30 October 2007

Question for the Day

Here's a question about translation and meaning. Consider the following passage in bold from NE III.9 (I supply some context):

εἶναι, ἀλλὰ τοὺς ἧττον μὲν ἀνδρείους, ἄλλο δ' ἀγαθὸν μη
δὲν ἔχοντας· ἕτοιμοι γὰρ οὗτοι πρὸς τοὺς κινδύνους, καὶ τὸν
βίον πρὸς μικρὰ κέρδη καταλλάττονται.

Rowe renders:
But presumably it is perfectly possible that the most effective soldiers will not be people of this sort, but rather the sort who while being less courageous possess nothing else of value.
C.C.W. Taylor has:
Perhaps there is nothing to prevent the best soldiers being not people like that, but those who are less courageous, but have not other good in their lives.
What think thee of this? Do you find these renderings satisfactory? Also, as regards the meaning: what do you suppose is meant by ἄλλο δ' ἀγαθὸν μηδὲν ἔχοντας?

For handy comparison, here's Ross with the context:
And so, if the case of courage is similar, death and wounds will be painful to the brave man and against his will, but he will face them because it is noble to do so or because it is base not to do so. And the more he is possessed of virtue in its entirety and the happier he is, the more he will be pained at the thought of death; for life is best worth living for such a man, and he is knowingly losing the greatest goods, and this is painful. But he is none the less brave, and perhaps all the more so, because he chooses noble deeds of war at that cost. It is not the case, then, with all the virtues that the exercise of them is pleasant, except in so far as it reaches its end. But it is quite possible that the best soldiers may be not men of this sort but those who are less brave but have no other good; for these are ready to face danger, and they sell their life for trifling gains.
(Yes, I know I need to say something about De Int!)


J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks, Michael, for the question of the day. Here's an answer.

Rowe and C.C.W. Taylor get the "[people] of this sort / [people] like that" part right; but Ross's "men of this sort" completely misses Aristotle's man(ly) word play. Too bad because Ross does get right τὴν ἀνδρείαν . . . τῷ ἀνδρείῳ as "courage . . . the brave man" (before 1117b.10).

ἀλλ' οὐδὲν ἧττον ἀνδρεῖος and ἀλλὰ τοὺς ἧττον μὲν ἀνδρείους are the key contrastive phrases. "Less man-ly" would better get at ἧττον ἀνδρεῖος & ἧττον μὲν ἀνδρείους.

So, when you ask the meaning of ἄλλο δ' ἀγαθὸν μη δὲν ἔχοντας, we can also read it in contrast to the earlier μεγίστων ἀγαθῶν ἀπο-στερεῖται εἰδώς, λυπηρὸν δὲ τοῦτο. With the pain, and the acknowledged loss of the greater good, there is man-ly-ness none-the-less. But as for these other soldiers (who says they're "men," these [people] of this sort?), they are less man-ly and they possess no good [to be acknowledge or to be lost in pain] ("for these [call them people not man-ly men] are ready to face danger, and they [all-the-while are willing to] sell their life for trifling gains.")

Aristotle may not intend gendered (i.e., sexist) language with masculinist connotations. But he does choose andreia when he might have chosen tharsos or tolma or eupsychia or even thymos.

Michael Pakaluk said...


I doubt that here in particular one finds word-play of the sort you suggest, because andreia has been Ar's word for courage throughout (although I won't deny that that word has connotations of 'manliness' for him and his contemporaries).

My concern was with something simpler, which is this. We may understand οὐδὲν κωλύει, as Bonitz suggests, as equivalent to ἐνδέχεται. μή negates what follows it --- "it is not the case that...". The subject of the clause which is negated is τοὺς τοιούτους, which presumably refers back to those very brave men (b14) who have the other virtues and happiness besides. And thus the words in bold should be rendered, "It is presumably possible that such soldiers [i.e. very brave and happy persons of the sort just described] not be the strongest, but rather those who are less brave, yet possess no other good." However, Rowe and Taylor rather seem to construe as if the text read τοιούτους τοὺς κρατίστους.

It makes no difficult logically; what is claimed is logically equivalent. But there might indeed be a difference in how we then understand Aristotle to be arguing.

On the Rowe/Taylor construction, it's natural to take Aristotle to be referring back to a false form of courage he had distinguished in ch. 8, viz. that shown by professional soldiers.

But it's not easy to explain why Ar. would be reverting back to a discussion of this.

On the construction which I would suggest is preferable, another interpretation seems more plausible. To me it seems that Ar. wishes to guard against a paralogism, viz. "If those who lack courage (and run away, etc) are ineffective in battle, then those who have courage will be most effective in battle." His immediately preceding mention of someone who has extreme courage, because he has happiness and all-round virtue as well, makes the refutation of this paralogism especially opportune, because if that sort of person need not be most effective in battle, then a fortiori someone will not be so simply to the extent that he has courage.

senn said...

You are right that it makes no difference logically which is the "subject" of the negated clause ("the [people] of that sort" or "best [people]"), since it is here the "is" of identity.

I also agree that Aristotle is trying to make the point that those who have courage are not necessarily the best soldiers. (Or, alternatively, the soldiers with courage aren't necessarily the best soldiers.)

I think you're mistaken, however, in saying that Taylor and Rowe's way of translating the passage implies anything very different from the translation you suggest – that their translation suggests a reference back to a false form of courage. I have no particular preference for their translation over yours; but even if one accepts theirs, I don't think Aristotle must be taken to be referring back to a false form of courage. Still, it should be noted that the point Aristotle is (even on your interpretation) making is surely the same as a point he mentioned when he was discussing the (false) courage of the professional soldier back at 1116b6-23. There he made the point that "in contests of that sort [sc., between athletes, wrestlers, etc.] the most courageous people are not the best fighters…" (1116b14). The reasons at least for that particular claim were different from those he offers in the present passage; for at 1116b14 the idea was that it was physical fitness that made the best fighters, and in our passage the idea is (evidently) that having little to lose sometimes makes for a better fighter. Still, at 1116b6-15 Aristotle is surely at least making the point that the best fighters – whether in the battlefield or in the ring - are those with the best training (whether physical or strategic), not (necessarily) the ones with courage. In our passage, Aristotle is not referring back to that discussion, but rather reiterating an old point with the help of new reasons. (It's not for nothing that he has a lasting concern to debunk the powerful, traditional view that good soldiers are quintessentially courageous. More than just one of the apparent but nongenuine forms of courage involved soldiers, viz. 1116a17-29 & 1116a29-b3 as well as 1116b6-23.)

As for what he means by allo d'agathon mēden echontas: He is clearly comparing two kinds of people: one who has every virtue and great happiness and another who lacks these but does have a degree of courage, though "less" of it than the first person. So the second person is "less courageous while having no other good [sc. besides the little bit of courage]". A person of this sort may be a better soldier because not only does he/she have courage (and so a willingness to die for the sake of the fine), but also has nothing much of value (besides the courage) to lose (and so wouldn't be nearly as pained at the prospect of death and the loss of goods as the first person (1117b10-13) would be). But maybe that was all obvious, and you were driving at something else about allo d'agathon mēden echontas?