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Aristotle - Ethics; Book 4 lyrics


We will next speak of Liberality. Now this is thought to be the mean
State, having for its object-matter Wealth: I mean, the Liberal man is
Praised not in the circumstances of war, nor in those which constitute
The character of perfected self-mastery, nor again in judicial
Decisions, but in respect of giving and receiving Wealth, chiefly the
Former. By the term Wealth I mean "all those things whose worth is
Measured by money."

Now the states of excess and defect in regard of Wealth are respectively
Prodigality and Stinginess: the latter of these terms we attach
Invariably to those who are over careful about Wealth, but the former we
Apply sometimes with a complex notion; that is to say, we give the name
To those who fail of self-control and spend money on the unrestrained
Gratification of their pa**ions; and this is why they are thought to be
Most base, because they have many vices at once

[Sidenote: 1120a]

It must be noted, however, that this is not a strict and proper use of
The term, since its natural etymological meaning is to denote him who
Has one particular evil, viz. the wasting his substance: he is unsaved
(as the term literally denotes) who is wasting away by his own fault;
And this he really may be said to be; the destruction of his substance
Is thought to be a kind of wasting of himself, since these things
Are the means of living. Well, this is our acceptation of the term

Again. Whatever things are for use may be used well or ill, and Wealth
Belongs to this cla**. He uses each particular thing best who has the
Virtue to whose province it belongs: so that he will use Wealth best
Who has the virtue respecting Wealth, that is to say, the Liberal
Man. Expenditure and giving are thought to be the using of money, but
Receiving and keeping one would rather call the possessing of it. And so
The giving to proper persons is more characteristic of the Liberal man
Than the receiving from proper quarters and forbearing to receive
From the contrary. In fact generally, doing well by others is more
Characteristic of virtue than being done well by, and doing things
Positively honourable than forbearing to do things dishonourable;
And any one may see that the doing well by others and doing things
Positively honourable attaches to the act of giving, but to that of
Receiving only the being done well by or forbearing to do what is

Besides, thanks are given to him who gives, not to him who merely
Forbears to receive, and praise even more. Again, forbearing to receive
Is easier than giving, the case of being too little freehanded with
One's own being commoner than taking that which is not one's own

And again, it is they who give that are denominated Liberal, while they
Who forbear to receive are commended, not on the score of Liberality but
Of just dealing, while for receiving men are not, in fact, praised at

And the Liberal are liked almost best of all virtuous characters
Because they are profitable to others, and this their profitableness
Consists in their giving

Furthermore: all the actions done in accordance with virtue are
Honourable, and done from the motive of honour: and the Liberal man
Therefore, will give from a motive of honour, and will give rightly;
I mean, to proper persons, in right proportion, at right times, and
Whatever is included in the term "right giving:" and this too with
Positive pleasure, or at least without pain, since whatever is done in
Accordance with virtue is pleasant or at least not unpleasant, most
Certainly not attended with positive pain

But the man who gives to improper people, or not from a motive of honour
But from some other cause, shall be called not Liberal but something
Else. Neither shall he be so [Sidenote:1120b] denominated who does it
With pain: this being a sign that he would prefer his wealth to the
Honourable action, and this is no part of the Liberal man's character;
Neither will such an one receive from improper sources, because the so
Receiving is not characteristic of one who values not wealth: nor again
Will he be apt to ask, because one who does kindnesses to others does
Not usually receive them willingly; but from proper sources (his own
Property, for instance) he will receive, doing this not as honourable
But as necessary, that he may have somewhat to give: neither will he be
Careless of his own, since it is his wish through these to help others
In need: nor will he give to chance people, that he may have wherewith
To give to those to whom he ought, at right times, and on occasions when
It is honourable so to do

Again, it is a trait in the Liberal man's character even to exceed
Very much in giving so as to leave too little for himself, it being
Characteristic of such an one not to have a thought of self

Now Liberality is a term of relation to a man's means, for the
Liberal-ness depends not on the amount of what is given but on the moral
State of the giver which gives in proportion to his means. There is then
No reason why he should not be the more Liberal man who gives the less
Amount, if he has less to give out of

Again, they are thought to be more Liberal who have inherited, not
Acquired for themselves, their means; because, in the first place, they
Have never experienced want, and next, all people love most their own
Works, just as parents do and poets

It is not easy for the Liberal man to be rich, since he is neither apt
To receive nor to keep but to lavish, and values not wealth for its own
Sake but with a view to giving it away. Hence it is commonly charged
Upon fortune that they who most deserve to be rich are least so. Yet
This happens reasonably enough; it is impossible he should have wealth
Who does not take any care to have it, just as in any similar case

Yet he will not give to improper people, nor at wrong times, and so on:
Because he would not then be acting in accordance with Liberality, and
If he spent upon such objects, would have nothing to spend on those on
Which he ought: for, as I have said before, he is Liberal who spends in
Proportion to his means, and on proper objects, while he who does so
In excess is prodigal (this is the reason why we never call despots
Prodigal, because it does not seem to be easy for them by their gifts
And expenditure to go beyond their immense possessions)

