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ON SE HABERE AND HABITUDO

(c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti

I. ON SE HABERE (TO HOLD ONESELF TOWARD, TO HABITUALLY MAINTAIN ONESELF TOWARD, ETC.) AND HABITUDO (HABITUDE, RELATIONSHIP). 1. The nature of se habere and habitudo according to St. Thomas Aquinas. (1) Accordingly, in order to understand this third division, one must consider that, since relation has the weakest being, because it consists solely in the fact that it holds itself toward something else [se habere ad aliud], it must be founded on some other accident; the reason for this being that the more perfect accidents are closer to substance, and through their mediation the other accidents are in substance. Now relation is chiefly founded on two things, which possess an order to something else [habent ordinem ad aliud], namely, quantity and action: for quantity can be a measure also of something outside; but the agent pours out its action into something else. And so certain relations are founded on quantity, and especially on number, to which the first notion of measure belongs, as is clear in double and half, multiple and submultiple, and in other things of the sort. (In III Physic., lect. 1, n. 6) (2) I reply that it must be said that certain names implying a relation to the creature are said of God temporally and not from eternity. To see that this is so, it must be understood that some people held the opinion that relation is not a thing of nature, but rather of reason alone. This, in fact, appears to be false, by reason of the fact that things themselves have a natural order and habitude [relationship] to each other. (Summa Theol., Ia, q. 13, art. 7, c.) 2. In sum. relation has the weakest being, because it consists solely in the fact that it holds [habitually maintains] itself to something else. Now relation is chiefly founded on two things, which possess an order to something else, namely, quantity and action. things themselves have a natural order and habitude (relationship) to each other. II. NOTE ON SE HABERE AND HABITUDO. It is apparent from these texts that for a relation to hold itself to something is for it to be possessed as an order to something. Hence, a habitudo means an order something possesses to or toward something else. As we shall see further on, where habitudo translates hexis, understood as the first species of quality, it denotes something which requires an active effort on our part in order to be maintained, for which reason I offer the phrase habitually maintains itself as an alternate translation of se habere. 1. Definitions pertaining to habitudo. 2

Cf. The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Relationship:


Relationship, the state of being related; a condition or character based on this.

N.B. The foregoing description of relationship suggests that habitudo contains in its meaning the note of a state or condition or character. 2. An expanded account of habitudo understood as relationship: (1) the state of being related; a condition or character based on this (OED); (2) the state or condition of being ordered to something else (or of being possessed as an order to something else) (B.A.M.). 3. Translations of habitudo. order order that is possessed, the possession of an order relationship relatedness to hold itself, to habitually maintain itself = to be ordered to; to be possessed as an order to; to possess an order to; to bear oneself toward; to stand to 4. Alternate translations of Aristotles definition of toward something (Categories 7, 8a 31-32, trans. B.A.M.). First translation: If, however, it were not sufficient, but rather toward something are those things for which the being is to hold itself toward something in some way, perhaps something might be said (in answer) to these (difficulties). Second translation: If, however, it were not sufficient, but rather toward something are those things for which the being is the same as habitually maintaining itself toward something in some way, perhaps something might be said (in answer) to these (difficulties). Third translation: If, however, it were not sufficient, but rather toward something are those things for which the being is the same as bearing themselves toward something in some way, perhaps something might be said (in answer) to these (difficulties). Fourth translation: If, however, it were not sufficient, but rather toward something are those things for which the being is the same as standing to something in some way, perhaps something might be said (in answer) to these (difficulties). 3

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In III Physic., lect. 1, n. 6 (tr. B.A.M.):


LB3 LC-1N.-6 ad huius igitur tertiae divisionis intellectum, considerandum est quod, cum relatio habeat debilissimum esse, quia consistit tantum in hoc quod est ad aliud se habere, oportet quod super aliquod aliud accidens fundetur; quia perfectiora accidentia sunt propinquiora substantiae, et eis mediantibus alia accidentia substantiae insunt. maxime autem super duo fundatur relatio, quae habent ordinem ad aliud, scilicet super quantitatem et actionem: nam quantitas potest esse mensura etiam alicuius exterioris; agens autem transfundit actionem suam in aliud. relationes igitur quaedam fundantur super quantitatem; et praecipue super numerum, cui competit prima ratio mensurae, ut patet in duplo et dimidio, multiplici et submultiplici, et in aliis huiusmodi. Accordingly, in order to understand this third division, one must consider that, since relation has the weakest being, because it consists solely in the fact that it holds itself to something else, it must be founded on some other accident; the reason for this being that the more perfect accidents are closer to substance, and through their mediation the other accidents are in substance. Now relation is chiefly founded on two things, which possess an order to something else, namely, quantity and action: for quantity can be a measure also of something outside; but the agent pours out its action into something else. And so certain relations are founded on quantity, and especially on number, to which the first notion of measure belongs, as is clear in double and half, multiple and submultiple, and in other things of the sort.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia, qu. 13, art. 7, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
QU13 AR7 CO respondeo dicendum quod quaedam nomina importantia relationem ad creaturam, ex tempore de deo dicuntur, et non ab aeterno. ad cuius evidentiam, sciendum est quod quidam posuerunt relationem non esse rem naturae, sed rationis tantum. quod quidem apparet esse falsum, ex hoc quod ipsae res naturalem ordinem et habitudinem habent ad invicem. I reply that it must be said that certain names implying a relation to the creature are said of God temporally and not from eternity. To see that this is so, it must be understood that some people held the opinion that relation is not a thing of nature,1 but rather of reason alone. This, in fact, appears to be false, by reason of the fact that things themselves have a natural order and habitude [relationship] to each other.

5. The four species of quality according to St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, q. 49, art. 2, c. (in part), ad 1:
Properly, quality implies a certain mode of a substance. However, as St. Augustine says (Super gen. ad litteram), a mode is what a measure fixes [or predetermines], and so it implies a certain determination according to some measure.
1

That is, a reality, understood as something existing outside its causes.

