation that attends upon martial men.


Fear is either:

Natural, which is either:

Conjoined with reason, as a son fears his father.
Irrational, and thus the coward fears every shadow.

Legal, towards the sovereign, whom a man should revere.
Worshipful, towards God, whom a man should adore.
Servile in mind’s disposition, to which the brave man should not succumb and prostrate himself. But it is deemed shameful not to fear one’s father, sovereign, and God; so the brave man may fear, but not those things which it is dishonorable to fear.

4. OBJECTION Every virtue ought to be a mean between two vices. Fortitude is not. Therefore fortitude is wrongly defined as a virtue. The minor premise is proven, since boldness and fear, which are its extremes, are passions of the mind, not vices.
RESPONSE Fear and boldness are considered in two ways, either naturally as they follow the constitution of the body, and as such they are passions, or morally, as they are acquired by customary activity, and as such they are said to be vicious habits. According to Burleus, this is to be answered in a different way, that virtue is not only opposed to the vices, but also to the immoderate passions of the appetitive mind. Fortitude is therefore required as a bridle and moderator of those passions, lest the human mind wax over-proud or grow too abject and fear everything.
OBJECTION Fortitude is concerned with the more difficult thing, as the Philosopher says in the text. It is more difficult to enchain the mind’s raging passions than undergo any danger in war. Therefore fortitude is concerned more with repressing mind’s passion than in assuming risks of death.


The object of fortitude is twofold:

Internal, which is perturbation of the mind, for conquering this is an act of fortitude, but metaphorically and commonly.
External, which is death in war, about which we are disputing in this passage.

OBJECTION Every virtue is concerned with those things which are within our power. The danger of death in war is not within our power (since the outcomes of wars are uncertain). Therefore either fortitude is not a virtue or its object is not death and the risk of death.
RESPONSE Albeit we are wounded by others in battle, nevertheless the risk and indeed death in war itself are placed within our powers, inasmuch as it is up to us whether we choose to undertake and suffer such danger.
5. OBJECTION Every habit arises from many activities concerning their proper material. But there cannot be many activities concerning death. Therefore fortitude is not a virtue.
RESPONSE Your minor premise is untrue. For many frequent afflictions (which we undergo when presented with a just consideration) can be called and defined as perils concerning death. Furthermore, it frequently befalls the brave man to act before he dies, stricken and wounded.
OBJECTION The Philosopher has these words in the text: “Neither is poverty horrible or to be dreaded, nor disease, nor anything at all except guilt.” Therefore it is ill done to propose other things to be feared except guilt.
RESPONSE That statement of the Philosopher that the brave man should fear naught but guilt is excellent and golden. But mark you, this does not forbid him to fear his father, sovereign, and God, and many other things too. For it is a crime not to fear these. And so I interpret the Philosopher in this passage to mean “fleeing” by “fearing.” It is therefore as if he were to say “Nothing is to be feared per se but guilt,” i. e., nothing else is to be fled from but sin. Borrhaus understands this passage to deal with the evils and outcomes of Fortune, which should not be feared by the brave man if they do not involve his guilt and error.
6. OBJECTION One should not be brave with a trusting mind when one perceives one is about to be clubbed to death. Therefore one should feel fear when it comes time to die. The antecedent is the Philosopher’s in the text. The argument holds from a lesser consideration to a greater.
RESPONSE The brave man fears neither club nor death, but is grieved when he cannot rest and when no more life and enjoyment of the light is granted him so he may be a help to his nation.
OBJECTION The brave man, and every good man, should fear that which destroys happiness and every good. Death destroys happiness and every good. Therefore the brave man should fear death. The minor premise stands in the text, where the Philosopher says that death is most horrible and bitter, and so is the end of all things, beyond which the dead exist in no evil or good: if in none, than happiness and every good is ended and brought to a close along with life.
RESPONSE Two statements in this text, namely that death is most horrible and bitter, and that the dead remain in no good or evil after death, have vexed very many commentators. But, to heed Aquinas in this matter, I think that both remarks are to be understood with respect to nature. For nature is tender, always dreading death, since for it death is a kind of dissolution. Likewise it is to be said to the other remark that the dead exist naturally in no evil or good, but by power of the mind, which is eternal, many things endure after death, which are most divine.

Chapter vii

Are the brave man, the bold man, and the timid man defined aright?
Is the suicide in no wise to be called brave?

ORTITUDE, which is most discerned in spirit and contempt of hidden things, has these properties, that it works no violence or injury on any man, and that to the best of its powers it wards these off when inflicted by others. Hence the brave man is defined as being possessed of a trusting mind, who for the sake of an honorable cause undergoes the risk of life and fortune prudently, decorously and in a timely manner, and (as the Orator says) who is wont neither to be broken by adversity or set a-boil by excessive prosperity. To him are opposed the bold man and the timid man, the former of whom is attended by rashness, the latter by abjection and cowardice. For the bold man, as if full of wine, rages and roars without any counsel, without any wit, and very often pays the forfeit for his rashness, not without bloodshed. His special quality is to rush against his foeman, overconfident in his strength and sinew, and to boast frequently and in a Thraso-like manner about the hugeness of his frame and his countless victories. But hear the poet: “With his bite the small viper kills the vast bull, a boar is often caught by a hound of no great size.” This inconsiderate passion of mind and gladiator-like propensity for running risks kills many a man nowadays: fighting over goat’s wool, they are carried from words to welts, from Bacchus to Mars, not without a tragic, grievous display. But I admit that Fortune helps the forward, and even that she favors fools. Wherefore, since folly is to be shunned, even if it occasionally be lucky, so this overconfidence of mind is to be rejected, even if it sometimes not be lamentable.
2. But in the same way as the bold man, lion-like, exceeds the bound of fortitude in undergoing every peril, so the timid and fearful man departs very far from the mean of reason. For he is of a fearful, broken character, who dreads every blast of adverse fortune. For nothing argues an abject mind and the wound of a damaged conscience more than to be shattered days and nights by dread. For (as the Philosopher defines it) fear is a passion of the mind that shuns every terrible thing, or, it please you, it is a keen and vexatious expectation of impending evil, impatient of every pain, whose attendants are two, diffidence and despair. Hence Aristotle concludes that suicide is the mark of a despairing man, not of a brave one. Brutus is deemed brave, but he despaired. Cato was said to be great-minded, but he despaired. Antony was martial, but he was overcome by fear and despaired. Lucretia’s little dagger made her neither chaste nor brave. Why waste more words? To commit suicide is to murder nature herself, it is to offend the commonwealth, it is to violate the laws, it is to leave a shameful name to posterity, it is to rouse God (Who gave us life) to swift vengeance. Suicide is therefore not the mark of a brave man, but of a man laboring under extreme dread and pain.

