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(for these matters would come under a different virtue1), but of cases where a man is truthful both in speech and conduct when no considerations of honesty come in, from an habitual sincerity of disposition. [8] Such sincerity may be esteemed a moral excellence; for the lover of truth, who is truthful even when nothing depends on it, will a fortiori be truthful when some interest is at stake, since having all along avoided falsehood for its own sake, he will assuredly avoid it when it is morally base; and this is a disposition that we praise. [9] The sincere man will diverge from the truth, if at all, in the direction of understatement rather than exaggeration; since this appears in better taste, as all excess is offensive. [10]

The man who pretends to more merit than he possesses for no ulterior object seems, it is true, to be a person of inferior character, since otherwise he would not take pleasure in falsehood; but he appears to be more foolish than vicious. [11] When, on the other hand, a man exaggerates his own merits to gain some object, if that object is glory or honor he is not very much to be blamed [as is the boaster], but if he boasts to get money or things that fetch money, this is more unseemly. [12] (Boastfulness is not a matter of potential capacity but of deliberate purpose; a man is a boaster if he has a fixed disposition to boast—a boastful character.) Similarly liars are divided into those who like lying for its own sake and those who lie to get reputation or profit. [13] Those then who boast for the sake of reputation pretend to possess such qualities as are praised and admired; those who do so for profit pretend to accomplishments that are useful to their fellows and also can be counterfeited without detection; for instance,2 proficiency in prophecy, philosophy, or medicine. Because these arts have the two qualities specified they are the commonest fields of pretence and bragging. [14]

Self-depreciators, who understate their own merits, seem of a more refined character, for we feel that the motive underlying this form of insincerity is not gain but dislike of ostentation. These also3 mostly disown qualities held in high esteem, as Socrates used to do. [15] Those who disclaim merely trifling or obvious distinctions are called affected humbugs, and are decidedly contemptible; and sometimes such mock humility seems to be really boastfulness, like the dress of the Spartans,4 for extreme negligence in dress, as well as excessive attention to it, has a touch of ostentation. [16] But a moderate use of self-depreciation in matters not too commonplace and obvious has a not ungraceful air. [17]

The boaster seems to be the opposite of the sincere man, because Boastfulness is worse than Self-depreciation.8.

But life also includes relaxation, and one form of relaxation is playful conversation. Here, too, we feel that there is a certain standard of good taste in social behavior,

1 Viz. Justice, Book 5.

2 The true text very probably is ‘for example “physician or seer sage,”’ a verse quotation.

3 Just as boastfulness is chiefly shown in pretending to qualities of value.

4 Aristotle regards the cheapness and simplicity of the Spartans' dress as an affectation; or perhaps the reference is to ‘Laconizers’ at Athens who affected Spartan manners.

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