Now it appears that each of these rival claims is right. Both parties should receive a
larger share from the friendship, but not a larger share of the same thing: the superior
should receive the larger share of honor, the needy one the larger share of profit; for
honor is the due reward of virtue and beneficence, while need obtains the aid it requires
in pecuniary gain.
The same principle is seen to obtain in public life.1
A citizen who contributes nothing of value to the common
stock is not held in honor, for the common property is given to those who benefit the
community, and honor is a part of the common property. For a man cannot expect to make
money out of the community and to receive honor as well. For2
nobody is content to have the smaller share all round, and
so we pay honor to the man who suffers money loss by holding office, and give money to the
one who takes bribes; since requital in accordance with desert restores equality, and is
the preservative of friendship,3
as has been said above.
This principle therefore should also regulate the intercourse of friends who are unequal:
the one who is benefited in purse or character must repay what he can, namely honor.
For friendship exacts what is possible, not what is
due; requital in accordance with desert is in fact sometimes impossible, for instance in
honoring the gods, or one's parents: no one could ever render them the honor they deserve,
and a man is deemed virtuous if he pays them all the regard that he can. Hence it would
appear that a son never ought to disown his father, although a father may disown his son;
for a debtor ought to pay what he owes, but
nothing that a son can do comes up to the benefits he has received, so that a son is
always in his father's debt. But a creditor may discharge his debtor, and therefore a
father may disown his son. At the same time, no doubt it is unlikely that a father ever
would abandon a son unless the son were excessively vicious; for natural affection apart,
it is not in human nature to reject the assistance that a son will be able to render.
Whereas a bad son will look on the duty of supporting his father as one to be avoided, or
at all events not eagerly undertaken; for most people wish to receive benefits, but avoid
bestowing them as unprofitable.
So much then for a discussion of these subjects.