A man is considered brave:

Naturally, with respect to the strength of his body, and thus the more vigorously or valiantly he conducts himself in battle, the braver he is considered in the opinion of the multitude.
Morally, with respect to the virtues of his mind, and thus he alone is said to be brave who undergoes fearful things according to the prescription of right reason, justly, carefully, and opportunely.


A man is bold either:

Simply and per se, who, without any consideration of circumstances rushes into danger like a beast, and when he finally realizes his predicament strives to recoil and turn tail.
Compositely, who, in addition to is rashness in undergoing dangers, is imprudent, arrogant and boastful.


No man should commit suicide, since this is:

Contrary to nature, which has given us a fixed period and enjoyment of life, and which bids us tolerate all evils and every punishment rather than death, which is the worst evil of all nature’s evils.
Contrary to the laws of the commonwealth, which prohibit the same, and which appoint eternal ignominy for those who murder themselves.
Contrary to right reason, which bids us shun extreme despair.
Contrary to God’s majesty, of Whose help we sinfully doubt, and also disparage to the best of our ability.

3. OBJECTION The great-minded man comes under the definition of the brave, and therefore is ill-defined here. The antecedent is clear in Ethics III.iv, where the Philosopher ascribes nothing to the brave man that does not clearly designate the great-minded man.


Fortitude is understood in four ways, either for:

Physical strength, and as such is not a moral virtue but one of nature.
Steadiness and constanc
y of mind in every good thing of reason possessed of difficulty, and as such it is not a distinct virtue, since every virtue possess difficulty in a good of reason. For the passions often impede us as we are striving towards virtue.
Greatness of mind amidst dangers, whether they can or cannot be resisted.
A habit of mind in fearful circumstances, in which there is resistance on the part of something else, and as such it is a distinct virtue.

OBJECTION Sometimes a brave man man flees, therefore he is ill-defined. The antecedent is the Philosopher’s in Book III, chapter ix. The argument is proven by reason, since to flee is to avoid the perils of death, not to undertake them, but the undertaking of perils is the duty and office of the brave man, as is clear from his definition.
RESPONSE Just as awaiting the foe and undertaking peril are acts of primary fortitude, sometimes fleeing the enemy and danger should be deemed a less primary act, since sometimes right reason prescribes flight. And in such a separation resistance is reckoned a sign of boldness and rashness, not bravery.
OBJECTION When stricken, the bold man takes to his heels and shuns all peril, therefore his definition looks like a contradiction. The antecedent is in the text of this chapter. The argument is proven, since there is a contradiction between daring and fearing.


Two things are considered in the bold man:

His blind rashness, which rushes him into danger.
An infirmity of nature that does not equal courage, which drives him to flight.

4. OBJECTION Nature did not grant Hannibal power over his own life to no point. Therefore it was permissible for him to exercise this power over himself, so he might end a life previously free and happy rather than unhappily fall into the clutches of his deadly enemies. Furthermore, it was better for Samson to kill himself than to tolerate God’s enemies in Israel. Finally, the holy virgins fled from the tyrant Sardanapalus, his cruel soldiers at their heels. What then? They came to the sea, they devoutly called upon Christ, and they all leapt together into Neptune’s maw. St. Augustine did not dare expunge them from the canon of saintly virgins.
RESPONSE Nature granted Hannibal power over his life so he might preserve it, not destroy it. For nature has taught no man self-hatred. Concerning Hannibal and the virgins, since, as sacred history attests, they killed themselves, some commentators reply that one or two examples do not make a rule. Others answer that they did this out of an instinct and the precept of God, Who is author of life and death, the logic of Whose hidden judgment in many a matter is not to be asked after, since He is God, in Whom there can be no contradiction. If you ask my opinion of the matter, for my part I believe that Phalaris’ bull is to be suffered a thousand time than once to lay a despairing hand on ourselves.
OBJECTION The suicide does himself no injury, as the Philosopher attests in Book V, chapter ix. It is therefore permissible.
RESPONSE Your reasoning does not hold, since, even if in some sense he does himself no injury, he still does one to the commonwealth.
5. For many people, suicide is no sin, therefore for them it is permissible. The antecedent is proven, since it is no sin in infants, fools and the insane, in whom the use of both will and reason is wanting. But every sin occurs in those possessed of reason and voluntary action, such as infants, fools and the insane do not possess.
RESPONSE I acknowledge that beasts do not sin, as in them reason and will are wanting. But inasmuch as these two things are in every man by nature, concerning such a deed I do not dare absolve him of all suspicion of crime. If a child at play stab himself with a knife, if a fool runs himself through, just as the law does not accuse them so I, at least, do not hold them guilty of bloodshed. And yet I do not think that young age excuses the child from all taint of sin, nor ignorance the idiot, nor mental passion the madman.

Chapter viii

Are the species of fortitude enumerated aright?
Is anger a spur to fortitude?