To sum up then. Since Liberality is a mean state in respect of the
Giving and receiving of wealth, the Liberal man will give and spend on
Proper objects, and in proper proportion, in great things and in small
Alike, and all this with pleasure to himself; also he will receive from
Right sources, and in right proportion: because, as the virtue is a mean
State in respect of both, he will do both as he ought, and, in fact
Upon proper giving follows the correspondent receiving, while that which
Is not such is contrary to it. (Now those which follow one another come
To co-exist in the same person, those which are contraries plainly do

[Sidenote:1121a] Again, should it happen to him to spend money beyond
What is needful, or otherwise than is well, he will be vexed, but only
Moderately and as he ought; for feeling pleasure and pain at right
Objects, and in right manner, is a property of Virtue

The Liberal man is also a good man to have for a partner in respect of
Wealth: for he can easily be wronged, since he values not wealth, and
Is more vexed at not spending where he ought to have done so than at
Spending where he ought not, and he relishes not the maxim of Simonides

But the Prodigal man goes wrong also in these points, for he is neither
Pleased nor pained at proper objects or in proper manner, which will
Become more plain as we proceed. We have said already that Prodigality
And Stinginess are respectively states of excess and defect, and this in
Two things, giving and receiving (expenditure of course we cla** under
Giving). Well now, Prodigality exceeds in giving and forbearing to
Receive and is deficient in receiving, while Stinginess is deficient in
Giving and exceeds in receiving, but it is in small things

The two parts of Prodigality, to be sure, do not commonly go together;
It is not easy, I mean, to give to all if you receive from none, because
Private individuals thus giving will soon find their means run short
And such are in fact thought to be prodigal. He that should combine both
Would seem to be no little superior to the Stingy man: for he may be
Easily cured, both by advancing in years, and also by the want of means
And he may come thus to the mean: he has, you see, already the _facts_
Of the Liberal man, he gives and forbears to receive, only he does
Neither in right manner or well. So if he could be wrought upon by
Habituation in this respect, or change in any other way, he would be a
Real Liberal man, for he will give to those to whom he should, and will
Forbear to receive whence he ought not. This is the reason too why he is
Thought not to be low in moral character, because to exceed in giving
And in forbearing to receive is no sign of badness or meanness, but only
Of folly

[Sidenote:1121b] Well then, he who is Prodigal in this fashion is
Thought far superior to the Stingy man for the aforementioned reasons
And also because he does good to many, but the Stingy man to no one
Not even to himself. But most Prodigals, as has been said, combine with
Their other faults that of receiving from improper sources, and on this
Point are Stingy: and they become grasping, because they wish to spend
And cannot do this easily, since their means soon run short and they are
Necessitated to get from some other quarter; and then again, because
They care not for what is honourable, they receive recklessly, and from
All sources indifferently, because they desire to give but care not how
Or whence. And for this reason their givings are not Liberal, inasmuch
As they are not honourable, nor purely disinterested, nor done in right
Fashion; but they oftentimes make those rich who should be poor, and to
Those who are quiet respectable kind of people they will give nothing
But to flatterers, or those who subserve their pleasures in any way
They will give much. And therefore most of them are utterly devoid
Of self-restraint; for as they are open-handed they are liberal in
Expenditure upon the unrestrained gratification of their pa**ions, and
Turn off to their pleasures because they do not live with reference to
What is honourable

Thus then the Prodigal, if unguided, slides into these faults; but if he
Could get care bestowed on him he might come to the mean and to what is

Stinginess, on the contrary, is incurable: old age, for instance, and
Incapacity of any kind, is thought to make people Stingy; and it is more
Congenial to human nature than Prodigality, the ma** of men being fond
Of money rather than apt to give: moreover it extends far and has many
Phases, the modes of stinginess being thought to be many. For as it
Consists of two things, defect of giving and excess of receiving
Everybody does not have it entire, but it is sometimes divided, and one
Cla** of persons exceed in receiving, the other are deficient in giving
I mean those who are designated by such appellations as sparing
Close-fisted, n***ards, are all deficient in giving; but other men's
Property they neither desire nor are willing to receive, in some
Instances from a real moderation and shrinking from what is base

There are some people whose motive, either supposed or alleged, for
Keeping their property is this, that they may never be driven to do
Anything dishonourable: to this cla** belongs the skinflint, and every
One of similar character, so named from the excess of not-giving. Others
Again decline to receive their neighbour's goods from a motive of fear;
Their notion being that it is not easy to take other people's things
Yourself without their taking yours: so they are content neither to
Receive nor give

[Sidenote:1122a] The other cla** again who are Stingy in respect of
Receiving exceed in that they receive anything from any source; such as
They who work at illiberal employments, brothel keepers, and such-like
And usurers who lend small sums at large interest: for all these receive
From improper sources, and improper amounts. Their common characteristic
Is base-gaining, since they all submit to disgrace for the sake of gain
And that small; because those who receive great things neither whence
They ought, nor what they ought (as for instance despots who sack cities
And plunder temples), we denominate wicked, impious, and unjust, but not

Now the dicer and bath-plunderer and the robber belong to the cla** of
The Stingy, for they are given to base gain: both busy themselves and
Submit to disgrace for the sake of gain, and the one cla** incur the
Greatest dangers for the sake of their booty, while the others make gain
Of their friends to whom they ought to be giving

