U.S. War Tax Resisters Meet in Cleveland

was .

I got here early to do some preliminary work as part of NWTRCC’s Administrative Committee. While the last meeting was contentious, with the controversial issue of a possible Peace Tax Fund endorsement on the agenda, this meeting looks to be comparatively placid.

Jim Stockwell and Daniel Woodham conduct a skit

Phil Metres, author of Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since , addresses the gathering

Dinnertime at The Nehemiah Center

In the opening section of the seventh book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle begins to investigate how people come to behave badly even though they ought to know better.

There are three basic moral states to be avoided, and three good states contrary to those:

bad stateits contrary
vice, intemperance, wickedness virtue, temperance, goodness
incontinence, imperfect self-control, weakness, self-indulgence continence, self-control, self-command, manliness, self-restraint
brutishness, brutality, beastly depravity, ferocity, savagery superhuman virtue, heroic virtue, godlike virtue, heroism, heroic temperament, heroic greatness

These seem to stand in a sort of hierarchy:

  1. Heroic greatness (nearly divine)
  2. Virtue (habitually good)
  3. Self-control (able to develop good habits)
  4. Incontinence (slips into bad actions)
  5. Vice (habitually bad)
  6. Brutishness (nearly subhuman)

First, Aristotle plans to examine self-control. Self-control is associated with endurance and manliness; its contrary, incontinence, is associated with softness and effeminacy. With any luck, we’ll find that this gendered characterization is not essential to Aristotle’s formulation but is just an artifact of the sexist assumptions of his culture.

Aristotle’s method here, as it has been elsewhere, has been to start by looking at the particulars of how people use words and concepts and then try to describe and make consistent the models implicit in these usages — rather than starting with a theoretical model of what the words and concepts should mean and then trying to cram it down onto the vulgate.

So he reviews a set of common opinions about self-control:

  1. Self-control (and endurance) are thought to be good and praiseworthy; incontinence (and softness) bad and blameworthy.
  2. A person with self-control resolves to do something and then does it, while an incontinent person makes resolutions but lacks sticktoitiveness.
  3. The incontinent person is aware that what he or she is doing is bad, but is unable to resist his or her appetites. The person with self control is aware that appetites are tempting but is able to keep his or her rational mind in charge rather than letting appetite take the reins.
  4. People say that temperate people also have self-control and endurance. However, not everyone with self-control is thought of as also temperate. The words “self-indulgent” and “incontinent” are sometimes used interchangeably, other times to mean somewhat different things. There is disagreement as to whether self-control comes in degrees or is something you either have or you don’t.
  5. Some people believe that if you have practical wisdom, you cannot be incontinent; other people think that it’s possible to be practically wise and yet fail to practice self-control.
  6. People are sometimes said to lack self control in regard to things like anger, honor, or gain (not merely in regard to pleasure, as was the case for Temperance/Self-Indulgence, which Aristotle covered in book three).
Index to the Nicomachean Ethics series

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics