3.: We deliberate on what we can do—not on ends, but means. - Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics 
The Nichomachean Ethics of Aristotle, trans. F.H. Peters, M.A. 5th edition (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Truebner & Co., 1893).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
- Preface to the Fifth Edition.
- Book I.: The End.
- 1.: In All He Does Man Seeks Same Good As End Or Means.
- 2.: The End Is the Good; Our Subject Is This and Its Science Politics.
- 3.: Exactness Not Permitted By Subject Nor to Be Expected By Student, Who Needs Experience and Training.
- 4.: Men Agree That the Good Is Happiness, But Differ As to What This Is.
- 5.: The Good Cannot Be Pleasure, Nor Honour, Nor Virtue.
- 6.: Various Arguments to Show Against the Platonists That There Cannot Be One Universal Good.
- 7.: The Good Is the Final End, and Happiness Is This.
- 8.: This View Harmonizes Various Current Views.
- 9.: It Happiness Acquired, Or the Gift of Gods Or of Chance?
- 10.: Can No Man Be Called Happy During Life?
- 11.: Cannot the Fortunes of Survivors Affect the Dead?
- 12.: Happiness As Absolute End Is Above Praise.
- 13.: Division of the Faculties and Resulting Division of the Virtues.
- Book II.: Moral Virtue.
- 1.: Moral Virtue Is Acquired By the Repetition of the Corresponding Acts.
- 2.: These Acts Must Be Such As Reason Prescribes; They Can’t Be Defined Exactly, But Must Be Neither Too Much Nor Too Little.
- 3.: Virtue Is In Various Ways Concerned With Pleasure and Pain.
- 4.: The Conditions of Virtuous Action As Distinct From Artistic Production.
- 5.: Virtue Not an Emotion, Nor a Faculty, But a Trained Faculty Or Habit.
- 6.: Viz., the Habit of Choosing the Mean.
- 7.: This Must Be Applied to the Several Virtues.
- 8.: The Two Vicious Extremes Are Opposed to One Another and to the Intermediate Virtue.
- 9.: The Mean Hard to Hit, and Is a Matter of Perception, Not of Reasoning.
- Book III.
- Chapters 1–5.: the Will.
- 1.: An Act Is Involuntary When Done (a) Under Compulsion, Or (b) Through Ignorance: (a) Means Not Originated By Doer, (b) Means Through Ignorance of the Circumstances: Voluntary Then Means Originated With Knowledge of Circumstances.
- 2.: Purpose, a Mode of Will, Means Choice After Deliberation.
- 3.: We Deliberate On What We Can Do—not On Ends, But Means.
- 4.: We Wish For
- 5.: Virtue and Vice Are Alike Voluntary, Our Acts Are Our Own; For We Are Punished For Them; If This Be Our Character, We Have Made It By Repeated Acts; Even Bodily Vices Are Blamable When Thus Formed. We Cannot Plead That Our Notion of Good Depends On Ou
- Chapters 6—12: the Several Moral Virtues and Vices.
- 6.: Of Courage and the Opposite Vices.
- 7. Of Courage (continued)
- 8. Of Courage Improperly So Called.
- 9.: How Courage Involves Both Pain and Pleasure.
- 10.: Of Temperance.
- 11. Of Temperance (continued)
- 12.: How Profligacy Is More Voluntary Than Cowardice.
- Book IV.: The Several Moral Virtues and Vices— Continued.
- 1.: Of Liberality.
- 2.: Of Magnificence.
- 3.: Of High-mindedness
- 4.: Of a Similar Virtue In Smaller Matters.
- 5.: Of Gentleness.
- 6.: Of Agreeableness.
- 7.: Of Truthfulness.
- 8.: Of Wittiness.
- 9.: Of the Feeling of Shame
- Book V.: The Several Moral Virtues and Vices— Concluded. Justice.
- 1.: Preliminary Two Senses of Justice Distinguished Justice (l) = Obedience to Law = Complete Virtue.
- 2.: Of Justice (2) = Fairness, How Related to Justice (1). What Is Just In Distribution Distinguished From What Is Just In Correction.
- 3.: Of What Is Just In Ditribution and Its Rule of Geometrical Proportion.
- 4.: Of That Which Is Just In Correction, and Its Rule of Arithmetical Proportion.
- 5.: Simple Requital Is Not Identical With What Is Just, But Proportionate Requital Is What Is Just In Exchange; and This Is Effected By Means of Money. We Can Now Give a General Definition of Justice (2).
- 6.: ( One Can Act Unjustly Without Being Unjust. ) That Which Is Just In the Strict Sense Is Between Citizens Only, For It Implies Law.
- 7.: It Is In Part Natural, In Part Conventional.
- 8.: The Internal Conditions of a Just Or Unjust Action, and of a Just Or Unjust Agent.