So both cla**es, as wishing to make gain from improper sources, are
Given to base gain, and all such receivings are Stingy. And with good
Reason is Stinginess called the contrary of Liberality: both because it
Is a greater evil than Prodigality, and because men err rather in this
Direction than in that of the Prodigality which we have spoken of as
Properly and completely such

Let this be considered as what we have to say respecting Liberality and
The contrary vices


Next in order would seem to come a dissertation on Magnificence
This being thought to be, like liberality, a virtue having for its
Object-matter Wealth; but it does not, like that, extend to all
Transactions in respect of Wealth, but only applies to such as are
Expensive, and in these circumstances it exceeds liberality in respect
Of magnitude, because it is (what the very name in Greek hints at)
Fitting expense on a large scale: this term is of course relative: I
Mean, the expenditure of equipping and commanding a trireme is not the
Same as that of giving a public spectacle: "fitting" of course also is
Relative to the individual, and the matter wherein and upon which he has
To spend. And a man is not denominated Magnificent for spending as he
Should do in small or ordinary things, as, for instance

"Oft to the wandering beggar did I give,"

But for doing so in great matters: that is to say, the Magnificent man
Is liberal, but the liberal is not thereby Magnificent. The falling
Short of such a state is called Meanness, the exceeding it Vulgar
Profusion, Want of Taste, and so on; which are faulty, not because they
Are on an excessive scale in respect of right objects but, because they
Show off in improper objects, and in improper manner: of these we will
Speak presently. The Magnificent man is like a man of sk**, because he
Can see what is fitting, and can spend largely in good taste; for, as
We said at the commencement, [Sidenote: 1122b] the confirmed habit is
Determined by the separate acts of working, and by its object-matter

Well, the expenses of the Magnificent man are great and fitting: such
Also are his works (because this secures the expenditure being not great
Merely, but befitting the work). So then the work is to be proportionate
To the expense, and this again to the work, or even above it: and the
Magnificent man will incur such expenses from the motive of honour, this
Being common to all the virtues, and besides he will do it with pleasure
And lavishly; excessive accuracy in calculation being Mean. He will
Consider also how a thing may be done most beautifully and fittingly
Rather, than for how much it may be done, and how at the least expense

So the Magnificent man must be also a liberal man, because the liberal
Man will also spend what he ought, and in right manner: but it is the
Great, that is to say tke large scale, which is distinctive of the
Magnificent man, the object-matter of liberality being the same, and
Without spending more money than another man he will make the work more
Magnificent. I mean, the excellence of a possession and of a work is not
The same: as a piece of property that thing is most valuable which is
Worth most, gold for instance; but as a work that which is great and
Beautiful, because the contemplation of such an object is admirable
And so is that which is Magnificent. So the excellence of a work is
Magnificence on a large scale. There are cases of expenditure which we
Call honourable, such as are dedicatory offerings to the gods, and the
Furnishing their temples, and sacrifices, and in like manner everything
That has reference to the Deity, and all such public matters as are
Objects of honourable ambition, as when men think in any case that it is
Their duty to furnish a chorus for the stage splendidly, or fit out and
Maintain a trireme, or give a general public feast

Now in all these, as has been already stated, respect is had also to the
Rank and the means of the man who is doing them: because they should be
Proportionate to these, and befit not the work only but also the doer of
The work. For this reason a poor man cannot be a Magnificent man, since
He has not means wherewith to spend largely and yet becomingly; and if
He attempts it he is a fool, inasmuch as it is out of proportion and
Contrary to propriety, whereas to be in accordance with virtue a thing
Must be done rightly

Such expenditure is fitting moreover for those to whom such things
Previously belong, either through themselves or through their ancestors
Or people with whom they are connected, and to the high-born or people
Of high repute, and so on: because all these things imply greatness and

So then the Magnificent man is pretty much as I have described him
And Magnificence consists in such expenditures: because they are the
Greatest and most honourable: [Sidenote:1123a] and of private ones such
As come but once for all, marriage to wit, and things of that kind; and
Any occasion which engages the interest of the community in general, or
Of those who are in power; and what concerns receiving and despatching
Strangers; and gifts, and repaying gifts: because the Magnificent man
Is not apt to spend upon himself but on the public good, and gifts are
Pretty much in the same case as dedicatory offerings

It is characteristic also of the Magnificent man to furnish his house
Suitably to his wealth, for this also in a way reflects credit; and
Again, to spend rather upon such works as are of long duration, these
Being most honourable. And again, propriety in each case, because the
Same things are not suitable to gods and men, nor in a temple and a
Tomb. And again, in the case of expenditures, each must be great of its
Kind, and great expense on a great object is most magnificent, that is
In any case what is great in these particular things

There is a difference too between greatness of a work and greatness of
Expenditure: for instance, a very beautiful ball or cup is magnificent
As a present to a child, while the price of it is small and almost
Mean. Therefore it is characteristic of the Magnificent man to do
Magnificently whatever he is about: for whatever is of this kind cannot
Be easily surpa**ed, and bears a proper proportion to the expenditure

Such then is the Magnificent man

The man who is in the state of excess, called one of Vulgar Profusion
Is in excess because he spends improperly, as has been said. I mean in
Cases requiring small expenditure he lavishes much and shows off out of
Taste; giving his club a feast fit for a wedding-party, or if he has to
Furnish a chorus for a comedy, giving the actors purple to wear in the
First scene, as did the Megarians. And all such things he will do, not
With a view to that which is really honourable, but to display his
Wealth, and because he thinks he shall be admired for these things; and
He will spend little where he ought to spend much, and much where he
Should spend little