And so, just as that according to which the potency of matter is determined according to substantial being is called a quality, which is the difference of substanceso that according to which the potency of a subject is determined according to accidental being is called an accidental quality, which is also a certain difference, as is clear through the Philosopher in Metaphysics V (ch. 14, 1020a 33). The mode or determination of a subject according to accidental being, however, can be taken either in an order to the nature of the subject itself, or according to the action and passion which follow on the principles of the nature, which are matter and form; or according to quantity. If, however, the mode or determination of the subject be taken according to quantity, thus there is the fourth species of quality. And because quantity, according to its notion, is without motion, and without the notion of good and bad, therefore, it does not belong to the fourth species of quality that something be good or bad, passing swiftly or slowly. But the mode or determination of a subject according to action and passion is looked to in the second and third species of quality. And so in both is considered that something is done easily or with difficulty, or that it be passing swiftly or enduring. But in these things there is no consideration of anything pertaining to the notions of good or bad, because motions and passions do not have the notion of ends; good and bad, however, are said with respect to an end. But the mode and determination of a subject in an order to the nature of the thing pertains to the first species of quality, which is habit and disposition; for the Philosopher says in Physics VII (ch. 3, 246a 13), speaking of the habits of the soul and body, that they are certain dispositions of the perfect for the best; by of the perfect, however, I mean what is disposed according to nature. And because the very form and nature of a thing is the end and that for the sake of which something comes to be, as is said in Physics II (ch. 7, 198b 3), thus, in the first species there is considered both good and bad, and also movable with ease or with difficulty, according as some nature is the end of a generation and a motion. And so, in Metaphysics V (ch. 20, 1022b 10) the Philosopher defines habit as a disposition according to which something is well or badly disposed. And in Ethics II (ch. 5, 1105b 25) he says that habits are those things according to which we stand well or badly toward [i.e. with respect to] our passions . For when the mode is suitable to the nature of the thing, then it has the notion of the good; however, when it is not suitable, then it has the notion of the bad. And because the nature is that which is considered first in a thing, thus habits are placed in the first species of quality. To the first, therefore, it must be said that disposition implies a certain order, as has been said. And so something is not said to be disposed by a quality except in an order to something. And if well or badly be added, which belongs to the notion of habit, this must be looked to in the order to the nature, which is the end. And so, according to figure [or shape], or according to hot or cold, something is not said to be well or badly disposed, except according to an order to the nature of the thing, according as it is suitable or not suitable [to it]. And so, both figures themselves and passible qualities, according as they are considered as suitable or not suitable to the nature of the thing, belong to habits or dispositions; for figure, as it befits the nature of a thing, and color, pertain to beauty; hot and cold, however, according as they suit the nature of the thing, pertain to health. And in this way, hotness and coldness are placed by the Philosopher in the first species of quality.

6. On the three ways in which one thing is ordered to another according to In V Meta., lect. 17, nn. 4-5: 5

n. 4 But the rationale of these modes is this. For, since a relation which is in things consists in a certain order of one thing to another, there must be as many modes of this sort of relation as there are ways in which one thing happens to be ordered to another. But one thing is ordered to another either with regard to being, according as the being of one thing depends on another, and thus there is the third modeor with regard to an active and passive virtue, according as one thing is received from another, or contributes something to another, and thus there is the second modeor according as the quantity of one thing can be measured by another, and thus there is the first mode. n. 5 Now the quality of a thing, as such, looks to nothing except the subject in which it exists. And so with regard to it, one thing is not ordered to another except insofar as a quality takes on the notion of a passive or an active power, insofar as it is the starting point of an action or a passion. Or [one thing is ordered to another] by reason of quantity, or of something pertaining to quantity, just as something is called whiter than another, or just as that which has some one quality is called like [another thing which has the same quality]. But the other genera follow on a relation rather than being able to cause a relation. For (the predicament) when consists in some relation to time. But where, to place. But position implies an order of parts. But habit [possession], a relation of the one having to the thing had.

7. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, q. 49, art. 1, ad 3:


To the third it must be said that disposition does always, indeed, imply an order of that which has parts, but this happens in three ways, as the Philosopher goes on at once to say (Metaph. v, text. 25): namely, either as to place, or as to power, or as to species. In saying this, as Simplicius observes in his Commentary on the Predicaments, he includes all dispositions: bodily dispositions, when he says as to place, and this belongs to the predicament position, which is the order of parts in a place: when he says as to power, he includes all those dispositions which are in course of formation and not yet arrived at perfect usefulness, such as inchoate science and virtue: and when he says, as to species, he includes perfect dispositions, which are called habits, such as perfected science and virtue.

8. Comparison of texts.
(Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, q. 49, art. 2, c.) (In V Meta., lect. 17, nn. 4-5) n. 4 But the rationale of these modes is this. For, since a relation which is in things consists in a certain order of one thing to another, there must be as many modes of this sort of relation as there are ways in which one thing happens to be ordered to another. The mode or determination of a subject according to accidental being, however, can be taken either in an order to the nature of the subject itself, But one thing is ordered to another either with regard to being, according as the being of one thing depends on another, and thus there is the third mode

or according to the action and passion which follow on the principles of the nature, which are matter and form; or according to quantity.

or with regard to an active and passive virtue, according as one thing is received from another, or contributes something to another, and thus there is the second mode or according as the quantity of one thing can be measured by another, and thus there is the first mode. |Or (one thing is ordered to another) by reason of quantity, or of something pertaining to quantity, just as something is called whiter than another, or just as that which has some one quality is called like (another thing which has the same quality).|

If, however, the mode or determination of the subject be taken according to quantity, thus there is the fourth species of quality.

And because quantity, according to its notion, is n. 5 Now the quality of a thing, as such, looks to without motion, and without the notion of good nothing except the subject in which it exists. and bad, therefore, it does not belong to the fourth species of quality that something be good or bad, passing swiftly or slowly. But the mode or determination of a subject according to action and passion is looked to in the second and third species of quality. And so with regard to it, one thing is not ordered to another except insofar as a quality takes on the notion of a passive or an active power, insofar as it is the starting point of an action or a passion. [] [remainder omitted]

And so in both is considered that something is done easily or with difficulty, or that it be passing swiftly or enduring. But in these things is not considered something pertaining to the notions of good or bad, because motions and passions do not have the notion of ends; good and bad, however, are said with respect to an end. But the mode and determination of a subject in an order to the nature of the thing pertains to the first species of quality, which is habit and disposition; for the Philosopher says in Physics VII (ch. 3, 246a 13), speaking of the habits of the soul and body, that they are certain dispositions of the perfect for the best; by of the perfect, however, I mean what is disposed according to nature. And because the very form and nature of a thing is the end and that for the sake of which

something comes to be as is said in Physics II (ch. 7, 198b 3), thus, in the first species there is considered both good and bad, and also movable with ease or with difficulty, according as some nature is the end of a generation and a motion. And so, in Metaphysics V (ch. 20, 1022b 10) the Philosopher defines habit as a disposition according to which something is well or badly disposed. And in Ethics II (ch. 5, 1105b 25) he says that habits are those things according to which we stand well or badly toward (i.e. with respect to) our passions. For when the mode is suitable to the nature of the thing, then it has the notion of the good; however, when it is not suitable, then it has the notion of the bad. And because the nature is that which is considered first in a thing, thus habits are placed in the first species of quality.

9. Additional readings. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, q. 49, art. 3, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
I reply that it must be said that to have an order to an act can belong to a habit both according to the notion of a habit, and according to the notion of the subject in which the habit is. In fact, according to the notion of a habit, it belongs to every habit in some way to have an order to an act. For it belongs to the notion of a habit that it imply some relation in an order to the nature of a thing, according as it is suitable or is not suitable to it. But the nature of a thing which is the end of its generation, is, in the last place, also ordered to another end, which is either an operation or something operated [i.e. some work] which one arrives at through the operation. And so, habit not only implies an order to the very nature of a thing, but also, consequently, [an order] to its operation, inasmuch as it is the end of its nature, or [something] leading to the end. And so, in the fifth book of the Metaphysics (ch. 20, 1022b 10), it is said in the definition of habit that it is a disposition according to which that which is disposed is either well or badly disposed, either according to oneself , i.e. according to ones own nature, or toward another, i.e. in an order to an end. But there are certain habits which also, on the part of the subject they are in, primo et per se imply an order to an act. Since, as was said, habit primo et per se implies a relation to the nature of a thing. If, therefore, the nature of a thing in which the habit is consists in its very order to an act, it follows that habit chiefly implies an order to an act. It is obvious, however, that it is in the nature and notion of a power that it be the principle of an act. And so every habit which is in some power as in a subject chiefly implies an order to an act.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, q. 49, art. 4 (tr. B.A.M.):
To the fourth one proceeds as follows. It would seem that it is not necessary for there to be habits. For habits are that whereby something is well or badly disposed toward something, as has been said. But something is well or badly disposed by its own form, for according to the form something is good, as well as a being. Therefore, there is no necessity for habits. Further, habit implies an order to an act. But power sufficiently implies the principle of an act, for natural powers without habits are principles of acts. Therefore, it was not necessary for there to be habits. Further, just as a power holds itself to a good and a bad, so does habit; and just as powers do not always act, so neither do habits. Therefore, powers existing, it was superfluous for there to be habits. But to the contrary, habits are certain perfections, as is said in Physics VII (ch. 3, 246a 11). But perfection is most necessary for a thing, since it has the notion of an end. Therefore, it was necessary for there to be habits. I reply that it must be said that, as was said above, habit implies a certain disposition in an order to the nature of a thing, and to its operation or end, according as something is well or badly disposed for this. But in order for something to be disposed toward another, three things are required.

First, in fact, that that which is disposed be other than that to which it is disposed; and thus hold itself to it as potency to act. And so, if there is something whose nature is not composed from potency and act and whose substance is its operation, and is on account of itself [i.e. exists for its own sake], there habit or disposition has no place, as is clear in God. Second, it requires that that which is in potency to another be determinable in many ways, and to diverse things. And so, if something is in potency to another such that it is not in potency except to it, disposition and habit have no place there because such a subject from its own nature has its due relation to such an act. And so, if a celestial body is composed of matter and form, since that matter is not in potency to another form, as has been said in the first part, a disposition or habit for form has no place there; nor also [is that matter in potency] to an operation, because the nature of a celestial body is not in potency except to one determinate motion. The third thing required is that many things concur [= come together] for the sake of disposing the subject to one of those things to which it is in potency, which can be made commensurate to it in diverse ways, so that it is thus disposed well or badly to a form or an operation. And so the simple qualities of the elements, which are suitable to one determinate mode of the nature of the elements, we do not speak of as dispositions or habits, but as simple qualities. However, we call dispositions or habits health, beauty, and other things of the sort which imply a certain commensuration, which can be made commensurate in many ways. On account of which the Philosopher says, in Metaphysics V (ch. 20, 1022b 10) that a habit is a disposition, and a disposition is an order of a thing having parts either according to place, or according to power, or according to species, as was said above. Since, therefore, there are many beings to whose natures and operations it is necessary that many things concur which can be made commensurate in diverse ways, it is therefore necessary for there to be habits. To the first, therefore, it must be said that the nature of a thing is perfected by its form, but it is necessary that in an order to its form the subject be disposed by some disposition. Nevertheless, the form itself is ordered in the last place to an operation which is either an end, or the road to an end. And if, indeed, it have a form determined to one determinate operation only, no other disposition is required for an operation beyond its form. If, however, there be such a form which can operate in diverse ways, as is the soul, it is necessary that it be disposed to its own operations by certain habits. To the second, it must be said that a power sometimes holds itself toward many things, and therefore it is necessary that something be determined to another. But if there be some power which does not hold itself toward many, it is not in need of a habit determining it, as was said. And on account of this, natural powers do not perform their own operations by the mediation of certain habits, because they are determined to one thing according to themselves.

To the third it must be said that the same habit does not hold itself toward the good and the bad, as will be clear below. The same power, however, holds itself toward the good and the bad. And therefore that a power be determined to the good, habits are necessary. 10. Aristotle on excellence and defect with respect to the body and the soul. Cf. Aristotle, Physics VII, 3 (245b 2247a 20) (trans. R. P. Hardie & R. K. Gaye):
Everything, we say, that undergoes alteration is altered by sensible causes, and there is alteration only in things that are said to be essentially affected by sensible things. The truth

