Next let us speak of Liberality. This virtue seems to be the observance of the mean in
relation to wealth: we praise a man as liberal not in war, nor in matters in which we
praise him as temperate nor in judicial decisions, but in relation to giving and
wealth, and especially in giving; wealth meaning all
those things whose value is measured by money.1.
Prodigality and Meanness2
the other hand are both of them modes of excess and of deficiency in relation to wealth.
Meanness is always
applied to those who care more than is proper about wealth, but Prodigality is sometimes
used with a wider connotation, 1.
since we call the unrestrained and those who squander money on
debauchery prodigal; and therefore prodigality is thought to be extremely wicked, because
it is a combination of vices. 1.
But this is not the proper application of the word: really it denotes
the possessor of one particular vice, that of wasting one's substance; for he who is ruined by his
own agency is a hopeless case indeed,3
waste one's substance seems to be in a way to ruin oneself, inasmuch as wealth is the
means of life. This then is the sense in which the term Prodigality is here
Now riches are an article of use; but articles of use can be used either well or ill, and
he who uses a thing best is he who possesses the virtue related to that thing; therefore
that man will use riches best who possesses the virtue related to wealth; and this is the
liberal man. 1.
But the use
of wealth seems to consist in spending and in giving; getting wealth and keeping it are
modes of acquisition rather than of use. Hence the liberal man is more concerned with
giving to the right recipients than with getting wealth from the right sources and not
getting it from the wrong ones. Virtue is displayed in doing good rather than in having
good done to one, and in performing noble acts rather than in avoiding base ones;
but manifestly doing
good and acting nobly go with giving, while having good done to one and avoiding base
actions go with getting. Again, gratitude is bestowed on a giver, not on one who refrains
from taking; and still more is this true of praise. 1.
Also it is easier not to take than to give: men are
more reluctant to give away what belongs to them than to refrain from taking what belongs
to someone else. 1.
it is those who give whom we call liberal; those who refrain from taking4
are not praised for Liberality but
rather for Justice, and those who take5
are not praised at all. 1.
And of all virtuous people the liberal are perhaps
the most beloved, because they are beneficial to others; and they are so in that they
Acts of virtue are noble, and are performed for the sake of their nobility; the liberal
man therefore will give for the nobility of giving. And he will give rightly, for he will
give to the right people, and the right amount, and at the right time, and fulfil all the
other conditions of right giving. 1.
Also he will give with pleasure, or at all events without pain; for
virtuous action is pleasant, or painless—it certainly cannot be painful.
One who gives to the
or not for the nobility of giving but from some other motive,
will not be called liberal, but by some different title; nor will he who gives with pain,
for he would prefer the money to the noble deed, which is not the mark of a liberal
Consequently the liberal man will not take money from a wrong source either, since one
who holds wealth in low esteem is not the man to make improper gains. 1.
Nor yet will he be fond of asking
favors, for one who confers benefits does not readily accept them. 1.
But he will acquire wealth from the
proper source, that is, from his own possessions, not because he thinks it is a
noble thing to do, but because it is a necessary condition of having the means to give. He
will not be careless of his property, inasmuch as he wishes to employ it for the
assistance of others. He will not give indiscriminately, in order that he may be able to
give to the right persons and at the right time, and where it is noble to do so.
But the liberal man
is certainly prone to go to excess in giving, so as to leave himself the smaller share;
for it is a mark of a liberal nature to be regardless of self.1.
In crediting people with Liberality their resources must be taken into account; for the
liberality of a gift does not depend on its amount, but on the disposition of the giver,
and a liberal disposition gives according to its substance.7
It is therefore possible that the
smaller giver may be the more liberal, if he give from smaller means. 1.
Men who have inherited a fortune are
reputed to be more liberal than those who have made one, since they have never known what
it is to want; moreover everybody is specially fond of a thing that is his own creation:
parents and poets show this. But it is not easy for a liberal man to be rich, since he is
not good either at getting money or at keeping it, while he is profuse in spending it and
values wealth not for its own sake but as a means of giving. 1.
Hence people blame fortune because the
most deserving men are the least wealthy. But this is really perfectly natural: you cannot
have money, any more than anything else, without taking pains to have it.
