Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 4, Chapter 5 (1125b27-1126b10)

By Aristotle

Book 4, Chapter 5 (1125b27-1126b10)

  • Aristotle next takes up the virtue of gentleness. It's the mean to anger, which means that it's a deficiency of anger.
  • Again, we have a language problem: neither the true deficiency of anger (i.e. not gentleness) nor the excess have proper names. He does call the excess "irascibility."
  • A gentle person may also get angry, but only when it's appropriate to do so.
  • It is not a virtue to hold your anger back when you should be angry, even though it's generally good to keep a handle on your temper.
  • If you are irascible, don't despair. You still tend to cool out pretty quickly, so there's no grudge-bearing or vengeance-seeking.
  • But if you're both irascible and grudge-bearing, you run the risk of becoming bitter.
  • A bitter person will seek a place to vent their displeasure, but likely never through a mediator since they don't like to talk about things. They generally go in for revenge.
  • Harshness is another form of excess on the anger spectrum. No remediation for this guy, either; he can only find relief in retaliation.
  • The difficulty with anger? Humans are inclined to vengeful behavior—and it can be hard to suss out how angry we should be in any given situation.
  • And the thing is, sometimes we praise people who are a little on the angry side (i.e. as "masculine" or "assertive").
  • Aristotle wants to be consistent, so he urges us to drive right down the middle of this road: not too angry, but not too passive, either.