The Mean man will be deficient in every case, and even where he has
Spent the most he will spoil the whole effect for want of some trifle;
He is procrastinating in all he does, and contrives how he may spend
The least, and does even that with lamentations about the expense, and
Thinking that he does all things on a greater scale than he ought

Of course, both these states are faulty, but they do not involve
Disgrace because they are neither hurtful to others nor very unseemly


The very name of Great-mindedness implies, that great things are its
Object-matter; and we will first settle what kind of things. It makes no
Difference, of course, whether we regard the moral state in the abstract
Or as exemplified in an individual

[Sidenote: 1123b] Well then, he is thought to be Great-minded who values
Himself highly and at the same time justly, because he that does so
Without grounds is foolish, and no virtuous character is foolish or
Senseless. Well, the character I have described is Great-minded. The man
Who estimates himself lowly, and at the same time justly, is modest; but
Not Great-minded, since this latter quality implies greatness, just as
Beauty implies a large bodily conformation while small people are neat
And well made but not beautiful

Again, he who values himself highly without just grounds is a Vain
Man: though the name must not be applied to every case of unduly
High self-estimation. He that values himself below his real worth is
Small-minded, and whether that worth is great, moderate, or small, his
Own estimate falls below it. And he is the strongest case of this error
Who is really a man of great worth, for what would he have done had his
Worth been less?

The Great-minded man is then, as far as greatness is concerned, at
The summit, but in respect of propriety he is in the mean, because he
Estimates himself at his real value (the other characters respectively
Are in excess and defect). Since then he justly estimates himself at a
High, or rather at the highest possible rate, his character will have
Respect specially to one thing: this term "rate" has reference of course
To external goods: and of these we should a**ume that to be the greatest
Which we attribute to the gods, and which is the special object of
Desire to those who are in power, and which is the prize proposed to the
Most honourable actions: now honour answers to these descriptions, being
The greatest of external goods. So the Great-minded man bears himself as
He ought in respect of honour and dishonour. In fact, without need of
Words, the Great-minded plainly have honour for their object-matter:
Since honour is what the great consider themselves specially worthy of
And according to a certain rate

The Small-minded man is deficient, both as regards himself, and also
As regards the estimation of the Great-minded: while the Vain man is in
Excess as regards himself, but does not get beyond the Great-minded
Man. Now the Great-minded man, being by the hypothesis worthy of the
Greatest things, must be of the highest excellence, since the better a
Man is the more is he worth, and he who is best is worth the most: it
Follows then, that to be truly Great-minded a man must be good
And whatever is great in each virtue would seem to belong to the
Great-minded. It would no way correspond with the character of the
Great-minded to flee spreading his hands all abroad; nor to injure any
One; for with what object in view will he do what is base, in whose eyes
Nothing is great? in short, if one were to go into particulars, the
Great-minded man would show quite ludicrously unless he were a good man:
He would not be in fact deserving of honour if he were a bad man, honour
Being the prize of virtue and given to the good

This virtue, then, of Great-mindedness seems to be a kind of ornament
Of all the other virtues, in that it makes them better and cannot be
Without them; and for this reason it is a hard matter to be really and
Truly Great-minded; for it cannot be without thorough goodness and
Nobleness of character

[Sidenote:1124a] Honour then and dishonour are specially the
Object-matter of the Great-minded man: and at such as is great, and
Given by good men, he will be pleased moderately as getting his own, or
Perhaps somewhat less for no honour can be quite adequate to perfect
Virtue: but still he will accept this because they have nothing higher
To give him. But such as is given by ordinary people and on trifling
Grounds he will entirely despise, because these do not come up to his
Deserts: and dishonour likewise, because in his case there cannot be
Just ground for it

Now though, as I have said, honour is specially the object-matter of the
Great-minded man, I do not mean but that likewise in respect of wealth
And power, and good or bad fortune of every kind, he will bear himself
With moderation, fall out how they may, and neither in prosperity will
He be overjoyed nor in adversity will he be unduly pained. For not even
In respect of honour does he so bear himself; and yet it is the greatest
Of all such objects, since it is the cause of power and wealth being
Choiceworthy, for certainly they who have them desire to receive honour
Through them. So to whom honour even is a small thing to him will all
Other things also be so; and this is why such men are thought to be

It seems too that pieces of good fortune contribute to form this
Character of Great-mindedness: I mean, the nobly born, or men of
Influence, or the wealthy, are considered to be entitled to honour, for
They are in a position of eminence and whatever is eminent by good is
More entitled to honour: and this is why such circumstances dispose men
Rather to Great-mindedness, because they receive honour at the hands of
Some men

Now really and truly the good man alone is entitled to honour; only if
A man unites in himself goodness with these external advantages he is
Thought to be more entitled to honour: but they who have them without
Also having virtue are not justified in their high estimate of
Themselves, nor are they rightly denominated Great-minded; since perfect
Virtue is one of the indispensable conditions to such & character