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of this is to be seen from the following considerations. Of all other things it would [5] be most natural to suppose that there is alteration in figures and shapes, and in acquired states and in the processes of acquiring and losing these: but as a matter of fact in neither of these two classes of things is there alteration. In the first place, when a particular formation of a thing is [10] completed, we do not call it by the name of its material: e.g. we do not call the statue bronze or the pyramid 3 wax or the bed wood, but we use a derived expression and call them of bronze, waxen, and wooden respectively. But when a thing has been affected and altered in any way we still call it by the original name: thus we speak of the bronze or the wax being dry or fluid or hard or hot. [15] And not only so: we also speak of the particular fluid or hot substance as being bronze, giving the material the same name as that which we use to describe the affection. [246a] Since, therefore, having regard to the figure or shape of a thing we no longer call that which has become of a certain figure by the name of the material that exhibits the figure, whereas having regard to a things affections or alterations we still call it by the name of its material, it is evident that becomings of the former kind cannot be alterations. Moreover it would seem absurd even to speak in this way, to speak, [5] that is to say, of a man or house or anything else that has come into existence as having been altered. Though it may be true that every such becoming is necessarily the result of somethings being altered, the result, e.g. of the materials being condensed or rarefied or heated or cooled, nevertheless it is not the things that are coming into existence that are altered, and their becoming is not an alteration. [10] Again, acquired states, whether of the body or of the soul, are not alterations. For some are excellences and others are defects, and neither excellence nor defect is an alteration: excellence is a perfection (for when anything acquires its proper excellence we call it [15] perfect, since it is then if ever that we have a thing in its natural state: e.g. we have a perfect circle when we have one as good as possible), while defect is a perishing of or departure from this condition. So as when speaking of a house we do not call its arrival at perfection an alteration (for it would be absurd to suppose that the [20] coping or the tiling is an alteration or that in receiving its coping or its tiling a house is altered and not perfected), the same also holds good in the case of excellences and defects and of the persons [246b] or things that possess or acquire them: for excellences are perfections of a things nature and defects are departures from it: consequently they are not alterations. Further, we say that all excellences depend upon particular relations. Thus bodily excellences such as health and a good state of body [5] we regard as consisting in a blending of hot and cold elements within the body in due proportion, in relation either to one another or to the surrounding atmosphere: and in like manner we regard beauty, strength, and all the other bodily excellences and defects. Each of them exists in virtue of a particular relation and puts that which possesses it in a good or bad condition with regard to its proper affections, where by proper affections I mean those influences that from the natural constitution of a thing tend to promote or destroy its existence. Since then, relatives are neither themselves alterations [10] nor the subjects of alteration or of becoming or in fact of any change whatever, it is evident that neither states nor the processes of losing and acquiring states are alterations, though it may be true that their becoming or perishing is necessarily, like the becoming or [15] perishing of a specific character or form, the result of the alteration of certain other things, e.g. hot and cold or dry and wet elements or the elements, whatever they may be, on which the states primarily depend.

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For each several bodily defect or excellence involves a relation with those things from which the possessor of the defect or excellence is naturally subject to alteration: thus excellence disposes its possessor to be unaffected by these influences or to be affected by those of them that ought to be admitted, while defect disposes its possessor to be affected by them or to be unaffected by those of them that ought to be admitted. And the case is similar in regard to the states of the soul, all of [20] which (like those of body) exist in virtue of particular relations, the [247a] excellences being perfections of nature and the defects departures from it: moreover, excellence puts its possessor in good condition, while defect puts its possessor in a bad condition, to meet his proper affections. Consequently these cannot any more than the bodily states [5] be alterations, nor can the processes of losing and acquiring them be so, though their becoming is necessarily the result of an alteration of the sensitive part of the soul, and this is altered by sensible objects: for all moral excellence is concerned with bodily pleasures and pains, which again depend either upon acting or upon remembering or upon anticipating. Now those that depend upon action are determined by sense-perception, i.e. they are stimulated by something [10] sensible: and those that depend upon memory or anticipation are likewise to be traced to sense-perception, for in these cases pleasure is felt either in remembering what one has experienced or in anticipating what one is going to experience. Thus all pleasure of this kind must be produced by sensible things: and since the presence in any one of moral defect or excellence involves the presence in him of pleasure or pain (with which moral excellence and defect are always [15] concerned), and these pleasures and pains are alterations of the sensitive part, it is evident that the loss and acquisition of these states no less than the loss and acquisition of the states of the body must be the result of the alteration of something else. Consequently, though their becoming is accompanied by an alteration, they are not themselves alterations.
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sc. candle.

Cf. Aristotle, Physics VII, 3 (246a 25247a 28) (trans. R. Glen Coughlin):
[25] And it would be strange in another way. For saying a man or a house was altered in receiving its end is laughable, [e.g.,] if we should say the perfecting of the house, the coping or the roofing, is alteration, [and that], the house being coped or roofed, the house is being altered. (It is clear, then, that alteration is not in the things coming to be.) [30] Indeed, neither is [alteration] in habits. For the habits are virtues and vices, and every virtue and vice is among the relatives, just as health is a certain [246b 20] balance of the hot and the cold, either of things within [the body] or in relation to what contains. So too good and strength are in relation to something. For they are certain dispositions of the best [thing] to the finest [action]. I call the best, however, what saves and is disposed in regard to nature. Since, therefore, the virtues and the vices are among [those things that are] related to something, and these [25] are not comings to be [generations], nor is there coming to be from these, nor, generally, is there alteration of these, it is apparent that there is no alteration at all in the case of habits. Nor, then, [is there alteration] in the case of virtues and vices of the soul. For virtue is a certain perfection. For each thing is most perfect when it happens upon its proper virtue and is most according to nature, just as the circle [246b 30] is most according to nature when it is most a circle. Vice, however, is the [247a 20] destruction and removal of these. The seizing of virtue and the throwing off of vice come to be, therefore, when something is altering, yet neither of these is alteration. It is clear, however, that something is altered [in these cases]. For virtue is either a certain impassivity or is being passive in a certain way, and vice is being passive or a passivity contrary to that of virtue.

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As a whole, moral virtue occurs with pleasures and pains. For it [25] either concerns pleasure according to act, or through memory, or from hope. If, therefore, [it concerns pleasure] according to act, the cause is sense; if through memory of from hope, it is from this same sense, for the pleasure is either by remembering such things as we suffered or by hoping we will suffer such things. [28]

11. Note. If a virtue of the body is a bodily excellence, then a vice of the body will be a bodily defect. excellence and defect virtue and vice goodness and badness

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12. Comparison of the two versions of Physics VII. 3.


(tr. Hardie & Gaye) [10] Again, acquired states, whether of the body or of the soul, are not alterations. For some are excellences and others are defects, and neither excellence nor defect is an alteration: [text moved from below:] excellence is a perfection (for when anything acquires its proper excellence we call it [15] perfect, since it is then if ever that we have a thing in its natural state: e.g. we have a perfect circle when we have one as good as possible), while defect is a perishing of or departure from this condition. |For virtue is a certain perfection. For each thing is most perfect when it happens upon its proper virtue and is most according to nature, just as the circle [246b 30] is most according to nature when it is most a circle. Vice, however, is the [247a 20] destruction and removal of these.| [text moved from above:] So as when speaking of a house we do not call its arrival at perfection an alteration (for it would be absurd to suppose that the [20] coping or the tiling is an alteration or that in receiving its coping or its tiling a house is altered and not perfected), |[25] And it would be strange in another way. For saying a man or a house was altered in receiving its end is laughable, [e.g.,] if we should say the perfecting of the house, the coping or the roofing, is alteration, [and that], the house being coped or roofed, the house is being altered. (It is clear, then, that alteration is not in the things coming to be.)| the same also holds good in the case of excellences and defects and of the persons [246b] or things that possess or acquire them: for excellences are perfections of a things nature and defects are departures from it: consequently they are not alterations. Further, we say that all excellences depend upon particular relations. Thus bodily excellences such as health and a good state of body [5] we regard as consisting in a blending of hot and cold elements within the For the habits are virtues and vices, and every virtue and vice is among the relatives, just as health is a certain [246b 20] balance of the hot and the cold, either of things within [the body] or in relation to what contains. (tr. R. Glen Coughlin) [30] Indeed, neither is [alteration] in habits.