HUS far the dispute has been about true fortitude, in Aristotle there now follows a wordier discussion about the false and the spurious. For just as there exists a portrait of a man which is not in truth the man himself, but yet is called the man, so there exists a certain imitation of fortitude which is not fortitude, but yet is called such. And so lest this deceive the unwary with an apish appearance of virtue, Aristotle not inadvisably depicts it in this passage. But insofar as no great benefit for readers emerges from this treatment, let us more generally gather together into a single bundle the individual things discussed there. So there is a false and spurious fortitude, a bogus and lying imitation of true fortitude. This is divided by the Philosopher into five species, of which the first depends upon hope for honor, the second upon servile fear, the third upon movement and perturbation of the mind, the fourth upon usage and experience, and the last upon accidence and chance. The first is called civic or political, the second servile or compelled, the third irascible or violent, the fourth military or of the army, and the final casual (as they say) or accidental.
2. In the first category they are deemed most brave, not who excel in habit of virtue, but who, either enticed by reward of honor or stricken by fear of shame, fight most fiercely, men such as Homer makes Diomedes and Hector, as Aristotle says in the text. In the second category are gathered chattel by nature and slaves, compelled into battle and strife by another man’s threatening command. Hector speaks of them in this way in Homer: “He whom I chance to see skulking far from the battle, he will be food for the dogs and the vultures.” In the third class are placed the bilious and the warlike gentlemen who, as if hounded by Furies, are swept into battle, of whom it is said “their rage supplies them with arms.” To the fourth species are assigned rankers and expert soldiers who, fighting armed against the unarmed, practiced against the inexperienced, promise themselves assured victory. In the rearguard are stationed the ignorant and boastful who, ignorant of war’s dangers, fight all the more ardently until they are at length wounded and take to their heals: routed, they dread death more than shame and ignominy.
3. If compare this all with true great-mindedness, they possess nothing of praise, nothing of splendor, since the genuinely brave do and suffer all things with virtue rather than passion, counsel rather than rashness, constanc
y of mind rather than fickleness. But those who rely on fear, fury of mind, military science, chance and happenstance, and who fight with anybody at all, for the most part conduct themselves no differently than madmen, beasts, adulterers and drunkards, who often madly undertake difficult and terrible things under an impulse of rage, desire, or wine. Yet is undeniable that anger is a certain goad and provocation for true fortitude, since, as it were, it wakens sleeping nature, inspires the mind to just vengeance, and supplies strength and arms to fighting men, which three things, according to the interpreters, are requisite for genuine fortitude.

Fortitude is twofold:

True and political, of which enough has been said above.

False and by analogy, which is either:

Civil, when one fights either:

Out of hope of honor.
Out of fear of disgrace.

Servile, when one fights either:

Out of hope of profit.
Out of fear of servitude.
Out of natural impulse, as in beasts.
Out of an impulse of wrath, as in bilious men.

Martial, when one fights with either:

Out of excessive confidence in victory.
Out of foolish experience of military science.

Casual, when one fights either:

Out of sudden emotion, without counsel.
Out of over-late repentance without remedy, as befell the Argives (as said in the text) who attacked the Spartans thinking they were Sicyonians.

Anger is either:

Furious, which is not comprehended here.

Moderated, and this is a spur to fortitude because of:

The natural ardor it inspires.
The appetite for revenge it instills.
The bodily strength it reinforces.

4. OBJECTION Fear is inconsistent with fortitude, therefore there is no fortitude which has its origin in fear.
RESPONSE Fear of pain is opposed to fortitude, but fear of disgrace or servitude is not opposed.
OBJECTION Blind love and many other passions and perturbations of the mind make men as brave as does anger, therefore more species of fortitude need to be assigned. The antecedent is clear in the text from the examples of doomed lovers and excessive drinkers.
RESPONSE We are not as fitly called brave because of other passions as we are because of anger, since anger is like a torch and a spur of true fortitude. Furthermore, even if other kinds or designations can be assigned, they can be reduced and related to these five kinds.
OBJECTION The bold and the brave are opposed. Those who inspired by fury and trust overmuch in their luck are bold. Therefore they are wrongly called bold in this context
RESPONSE The bold and the genuinely brave are opposed, but in this context fortitude is spoken of figuratively, and this is no opposite of the boldness that mimics true fortitude.
OBJECTION Martial fortitude employs greater experience and prudence in fighting than does civic fortitude. Therefore it is mistakenly said in the text that civic fortitude is most appropriately identified as genuine fortitude. The antecedent is in the text, where it says that veteran soldiers possess the art of fighting, and know by their training how to greatly vex their enemies and protect and preserve themselves from their savagery.
RESPONSE There is no genuine prudence in this military fortitude discussed here, but a false one conjoined with misleading experience, whence is engendered that mental impulse and confidence which brings many a man to the mill. But that civic fortitude and in taking risks and hoping for honor there is an imitation of genuine fortitude.
OBJECTION Anger is not subject to the rule of reason. Therefore it is no spur of genuine fortitude, which is steered only by the rudder of reason. The antecedent is in the text, where anger is defined as an impetuous perturbation of the mind by which brave men are set ablaze.
RESPONSE When moderated, anger is not inconsistent with the rule of reason.


Inasmuch as the Philosopher says in express words that a man is deemed brave in sudden perils of this life rather than the foreseen ones (a sentiment contradicted by many considerations), it will be worthwhile to satisfy it with these following arguments.
OBJECTION As the Orator says, it is the mark of the brave and constant mind not to be be perturbed in adversity, nor to be troubled and overthrown from its station, but rather to employ presence of mind and counsel, nor to depart from reason, although it is characteristic of this mind and great character to perceive the future, and with a measure of cogitation to decide in advance what can occur one way or the other, and what is to be done when something happens, nor to act in such a manner that someday one must say “I did not think.” Elsewhere the same Orator defines fortitude as a considered undertaking of risks and suffering of labors. Likewise in his De Officiis St. Ambrose has these words: “It is the mark of the brave man not to dissimulate when something threatens, but rather to exert himself and, as if by speculations, to foresee what is going to occur.” It is a familiar saying of Seneca, “foreseen missiles strike us less hard.” Why waste many words? A little earlier the Philosopher himself calls him brave who does battle considerately.


Fortitude is considered in two ways, either:

Absolutely with respect to its essence, and as such it is more discerned in life’s foreseen and premeditated perils than in sudden ones, and in this way the evidence cited above is to be set forth.
Respectively with respect to its existence, and as such, when the necessity of fighting demands, it is discerned more in sudden ones, and this is because of:
The fear suppressed.
The risk undertaken.
The honor gained therefrom.

6. OBJECTION He is absolutely brave who fights, compelled by sudden necessity, for his altars, his hearths, his commonwealth, therefore he is unfitly distinguished. The antecedent is clear in the text, since he fights in accordance with his habit of virtue, and when this fails there ensues flight, not fight.
RESPONSE I confess that within a man fighting thus there exists the true habit of virtue, but here we are considering an act rather than a habit, a manner rather than a nature. For in the text the word “habit” is employed to designate an act.