[Sidenote:1124b] Further, such men become supercilious and insolent, it
Not being easy to bear prosperity well without goodness; and not being
Able to bear it, and possessed with an idea of their own superiority to
Others, they despise them, and do just whatever their fancy prompts; for
They mimic the Great-minded man, though they are not like him, and they
Do this in such points as they can, so without doing the actions which
Can only flow from real goodness they despise others. Whereas the
Great-minded man despises on good grounds (for he forms his opinions
[Lyrics from: https:/]

Truly), but the ma** of men do it at random

Moreover, he is not a man to incur little risks, nor does he court
Danger, because there are but few things he has a value for; but he will
Incur great dangers, and when he does venture he is prodigal of his life
As knowing that there are terms on which it is not worth his while to
Live. He is the sort of man to do kindnesses, but he is ashamed to
Receive them; the former putting a man in the position of superiority
The latter in that of inferiority; accordingly he will greatly overpay
Any kindness done to him, because the original actor will thus be laid
Under obligation and be in the position of the party benefited. Such men
Seem likewise to remember those they have done kindnesses to, but not
Those from whom they have received them: because he who has received is
Inferior to him who has done the kindness and our friend wishes to be
Superior; accordingly he is pleased to hear of his own kind acts but not
Of those done to himself (and this is why, in Homer, Thetis does
Not mention to Jupiter the kindnesses she had done him, nor did the
Lacedæmonians to the Athenians but only the benefits they had received)

Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not
At all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to
Bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people
Of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult
And so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high
And mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those
Of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading
Strength against the weak

And again, not to put himself in the way of honour, nor to go where
Others are the chief men; and to be remiss and dilatory, except in the
Case of some great honour or work; and to be concerned in few things
And those great and famous. It is a property of him also to be open
Both in his dislikes and his likings, because concealment is a
Consequent of fear. Likewise to be careful for reality rather than
Appearance, and talk and act openly (for his contempt for others makes
Him a bold man, for which same reason he is apt to speak the truth
Except where the principle of reserve comes in), but to be reserved
Towards the generality of men

[Sidenote: II25a] And to be unable to live with reference to any other
But a friend; because doing so is servile, as may be seen in that all
Flatterers are low and men in low estate are flatterers. Neither is his
Admiration easily excited, because nothing is great in his eyes; nor
Does he bear malice, since remembering anything, and specially wrongs
Is no part of Great-mindedness, but rather overlooking them; nor does he
Talk of other men; in fact, he will not speak either of himself or of
Any other; he neither cares to be praised himself nor to have others
Blamed; nor again does he praise freely, and for this reason he is
Not apt to speak ill even of his enemies except to show contempt and

And he is by no means apt to make laments about things which cannot be
Helped, or requests about those which are trivial; because to be thus
Disposed with respect to these things is consequent only upon real
Anxiety about them. Again, he is the kind of man to acquire what
Is beautiful and unproductive rather than what is productive and
Profitable: this being rather the part of an independent man. Also slow
Motion, deep-toned voice, and deliberate style of speech, are thought to
Be characteristic of the Great-minded man: for he who is earnest about
Few things is not likely to be in a hurry, nor he who esteems nothing
Great to be very intent: and sharp tones and quickness are the result of

This then is my idea of the Great-minded man; and he who is in the
Defect is a Small-minded man, he who is in the excess a Vain man
However, as we observed in respect of the last character we discussed
These extremes are not thought to be vicious exactly, but only mistaken
For they do no harm

The Small-minded man, for instance, being really worthy of good deprives
Himself of his deserts, and seems to have somewhat faulty from not
Having a sufficiently high estimate of his own desert, in fact from
Self-ignorance: because, but for this, he would have grasped after what
He really is entitled to, and that is good. Still such characters are
Not thought to be foolish, but rather laggards. But the having such
An opinion of themselves seems to have a deteriorating effect on the
Character: because in all cases men's aims are regulated by their
Supposed desert, and thus these men, under a notion of their own want of
Desert, stand aloof from honourable actions and courses, and similarly
From external goods

But the Vain are foolish and self-ignorant, and that palpably: because
They attempt honourable things, as though they were worthy, and then
They are detected. They also set themselves off, by dress, and carriage
And such-like things, and desire that their good circumstances may
Be seen, and they talk of them under the notion of receiving
Honour thereby. Small-mindedness rather than Vanity is opposed to
Great-mindedness, because it is more commonly met with and is worse

[Sidenote:1125b] Well, the virtue of Great-mindedness has for its object
Great Honour, as we have said: and there seems to be a virtue having
Honour also for its object (as we stated in the former book), which may
Seem to bear to Great-mindedness the same relation that Liberality does
To Magnificence: that is, both these virtues stand aloof from what is
Great but dispose us as we ought to be disposed towards moderate and
Small matters. Further: as in giving and receiving of wealth there is
A mean state, an excess, and a defect, so likewise in grasping after
Honour there is the more or less than is right, and also the doing so
From right sources and in right manner

For we blame the lover of Honour as aiming at Honour more than he ought
And from wrong sources; and him who is destitute of a love of Honour as
Not choosing to be honoured even for what is noble. Sometimes again we
Praise the lover of Honour as manly and having a love for what is noble
And him who has no love for it as being moderate and modest (as we
Noticed also in the former discussion of these virtues)