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body in due proportion, in relation either to one another or to the surrounding atmosphere: and in like manner we regard beauty, strength, and all the other bodily excellences and defects. Each of them exists in virtue of a particular relation and puts that which possesses it in a good or bad condition with regard to its proper affections, where by proper affections I mean those influences that from the natural constitution of a thing tend to promote or destroy its existence. And the case is similar in regard to the states of the soul, all of [20] which (like those of body) exist in virtue of particular relations, the [247a] excellences being perfections of nature and the defects departures from it: moreover, excellence puts its possessor in good condition, while defect puts its possessor in a bad condition, to meet his proper affections. Consequently these cannot any more than the bodily states [5] be alterations, nor can the processes of losing and acquiring them be so, though their becoming is necessarily the result of an alteration of the sensitive part of the soul, and this is altered by sensible objects.

So too good and strength are in relation to something. For they are certain dispositions of the best [thing] to the finest [action].

I call the best, however, what saves and is disposed in regard to nature. Since, therefore, the virtues and the vices are among [those things that are] related to something, and these [25] are not comings to be [generations], nor is there coming to be from these, nor, generally, is there alteration of these,

it is apparent that there is no alteration at all in the case of habits. Nor, then, [is there alteration] in the case of virtues and vices of the soul. [text moved above]

A thing is called perfect when it has acquired or attained its proper excellence or virtue; for when anything acquires its proper excellence, we call it perfect. the disposition of the perfect for the best is virtue the thing disposed according to nature the best activity in accordance with that nature the opposites of these pertain to defect or vice when a thing is disposed contrary to nature for the worst activity in accordance with that depravity it is vicious good is from a whole cause, evil from any defect 13. The definition of virtue according to Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics II, 4 (1106b 391107a 2) (tr. Joe Sachs): 15

Therefore, virtue is an active condition (= hexis) that makes one apt at choosing, consisting in a mean condition in relation to us, which is (1107a) determined by a proportion and by the means by which a person with practical judgment would determine it.

14. Comparison of translations of Aristotle, Nic. Eth. II. 4 [5], 1105a 2935.
(tr. H. G. Apostle) [T]hings done according to virtue, on the other hand, are done justly or temperately not [only] [30] if (1) they themselves are of a certain kind, but also if (2) the agent who acts is of a certain disposition [= holds himself a certain way], namely, (a) when he knows what he does, (b) when he intends to do what he does and intends to do it for its own sake, and (c) when he acts with certainty and firmness (= bebais kai ametakints). (tr. Joe Sachs) But with the things that come about as a result of the virtues (30), just because they themselves are a certain way it is not the case that one does them justly or temperately, but only if the one doing them also does them being a certain way [= ps echein]: if one does them first of all knowingly, and next, having chosen them and chosen them for their own sake, and third, being in a stable condition and not able to be moved all the way out of it.

15. Comparison of translations of Aristotle, Nic. Eth., II, 4 [5], 1105b 19-29.
(tr. H. G. Apostle) Since [20] there are three things in the soul, and these are passions, powers, and habits, virtue would be one of these. By passions I mean, for example, desire, anger, fear, envy, courage, gladness, friendly feeling, hatred, longing, emulation, pity, and in general, whatever is accompanied by pleasure or pain; by powers I mean those qualities in virtue of which we are disposed to be affected [25] by the above-mentioned passions, for example, those in virtue of which we are capable of being angry or pained or feeling pity; and by habits I mean those qualities in virtue of which we are well or badly disposed with reference to the corresponding passions, e.g., with reference to being angry we are badly disposed if we are angry too violently or too weakly, (tr. Joe Sachs) Now since there are three kinds of things that come to be present in the (20) soulfeelings, predispositions, and active conditionsvirtue would be one of these. And by feelings I mean desire, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, affection, hatred, yearning, jealousy, pity, and generally those things which are accompanied by pleasure or pain. It is the predispositions in accordance with which we are said to be apt to feel these, such as those by which we are predisposed to be angry or to be annoyed or to feel pity. And it is the active conditions in accordance with which we bear ourselves well or badly toward the feelings; for example, in relation to being angry, if we are that way violently or slackly, we bear ourselves badly,

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but well disposed if we are angry moderately, and similarly with the others.

but if in a measured way, we bear ourselves well, and similarly in relation to other feelings.

16. On what it means to hold oneself in a certain way. Cf. Joe Sachs, Aristotle Ethics (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy):
The word hexis becomes an issue in Platos Theaetetus. Socrates makes the point that knowledge can never be a mere passive possession, stored in the memory the way birds can be put in cages. The word for that sort of possession, ktsis, is contrasted with hexis, the kind of having-and-holding that is never passive but always at work right now. Socrates thus suggests that, whatever knowledge is, it must have the character of a hexis in requiring the effort of concentrating or paying attention. A hexis is an active condition, a state in which something must actively hold itself, and that is what Aristotle says a moral virtue is. Some translators make Aristotle say that virtue is a disposition, or a settled disposition. This is much better than calling it a habit, but still sounds too passive to capture his meaning. In De Anima, when Aristotle speaks of the effect produced in us by an object of sense perception, he says this is not a disposition ( diathesis) but a hexis. (417b, 15-17)1 His whole account of sensing and knowing depends on this notion that receptivity to what is outside us depends on an active effort to hold ourselves ready. In Book VII of the Physics, Aristotle says much the same thing about the way children start to learn: they are not changed, he says, nor are they trained or even acted upon in any way, but they themselves get straight into an active state when time or adults help them settle down out of their native condition of disorder and distraction. (247b, 17-248a, 6)