Chapter ix

Is fortitude a troublesome thing?
Is it harder to endure pains than abstain from pleasures?
Does the man who is braver and happier feel more pain at death?
Are there six acts and offices of the brave man?

XTREME despair contains within itself much rashness, much fear. Since, therefore, the brave man should not fear much and should not despair at all, how does it happen that fortitude is a very bitter and troublesome thing? “Philosopher, you are mistaken. For you yourself teach that the brave man is free of all perturbation in danger, and cheerfully sustains all blows and wounds. So tell me how these things hang together? For a man is brave and yet desponds in mind, he is great-minded and yet he fears peril, he is altogether a foursquare man and yet he grudgingly submits to war and death. Do you say thus, that the braver a man is the harder and more bitterly he endures death? What? Is this brave man you describe able at the same time to rejoice and grieve, to lay low his enemy and flee from blows, to sound his bugle and turn tail, his shield cast aside?”
2. Not at all. “So will you reconcile those things which, as they say, appear to be diametrically opposed?” They are not at all opposed. For I am calling fortitude a sad and bitter thing if you regard it, not with respect to its cause, but to nature; not to its subject, the mind, but to its object, its material; not to its end, honor, but its mean, suffering. Furthermore, I satisfy a second objection in the same way, namely that the happier a brave man is, the more grudgingly he suffers death, not at all because he fears death, but because he is aware that in this way he is being robbed of many goods and endowments with which he can be of no further help and service to his nation, which he has held dearest of all things. Is the brave man cheerful in death? He is cheerful. Does he also grieve in danger? In death? He grieves. Therefore bravery is a happy thing. “I do not deny this.” Bravery is also a bitter thing. “I agree with this too. But how are these things consistent?” You are being obtuse, since I have just demonstrated that these things are true in diverse respects. “But there is one thing you write in this passage I would wish you to briefly explain for me.” What’s that? “Namely this, that it is harder to suffer pains than to abstain from pleasures, although you said previously that the hardest of all things is to conquer Helen, i. e., pleasure.” I remember all this. “So what do you answer?” I say that it is more difficult to suffer pains with respect to nature, which abhors them, and with respect to death, which destroys life, pleasure, and nature herself. Thus, just as death is the most terrible and fearful of all things, so to bear the pains of death cheerfully is the hardest thing of all, if you consider life, if you consider nature. But the brave man endowed with a great and trusting mind casts aside all the softness and fearfulness of nature, scorns pain’s darts, and, being wholly fixed on the contemplation of virtue, does not feel the bitterness of death, indeed often with a serene countenance he showers kisses on death, horrible in her aspect.
3. “Come, philosopher, since you are pleased to converse with us, we would have this one thing of you, that you show us in a word how many are the brave man’s offices and acts.” The offices of the brave man are six: to conclude his business by delaying, to await his foe, to run risk, to withstand the enemy’s battle-line, to cut down his dry, and finally (and this less befits him) to flee when there is need. For sometimes it comes about that in accordance with the prescription of right reason when it bids this, he should avoid danger by taking flight. But this will occur only then, when right reason dictates.

Fortitude is:

A sad thing with respect to:

Its subject, nature, which abhors death.
Its object, the material, which brings risk.
Its means (namely labor), which begets labor.

A cheerful thing because of:

The habit of virtue, in which the brave man excels.
The good of the commonwealth, the only thing he seeks.
The reward of honor, which he requires from this.

The offices of the brave man are:


By delaying, not to conclude his business without counsel.
To run risk, not without prudence.
To strike his enemy, not without justice.


To await his enemy.
To sustain a blow.
To take to flight when reason commands.

It is more difficult to conquer pains than pleasures with respect to:

Nature, which flees all pain as if it were an enemy, and which embraces pleasure.
The peril which arises from this, since pain brings fear, fear brings death, death brings the shipwreck of life, nature and pleasure.

In death the brave man feels great pain:

Partially with respect to nature, which in all circumstances shuns death by a kind of instinct.
Most of all with respect to this nature, which he can no longer serve.

4. OBJECTION Every activity of virtue ought to be pleasant and delightful, as is said in Book II of the Ethics. Therefore an activity of fortitude ought not be vexatious.


An action of fortitude is either:

Internal with respect to habit, and as such it is deemed pleasant since it is praiseworthy.
External with respect to danger or death, and thus it is called a sad thing.

OBJECTION It is easier to conquer an open enemy than a feigned friend, therefore it is easier to conquer an obvious pain than to overcome a hidden pleasure.
RESPONSE This is true, if you consider the brave man’s mind and habit. But if you consider tender and soft nature, it is far more difficult to put up with pain than to suppress pleasure. For nature abhors pain and pursued pleasure.


It is seen more in suffering, as Aristotle says here:

Since men are called brave for suffering dangers.
Since more just praises are rightly given the man who suffers than the man who strikes.

OBJECTION The employment of one’s powers is better than their possession. To strike an enemy is to employ one’s powers, but to suffer is nothing else but to possess them. Therefore striking is better than suffering and enduring.
RESPONSE The assumption of this argument is false. For suffering is not merely enduring or possessing, but employing one’s powers of both mind and body in both a timely and a wise manner.
OBJECTION More praise is given the man who spiritedly attacks the enemy than the man who awaits him. Therefore attack is better than defense. The argument holds by reasoning from an equal thing, since he who gives liberally deserves more praise than he who receives.
RESPONSE This comes about commonly and according to the popular custom, but not justly and wisely. For in the wise man’s judgment no more praise is given the man who awaits the enemy in a praiseworthy manner.


From the brave man’ flight ensues either:


Of the republic.
Of religion.
Of honor, and in in such a case death is to be sought rather than flight, for in fleeing death a crime is thus committed.


Of the commonwealth.
Of the army.
Of his own life, and in such a case flight is praised, since death would be silly and shameful , if the republic should gain more advantage from his life than from his death.

OBJECTION Dying destroys the happiness of this life, therefore the brave man should never choose to die.
RESPONSE Death destroys the existence and act of happiness, not its essence and habit, indeed to die thus is the most excellent act of a blessed life and happiness.
OBJECTION No virtue tends to the destruction of nature (for it is the perfection and preserver of nature), therefore fortitude should not sway a man towards death, in which is nature’s dissolution is to be seen.