On the other hand, the liberal man will not give to the wrong people, nor at the wrong
time, and so forth, for this would not be an act of Liberality at all; and if he spent his
money on the wrong objects he would not have any to spend on the right ones. 1.
In fact, as was said before, the
liberal man is one who spends in proportion to his means as well as on the right objects;
while he that exceeds his means is prodigal. This is why we do not call the lavishness of
princes Prodigality; because we feel that however much they spend and give away they can
hardly exceed the limit of their resources.1.
Liberality then being the observance of the mean in the giving and getting of wealth, the
liberal man will not only give and spend the right amounts on the right objects alike in
small matters and in great, and feel pleasure in so doing, but will also take the right
amounts, and from the right sources. For as this virtue is a mean both in giving and in
getting, he will do both in the right way. Right getting goes with right giving, wrong
getting is opposed to right giving; the two concordant practices therefore may be found in
the same person, but the two opposite ones clearly cannot be. 1.
If the liberal man should happen to spend in a manner contrary to what is right and
noble, he will feel pain, though in a moderate degree and in the right manner; for it is a
mark of virtue to feel both pleasure and pain on the right occasions and in the right
liberal man is an easy person to deal with in money matters; 1.
he can be cheated, because he does not
value money, and is more distressed if he has paid less than he ought than he is annoyed
if he has paid more: he does not agree with the saying of Simonides.8
The prodigal on the other hand errs in his feelings with regard to money as well as in
his actions; he feels neither pleasure nor pain on the right occasions nor in the right
manner. This will become clearer as we proceed.1.
We have said9
then that Prodigality and
Meanness are modes of excess and of deficiency, and this in two things, giving and
getting—giving being taken to include spending. Prodigality exceeds in giving
], and is deficient in getting; Meanness falls short in
giving and goes to excess in getting, only not on the great scale. 1.
Now the two forms of Prodigality are
very seldom found united in the same person, because it is not easy to give to everyone
without receiving from anyone: the giver's means are soon exhausted, if he is a private
citizen, and only such persons are considered prodigal.11
In fact, a man who is
prodigal in both ways may be thought considerably superior to the mean man; for he is easily cured by age or by poverty, and
is able to be brought to the due mean, because he possesses the essentials of the liberal
character—he gives, and he refrains from taking, though he does neither in the
proper way or rightly. Correct this by training, or otherwise reform him, and he will be
liberal, for he will now give his money to the right objects, while he will not get it
from the wrong sources. This is why he is felt to be not really bad in character; for to
exceed in giving without getting is foolish rather than evil or ignoble. 1.
The prodigal of this type therefore
seems to be much superior to the mean man, both for the reasons stated, and because the
former benefits many people, but the latter benefits nobody, not even himself.1.
But the majority of prodigal people, as has been said, besides giving wrongly, take from
wrong sources; in respect of getting they are in fact mean. 1.
And what makes them grasping is that
they want to spend, but cannot do so freely because they soon come to the end of their
resources, and so are compelled to obtain supplies from others. Moreover, being indifferent to
nobility of conduct, they are careless how they get their money, and take it from
anywhere; their desire is to give, and they do not mind how or where they get the means of
their giving is not really liberal: their gifts are not noble, nor given for the nobility
of giving, nor in the right way; on the contrary, sometimes they make men rich who ought
to be poor, and will not give anything to the worthy, while heaping gifts on flatterers
and others who minister to their pleasures. Hence most prodigal men are also profligate;
for as they spend their money freely, some of it is squandered in debauchery; and having
no high moral standard they readily yield to the temptation of pleasure.1.
This then is what the prodigal comes to if he is not brought under discipline; but if he
is taken in hand, he may attain the due mean and the right scale of liberality. 1.
Meanness on the contrary is
incurable; for we see that it can be caused by old age or any form of weakness. Also it is
more ingrained in man's nature than Prodigality; the mass of mankind are avaricious rather
than open-handed. 1.
Moreover Meanness is a far-reaching vice, and one of varied aspect: it appears to take
several shapes. For as it consists in two things, deficiency in giving and excess in
getting, it is not found in its entirety in every case, but sometimes the two forms occur
separately, some men going too far in getting,
while others fall short in giving. 1.