Cf. ibid.:
In the Ethics in Book II, chapter 4, Aristotle identifies moral virtue as a hexis. He confirms this identity by reviewing the kinds of things that are in the soul, and eliminating the feelings and impulses to which we are passive and the capacities we have by nature, but he first discovers what sort of thing a virtue is by observing that the goodness is never in the action but only in the doer. This is an enormous claim that pervades the whole of the Ethics, and one that we need to stay attentive to. No action is good or just or courageous because of any quality in itself. Virtue manifests itself in action, Aristotle says, only when one acts while holding oneself in a certain way. This is where the word hexis comes into the account, from ps echein, the stance in which one holds oneself when acting. The indefinite adverb [ps] is immediately explained: an action counts as virtuous when and only when one holds oneself in a stable equilibrium of the soul, in order to choose the action knowingly and for its own sake. I am translating as in a stable equilibrium the words bebais kai ametakints; the first of these adverbs means stably or after having taken a stand, while the second does not mean rigid or immovable, but in a condition from which one cant be moved all the way over into a different condition [cf. 1105a 35, given below in Sachs translationB.A.M.].
1

In saying this, Sachs overlooks the fact that diathesis is said in two ways, one of which is as the genus of hexis, for which reason it is true to say that a habit is a disposition.

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It is not some inflexible adherence to rules or duty or precedent that is conveyed here, but something like a Newtons wheel weighted below the center, or one of those toys that pops back upright whenever a child knocks it over.

17. On the what is done according to virtue according to Aristotle, Nic. Eth. II. 4, 1105a 2935 (tr. Joe Sachs):
But with the things that come about as a result of the virtues (30), just because they themselves are a certain way it is not the case that one does them justly or temperately, but only if the one doing them also does them being a certain way [= ps echein]: if one does them first of all knowingly, and next, having chosen them and chosen them for their own sake, and third, being in a stable condition and not able to be moved all the way out of it. 30
30

The last eleven words of the sentence translate Aristotles marvellous adverb ametakints; akints would mean in the manner of someone immovable or rigid, but the added prefix makes it convey the condition of those toys that can be knocked over but always come back upright on their own, a flexible stability or equilibrium.

18. On three things in the soul according to Aristotle, Nic. Eth., II, 5, 1105b 19-29 (tr. Joe Sachs):
Now since there are three kinds of things that come to be present in the (20) soul feelings, predispositions, and active conditionsvirtue would be one of these. And by feelings I mean desire, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, affection, hatred, yearning, jealousy, pity, and generally those things which are accompanied by pleasure or pain. It is the predispositions in accordance with which we are said to be apt to feel these, such as those by which we are predisposed to be angry or to be annoyed or to feel pity. And it is the active conditions in accordance with which we bear ourselves well or badly toward the feelings; for example, in relation to being angry, if we are that way violently or slackly, we bear ourselves badly, but if in a measured way, we bear ourselves well, and similarly in relation to other feelings.

19. Note on echein. In the foregoing texts, Joe Sachs offers a helpful account of Aristotles use of echein by bringing out the nature of a hexis as something which involves an active effort on our part. In this regard, consider the following example. If a man owns a hat, we say that he has a hat. We say the same when he wears it. But suppose he steps outside on a windy day. In order to maintain the possession of his hat he may have to hold on to it with both his hands. Now those things which are toward something are like this; for example, health, which is a good condition of the body, and virtue, which is a good condition of the soul, require an active effort on our part to be maintained: if one has attained perfect health he must do certain things to maintain it: if he ignores his diet or fails to exercise or take precautions against sicknesses, he will not remain healthy. The same is true with virtue: to remain virtuous once he has attained to it a man must act in a certain way. 20. On ps echein, to hold oneself a certain way. one may hold oneself well (eu) or not well (me eu) but badly 18

21. Translations of bebais kai ametakints, the ways in which a thing can hold itself. with certainty and firmness (H. G. Apostle) being in a stable condition and not able to be moved all the way out of it (Joe Sachs) from a firm and unchangeable character (W. D. Ross) from a settled and immutable moral state (J. E. C. Welldon) with firm and settled purpose (Walter M. Hatch) si firme et immobiliter habeat (William of Moerbeke) 22. Aristotles examples of hexeis. virtue and vice health and sickness beauty and ugliness Note that all are habits in the sense of active conditions. As such they are: dispositions, that is, in a thing having parts, they consist in an order of parts according to the form and species of the whole, and thus come under the predicament quality; an order possessed toward something, that is, instances of the predicament toward something or relation, and hence ways of holding themselves toward something. Recall that for there to be a habit, it is necessary (1) that that which is disposed be other than that to which it is disposed; and thus hold itself to it as potency to act; (2) that that which is in potency to another be determinable in many ways, and to diverse things; and (3) that many things concur (= come together) for the sake of disposing the subject to one of those things to which it is in potency, which can be made commensurate to it in diverse ways, so that it is thus disposed well or badly to a form or an operation. (Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, q. 49, art. 4, c.) In the case of virtue, the things which must concur or come together in order for an action to count as virtuous, as Sachs states, are when and only when one holds oneself in a stable equilibrium of the soul, in order to choose the action knowingly and for its own sake. That is, one must (1) act knowingly, and (2) not only choose the virtuous act, but choose it for its own sake and not for some other reason, and (3) do so in a firm and unyielding manner. but rather toward something are those things for which the being is the same as holding themselves toward something in some way (Categories, Chap. 7, 8a 32-3) if the poiesis is to hold itself well (Poetics, Chap. 1)

