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- Ethics - 50/58 -


we not rather acknowledge, what is commonly said, that in matters of moral action mere Speculation and Knowledge is not the real End but rather Practice: and if so, then neither in respect of Virtue is Knowledge enough; we must further strive to have and exert it, and take whatever other means there are of becoming good.

Now if talking and writing were of themselves sufficient to make men good, they would justly, as Theognis observes have reaped numerous and great rewards, and the thing to do would be to provide them: but in point of fact, while they plainly have the power to guide and stimulate the generous among the young and to base upon true virtuous principle any noble and truly high-minded disposition, they as plainly are powerless to guide the mass of men to Virtue and goodness; because it is not their nature to be amenable to a sense of shame but only to fear; nor to abstain from what is low and mean because it is disgraceful to do it but because of the punishment attached to it: in fact, as they live at the beck and call of passion, they pursue their own proper pleasures and the means of securing them, and they avoid the contrary pains; but as for what is noble and truly pleasurable they have not an idea of it, inasmuch as they have never tasted of it.

Men such as these then what mere words can transform? No, indeed! it is either actually impossible, or a task of no mean difficulty, to alter by words what has been of old taken into men's very dispositions: and, it may be, it is a ground for contentment if with all the means and appliances for goodness in our hands we can attain to Virtue.

The formation of a virtuous character some ascribe to Nature, some to Custom, and some to Teaching. Now Nature's part, be it what it may, obviously does not rest with us, but belongs to those who in the truest sense are fortunate, by reason of certain divine agency,

Then, as for Words and Precept, they, it is to be feared, will not avail with all; but it may be necessary for the mind of the disciple to have been previously prepared for liking and disliking as he ought; just as the soil must, to nourish the seed sown. For he that lives in obedience to passion cannot hear any advice that would dissuade him, nor, if he heard, understand: now him that is thus how can one reform? in fact, generally, passion is not thought to yield to Reason but to brute force. So then there must be, to begin with, a kind of affinity to Virtue in the disposition; which must cleave to what is honourable and loath what is disgraceful. But to get right guidance towards Virtue from the earliest youth is not easy unless one is brought up under laws of such kind; because living with self-mastery and endurance is not pleasant to the mass of men, and specially not to the young. For this reason the food, and manner of living generally, ought to be the subject of legal regulation, because things when become habitual will not be disagreeable.

[Sidenote: 1180_a_] Yet perhaps it is not sufficient that men while young should get right food and tendance, but, inasmuch as they will have to practise and become accustomed to certain things even after they have attained to man's estate, we shall want laws on these points as well, and, in fine, respecting one's whole life, since the mass of men are amenable to compulsion rather than Reason, and to punishment rather than to a sense of honour.

And therefore some men hold that while lawgivers should employ the sense of honour to exhort and guide men to Virtue, under the notion that they will then obey who have been well trained in habits; they should impose chastisement and penalties on those who disobey and are of less promising nature; and the incurable expel entirely: because the good man and he who lives under a sense of honour will be obedient to reason; and the baser sort, who grasp at pleasure, will be kept in check, like beasts of burthen by pain. Therefore also they say that the pains should be such as are most contrary to the pleasures which are liked.

As has been said already, he who is to be good must have been brought up and habituated well, and then live accordingly under good institutions, and never do what is low and mean, either against or with his will. Now these objects can be attained only by men living in accordance with some guiding Intellect and right order, with power to back them.

As for the Paternal Rule, it possesses neither strength nor compulsory power, nor in fact does the Rule of any one man, unless he is a king or some one in like case: but the Law has power to compel, since it is a declaration emanating from Practical Wisdom and Intellect. And people feel enmity towards their fellow-men who oppose their impulses, however rightly they may do so: the Law, on the contrary, is not the object of hatred, though enforcing right rules.

The Lacedaemonian is nearly the only State in which the framer of the Constitution has made any provision, it would seem, respecting the food and manner of living of the people: in most States these points are entirely neglected, and each man lives just as he likes, ruling his wife and children Cyclops-Fashion.

Of course, the best thing would be that there should be a right Public System and that we should be able to carry it out: but, since as a public matter those points are neglected, the duty would seem to devolve upon each individual to contribute to the cause of Virtue with his own children and friends, or at least to make this his aim and purpose: and this, it would seem, from what has been said, he will be best able to do by making a Legislator of himself: since all public *[Sidenote: 1180_b_] systems, it is plain, are formed by the instrumentality of laws and those are good which are formed by that of good laws: whether they are written or unwritten, whether they are applied to the training of one or many, will not, it seems, make any difference, just as it does not in music, gymnastics, or any other such accomplishments, which are gained by practice.