The characters described by such names as niggardly, close-fisted, and
stingy all fall short in giving, but they do not covet the goods of others nor wish to
take them. With some of them this is due to an honorable motive of a sort, namely a
shrinking from base conduct—since some persons are thought, or at all events
profess, to be careful of their money because they wish to avoid being forced at some time
or other to do something base; to this class belong the skinflint12
and similar characters,
who get their names from an excessive reluctance to give. But some keep their hands off
their neighbors' goods from fear; they calculate that it is not easy to take what belongs
to others without others taking what belongs to oneself, and so they ‘prefer
（as they say） neither to take nor to give.’ 1.
The other sort of people are those who
exceed in respect of getting, taking from every source and all they can; such are those
who follow degrading trades, brothel-keepers and all people of that sort, and petty
usurers who lend money in small sums at a high rate of interest; all these take from wrong
sources, and more than their due. 1.
The common characteristic of all these seems to be sordid greed, since
they all endure reproach for gain, and for a small gain. 1.
Those who make improper gains from improper sources
on a great scale, for instance princes who sack cities and rob temples, are not termed
mean, but rather wicked or impious or unjust. 1.
But the dicer and the foot-pad or brigand are to be classed as
mean, as showing sordid greed, for both ply their trade and endure reproach for gain, the
robber risking his life for plunder, and the dicer making gain out of his friends, to whom
one ought to give; hence both are guilty of sordid greed, trying as they do to get gain
from wrong sources. And all similar modes of getting wealth are mean for the same
Meanness is naturally spoken of as the opposite of Liberality; for not only is it a
greater evil than Prodigality, but also men more often err on the side of Meanness than on
that of Prodigality as we defined it.13
Let this suffice as an account of Liberality and of the vices which are opposed to
Next it would seem proper to discuss Magnificence,14
also appears to be a virtue concerned with wealth.
It does not however, like Liberality, extend to all actions dealing with wealth, but only
refers to the spending of wealth; and in this sphere it surpasses Liberality in point of
magnitude, for, as its name itself implies, it consists in suitable expenditure on a great
But this greatness of scale is relative. An amount of outlay that would be great for a
person fitting out a galley for the navy would not be great for one equipping a state
suitability of the expenditure therefore is relative to the spender himself, and to the
occasion or object. At the same time the term magnificent is not applied to one who spends
adequate sums on objects of only small or moderate importance, like the man who said
‘Oft gave I alms to homeless wayfarers’15
; it denotes someone who
spends suitably on great objects. For though the magnificent man is liberal, the liberal
man is not necessarily magnificent.2.
The defect corresponding to the magnificent disposition is called Paltriness, and the
excess Vulgarity, Want of Taste or the like. The latter vices do not exceed by spending
too great an amount on proper objects, but by making a great display on the wrong
occasions and in the wrong way. We will however speak of them later.16
The magnificent man is an artist in expenditure: he can discern what is suitable, and
spend great sums with good taste. 2.
（For as we said at the outset,17
a disposition is defined by the
activities in which it is displayed, and by the objects to which it is related.）
So the magnificent man's expenditure is suitable as well as great. And consequently the
objects he produces must also be great and suitable; for so only will a great expenditure
be suitable [to the result18
] as well. Hence, as the object produced must be worthy of the
expenditure, so also must the expenditure be worthy of or even exceed the object produced.
Again, the motive of
the munificent man in such expenditure will be the nobility of the action, this motive
being characteristic of all the virtues. 2.
Moreover he will spend gladly and lavishly, since nice calculation is
and he will
think how he can carry out his project most nobly and splendidly, rather than how much it
will cost and how it can be done most cheaply. 2.
The magnificent man will therefore necessarily be also a liberal
man. For the liberal man too will spend the right amount in the right manner; and it is in
the amount and manner of his expenditure that the element ‘great’ in
the magnificent or ‘greatly splendid’19
man, that is to say his greatness, is shown,
these being the things in which Liberality is displayed. And the magnificent man from an
equal outlay will achieve a more magnificent result20
; for the same standard of excellence does
not apply to an achievement as to a possession: with possessions the thing worth the
highest price is the most honored, for instance gold, but the achievement most honored is
one that is great and noble （since a great achievement arouses the admiration of
the spectator, and the quality of causing admiration belongs to magnificence）;
and excellence in an achievement involves greatness. 2.