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23. Supplement: Joe Sachs on the meaning of hexis in Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics. Cf. Joe Sachs, Aristotle Ethics (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy):1 Habit In many discussions, the word habit is attached to the Ethics as though it were the answer to a multiple-choice question on a philosophy achievement test. Hobbes Leviathan? Selfpreservation. Descartes Meditations? Mind-body problem. Aristotles Ethics? Habit. A faculty seminar I attended a few years ago was mired in the opinion that Aristotle thinks the good life is one of mindless routine. More recently, I heard a lecture in which some very good things were said about Aristotles discussion of choice, yet the speaker still criticized him for praising habit when so much that is important in life depends on openness and spontaneity. Can it really be that Aristotle thought life is lived best when thinking and choosing are eliminated? On its face this belief makes no sense. It is partly a confusion between an effect and one of its causes. Aristotle says that, for the way our lives turn out, it makes no small difference to be habituated this way or that way straight from childhood, but an enormous difference, or rather all the difference. (1103b, 23-5) Is this not the same as saying those lives are nothing but collections of habits? If this is what sticks in your memory, and leads you to that conclusion, then the cure is easy, since habits are not the only effects of habituation, and a thing that makes all the difference is indispensable but not necessarily the only cause of what it produces. We will work through this thought in a moment, but first we need to notice that another kind of influence may be at work when you recall what Aristotle says about habit, and another kind of medicine may be needed against it. Are you thinking that no matter how we analyze the effects of habituation, we will never get around the fact that Aristotle plainly says that virtues are habits? The reply to that difficulty is that he doesnt say that at all. He says that moral virtue is a hexis. Hippocrates Apostle, and others, translate hexis as habit, but that is not at all what it means. The trouble, as so often in these matters, is the intrusion of Latin. The Latin habitus is a perfectly good translation of the Greek hexis, but if that detour gets us to habit in English we have lost our way. In fact, a hexis is pretty much the opposite of a habit. The word hexis becomes an issue in Platos Theaetetus. Socrates makes the point that knowledge can never be a mere passive possession, stored in the memory the way birds can be put in cages. The word for that sort of possession, ktsis, is contrasted with hexis, the kind of having-and-holding that is never passive but always at work right now. Socrates thus suggests that, whatever knowledge is, it must have the character of a hexis in requiring the effort of concentrating or paying attention. A hexis is an active condition, a state in which something must actively hold itself, and that is what Aristotle says a moral virtue is. Some translators make Aristotle say that virtue is a disposition, or a settled disposition. This is much better than calling it a habit, but still sounds too passive to capture his meaning. In De Anima, when Aristotle speaks of the effect produced in us by an object of sense perception, he says this is not a disposition ( diathesis) but a hexis. (417b, 15-17) His whole account of sensing and knowing depends on this notion that receptivity to what is outside us depends on an active effort to hold ourselves ready. In Book VII of the Physics, Aristotle says much the same thing about the way children start to learn: they
1

(http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-eth/ [6/4/2002])

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are not changed, he says, nor are they trained or even acted upon in any way, but they themselves get straight into an active state when time or adults help them settle down out of their native condition of disorder and distraction. (247b, 17-248a, 6) Curtis Wilson once delivered a lecture here at St. Johns College, in which he asked his audience to imagine what it would be like if we had to teach children to speak by deliberately and explicitly imparting everything they had to do. We somehow set them free to speak, and give them a particular language to do it in, but theyMr. Wilson called them little geniusesthey do all the work. Everyone at St. Johns has thought about the kind of learning that does not depend on the authority of the teacher and the memory of the learner. In the Meno it is called recollection; Aristotle says that it is an active knowing that is always already at work in us. In Platos image we draw knowledge up out of ourselves; in Aristotles metaphor we settle down into knowing. In neither account is it possible for anyone to train us, as Gorgias has habituated Meno into the mannerisms of a knower. Habits can be strong but they never go deep. Authentic knowledge does engage the soul in its depths, and with this sort of knowing Aristotle links virtue. In the passage cited from Book VII of the Physics, he says that, like knowledge, virtues are not imposed on us as alterations of what we are; that would be, he says, like saying we alter a house when we put a roof on it. In the Categories, knowledge and virtue are the two examples he gives of what hexis means (8b, 29); there he says that these active states belong in the general class of dispositions, but are distinguished by being lasting and durable. The word disposition by itself, he reserves for more passive states, easy to remove and change, such as heat, cold, and sickness. In the Ethics, Aristotle identifies moral virtue as a hexis in Book II, chapter 4. He confirms this identity by reviewing the kinds of things that are in the soul, and eliminating the feelings and impulses to which we are passive and the capacities we have by nature, but he first discovers what sort of thing a virtue is by observing that the goodness is never in the action but only in the doer. This is an enormous claim that pervades the whole of the Ethics, and one that we need to stay attentive to. No action is good or just or courageous because of any quality in itself. Virtue manifests itself in action, Aristotle says, only when one acts while holding oneself in a certain way. This is where the word hexis comes into the account, from ps echn, the stance in which one holds oneself when acting. The indefinite adverb is immediately explained: an action counts as virtuous when and only when one holds oneself in a stable equilibrium of the soul, in order to choose the action knowingly and for its own sake. I am translating as in a stable equilibrium the words bebais kai ametakints; the first of these adverbs means stably or after having taken a stand, while the second does not mean rigid or immovable, but in a condition from which one cant be moved all the way over into a different condition. It is not some inflexible adherence to rules or duty or precedent that is conveyed here, but something like a Newtons wheel weighted below the center, or one of those toys that pops back upright whenever a child knocks it over. This stable equilibrium of the soul is what we mean by having character. It is not the result of what we call conditioning. There is a story told about B. F. Skinner, the psychologist most associated with the idea of behavior modification, that a class of his once trained him to lecture always from one corner of the room, by smiling and nodding whenever he approached it, but frowning and faintly shaking their heads when he moved away from it. That is the way we acquire habits. We slip into them unawares, or let them be imposed on us, or even impose them on ourselves. A person with ever so many habits may still have no character. Habits make for repetitive and predictable behavior, but 21