- 9.: Sundry Questions About Doing and Suffering Injustice
- 10.: Of Equity
- 11.: Can a Man Wrong Himself?
- Book VI.: The Intellectual Virtues.
- 1.: Must Be Studied Because (a) Reason Prescribes the Mean, (b) They Are a Part of Human Excellence. the Intellect Is (1) Scientific, (2) Calculative: We Want the Virtue of Each.
- 2.: The Function of the Intellect, Both In Practice and Speculation, Is to Attain Truth.
- 3.: Of the Five Modes of Attaining Truth: (1) of Demonstrative Science of Things Invariable.
- 4.: Of Knowledge of Things Variable, Viz. (2) of Art In What We Make;
- 5.: And (3) of Prudence In What We Do, the Virtue of the Calculative Intellect.
- 6.: (4) of Intuitive Reason As the Basis of Demonstrative Science.
- 7.: (5) of Wisdom As the Union of Science and Intuitive Reason. Comparison of the Two Intellectual Virtues, Wisdom and Prudence.
- 8.: Prudence Compared With Statesmanship and Other Forms of Knowledge.
- 9.: Of Deliberation.
- 10.: Of Intelligence
- 11.: Of Judgment of Reason Or Intuitive Perception As the Basis of the Practical Intellect.
- 12.: Of the Uses of Wisdom and Prudence. How Prudence Is Related to Cleverness.
- 13.: How Prudence Is Related to Moral Virtue
- Book VII.
- Chapters 1–10.: Characters Other Than Virtue and Vice.
- 1.: Of Continence and Incontinence, Heroic Virtue and Brutality. of Method. Statement of Opinions About Continence.
- 2.: Statement of Difficulties As to How One Can Know Right and Do Wrong.
- 3.: Solution: to Know Has Many Senses; In What Sense Such a Man Knows.
- 4.: Of Incontinence In the Strict and In the Metaphorical Sense.
- 5.: Of Incontinence In Respect of Brutal Or Morbid Appetites.
- 6.: Incontinence In Anger Less Blamed Than In Appetite.
- 7.: Incontinence Yields to Pleasure, Softness to Pain. Two Kinds of Incontinence, the Hasty and the Weak.
- 8.: Incontinence Compared With Vice and Virtue.
- 9.: Continence and Incontinence Not Identical With Keeping and Breaking a Resolution.
- 10.: Prudence Is Not, But Cleverness Is, Compatible With Incontinence.
- Chapters 11—14.: of Pleasure.
- 11.: We Must Now Discuss Pleasure. Opinions About It.
- 12.: Answers to Arguments Against Goodness of Pleasure. Ambiguity of Good and Pleasant. Pleasure Not a Transition, But Unimpeded Activity.
- 13.: Pleasure Is Good, and the Pleasure That Consists In the Highest Activity Is the Good. All Admit That Happiness Is Pleasant. Bodily Pleasures Not the Only Pleasures.
- 14.: Of the Bodily Pleasures, and the Distinction Between Naturally and Accidentally Pleasant.
- Book VIII.: Friendship Or Love.
- 1.: Uses of Friendship. Differences of Opinion About It.
- 2.: Three Motives of Friendship. Friendship Defined.
- 3.: Three Kinds of Friendship, Corresponding to the Three Motives Perfect Friendship Is That Whose Motive Is the Good.
- 4.: The Others Are Imperfect Copies of This.
- 5.: Intercourse Necessary to the Maintenance of Friendship.
- 6.: Impossible to Have Many True Friends.
- 7.: Of Friendship Between Unequal Persons and Its Rule of Proportion. Limits Within Which This Is Possible.
- 8.: Of Loving and Being Loved.
- 9.: Every Society Has Its Own Form of Friendship As of Justice. All Societies Are Summed Up In Civil Society.
- 10.: Of the Three Forms of Constitution.
- 11.: Of the Corresponding Forms of Friendship.
- 12.: Of the Friendship of Kinsmen and Comrades.
- 13.: Of the Terms of Interchange and Quarrels Hence Arising In Equal Friendships.
- 14.: Of the Same In Unequal Friendships.
- Book IX.: Friendship Or Love— Continued.
- 1.: Of the Rule of Proportion In Dissimilar Friendships.
- 2.: Of the Conflict of Duties.
- 3.: Of the Dissolution of Friendships.
- 4.: A Man’s Relation to His Friend Like His Relation to Himself.
- 5.: Friendship and Goodwill.
- 6.: Friendship and Unanimity
- 7.: Why Benefactors Love More Than They Are Loved.
- 8.: In What Sense It Is Right to Love One’s Self.
- 9.: Why a Happy Man Needs Friends.
- 10.: Of the Proper Number of Friends.
- 11.: Friends Needed Both In Prosperity and Adversity.
- 12.: Friendship Is Realized In Living Together.
- Book X.
- Chapters 1–5.: Pleasure.