Now there are some forms of expenditure definitely
entitled honorable, for instance expenditure on the service of the gods—
votive offerings, public buildings,
sacrifices—and the offices of religion generally; and those public benefactions
which are favorite objects of ambition, for instance the duty, as it is esteemed in
certain states, of equipping a chorus splendidly or fitting out a ship of war, or even of
giving a banquet to the public. 2.
But in all these matters, as has been said, the scale of expenditure
must be judged with reference to the person spending, that is, to his position and his
resources; for expenditure should be proportionate to means, and suitable not only to the
occasion but to the giver. 2.
Hence a poor man cannot be magnificent, since he has not the means to
make a great outlay suitably; the poor man who attempts Magnificence is foolish, for he
spends out of proportion to his means, and beyond what he ought, whereas an act displays
virtue only when it is done in the right way. 2.
But great public benefactions are suitable for those who have
adequate resources derived from their own exertions or from their ancestors or
connections, and for the high-born and famous and the like, since birth, fame and so on
all have an element of greatness and distinction. 2.
The magnificent man therefore is especially of this
sort, and Magnificence mostly finds an outlet in these public benefactions, as we have
said, since these are the greatest forms of expenditure and the ones most honored. But
Magnificence is also shown on those private occasions for expenditure which only happen
instance, a wedding or the like, and which arouse the interest of the general public, or
of people of position; and also in welcoming foreign guests and in celebrating their
departure, and in the complimentary interchange of presents; for the magnificent man does
not spend money on himself but on public objects, and his gifts have some resemblance to
votive offerings. 2.
also characteristic of the magnificent man to furnish his house in a manner suitable to
his wealth, since a fine house is a sort of distinction; and to prefer spending on
permanent objects, because these are the most noble; 2.
and to spend an amount that is appropriate to the
particular occasion, for the same gifts are not suitable for the gods and for men, and the
same expenditure is not appropriate to a sacrifice and a funeral. In fact, inasmuch as the
greatness of any form of expenditure varies with its particular kind, and, although the
most magnificent expenditure absolutely is great expenditure on a great object, the most
magnificent in a particular case is the amount that is great in that case, 2.
and since the greatness of the
result achieved is not the same as the greatness of the expenditure （for the
finest ball or oil-flask does not cost much or involve a very liberal outlay, though it
makes a magnificent present in the case of a child）, 2.
it follows that it is the mark of the
magnificent man, in expenditure of whatever kind, to produce a magnificent result
（for that is a standard not easily exceeded）, and a result proportionate
to the cost.2.
Such then is the character of the magnificent man. His counterpart on the side of excess,
the vulgar man, exceeds, as has been said, by
spending beyond what is right. He spends a great deal and makes a tasteless display on
unimportant occasions: for instance, he gives a dinner to his club on the scale of a
wedding banquet, and when equipping a chorus at the comedies he brings it on in purple at
its first entrance, as is done at Megara
Moreover, he does all this not from a noble motive but to show off
his wealth, and with the idea that this sort of thing makes people admire him; and he
spends little where he ought to spend much and much where he ought to spend little.
The paltry man on the
other hand will err on the side of deficiency in everything; even when he is spending a
great deal, he will spoil the effect for a trifle, and by hesitating at every stage and
considering how he can spend least, and even so grudging what he spends and always
thinking he is doing things on a greater scale than is necessary. 2.
These dispositions then are vices, but
they do not bring serious discredit, since they are not injurious to others, nor are they
Greatness of Soul,22
as the word itself implies, seems to be related to great
objects; let us first ascertain what sort of objects these are. 3.
It will make no difference whether we examine the
quality itself or the person that displays the quality. 3.
Now a person is thought to be great-souled if he claims much and deserves much; he who
claims much without deserving it is foolish, but no one of moral excellence is foolish or
senseless. The great-souled man is then as we have described. 3.
He who deserves little and claims
little is modest or temperate, but not great-souled, 3.
since to be great-souled involves greatness just as
handsomeness involves size: small people may be neat and well-made, but not handsome.
He that claims much
but does not deserve much is vain; though not everybody who claims more than he deserves
He that claims less than
he deserves is small-souled, whether his deserts be great or only moderate, or even though
he deserves little, if he claims still less. The most small-souled of all would seem to be
the man who claims less than he deserves when his deserts are great; for what would he
have done had he not deserved so much?3.
