Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapter 4 (1105a18-1105b18)

By Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 4 (1105a18-1105b18)

  • But you might say that if you're acting in good and just ways that you're a good and just person already.
  • Like an artist who produces a lovely piece of artwork: he or she must be a good artist.
  • Aristotle says that virtues aren't like art. The skill of the artist is displayed in the thing he creates. It doesn't matter what state his soul is in when the artifact is created.
  • But for virtues, it's not just the end action that matters; the state of the person matters as well.
  • He should be consciously choosing to act virtuously, for the sake of acting well.
  • A good person would also be very steady—no drama—in performing these actions.
  • Aristotle says that in the end, a person can only meet these criteria if he's been habituated. That is, he has to have behaved virtuously many times over in order to make it a reflex.
  • And for all this harping on about actions, we can't really say that a man is just and moderate simply because he performs justice or moderation.
  • He also has to be just and moderate.
  • To sum up: a person can become virtuous (i.e. just and moderate) by doing virtuous things. Those who merely philosophize about it, however, cannot. Action is the key.