Habits as the measure of a man

Man is measured as good or evil to the extent that he has a good will or an evil will.
But the will is not determined to choosing one thing, so it must be determined by an added quality of choosing good things.
But the quality of choosing good things or evil things is made most perfect by being most firmly established.
But a firmly established quality of choosing is called a habit.
So habits are the measure of a man.

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9 Comments

  1. Robert Light said,

    June 28, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    See Joe Sach’s translation of the Ethics. “Being at work” is a much more accurate capturing of the Greek. Habit connotes something far too effortless (among other reasons which Sachs gives which I can’t remember at the moment).

  2. shulamite8810 said,

    June 28, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    I am using the word “habit” according to English usage. It is simply the case that a long standing and firm determination to choosing something is called a habit. Smokers choose to smoke habitually, not “being at work-ually”.

    I read Sachs’ Metaphysics. He does similar things there. Being at work was his traslaton of “energia” not “hexis” (the word for traditionally translated as “habit”). I don’t mind what Sachs’ does, but Coughlin is more persuasive in his reasons for sticking with the older, more traditional English renderings that follow the Latinate roots. I see Coughlins’understanding of Aristotle as the most faithful to What Aristotle and te tradition that flowed from his tries to do.

  3. Robert Light said,

    June 29, 2006 at 1:09 am

    Right you are about the energia/hexis distinction, which my hazy memory of Sachs’s introduction caused me to conflate in the foregoing but which alas now I remember. I recall, too, that Sachs’s introduction/essay is worthy of attention, something I intend to reread. I’ve no expertise really to compare his work with Coughlin, so I’ll certainly nonetheless take your word for it.

    One of John Kienker’s classic statements: “What’s up with Joe Sachs translating Aristotle? ‘Joe Sachs’ can fix my Trans-Am.”

  4. Robert Light said,

    June 29, 2006 at 1:26 am

    Smokers “choose to smoke habitually, not ‘being at work-ually'” — point well taken. However, nor are they exactly “choosing” to do so out of “firm determination” either. Such activities are usually, appropriately, labeled as habits, and, as such — as I think *perhaps* Sachs is in pointing out — tend to connote something almost mindless.

    To speak of a “conscious habit” or a “firm determination habit” — though I’m willing fully to concede I might be just plain wrong and I need to go get more sleep — don’t quite have an accurate ring.

  5. Robert Light said,

    June 29, 2006 at 1:33 am

    “. . . Sachs is [justified] in pointing out . . .”

  6. shulamite8810 said,

    June 29, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Smokers don’t have a firmly established disposition to choose to smoke?

    If you object that it is wong to call addiction “choice”, since it more connotes the absense of choice, I would agree, but not in such a way as to say that smoking isn’t a voluntary action.

    Habits, both good and bad, make actions more effortless and done in some sense “mindlessly”. But good habits-like living chastely and soberly and with discipline in moderation- allow reason to flourish, and make a man feel more in control of himself- hence good habits are in a certain sense identical with self control. Bad habits cripple reason and divide it between its true desires and carnal things, and these more make mn a “machine” and not a man.

  7. Robert Light said,

    June 29, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    I essentially agree with what you’re saying in the above. It’s just that to live chately, soberly, with discipline — it’s the discipline part where I might quibble. Because it seems one ought constantly to invoke discipline in order to maintain those same good “habits.” Especially if you’re a guy, for example seeing how the temptations for sin seems to me so much greater for men than it is for women. (And on that note, I don’t really understand the nature of women’s proclivity for sin — you wrote about that once before, saying that women’s temptation is internal, whereas men is external, or something like that. I took this as apropos of women’s conniving/gossipy/”catty” tendencies).

  8. Robert Light said,

    June 29, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    “Smokers don’t have a firmly established disposition to choose to smoke?”

    No, because I think smokers — people who smoke habitually — are, essentially, in most cases, long since past the act of choosing to smoke. Mind you, I’m not saying they’re addicted (if nothing else, I accept the verdict that nicotine is physilogically addictive), any more than a person who regularly procrastinates doing his homework has an addiction (I’m talking addiction in a clinical sense). But saying that a person is not addicted to such dilatory behavior is not inconsistent with saying that that person is also not activively choosing such behavior.

  9. Robert Light said,

    June 29, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    “I accept the verdict that nicotine is [NOT] physiologically addictive . . .”


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