19 March, 2000

Author: George Irbe

Back to George's Views



TI- Terence Irwin, Hackett Publishing Co. 1985
DR - David Ross, Oxford University Press 1980
JT - J.A.K. Thomson, Penguin Books 1955


Text Remarks
[DR] Each one of wastefulness and ungenerosity is both excess and deficiency about wealth. Ungenerosity is always ascribed to those who take wealth more seriously than is right. But when wastefulness is attributed to someone, several vices are sometimes combined. For incontinent people and those who spend money on intemperance are called wasteful. Therefore the application of the word to them is not its proper use. For the wasteful person is meant to have a single vicious feature of ruining his property. Wastefulness and ungenerosity with wealth.
[JT] It is more the mark of the liberal man to give to the right people than to receive from the right people, and not to receive from the wrong people; because virtue consists more in doing good than in receiving it, and more in doing fine actions than in refraining from disgraceful ones. Of all those who are called virtuous the liberal are probably the best liked, because they are helpful; and their help consists in giving. Giving and receiving in the right way is a virtue.
[DR] The liberal man, like other virtuous men, will give for the sake of the noble, and rightly; for he will give to the right people, the right amounts, and at the right time, with all the other qualifications that accompany right giving. A liberal man gives rightly.
[DR] Liberality resides not in the multitude of the gifts but in the state of character of the giver. Liberality is a character trait.
[DR] Liberality, then, being a mean with regard to giving and taking of wealth, the liberal man will both give and spend the right amounts and on the right objects, alike in small things and great, and that with pleasure; he will also take the right amounts and from the right sources. For, the virtue being a mean with regard to both, he will do both as he ought. The liberal man practices virtue in giving and taking.
[TI] We have said that wastefulness and ungenerousity are excesses and deficiencies in two things, in giving and taking - for we also count spending as giving. Now wastefulness is excessive in giving and not taking, but deficient in taking. Ungenerousity is deficient in giving and excessive in taking, but in small matters. The faults of wastefulness and ungenerousity.
[DR] It is not the mark of a wicked or ignoble man to go to excess in giving and not taking, but only of a foolish one. A foolish person gives too much and takes too little.
[DR] The magnificent man is like an artist; for he can see what is fitting and spend large sums tastefully. And the magnificent man will spend such sums for honour's sake; for this is common to the virtues. The magnificent man spends a lot on public works and culture for the sake of honor.
[JT, TI] The magnificent man spends not on himself but on public objects. The man who goes to excess and is vulgar exceeds by spending more than he ought. On the other hand the petty man will fall short in all respects. These states, vulgarity and niggardliness, are vices. But they do not bring reproaches, since they do no harm to one's neighbours and are not too disgraceful. Vulgarity and niggardliness are minor vices.
[JT, TI, DR] Greatness of soul [magnanimity, proper pride], as the name suggests, is concerned with great things. The magnanimous person thinks himself worthy of great things and is really worthy of them; for he who does so beyond his deserts is a fool, and no virtuous man is foolish or silly. The magnanimous person measures up to his own claim to greatness, a fool does not.
[DR] The proud man, since he deserves most, must be good in the highest degree; for the better man always deserves more, and the best man most. Therefore the truly proud man must be good. And greatness in every virtue would seem to be characteristic of a proud man. The properly proud person is virtuous in every way.
[JT, DR] So magnanimity seems to be a sort of crown of the virtues, because it enhances them and is never found apart from them. Therefore it is hard to be truly proud; for it is impossible without nobility and goodness of character. It is chiefly with honours and dishonours, then, that the magnanimous man is concerned. Magnanimity is the crown of all the virtues.
[TI, DR] The magnanimous person is concerned especially with honours. Still, he will also have a moderate attitude to riches and power and every sort of good and bad fortune, however it turns out, and will be neither over-joyed by good fortune nor over-pained by evil. For not even towards honour does he bear himself as if it were a very great thing. The magnanimous person seeks the proper balance for all the virtues.
[DR] Men who are well-born are thought worthy of honour, and so are those who enjoy power or wealth; for they are in a superior position, and everything that has a superiority in something good is held in great honour. Hence even such things make men prouder; for they are honoured by some for having them; but in truth the good man alone is to be honoured; he, however, who has both advantages is thought the more worthy of honour. But those who without virtue have such goods are neither justified in making great claims nor entitled to the name of 'proud'; for these things imply perfect virtue. Men are honored for having power and wealth, or being born to it. But the goods of wealth and position mean nothing without virtue. Only the virtuous person deserves honor and is entitled to be proud.
[DR] Such, then, is the proud man; the man who falls short of him is unduly humble, and the man who goes beyond him is vain. Honour may be desired more than is right, or less, or from the right sources and in the right way. Vanity and undue humbleness are the excesses of proper pride.
[DR, TI] Good temper is a mean with respect to anger. The person who is angry at the right things and towards the right people, and also in the right way, at the right time and for the right length of time, is praised. This will be the good-tempered man. The good-tempered man is not revengeful, but rather tends to make allowances. The good-tempered man controls his anger properly.
[JT] It is not easy to define how and with whom and for what reasons and how long one ought to be angry, or within what limits a person does this rightly or wrongly. Clearly, then, we must keep closely to the mean state. The appropriate degree of anger in a situation is difficult to gauge. The virtuous person maintains a balance.
[TI, DR] In meeting people, living together and associating in conversations and actions, some people seem to be ingratiating; these are the ones who praise everything to please us and never cross us, but think they must cause no pain to those they meet. In contrast to these, people who oppose us on every point and do not care in the least about causing pain are called cantankerous and quarrelsome. Clearly, the states we have mentioned are blameworthy, and the state intermediate between them is praiseworthy -- that in virtue of which a man will put up with, and will resent, the right things and in the right way. This state has no name, though it most resembles friendship. For the man who corresponds to this middle state is very much what, with affection added, we call a good friend. The qualities of a person who is both respected and liked in society.
[JT] But this quality differs from friendship in that it is independent of feeling, that is, of affection for those with whom its possessor associates. He will behave differently with the eminent and with ordinary people, with those whom he knows well and with those whom he knows less well, and will similarly take into account all other differences, rendering the appropriate treatment to each class or person. Such, then, is the man of the intermediate disposition. The virtuous person uses tact and good judgment in dealing with others.
[TI] The boaster seems to claim qualities that win reputation, when he either lacks them altogether or has less than he claims. And the self-deprecator, by contrast, denies or belittles his actual qualities. The intermediate person, however, is straightforward, truthful in what he says and does, since he acknowledges the qualities he has without belittling or exaggerating. Boasting and self-deprecation are the bad excesses of the virtuous middle characteristic of candid deportment.
[DR] Thus the truthful man is another case of a man who, being in the mean, is worthy of praise. The man who loves truth, and is truthful where nothing is at stake, will still more be truthful where something is at stake; he will avoid falsehood as something base, seeing that he avoided it even for its own sake; and such a man is worthy of praise. The truthful person merits the highest praise.
[DR] Those who carry humour to excess are thought to be vulgar buffoons, while those who can neither make a joke themselves nor put up with those who do are thought to be boorish and unpolished. But those who joke in a tasteful way are called ready-witted. To the middle state belongs also tact; it is the mark of a tactful man to say and listen to such things as befit a good and well-bred man. The good man avoids vulgarity as well as prissiness in dealing with others.
[DR] The sense of disgrace is not even characteristic of a good man, since it is consequent on bad actions. It is for voluntary actions that shame is felt, and the good man will never voluntarily do bad actions. The good man never experiences shame because of bad actions.
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