It is clear then that since "Lover of so and so" is a term capable of
Several meanings, we do not always denote the same quality by the term
"Lover of Honour;" but when we use it as a term of commendation we
Denote more than the ma** of men are; when for blame more than a man
Should be

And the mean state having no proper name the extremes seem to dispute
For it as unoccupied ground: but of course where there is excess and
Defect there must be also the mean. And in point of fact, men do grasp
At Honour more than they should, and less, and sometimes just as they
Ought; for instance, this state is praised, being a mean state in regard
Of Honour, but without any appropriate name. Compared with what is
Called Ambition it shows like a want of love for Honour, and compared
With this it shows like Ambition, or compared with both, like both
Faults: nor is this a singular case among the virtues. Here the
Extreme characters appear to be opposed, because the mean has no name
Appropriated to it


Meekness is a mean state, having for its object-matter Anger: and as the
Character in the mean has no name, and we may almost say the same of the
Extremes, we give the name of Meekness (leaning rather to the defect
Which has no name either) to the character in the mean

The excess may be called an over-aptness to Anger: for the pa**ion is
Anger, and the producing causes many and various. Now he who is angry at
What and with whom he ought, and further, in right manner and time, and
For proper length of time, is praised, so this Man will be Meek since
Meekness is praised. For the notion represented by the term Meek man is
The being imperturbable, and not being led away by pa**ion, but being
Angry in that manner, and at those things, and for that length of time
Which Reason may direct. This character however is thought to err rather
On [Sidenote:1126a] the side of defect, inasmuch as he is not apt to
Take revenge but rather to make allowances and forgive. And the defect
Call it Angerlessness or what you will, is blamed: I mean, they who are
Not angry at things at which they ought to be angry are thought to be
Foolish, and they who are angry not in right manner, nor in right time
Nor with those with whom they ought; for a man who labours under this
Defect is thought to have no perception, nor to be pained, and to have
No tendency to avenge himself, inasmuch as he feels no anger: now to
Bear with scurrility in one's own person, and patiently see one's own
Friends suffer it, is a slavish thing

As for the excess, it occurs in all forms; men are angry with those with
Whom, and at things with which, they ought not to be, and more than they
Ought, and too hastily, and for too great a length of time. I do not
Mean, however, that these are combined in any one person: that would
In fact be impossible, because the evil destroys itself, and if it is
Developed in its full force it becomes unbearable

Now those whom we term the Pa**ionate are soon angry, and with people
With whom and at things at which they ought not, and in an excessive
Degree, but they soon cool again, which is the best point about them
And this results from their not repressing their anger, but repaying
Their enemies (in that they show their feeings by reason of their
Vehemence), and then they have done with it

The Choleric again are excessively vehement, and are angry at
Everything, and on every occasion; whence comes their Greek name
Signifying that their choler lies high

The Bitter-tempered are hard to reconcile and keep their anger for
A long while, because they repress the feeling: but when they have
Revenged themselves then comes a lull; for the vengeance destroys their
Anger by producing pleasure in lieu of pain. But if this does not happen
They keep the weight on their minds: because, as it does not show
Itself, no one attempts to reason it away, and digesting anger within
One's self takes time. Such men are very great nuisances to themselves
And to their best friends

Again, we call those Cross-grained who are angry at wrong objects, and
In excessive degree, and for too long a time, and who are not appeased
Without vengeance or at least punishing the offender

To Meekness we oppose the excess rather than the defect, because it is
Of more common occurrence: for human nature is more disposed to take
Than to forgo revenge. And the Cross-grained are worse to live with
[Than they who are too phlegmatic]

Now, from what has been here said, that is also plain which was said
Before. I mean, it is no easy matter to define how, and with what
Persons, and at what kind of things, and how long one ought to be
Angry, and up to what point a person is right or is wrong. For he that
Transgresses the strict rule only a little, whether on the side of
Too much or too little, is not blamed: sometimes we praise those who
[Sidenote:1126b] are deficient in the feeling and call them Meek
Sometimes we call the irritable Spirited as being well qualified for
Government. So it is not easy to lay down, in so many words, for what
Degree or kind of transgression a man is blameable: because the decision
Is in particulars, and rests therefore with the Moral Sense. Thus much
However, is plain, that the mean state is praiseworthy, in virtue of
Which we are angry with those with whom, and at those things with which
We ought to be angry, and in right manner, and so on; while the excesses
And defects are blameable, slightly so if only slight, more so if
Greater, and when considerable very blameable

It is clear, therefore, that the mean state is what we are to hold to

This then is to be taken as our account of the various moral states
Which have Anger for their object-matter


Next, as regards social intercourse and interchange of words and acts
Some men are thought to be Over-Complaisant who, with a view solely to
Giving pleasure, agree to everything and never oppose, but think their
Line is to give no pain to those they are thrown amongst: they, on
The other hand, are called Cross and Contentious who take exactly the
Contrary line to these, and oppose in everything, and have no care at
All whether they give pain or not