There are two parts of nature in Man:

The body, whose perfection is the placement and endowment of its parts, which are corrupted by nature.
The mind, whose perfection is virtue itself, which is more perfected by an honorable death.

7. OBJECTION If death is to be sought by a man, it is either to be sought by a proper good or an alien good. But neither of these should occur. Therefore death is not to be sought by a brave man. The major premise stands by a sufficient division. The minor is proven by reason: first, he should not die because of his own good, since (as the Philosopher says in the text) all goods are lost along with death; and second, not for another man’s good, since by his death he cannot procure a greater good than the one he destroys. This is confirmed by the examples of the most holy Saints, who, even though they expected life eternal after death, nevertheless very often avoided the dangers of this life by flight.
RESPONSE I admit that all the goods of this mortal life are ended by death’s strike. And yet the brave man should hope to end his life with a noble act of virtue rather than enjoy it longer with disgrace. To the second part of our argument I reply that a greater death is procured by others by the brave man’s death than if he were to survive. For hence the republic flourishes the better, hence many Caesars, that is, many brave men, are born from the tomb of a single Achilles. For a single example provides more inspiration than a thousand words. To the last part I say that the Holy Fathers did strive to spin out their life’s thread as along as possible, but they did not do this so they would live longer, but so that by living longer they would be of greater service to God’s commonwealth, the Church. Therefore let the brave man flee, if from this some good comes to the republic. But let him heed this one thing, “Greetings, excellent death, farewell, worst life.” And again, “To live is to be a slave, a free life is to die.”



Deception occurs in two ways, either:

With a violation of faith, and as such it is not allowed. For it is the mark of the brave man to return to torture with Regulus rather than break his faith with disgrace.

With a stratagem, and as such it is permissible:

Since nature ordains he defend himself.
Since his nation ordains he repel the enemy.
Since war’s law ordains that the brave man set deceptions against an unjust enemy.

8. OBJECTION Deceptions are not lacking in fraud. Fraud is not without vice. Therefore it will not be allowed the brave man to deceive and attack his enemy by the setting of deceptions.
RESPONSE In war, nature has taught us to repel force by force, but experience teaches us sometimes to defeat force by art as well. So there are deceptions in which turpitude is intended, and these are evil. But there are also deceptions in which are intended the preservation of life and the nation, and these are good and are properly called stratagems. For they are only properly called deceptions when they
are done unjustly against the enemy’s savagery, but only stratagems when they are done justly.

Chapter x

Is temperance defined aright?
Are only taste and touched involved in the pleasure?
Are its species rightly assigned?

UST as in the defense of the commonwealth it is not enough to drive the enemy from the wall, if traitors remain within its walls and buildings, so in the development of a man it is not enough to understand the power of fortitude, by which you can best your external enemy, if you are unaware of the power of temperance, by which you can overcome your internal one. Therefore the Philosopher is correct in teaching us temperance next after fortitude. For temperance is a virtue, than which none other can be imagined or spoken of either more powerful for suppressing the passions, or more fit for strengthening men’s morals, or more efficacious for propitiating the divine godhead. For it hamstrings the sinews of pleasure, it quenches the flames of raging appetite, and renders all this life chaste and honorable. Hence in Aristotle certain conclusions are set forth in this chapter, of which the first is that temperance is occupies the middle between pleasure and dullness of nature; second, that it is concerned with the pleasures of the body, not the mind; third, that it does not manage all the bodily pleasures, but only those which arouse taste and touch; fourth, that it is most concerned with moderating the delights of touch; and finally that, these things being posited, intemperance is to be shunned more than the other mental vices.
2. From these conclusions arise the questions you see affixed to the beginning of this chapter, which I think are to be touched upon briefly. First, is temperance rightly defined? Seneca rightly said “temperance is pleasure’s bridle”; Boetius rightly said “temperance is none other than a chaste ruler and mistress of human life”; Aristotle rightly said “temperance is a virtue of the mind set between pleasure and dullness of nature, which moderates the tongue and the hand, i. e. taste and touch, regarding their objects.” Taste and touch, I say, not because the other senses do not delight in their objects (as the ears do in stories, the eyes in pictures), but only in these two does pleasure exist per se, whereas in the others it exists per accidens. For we are properly called temperate then, when we rightly moderate our taste and touch. But I know not how much poison pleasure spreads from taste and touch to the other senses. For it is a handsome but a treacherous, a lovely but a wily harlot, as it deceives with voice, face and costume. With voice it captivates the ear, with face the eye, with fragrant garment the nose. As the philosopher Plato says, by means of these lustful men return and are recalled to the memory of their desires. Wherefore I think that the reins of temperance are not just to be thrown on the tongue and the hands, but also on the eyes and the other senses, so that the eyes, shrouded with chastity’s veil, might not see Helen, and the eyes, blocked with Ulysses’ wax, might not hear the Sirens.
3. Close your eyes, young men, block your ears. Close them, old men, flee naked Diana. If this fails to move you, flee naked Bathsheba, flee naked Susanna. For in their cases the eye wounded the mind. What shall I say? The morals of our time are dissolute indeed. How many pictures of Venus are painted everywhere? How many palaces of this wanton little whore exist? How many shows about Thais are performed all over? All of which, by means of the eyes and the ears, as if by windows, infect men’s minds so that, as if snake-bitten, they perish senselessly in a sleep of pleasure. But what am I doing? I come to an explanation of the species of temperance. And, as the interpreters say, these are five, namely abstinence, sobriety, modesty, chastity, and fostering virginity. Abstinence is concerned with diet, sobriety with drink, modesty with kisses and embraces, chastity with sex itself, and virginity with uspoiled decency. Each and every one of these attendants upon temperance teach Hippocrates’ slender and wholesome diet to gluttons, tosspots, the shameless and the wanton. And if they shall have learned this, they will never imitate Philoxenus in desiring a crane’s neck to be set before them so they may take greater pleasure in their dinner-delights.

The word temperance is understood either:

More broadly, for the moderation of all human activities which are conjoined with pleasure, and as such it is said to be concerned with the objects of all the senses.
More strictly, for the moderation of the pleasures in the objects of taste and touch, and as such it is properly defined in this context.