Though therefore in regard to the greatness of his claim the great-souled man is an
by reason of its
rightness he stands at the mean point, for he claims what he deserves; while the vain and
the small-souled err by excess and defect respectively.3.
If then the great-souled man claims and is worthy of great things and most of all the
greatest things, Greatness of Soul must be concerned with some one object especially.
‘Worthy’ is a term of relation: it denotes having a claim to goods
external to oneself. Now the greatest external good we should assume to be the thing which
we offer as a tribute to the gods, and which is most coveted by men of high station, and
is the prize awarded for the noblest deeds; and
such a thing is honor, for honor is clearly the greatest of external goods. Therefore the
great-souled man is he who has the right disposition in relation to honors and disgraces.
And even without
argument it is evident that honor is the object with which the great-souled are concerned,
since it is honor above all else which great men claim and deserve.3.
The small-souled man25
falls short both as judged by his own deserts and in comparison with the
claim of the great-souled man; 3.
the vain man on the other hand exceeds as judged by his own standard,
but does not however exceed the great-souled man.26
And inasmuch as the great-souled man deserves most, he must be the best of men; for the
better a man is the more he deserves, and he that is best deserves most. Therefore the
truly great-souled man must be a good man. Indeed greatness in each of the virtues would
seem to go with greatness of soul. 3.
For instance, one cannot imagine the great-souled man running at full
speed when retreating in battle,27
nor acting dishonestly; since what motive for base conduct
has a man to whom nothing is great?28
Considering all the virtues
in turn, we shall feel it quite ridiculous to picture the great-souled man as other than a
good man. Moreover, if he were bad, he would not be worthy of honor, since honor is the
prize of virtue, and the tribute that we pay to the good. 3.
Greatness of Soul seems therefore to be as it were a
crowning ornament of the virtues: it enhances their greatness, and it cannot exist without
them. Hence it is hard to be truly great souled,29
for greatness of soul is
impossible without moral nobility.3.
Honor and dishonor then are the objects with which the great-souled man is especially
concerned. Great honors accorded by persons of worth will afford him pleasure in a
moderate degree: he will feel he is receiving only what belongs to him, or even less, for
no honor can be adequate to the merits of perfect virtue, yet all the same he will deign
to accept their honors, because they have no greater tribute to offer him. Honor rendered
by common people and on trivial grounds he will utterly despise, for this is not what he
merits. He will also despise dishonor, for no dishonor can justly attach to him.
The great-souled man
then, as has been said, is especially concerned with honor; but he will also observe due
measure in respect to wealth, power, and good and bad fortune in general, as they may
befall him; he will not rejoice overmuch in prosperity, nor grieve overmuch at adversity.
For he does not care much even about honor, which is the greatest of external goods30
（since power and
wealth are desirable only for the honor they bring, at least their possessors wish to be
honored for their sake）; he therefore to whom even honor is a small thing will be
indifferent to other things as well. Hence
great-souled men are thought to be haughty.3.
But it is thought that the gifts of fortune also conduce to greatness of soul; for the
high-born and those who are powerful or wealthy are esteemed worthy of honor, because they
are superior to their fellows, and that which is superior in something good is always held
in higher honor; so that even these gifts of fortune make men more great-souled, because
their possessors are honored by some people. 3.
But in reality only the good man ought to be honored, although he
that has both virtue and fortune is esteemed still more worthy of honor; whereas those who
possess the goods of fortune without virtue are not justified in claiming high worth, and
cannot correctly be styled great-souled, since true worth and greatness of soul cannot
exist without complete virtue. 3.
It is true that even those who merely possess the goods of fortune may
be haughty and insolent; because without virtue it is not easy to bear good fortune
becomingly, and such men, being unable to carry their prosperity, and thinking themselves superior
to the rest of mankind, despise other people, although their own conduct is no better than
another's. The fact is that they try to imitate the great-souled man without being really
like him, and only copy him in what they can, reproducing his contempt for others but not
his virtuous conduct. 3.
For the great-souled man is justified in despising other people—his estimates
are correct; but most proud men have no good ground for their pride.3.
The great-souled man does not run into danger for trifling reasons, and is not a lover of
danger, because there are few things he values; but he will face danger in a great cause,
and when so doing will be ready to sacrifice his life, since he holds that life is not
worth having at every price.3.