Now it is quite clear of course, that the states I have named are
Blameable, and that the mean between them is praiseworthy, in virtue
Of which a man will let pa** what he ought as he ought, and also will
Object in like manner. However, this state has no name appropriated, but
It is most like Friendship; since the man who exhibits it is just the
Kind of man whom we would call the amiable friend, with the addition of
Strong earnest affection; but then this is the very point in which it
Differs from Friendship, that it is quite independent of any feeling or
Strong affection for those among whom the man mixes: I mean, that he
Takes everything as he ought, not from any feeling of love or hatred
But simply because his natural disposition leads him to do so; he will
Do it alike to those whom he does know and those whom he does not, and
Those with whom he is intimate and those with whom he is not; only in
Each case as propriety requires, because it is not fitting to care
Alike for intimates and strangers, nor again to pain them alike

It has been stated in a general way that his social intercourse will be
Regulated by propriety, and his aim will be to avoid giving pain and to
Contribute to pleasure, but with a constant reference to what is noble
And expedient

His proper object-matter seems to be the pleasures and pains which arise
Out of social intercourse, but whenever it is not honourable or even
Hurtful to him to contribute to pleasure, in these instances he will run
Counter and prefer to give pain

Or if the things in question involve unseemliness to the doer, and this
Not inconsiderable, or any harm, whereas his opposition will cause some
Little pain, here he will not agree but will run counter

[Sidenote:1127a] Again, he will regulate differently his intercourse
With great men and with ordinary men, and with all people according to
The knowledge he has of them; and in like manner, taking in any other
Differences which may exist, giving to each his due, and in itself
Preferring to give pleasure and cautious not to give pain, but still
Guided by the results, I mean by what is noble and expedient according
As they preponderate

Again, he will inflict trifling pain with a view to consequent pleasure

Well, the man bearing the mean character is pretty well such as I have
Described him, but he has no name appropriated to him: of those who try
To give pleasure, the man who simply and disinterestedly tries to be
Agreeable is called Over-Complaisant, he who does it with a view to
Secure some profit in the way of wealth, or those things which wealth
May procure, is a Flatterer: I have said before, that the man who is
"always non-content" is Cross and Contentious. Here the extremes have
The appearance of being opposed to one another, because the mean has no
Appropriate name


The mean state which steers clear of Exaggeration has pretty much the
Same object-matter as the last we described, and likewise has no name
Appropriated to it. Still it may be as well to go over these states:
Because, in the first place, by a particular discussion of each we shall
Be better acquainted with the general subject of moral character, and
Next we shall be the more convinced that the virtues are mean states by
Seeing that this is universally the case

In respect then of living in society, those who carry on this
Intercourse with a view to pleasure and pain have been already spoken
Of; we will now go on to speak of those who are True or False, alike in
Their words and deeds and in the claims which they advance

Now the Exaggerator is thought to have a tendency to lay claim to things
Reflecting credit on him, both when they do not belong to him at all and
Also in greater degree than that in which they really do: whereas the
Reserved man, on the contrary, denies those which really belong to
Him or else depreciates them, while the mean character being a
Plain-matter-of-fact person is Truthful in life and word, admitting
The existence of what does really belong to him and making it neither
Greater nor less than the truth

It is possible of course to take any of these lines either with or
Without some further view: but in general men speak, and act, and live
Each according to his particular character and disposition, unless
Indeed a man is acting from any special motive

Now since falsehood is in itself low and blameable, while truth is noble
And praiseworthy, it follows that the Truthful man (who is also in the
Mean) is praiseworthy, and the two who depart from strict truth are both
Blameable, but especially the Exaggerator

We will now speak of each, and first of the Truthful man: I call him
Truthful, because we are not now meaning the man who is true in his
Agreements nor in such matters as amount to justice or injustice (this
Would come within the [Sidenote:1127b] province of a different virtue)
But, in such as do not involve any such serious difference as this, the
Man we are describing is true in life and word simply because he is in a
Certain moral state

And he that is such must be judged to be a good man: for he that has a
Love for Truth as such, and is guided by it in matters indifferent, will
Be so likewise even more in such as are not indifferent; for surely he
Will have a dread of falsehood as base, since he shunned it even in
Itself: and he that is of such a character is praiseworthy, yet he leans
Rather to that which is below the truth, this having an appearance of
Being in better taste because exaggerations are so annoying

As for the man who lays claim to things above what really belongs to him
_without_ any special motive, he is like a base man because he would
Not otherwise have taken pleasure in falsehood, but he shows as a fool
Rather than as a knave. But if a man does this _with_ a special motive
Suppose for honour or glory, as the Braggart does, then he is not
So very blameworthy, but if, directly or indirectly, for pecuniary
Considerations, he is more unseemly

Now the Braggart is such not by his power but by his purpose, that is to
Say, in virtue of his moral state, and because he is a man of a certain
Kind; just as there are liars who take pleasure in falsehood for its
Own sake while others lie from a desire of glory or gain. They who
Exaggerate with a view to glory pretend to such qualities as are
Followed by praise or highest congratulation; they who do it with a view
To gain a**ume those which their neighbours can avail themselves of
And the absence of which can be concealed, as a man's being a skilful
Soothsayer or physician; and accordingly most men pretend to such things
And exaggerate in this direction, because the faults I have mentioned
Are in them

The Reserved, who depreciate their own qualities, have the appearance of
Being more refined in their characters, because they are not thought to
Speak with a view to gain but to avoid grandeur: one very common trait
In such characters is their denying common current opinions, as Socrates
Used to do. There are people who lay claim falsely to small things and
Things the falsity of their pretensions to which is obvious; these are
Called Factotums and are very despicable