For just as in Communities laws and customs prevail, so too in families the express commands of the Head, and customs also: and even more in the latter, because of blood-relationship and the benefits conferred: for there you have, to begin with, people who have affection and are naturally obedient to the authority which controls them.

Then, furthermore, Private training has advantages over Public, as in the case of the healing art: for instance, as a general rule, a man who is in a fever should keep quiet, and starve; but in a particular case, perhaps, this may not hold good; or, to take a different illustration, the boxer will not use the same way of fighting with all antagonists.

It would seem then that the individual will be most exactly attended to under Private care, because so each will be more likely to obtain what is expedient for him. Of course, whether in the art of healing, or gymnastics, or any other, a man will treat individual cases the better for being acquainted with general rules; as, "that so and so is good for all, or for men in such and such cases:" because general maxims are not only said to be but are the object-matter of sciences: still this is no reason against the possibility of a man's taking excellent care of some _one_ case, though he possesses no scientific knowledge but from experience is exactly acquainted with what happens in each point; just as some people are thought to doctor themselves best though they would be wholly unable to administer relief to others. Yet it may seem to be necessary nevertheless, for one who wishes to become a real artist and well acquainted with the theory of his profession, to have recourse to general principles and ascertain all their capacities: for we have already stated that these are the object-matter of sciences.

If then it appears that we may become good through the instrumentality of laws, of course whoso wishes to make men better by a system of care and training must try to make a Legislator of himself; for to treat skilfully just any one who may be put before you is not what any ordinary person can do, but, if any one, he who has knowledge; as in the healing art, and all others which involve careful practice and skill.

[Sidenote: 1181_a_] Will not then our next business be to inquire from what sources, or how one may acquire this faculty of Legislation; or shall we say, that, as in similar cases, Statesmen are the people to learn from, since this faculty was thought to be a part of the Social Science? Must we not admit that the Political Science plainly does not stand on a similar footing to that of other sciences and faculties? I mean, that while in all other cases those who impart the faculties and themselves exert them are identical (physicians and painters for instance) matters of Statesmanship the Sophists profess to teach, but not one of them practises it, that being left to those actually engaged in it: and these might really very well be thought to do it by some singular knack and by mere practice rather than by any intellectual process: for they neither write nor speak on these matters (though it might be more to their credit than composing speeches for the courts or the assembly), nor again have they made Statesmen of their own sons or their friends.

One can hardly suppose but that they would have done so if they could, seeing that they could have bequeathed no more precious legacy to their communities, nor would they have preferred, for themselves or their dearest friends, the possession of any faculty rather than this.

Practice, however, seems to contribute no little to its acquisition; merely breathing the atmosphere of politics would never have made Statesmen of them, and therefore we may conclude that they who would acquire a knowledge of Statesmanship must have in addition practice.

But of the Sophists they who profess to teach it are plainly a long way off from doing so: in fact, they have no knowledge at all of its nature and objects; if they had, they would never have put it on the same footing with Rhetoric or even on a lower: neither would they have conceived it to be "an easy matter to legislate by simply collecting such laws as are famous because of course one could select the best," as though the selection were not a matter of skill, and the judging aright a very great matter, as in Music: for they alone, who have practical knowledge of a thing, can judge the performances rightly or understand with what means and in what way they are accomplished, and what harmonises with what: the unlearned must be content with being able to discover whether the result is good or bad, as in painting.

[Sidenote: 1181_b_] Now laws may be called the performances or tangible results of Political Science; how then can a man acquire from these the faculty of Legislation, or choose the best? we do not see men made physicians by compilations: and yet in these treatises men endeavour to give not only the cases but also how they may be cured, and the proper treatment in each case, dividing the various bodily habits. Well, these are thought to be useful to professional men, but to the unprofessional useless. In like manner it may be that collections of laws and Constitutions would be exceedingly useful to such as are able to speculate on them, and judge what is well, and what ill, and what kind of things fit in with what others: but they who without this qualification should go through such matters cannot have right judgment, unless they have it by instinct, though they may become more intelligent in such matters.

Since then those who have preceded us have left uninvestigated the subject of Legislation, it will be better perhaps for us to investigate it ourselves, and, in fact, the whole subject of Polity, that thus what we may call Human Philosophy may be completed as far as in us lies.

First then, let us endeavour to get whatever fragments of good there may be in the statements of our predecessors, next, from the Polities we have collected, ascertain what kind of things preserve or destroy


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