He is fond of conferring benefits, but ashamed to receive them, because the former is a
mark of superiority and the latter of inferiority. He returns a service done to him with
interest, since this will put the original benefactor into his debt in turn, and make him
the party benefited. 3.
The great-souled are thought to have a good memory for any benefit they have conferred,
but a bad memory for those which they have received （since the recipient of a
benefit is the inferior of his benefactor, whereas they desire to be superior）;
and to enjoy being reminded of the former but to dislike being reminded of the latter:
this is why the poet makes Thetis31
not specify her services to Zeus; nor did the Spartans treating with the Athenians32
recall the occasions
had aided Athens
, but those on which Athens
had aided Sparta
It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only
with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and to be haughty towards men of position
and fortune, but courteous towards those of
moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great,
but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred,
but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one's strength
against the weak. 3.
will not compete for the common objects of ambition, or go where other people take the
first place; and he will be idle and slow to act, except when pursuing some high honor or
achievement; and will not engage in many undertakings, but only in such as are important
and distinguished. 3.
must be open both in love and in hate, since concealment shows timidity; and care more for
the truth than for what people will think; and speak and act openly, since as he despises
other men he is outspoken and frank, except when speaking with ironical
does to common people. 3.
He will be incapable of living at the will of another, unless a friend, since to do so is
slavish, and hence flatterers are always servile, and humble people flatterers. 3.
He is not prone to admiration,
since nothing is great to him. He does not bear a grudge, for it is not a mark of
greatness of soul to recall things against people, especially the wrongs they have done
you, but rather to overlook them. 3.
He is no gossip, for he will not talk either about himself or about
another, as he neither wants to receive compliments nor to hear other people run down
（nor is he lavish of praise either）; and so he is not given to speaking
evil himself, even of his enemies, except when he deliberately intends to give offence.
In troubles that
cannot be avoided or trifling mishaps he will never cry out or ask for help, since to do
so would imply that he took them to heart. 3.
He likes to own beautiful and useless things, rather than useful
things that bring in a return, since the former show his independence more.3.
Other traits generally attributed to the great-souled man are a slow gait, a deep voice,
and a deliberate utterance; to speak in shrill tones and walk fast denotes an excitable
and nervous temperament, which does not belong to one who cares for few things and thinks
Such then being the Great-souled man, the corresponding character on the side of
deficiency is the Small-souled man, and on that of excess the Vain man. These also34
are not thought to be actually vicious,
since they do no harm, but rather mistaken. The small-souled man deprives himself of the good things that he deserves; and his
failure to claim good things makes it seem that he has something bad about him
[and also that he does not know himself],35
for （people argue）, if he deserved any
good, he would try to obtain it. Not that such persons are considered foolish, but rather
too retiring; yet this estimate of them is thought to make them still worse, for men's
ambitions show what they are worth, and if they hold aloof from noble enterprises and
pursuits, and for go the good things of life, presumably they think they are not worthy of
The vain on the other hand are foolish persons, who are deficient in self-knowledge and
expose their defect: they undertake honorable responsibilities of which they are not
worthy, and then are found out. They are ostentatious in dress, manner and so on. They
want people to know how well off they are, and talk about it,36
imagining that this will make them respected.3.
Smallness of Soul is more opposed than Vanity to Greatness of Soul, being both more
prevalent and worse.3.
Greatness of Soul then, as we have said, is concerned with great honors. 4.
It appears however that honor also,37
was said in the first part of this work, has a certain virtue concerned with it, which may
be held to bear the same relation to Greatness of Soul that Liberality bears to
Magnificence. This virtue as well as Liberality is without the element of greatness, but
causes us to be rightly disposed towards moderate and small honors as Liberality does
towards moderate and small amounts of money;
and just as
there is a mean and also excess and deficiency in getting and in giving money, so also it
is possible to pursue honor more or less than is right and also to seek it from the right
source and in the right way.
We blame a man as ambitious
if he seeks honor more than is right, or from wrong sources; we blame him as unambitious
if he does not care about receiving honor even on noble grounds.