- 1.: Reasons For Discussing Pleasure.
- 2.: Arguments of Eudoxus That Pleasure Is the Good.
- 3.: Argument That It Is Not a Quality; That It Is Not Determined; That It Is a Motion Or Coming Into Being. Pleasures Differ In Kind.
- 4.: Pleasure Defined: Its Relation to Activity.
- 5.: Pleasures Differ According to the Activities the Standard Is the Good Man.
- Chapters 6–9.: Conclusion.
- 6.: Happiness Not Amusement, But Life.
- 7.: Of the Speculative Life As Happiness In the Highest Sense.
- 8.: Of the Practical Life As Happiness In a Lower Sense, and of the Relation Between the Two. Prosperity, How Far Needed.
- 9.: How Is the End to Be Realized?
We deliberate on what we can do—not on ends, but means.
Now, as to deliberation, do we deliberate about everything, and may anything whatever be matter for deliberation, or are there some things about which deliberation is impossible?
By “matter for deliberation” we should understand, I think, not what a fool or a maniac, but what a rational being would deliberate about.
Now, no one deliberates about eternal or unalterable things, e.g. the system of the heavenly bodies, or the incommensurability of the side and the diagonal of a square.
Again, no one deliberates about things which change, but always change in the same way (whether the cause of change be necessity, or nature, or any other agency), e.g. the solstices and the sunrise; nor about things that are quite irregular, like drought and wet; nor about matters of chance, like the finding of a treasure.
Again, even human affairs are not always matter of deliberation; e.g. what would be the best constitution for Scythia is a question that no Spartan would deliberate about.
The reason why we do not deliberate about these things is that none of them are things that we can ourselves effect.
But the things that we do deliberate about are matters of conduct that are within our control. And these are the only things that remain; for besides nature and necessity and chance, the only remaining cause of change is reason and human agency in general. Though we must add that men severally deliberate about what they can themselves do.
A further limitation is that where there is exact and absolute knowledge, there is no room for deliberation; e.g. writing: for there is no doubt how the letters should be formed.
We deliberate, then, about things that are brought about by our own agency, but not always in the same way; e.g. about medicine and money-making, and about navigation more than about gymnastic, inasmuch as it is not yet reduced to so perfect a system, and so on; but more about matters of art than matters of science, as there is more doubt about them.
Matters of deliberation, then, are matters in which there are rules that generally hold good, but in which the result cannot be predicted, i.e. in which there is an element of uncertainty. In important matters we call in advisers, distrusting our own powers of judgment.
It is not about ends, but about means that we deliberate. A physician does not deliberate whether he shall heal, nor an orator whether he shall persuade, nor a statesman whether he shall make a good system of laws, nor a man in any other profession about his end; but, having the proposed end in view, we consider how and by what means this end can be attained; and if it appear that it can be attained by various means, we further consider which is the easiest and best; but if it can only be attained by one means, we consider how it is to be attained by this means, and how this means itself is to be secured, and so on, until we come to the first link in the chain of causes, which is last in the order of discovery.
For in deliberation we seem to inquire and to analyze in the way described, just as we analyze a geometrical figure in order to learn how to construct it (and though inquiry is not always deliberation—mathematical inquiry, for instance, is not—deliberation is always inquiry); that which is last in the analysis coming first in the order of construction.
If we come upon something impossible, we give up the plan; e.g. if it needs money, and money cannot be got: but if it appear possible, we set to work. By possible I mean something that can be done by us; and what can be done by our friends can in a manner be done by us; for it is we who set our friends to work.
Sometimes we have to find out instruments, sometimes how to use them; and so on with the rest: sometimes we have to find out what agency will produce the desired effect, sometimes how or through whom this agency is to be set at work.
It appears, then, that a man, as we have already said, originates his acts; but that he deliberates about that which he can do himself, and that what he does is done for the sake of something else. For he cannot deliberate about the end, but about the means to the end; nor, again, can he deliberate about particular facts, e.g. whether this be a loaf, or whether it be properly backed: these are matters of immediate perception. And if he goes on deliberating for ever he will never come to a conclusion.
But the object of deliberation and the object of choice or purpose are the same, except that the latter is already fixed and determined; when we say, “this is chosen” or “purposed,” we mean that it has been selected after deliberation. For we always stop in our inquiry how to do a thing when we have traced back the chain of causes to ourselves, and to the commanding part of ourselves; for this is the part that chooses.
This may be illustrated by the ancient constitutions which Homer describes; for there the kings announce to the people what they have chosen.
Since, then, a thing is said to be chosen or purposed when, being in our power, it is desired after deliberation, choice or purpose may be defined as deliberate desire for something in our power; for we first deliberate, and then, having made our decision thereupon, we desire in accordance with deliberation.
Let this stand, then, for an account in outline of choice or purpose, and of what it deals with, viz. means to ends.