In temperance six things are wont to be considered:

Nature, which is either:

Common, and as such it is discerned in all activities of all the virtues.
Proper, and as such it is only concerned with the objects of taste and touch.

Its opposite, which is either:

Intemperance, or lust in excess.
Dullness of nature and habituation in defect.

Its object, which is either:

Proper and per se, as the pleasure of taste and touch.
Common and per accidens, as base speech which infects and entices the mind by hearing, and a painting of Venus, which does so by sight.

Its parts, as:

A sense of shame, by which we escape base things.
Honor, by which we observe decorum.

Its species:

As above.

Its office, which is:

To contend against pleasure and pain.
To exercise abstinence in food and drink.
To restrain the goads of concupiscence in the delights of venery.


4. OBJECTION Every virtue is a habit of the mind that has a share in reason. Temperance is not a habit of the mind that has a share in reason. Therefore it is not a virtue. The major premise is agreed in the definition of virtue. The minor is at the beginning of this chapter, where the Philosopher teaches that fortitude and temperance should be treated together, since they belong to those parts of the mind which do not have a share in reason.
RESPONSE Although there are two parts of the appetite, namely the irascible, governed by fortitude, and the concupiscible, governed by temperance, yet it does not follow that these virtues reside in those parts of the mind which are wholly devoid of reason. This passage is therefore understood as being about the office of these virtues, not their subject. For their office is to tame irascible and concupiscible appetite and subject them to the government of reason. If you ask, I identify their subject as the will.
OBJECTION Temperance is a mental virtue, therefore it should bridle the pleasures of the mind. Which being conceded, it follows that what is said in the text is absurd, that it is exclusively concerned with pleasures of the body, not the mind.
RESPONSE It is said to be exclusively concerned with the pleasures of the mind primarily and per se.
OBJECTION Often the pleasures of the mind are more monstrous than the pleasures of the body. Therefore temperance per se ought to be more concerned with moderating these rather than those of the body. The reason is that virtue should be concerned with the more difficult thing.
RESPONSE Your reasoning does not follow, since that lust of the mind arises from an infected root, that is, from concupiscence of the body. And it affects the mind per accidens.
OBJECTION The eyes are often called wanton and intemperate, and likewise the ears, since by the allurements of their objects they deceive and infect the mind. Therefore temperance is not exclusively associated with the pleasures of taste and touch.
RESPONSE As I have just said, I do not approve of pictures of desire, I do not praise palaces of Venus. For no matter how the artist’s and the writer’s pencil may please, nevertheless the poison (no matter how sweet) works harm. But to your argument I respond that temperance is concerned with the objects of the other senses by chance and happenstance, but with the objects of taste and touch per se and in its own right.
5. OBJECTION Thais’ reputation harmed Demosthenes, even if he never laid eyes on her. The recollection of an embrace arouses new flames even if the external objects of taste and touch be absent. And in a dream sometimes imagine lights the touches of lust, even if taste and touch are sound asleep. Therefore also the internal senses, such as will, memory and imagination are infected with the plaguy habit of lust. Which being granted, it follows that there is need for temperance in moderating these internal senses no less than external ones.
RESPONSE Appetite, memory, imagination, and the other internal scenes are wounded by the strike of concupiscence, but (as I have shown above) they are wounded by the body itself, which first pours the poison into the potentials of the soul. Wherefore even if, the external senses a-slumber, imagination sometimes entices us to shamefulness in our sleep, nevertheless this base and voluptuous activity has taken its origin from the external senses, which were infected first.
OBJECTION In no man is dullness of nature so great but that sometimes he feels the dart and heat of desire. Therefore temperance is ill defined as a mean between pleasure and dullness of nature.
RESPONSE I know no gentlemen of these times who have been transformed into emeralds, i. e. into stones of chastity. I hear of few self-made eunuchs. In this context, therefore, the question is not what exists, but what can exist. It is possible that somebody is defective in the use, means and ordering of pleasure, and he is said to err in dullness. For in this context dullness is not defined as a privation, but rather as defect of legitimate pleasure.



Beasts are moved by the objects of the senses, either:

Internally, by:

Sense-memory, as a dog when he sees his master.
Common sensation or imagination, as a lamb when it sees its mother.
Instinct of wise nature, as a spider when it sees its prey.

Externally, either:

Per se, in:

Taste, for nutrition.
Touch, for the generation and preservation of species and nature.

Per accidens, in:

Hearing: thus birds and bears are captivated by harmony.
Sight: thus apes cheerfully see their offspring, and peacocks their feathers.
Smell: thus dogs, pigs and fish, captivated by odors, are attracted to dead bodies at a very great remove.

7. OBJECTION A dog takes no delight in a rabbit’s odor, but in feeding on it; a lion is not bewitched by a cow’s voice, but by devouring it; and thus in every kind of brute beast. Therefore this distinction is without point or usefulness. The antecedent is Aristotle’s in this chapter.



Something is perceived by the senses in two ways:

Distinctly and per se, and thus Man alone forms a perfect judgment about the objects of the senses.
Confusedly and per accidens, and thus beasts are also pleased by the objects of the other senses, by means of taste and touch.

OBJECTION The song of the swan before death is not for the sake of food (which it does not seek), or intercourse (which it abhors), therefore there is within it some sensible delight per se and not per accidens, as is taught in the text.
RESPONSE The swan takes no delight in his song per se, but is compelled to act thus by natural instinct. For just as nature taught the Phoenix to burn himself at the point of death, so she has taught this bird, done in by old age, to sing sweetly before its death.


OBJECTION According to nature we are permitted to feel concupiscence and take our fill of pleasure. Temperance forbids these things. Therefore to some extent temperance and nature are opposed to each other.
RESPONSIO Nature is twofold, animal and human. Concupiscence is innate in both for the sake of intercourse and procreation, but thus innate that beasts should follow their constitutions’ instinct, but men the habit of reason. Therefore nature has given you appetite, not that you may be a slave of pleasure for lust, but that you serve the necessity of preserving the species with moderation and order. Thus temperance, the best preserver of nature itself, prescribes this moderation and order alone.