But at another time we praise the ambitious man as manly and a lover of
what is noble, or praise the unambitious man as modest and temperate, as we said in the
first part of this work.38
The fact is
that the expression ‘fond of’ so-and-so is ambiguous, and we do not
always apply the word ‘fond of honor’ （ambitious） to
the same thing; when we use it as a term of praise, we mean ‘more fond of honor
than most men,’ but when as a reproach, ‘more than is
right.’ As the observance of the mean has no name, the two extremes dispute as
it were for the unclaimed estate. But where there is excess and deficiency there must also
be a mean.
Now men do seek honor both more and less than is right; it must therefore be possible also to do
so rightly. It is therefore this nameless middle disposition in regard to honor that we
really praise. Compared with ambition it appears unambitiousness, and compared with
unambitiousness it appears ambition: compared with both, it a appears in a sense to be
This seems to be true of the other virtues also;
but in the present case the extremes appear to be opposed only to one another, because the
middle character has no name.5.
Gentleness is the observance of the mean in relation to anger. There is as a matter of
fact no recognized name for the mean in this respect—indeed there can hardly be
said to be names for the extremes either—, so we apply the word Gentleness to
the mean though really it inclines to the side of the defect.
This has no name, but the excess may be called a sort of Irascibility,
for the emotion concerned is anger, though the causes producing it are many and
Now we praise a man who feels anger on the right grounds and against the right persons,
and also in the right manner and at the right moment and for the right length of time. He
may then be called gentle-tempered, if we take gentleness to be a praiseworthy quality
（for ‘gentle’ really denotes a calm temper, not led by
emotion but only becoming angry in such a manner, for such causes and for such a length of
time as principle may ordain;
although the quality is thought
rather to err on the side of defect, since the gentle-tempered man is not prompt to seek
redress for injuries, but rather inclined to forgive them）.
The defect, on the other hand, call it a sort of Lack of Spirit or what not, is blamed;
since those who do not get angry at things at which it is right to be angry are considered
foolish, and so are those who do not get angry in the right manner, at the a right time,
and with the right people.
It is thought that they do not
feel or resent an injury, and that if a man is never angry he will not stand up for him
self; and it is considered servile to put up with an insult to oneself or suffer one's
friends to be insulted.
Excess also is possible in each of these ways, for one can be angry with the wrong
people, for wrong things, or more violently or more quickly or longer than is right; but
not all these excesses of temper are found in the same person. This would be impossible,
since evil destroys even itself, and when present in its entirety becomes unbearable.
There are then first the Irascible, who get angry
quickly and with the wrong people and for the wrong things and too violently, but whose
anger is soon over. This last is the best point in their character, and it is due to the
fact that they do not keep their anger in, but being quick-tempered display it openly by
retaliating, and then have done with it.
quick-tempered are Passionate; they fly into a passion at everything and on all occasions:
hence their name.
The Bitter-tempered on the other hand
are implacable, and remain angry a long time,
because they keep their wrath in; whereas when a man retaliates there is an end of the
matter: the pain of resentment is replaced by the pleasure of obtaining redress, and so
his anger ceases. But if they do not retaliate, men continue to labour under a sense of
resentment—for as their anger is concealed no one else tries to placate them
either, and it takes a long time to digest one's wrath within one. Bitterness is the most
trouble some form of bad temper both to a man himself and to his nearest friends.
Those who lose their temper at the wrong things, and
more and longer than they ought, and who refuse to be reconciled without obtaining redress
or retaliating, we call Harsh-tempered.
We consider the excess to be more opposed to Gentleness than the defect, because it
occurs more frequently, human nature being more prone to seek redress than to forgive; and
because the harsh-tempered are worse to live with than the unduly placable.
But what was said above39
is also clear from what we are now saying; it is not easy to
define in what manner and with whom and on what grounds and how long one ought to be
angry, and up to what point one does right in so doing and where error begins. For he who
transgresses the limit only a little is not held blameworthy, whether he errs on the side
of excess or defect; in fact, we sometimes praise those deficient in anger and call them
gentle-tempered, and we sometimes praise those who are harsh-tempered as manly, and
fitted to command. It is therefore not easy to pronounce on principle what degree and
manner of error is blameworthy, since this is a matter of the particular circumstances,
and judgement rests with the faculty of perception.
thus much at all events is clear, that the middle disposition is praiseworthy, which leads
us to be angry with the right people for the right things in the right manner and so on,
while the various forms of excess and defect are blameworthy—when of slight
extent, but little so, when greater, more, and when extreme, very blameworthy indeed. It
is clear therefore that we should strive to attain the middle disposition.