character gives moral equilibrium to a life. The difference is between a foolish consistency wholly confined to the level of acting, and a reliability in that part of us from which actions have their source. Different as they are, though, character and habit sound to us like things that are linked, and in Greek they differ only by the change of an epsilon to an eta, making thos from ethos We are finally back to Aristotles claim that character, thos, is produced by habit, ethos. It should now be clear though, that the habit cannot be any part of that character, and that we must try to understand how an active condition can arise as a consequence of a passive one, and why that active condition can only be attained if the passive one has come first. So far we have arranged three notions in a series, like rungs of a ladder: at the top are actives states, such as knowledge, the moral virtues, and the combination of virtues that makes up a character; the middle rung, the mere dispositions, we have mentioned only in passing to claim that they are too shallow and changeable to capture the meaning of virtue; the bottom rung is the place of the habits, and includes biting your nails, twisting your hair, saying like between every two words, and all such passive and mindless conditions. What we need to notice now is that there is yet another rung of the ladder below the habits. We all start out life governed by desires and impulses. Unlike the habits, which are passive but lasting conditions, desires and impulses are passive and momentary, but they are very strong. Listen to a child who cant live without some object of appetite or greed, or who makes you think you are a murderer if you try to leave her alone in a dark room. How can such powerful influences be overcome? To expect a child to let go of the desire or fear that grips her may seem as hopeless as Aristotles example of training a stone to fall upward, were it not for the fact that we all know that we have somehow, for the most part, broken the power of these tyrannical feelings. We dont expel them altogether, but we do get the upper hand; an adult who has temper tantrums like those of a two-year old has to live in an institution, and not in the adult world. But the impulses and desires dont weaken; it is rather the case that we get stronger. Aristotle doesnt go into much detail about how this happens, except to say that we get the virtues by working at them: in the give-and-take with other people, some become just, others unjust; by acting in the face of frightening things and being habituated to be fearful or confident, some become brave and others cowardly; and some become moderate and gentle, others spoiled and bad-tempered, by turning around from one thing and toward another in the midst of desires and passions. (1103 b, 1422) He sums this up by saying that when we are at-work in a certain way, an active state results. This innocent sentence seems to me to be one of the lynch-pins that hold together the Ethics, the spot that marks the transition from the language of habit to the language appropriate to character. If you read the sentence in Greek, and have some experience of Aristotles other writings, you will see how loaded it is, since it says that a hexis depends upon an energeia. The latter word, that can be translated as being-at-work, cannot mean mere behavior, however repetitive and constant it may be. It is this idea of being-at-work, which is central to all of Aristotles thinking, that makes intelligible the transition out of childhood and into the moral stature that comes with character and virtue. (See Aristotle on Motion and its Place in Nature for as discussion energeia. -Ed.) The moral life can be confused with the habits approved by some society and imposed on its young. We at St. Johns College still stand up at the beginning and end of Friday-night lectures because Stringfellow Barrone of the founders of the current curriculumalways stood when anyone entered or left a room. What he considered good breeding is for us mere habit; that becomes obvious when some student who stood up at the beginning of a lecture occasionally gets bored and leaves in the middle of it. In such a 22

case the politeness was just for show, and the rudeness is the truth. Why isnt all habituation of the young of this sort? When a parent makes a child repeatedly refrain from some desired thing, or remain in some frightening situation, the child is beginning to act as a moderate or brave person would act, but what is really going on within the child? I used to think that it must be the parents approval that was becoming stronger than the childs own impulse, but I was persuaded by others in a study group that this alone would be of no lasting value, and would contribute nothing to the formation of an active state of character. What seems more likely is that parental training is needed only for its negative effect, as a way of neutralizing the irrational force of impulses and desires. We all arrive on the scene already habituated, in the habit, that is, of yielding to impulses and desires, of instantly slackening the tension of pain or fear or unfulfilled desire in any way open to us, and all this has become automatic in us before thinking and choosing are available to us at all. This is a description of what is called human nature, though in fact it precedes our access to our true natural state, and blocks that access. This is why Aristotle says that the virtues come about in us neither by nature nor apart from nature (1103a, 24-5). What we call human nature, and some philosophers call the state of nature, is both natural and unnatural; it is the passive part of our natures, passively reinforced by habit. Virtue has the aspect of a second nature, because it cannot develop first, nor by a continuous process out of our first condition. But it is only in the moral virtues that we possess our primary nature, that in which all our capacities can have their full development. The sign of what is natural, for Aristotle, is pleasure, but we have to know how to read the signs. Things pleasant by nature have no opposite pain and no excess, because they set us free to act simply as what we are (1154b, 15-21), and it is in this sense that Aristotle calls the life of virtue pleasant in its own right, in itself (1099a, 67, 16-17). A mere habit of acting contrary to our inclinations cannot be a virtue, by the infallible sign that we dont like it. Our first or childish nature is never eradicated, though, and this is why Aristotle says that our nature is not simple, but also has in it something different that makes our happiness assailable from within, and makes us love change even when it is for the worse. (1154b, 21-32) But our souls are brought nearest to harmony and into the most durable pleasures only by the moral virtues. And the road to these virtues is nothing fancy, but is simply what all parents begin to do who withhold some desired thing from a child, or prevent it from running away from every irrational source of fear. They make the child act, without virtue, as though it had virtue. It is what Hamlet describes to his mother, during a time that is out of joint, when a son must try to train his parent (III, v,181-9): Assume a virtue if you have it not. That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat Of habits evil, is angel yet in this, That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery, That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight, And that shall lend a kind of easiness To the next abstinence; the next more easy; For use almost can change the stamp of nature. Hamlet is talking to a middle-aged woman about lust, but the pattern applies just as well to five-year-olds and candy. We are in a position to see that it is not the stamp of nature that needs to be changed but the earliest stamp of habit. We can drop Hamlets 23

almost and rid his last quoted line of all paradox by seeing that the reason we need habit is to change the stamp of habit. A habit of yielding to impulse can be counteracted by an equal and opposite habit. This second habit is no virtue, but only a mindless inhibition, an automatic repressing of all impulses. Nor do the two opposite habits together produce virtue, but rather a state of neutrality. Something must step into the role previously played by habit, and Aristotles use of the word energeia suggests that this happens on its own, with no need for anything new to be imposed. Habituation thus does not stifle nature, but rather lets nature make its appearance. The description from Book VII of the Physics of the way children begin to learn applies equally well to the way human character begins to be formed: we settle down, out of the turmoil of childishness, into what we are by nature. We noticed earlier that habituation is not the end but the beginning of the progress toward virtue. The order of states of the soul given by Aristotle went from habit to beingat-work to the hexis or active state that can give the soul moral stature. If the human soul had no being-at-work, no inherent and indelible activity, there could be no such moral stature, but only customs. But early on, when first trying to give content to the idea of happiness, Aristotle asks if it would make sense to think that a carpenter or shoemaker has work to do, but a human being as such is inert. His reply, of course, is that nature has given us work to do, in default of which we are necessarily unhappy, and that work is to put into action the power of reason. (1097b, 24-1098a, 4) Note please that he does not say that everyone must be a philosopher, nor even that human life is constituted by the activity of reason, but that our work is to bring the power of logos forward into action. Later, Aristotle makes explicit that the irrational impulses are no less human than reasoning is. (1111 b, 12) His point is that, as human beings, our desires need not be mindless and random, but can be transformed by thinking into choices, that is desires informed by deliberation. (1113a, 11) The characteristic human way of being-at-work is the threefold activity of seeing an end, thinking about means to it, and choosing an action. Responsible human action depends upon the combining of all the powers of the soul: perception, imagination, reasoning, and desiring. These are all things that are at work in us all the time. Good parental training does not produce them, or mold them, or alter them, but sets them free to be effective in action. This is the way in which, according to Aristotle, despite the contributions of parents, society, and nature, we are the co-authors of the active states of our own souls. (1114b, 23-4) (c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti. All rights reserved.

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