This very Reserve sometimes shows like Exaggeration; take, for instance
The excessive plainness of dress affected by the Lacedaemonians: in
Fact, both excess and the extreme of deficiency partake of the nature of
Exaggeration. But they who practise Reserve in moderation, and in cases
In which the truth is not very obvious and plain, give an impression of
Refinement. Here it is the Exaggerator (as being the worst character)
Who appears to be opposed to the Truthful Man


[Sidenote:II28a] Next, as life has its pauses and in them admits of
Pastime combined with Jocularity, it is thought that in this respect
Also there is a kind of fitting intercourse, and that rules may be
Prescribed as to the kind of things one should say and the manner of
Saying them; and in respect of hearing likewise (and there will be a
Difference between the saying and hearing such and such things). It is
Plain that in regard to these things also there will be an excess and
Defect and a mean

Now they who exceed in the ridiculous are judged to be Buffoons and
Vulgar, catching at it in any and every way and at any cost, and aiming
Rather at raising laughter than at saying what is seemly and at avoiding
To pain the object of their wit. They, on the other hand, who would not
For the world make a joke themselves and are displeased with such as do
Are thought to be Clownish and Stern. But they who are Jocular in good
Taste are denominated by a Greek term expressing properly ease of
Movement, because such are thought to be, as one may say, motions of the
Moral character; and as bodies are judged of by their motions so too are
Moral characters

Now as the ridiculous lies on the surface, and the majority of men take
More pleasure than they ought in Jocularity and Jesting, the Buffoons
Too get this name of Easy Pleasantry, as if refined and gentlemanlike;
But that they differ from these, and considerably too, is plain from
What has been said

One quality which belongs to the mean state is Tact: it is
Characteristic of a man of Tact to say and listen to such things as are
Fit for a good man and a gentleman to say and listen to: for there are
Things which are becoming for such a one to say and listen to in the way
Of Jocularity, and there is a difference between the Jocularity of the
Gentleman and that of the Vulgarian; and again, between that of the
Educated and uneducated man. This you may see from a comparison of the
Old and New Comedy: in the former obscene talk made the fun; in the
Latter it is rather innuendo: and this is no slight difference _as
Regards decency_

Well then, are we to characterise him who jests well by his saying what
Is becoming a gentleman, or by his avoiding to pain the object of his
Wit, or even by his giving him pleasure? or will not such a definition
Be vague, since different things are hateful and pleasant to different

Be this as it may, whatever he says such things will he also listen to
Since it is commonly held that a man will do what he will bear to hear:
This must, however, be limited; a man will not do quite all that he will
Hear: because jesting is a species of scurrility and there are some
Points of scurrility forbidden by law; it may be certain points of
Jesting should have been also so forbidden. So then the refined and
Gentlemanlike man will bear himself thus as being a law to himself. Such
Is the mean character, whether denominated the man of Tact or of Easy

But the Buffoon cannot resist the ridiculous, sparing neither himself
Nor any one else so that he can but raise his laugh, saying things of
Such kind as no man of refinement would say and some which he would not
Even tolerate if said by others in his hearing. [Sidenote:1128b] The
Clownish man is for such intercourse wholly useless: inasmuch as
Contributing nothing jocose of his own he is savage with all who do

Yet some pause and amusement in life are generally judged to be

The three mean states which have been described do occur in life, and
The object-matter of all is interchange of words and deeds. They differ
In that one of them is concerned with truth, and the other two with the
Pleasurable: and of these two again, the one is conversant with
The jocosities of life, the other with all other points of social


To speak of Shame as a Virtue is incorrect, because it is much more like
A feeling than a moral state. It is defined, we know, to be "a kind of
Fear of disgrace," and its effects are similar to those of the fear of
Danger, for they who feel Shame grow red and they who fear d**h turn
Pale. So both are evidently in a way physical, which is thought to be a
Mark of a feeling rather than a moral state

Moreover, it is a feeling not suitable to every age, but only to youth:
We do think that the young should be Shamefaced, because since they live
At the beck and call of pa**ion they do much that is wrong and Shame
Acts on them as a check. In fact, we praise such young men as are
Shamefaced, but no one would ever praise an old man for being given
To it, inasmuch as we hold that he ought not to do things which cause
Shame; for Shame, since it arises at low bad actions, does not at all
Belong to the good man, because such ought not to be done at all: nor
Does it make any difference to allege that some things are disgraceful
Really, others only because they are thought so; for neither should be
Done, so that a man ought not to be in the position of feeling Shame. In
Truth, to be such a man as to do anything disgraceful is the part of a
Faulty character. And for a man to be such that he would feel Shame if
He should do anything disgraceful, and to think that this constitutes
Him a good man, is absurd: because Shame is felt at voluntary actions
Only, and a good man will never voluntarily do what is base

True it is, that Shame may be good on a certain supposition, as "if a
Man should do such things, he would feel Shame:" but then the Virtues
Are good in themselves, and not merely in supposed cases. And, granted
That impudence and the not being ashamed to do what is disgraceful is
Base, it does not the more follow that it is good for a man to do such
Things and feel Shame

Nor is Self-Control properly a Virtue, but a kind of mixed state:
However, all about this shall be set forth in a future Book

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