Chapter xi

Is natural desire a vice?
What is desire? What are intemperance and dullness?
Is intemperance more contrary to temperance than is dullness?
Is every desire conjoined with pain?

N us the tinder of lust and all intemperance is a certain ardent desire of nature, commonly called concupiscence. Canker-like, this infects the appetite and, like the stricken Hydra, is ever acquiring greater heads. Yet we must not despair. For its sovereign remedy is that right noble virtue temperance. But lest in lopping off that bad beast’s heads we fail to exert ourselves with sufficient caution and prudence, after temperance has been defined, in this passage the Philosopher divides and defines desire itself. For thus he speaks: ”Of desires, some are common and natural, others proper and acquired, as for example the desire for food is natural. For all men have an appetite for food and drink when they are empty, and, as Homer says, ‘a young man is eager to bed a girl.’” With this division having been set forth, four conclusions follow: first, that very few men sin in common and natural desire; 2. that men are carried over the cliffs of many a sin by their proper desires; 3. that men’s desires are without a shameful pain of mind; finally, that those who err in a deficiency of pleasure are rarely if ever found.
2. Next, the first question is whether natural desire is a vice. In natural desire are considered the root, the act, and the agreement: potential is discerned in the root, habit in the act, passion in the mind’s agreement. In the root exists a certain impulse and movement of nature, either simple or corrupt: simple, as to have an appetite for food when you are hungry, and in this way desire is no sin; corrupt, as to overstep due limit in concupiscence, and as such (as the Philosopher says) it is a misdemeanor. For this impulse is like the beating of the heart, which no man in this life may suppress. If you add the act, be on your guard, for it quickly grows warm. If you add agreement, shun it, for otherwise a great conflagration will arise. For desire is both tinder and smoke of sin: the tinder wherewith we are set afire, the smoke with which we are smothered. Do you want to learn the offspring of this seed? Listen. From this, as from a foul pond, flow fornication, adultery, debauchery, nocturnal pollution, incest, and that monstrous crime against nature.
3. If you desire to learn how fair are these daughters, pay heed. Fornication is a wandering and promiscuous intemperance of a loose man with a loose woman. Adultery is the violation of individual association and matrimony. Debauchery is the vile and lustful corruption of a virgin. Incest is a contamination of related and kindred blood. Nocturnal pollution is an invitation of the sleeper to turpitude, by means of corrupt imagination. Since it is horrendous, I think the crime against nature is to be shrouded under a veil of silence and modesty. Desire is a certain natural proclivity and propensity to sinning located in the human appetite. Intemperance, as the Philosopher says in the text, a vicious superabundance of the pleasures. Dullness is a voluntary and excessive avoidance and repression of permissible pleasure. There are few men who do not transform nature’s sparks into flames of desire. Furthermore, every desire is conjoined and coupled with pain. For thirst for pleasure begets fever of the mind, and, when once set alight and spread through the heart and all the parts of the body, it is not easily quenched by Diana’s cool fountains.

Of desires, some are:

Common, concerned in all things for which we have appetite, such as food, drink, sex, honor &c.
Proper, located in the circumstances of the things for which we have appetite, as in this food, this drink, this sex, this honor. Once can sin in either portion of this division, if act and agreement follow upon a naturally impelling desire, with either a defect or an excess.



One of the desires is:

Natural or innate, which is in:

An appetite for intercourse and procreation, leading to a passion.
An impulse for declining into sin.

Moral or acquired, and one of these consists:

In not resisting pleasure when it exerts its allure.
In indulging the same when it sets one afire, and in these ways, by means of act and agreement, the mind’s desire (otherwise the tinder of sin) is transformed into sin itself.

4. OBJECTION Nobody sins in things which are naturally innate in us. The desires are in us naturally. Therefore nobody sins in them. The major premise is proven, since virtue and vice are not within us naturally.


The desires are considered either:

According to essence, and a such they are in us naturally and are called the tinder of the vices.
According to overabundance, and such they are not given us by nature, but are called vices themselves.

OBJECITON If a man full and gorged with wine has an appetite for more, he does so naturally. But to have such an appetite is a vice. Therefore natural desire is a sin.
RESPONSE That desire is not common and natural, but proper and voluntary, according to which (as the Philosopher says) we offend in more than a thousand ways.
OBJECTION Dullness is very helpful for the acquisition of virtue since it is an avoidance of pleasures. It is therefore no vice.
RESPONSE Dullness is an avoidance of the pleasures, but without order or reason.
OBJECTION Dullness arises from a bad mixture of the humors or from disease. It is therefore no vice. For every vice is voluntary.
RESPONSE Often not only bad mixture and disease, but bad habit often engenders the same thing.


Desire is either natural or proper, therefore no desire is conjoined to desire. The reasoning holds, since nature shuns pain in the natural, and pleasure shuns it in the proper.


Desire is considered either:

Per se, and as such it is delightful.
Per accidens, and as such it is said to be a sad and troublesome thing. For when a concupiscent man either seeks to possess pleasure longer, or does not achieve it when he wishes, he feels a very sharp pain and torment of mind.

OBJECTION Nocturnal pollutions are involuntary, and therefore are not sins. The antecedent is obvious, since these things befall sleepers.


Their cause is twofold, either:

Nature, and as such they are not sins; for nature is not to be blamed if she expels poison.
Bad habit beforehand, and as such they are sins, since the will, corrupted by nature’s agitation, gives its assent.

Chapter xii

Are abstinence and castigation the best remedies for intemperance?
Is intemperance more voluntary than the fear, the opposite of fortitude?

NASMUCH as there is no profit in uncovering a wound if you do not apply a medicine, it is agreeable that this quite prolix discussion of intemperance be followed by the Philosopher’s counsel, in lieu of a medicine. Aristotle therefore ends this Book with counsel rather than a precept, by exhorting us to avoid this monstrosity of crime rather than by demonstrating some new theme or argument. And yet this chapter has four arguments, of which the first is that intemperance conjoined with pleasure is more voluntary that fear of mind upon which pain attends; the second is that intemperance is more deserving of reprehension than is fear, because of foul pleasure, which is its minister; third, that in boyhood and the flower of youth this vice of concupiscence is at its hottest; fourth, that the best remedies for this fault are two, abstinence and castigation. Would that this short bit of advice would be learned by all, as it should! Then indeed would gluttons shun, nay, abhor their feeling of being over-fed, drunkards their madness, lechers their infamy.
2. Oh the times in which we live! How many men has the gullet, the belly, base lust destroyed! What do you seek, glutton? Food. What do you thirst for, tosspot? Wine. What are you after, wanton? Sex “Oh men’s cares! Oh what a void there is in things!” Decay is an attendant on gluttony, oblivion on drunkenness, shame on venery, yet we live daintily and delicately. But what am I doing? Better to avert one’s face and conceal the shameful things of the times than inflame many men’s minds by saying much. Do you want to dine? You may, but employ abstinence. Do you want to drink wine? You have my permission, but maintain sobriety. Do you want to touch a woman? This is not denied you, if chastity and modesty be present. But without these bridles it is forbidden you to do these things, since the belly stuffed with food and wine quickly froths forth lust. The gullet is a perilous thing, for it kills. Wine is a wanton thing, for it destroys the mind. Propertius was right, “Beauty fades because of wine, youth is corrupted by wine, because of wine a mistress often fails to recognize her darling.” Wisely wrote Ovid: “Night, love and wine urge uncontrollable things.” Do you seek the remedy for these things. So come, listen to the poet: “If you take away leisure, Cupid’s bows fail, his torches lie scorned and lightless.”
3. Listen to the Philosopher. If a certain castigation be applied, all that within us should be restrained which is snatched by a desire for base and lewd things, and greatly triumphs and runs riot. The gist of this all is that if your mind is inclined to lust, apply fasting. If it is headstrong and unbridled, apply counsel. If it is yet more headstrong, employ the scourge. For counsel heals those who are slipping, fasting those who have slipped, and the scourge those who are mad and raging. This body indeed is an insolent and arrogant slave of nature which sometimes goes a-raging if you loosen the rains, but when you pull back on them it is often rendered obedient to reason and virtue. Jerome, that pious Father, emaciated by many a fast, once lay sleeping in the desert and saw the delights of Rome. Oh Christ, what are we doing, stuffed with exquisite dainties, overwhelmed with wanton music, sound asleep on our ivory couches? But here I make my ending, earnest reader, as long as you remember to subdue yourself with counsel and abstinence. If you do so, hear wise Seneca: “He is twice the victor who gains a victory over himself.” If you do not, hear him again: “He dies twice, who dies by his own weapons.”

The remedies for intemperance are either:

Divine, either:

Faith, which initiates a life of sanctity.
Prayer, which procures pardon for the lapse of nature.
Abstinence, which suppresses the body’s petulance.
Grace, which brings to perfection the integrity of the life, when once begin.

Human, which are either

Internal, such as:

A sense of shame.

External, such as:

Castigation, and these:

Subject proud and insolent nature to the rule of reason.
Blunt the stings of pleasure.
Quench the torches and flames of concupiscence.


Intemperance is more voluntary than dullness, because of:

Natural desire, whence the impulse,
Innate desire, whence the passion,
The variety of objects, whence the habit of intemperance arises.

OBJECTION Abstinence or fasting shatters the powers of nature, lowers the spirits, destroys health, and renders the whole man less fit for performing the office of virtue. Virtue, which is the preserver of nature, forbids these things. Therefore abstinence or fasting is not the best remedy for intemperance.
RESPONSE In the same way that a wayward slave should be punished, not that he might despair, but that he become more submissive, so we should starve this body of ours, not so it fail, but that it obey and heed reason.
OBJECTION What nature abhors as an evil is not a wholesome remedy for the same. Nature abhors castigation and the scourge as an evil. Therefore this should not be applied as a remedy.
RESPONSE If a larger load than it can carry is placed on a naughty beast of burden, it will collapse on the way. But if you load it with too little, it will kick against the goad. Thus if you afflict this body beyond its capacity, this is an evil. But if you strike it moderately, this is wholesome.
OBJECTION The Pharisees did this, yet they were called hypocrites by Christ. Therefore this precept does not seem useful and profitable.
RESPONSE The Pharisees indeed did do this, but in a dissimulating way. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Christ Himself did the same thing genuinely and with effect. Three things in John’s abstinence seem to me worthy of imitation: slender diet, rough clothing, hermit-like solitude. This precept is therefore not useless, it is not contrary to the Faith. For Paul, that vessel of Election, castigated himself and reduced it to servitude lest perchance when he preached to others he himself might be discovered to be a reprobate. But this load we place on ourselves needs to be weighed in the scales of prudence, so it neither oppresses its bearer with its weight nor with its lightness allows him to wax proud and insolent. For just as a ship sinks if overloaded, but heels and is endangered at every gust of wind if it be under-ballasted, so an overly afflicted body perishes, but, if less than it should be, immediately it swells like an inflated bladder or a bubble.


The will is equally the first principle of all the vices and all the virtues, as is said in Book II of the Ethics. Therefore intemperance is no more voluntary than is dullness, since it is opposed to temperance on the other side.


In the vices and the virtues two things are considered:

Their essence, insofar as they are habits, and as such all are deemed equally voluntary.
Their circumstances, insofar as they are acts, and as such intemperance is more voluntary than is dullness, since former has pleasure as its attendant, but the latter has pain.


OBJECTION Intemperate and wanton men are possessed of very short lives. Therefore pleasure, which is the attendant of these things, undermines nature more than does pain. Experience proves the antecedent.
RESPONSE In the text, pleasure is understood according to its nature, not its superabundance. For the former preserves, but the latter undermines more than does pain.


Vehement pleasure causes insanity, since:

It dries out the human brain.
It excessively perturbs the animal spirit.
It harms the imagine with its various intentions.
It arouses great pains in appetite.

OBJECTION The mind has a share in reason and is, as Aristotle says at De Anima IIII.v, free and immune from all perturbation. Therefore it is not so overwhelmed by pleasure that it goes insane.


The mind, having a share in reason, is considered in two ways:

Absolutely, insofar as it is spirit, and as such it is immortal, free, and immune from every perturbation and passion.
Comparatively, insofar as it is an act, and as such it is sometimes overwhelmed by bodily passions, and by their onslaught is not infrequently moved from the seat of right reason.



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