Let this be our account of the dispositions related to anger.6.
In society and the common life and intercourse of conversation and business, some men are
considered to be Obsequious; these are people who complaisantly approve of everything and
never raise objections, but think it a duty to avoid giving pain to those which whom they
come in contact.
Those on the contrary who object to
everything and do not care in the least what pain they cause, are called Surly or
Now it is clear that the dispositions
described are blameworthy, and that the middle disposition between them is
praiseworthy—that is, the tendency to acquiesce in the right things, and
likewise to disapprove of the right things, in the right manner.
But to this no special name has been assigned, though it very closely resembles friendship40
; for he who exemplifies this middle disposition is the sort of man
we mean by the expression ‘a good friend,’ only that includes an
element of affection.
It differs from friendship in not
possessing the emotional factor of affection for one's associates; since a man of this
character takes everything in the right way not from personal liking or dislike, but from
natural amiability. He will behave with the same propriety towards strangers and
acquaintances alike, towards people with whom he is familiar and those with whom he is
not—though preserving the shades of distinction proper to each class, since it
is not appropriate to show the same regard or disregard for the feelings of friends and of
We have said then in general terms that he will behave in the right manner in society. We
mean that in designing either to give pain or to contribute pleasure he will be guided by
considerations of honor and of expediency.
For he seems
to be concerned with pleasure and pain in social intercourse. He will disapprove of
pleasures in which it is dishonorable or harmful to himself for him to join, preferring to
he will also disapprove of and refuse to acquiesce in a pleasure that brings any
considerable discredit or harm to the agent, if his opposition will not cause much pain.
And he will comport himself differently with men of
high position and with ordinary people, with persons more and less well known to him, and
similarly as regards other distinctions, assigning to each class the proper degree of
deference, and, other things apart, preferring to join in the pleasures of his companions
and being reluctant to give pain; but being guided by the consequences, that is to say,
the effects on his and his friends' credit or interest, if these outweigh the pleasure he
will give by compliance. Also he will give a small amount of pain at the moment for the
sake of a large amount of pleasure in the future.
Such is the middle character, although it has no name. The man who always joins in the
pleasures of his companions, if he sets out to be pleasant for no ulterior motive, is
Obsequious; if he does so for the sake of getting something by it in the shape of money or
money's worth, he is a Flatterer. He that disapproves of everything is, as we said, Surly
or Quarrelsome. As the mean has no name, the extremes appear to be opposite to each
The observance of the mean42
in relation to Boastfulness has to do with almost the same things. It also is without a
name; but it will be as well to discuss these unnamed excellences with the rest, since we
shall the better understand the nature of the moral character if we examine its qualities
one by one; and we shall also confirm our belief that the virtues are modes of observing
the mean, if we notice how this holds good in every instance. Now we have treated of
behavior in Society with relation to giving pleasure and pain. Let us now discuss
truthfulness and falsehood similarly displayed in
word and deed, and in one's personal pretensions.
As generally understood then, the boaster is a man who pretends to creditable qualities
that he does not possess, or possesses in a lesser degree than he makes out,
while conversely the self depreciator disclaims or disparages good
qualities that he does possess;
midway between them is
the straightforward sort of man who is sincere both in behavior and in speech, and admits
the truth about his own qualifications without either exaggeration or understatement.
Each of these things may be done with or without an
ulterior motive; but when a man is acting without ulterior motive, his words, actions, and
conduct always represent a his true character.43
Falsehood is in itself base and reprehensible, and truth
noble and praiseworthy; and similarly the sincere man who stands between the two extremes
is praised, and the insincere of both kinds are blamed, more especially the boaster. Let
us discuss each of the two, beginning with the truthful man.
We are speaking not of truthfulness in business relations, nor in matters where honesty
and dishonesty are concerned （for these matters would come under a different virtue44
）, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
（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.
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,45
proficiency in prophecy, philosophy, or medicine. Because these arts have the two
qualities specified they are the commonest fields of pretence and bragging.
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 also46
mostly disown qualities held in high
esteem, as Socrates used to do.
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,47
for extreme negligence in dress, as well as
excessive attention to it, has a touch of ostentation.
But a moderate use of self-depreciation in matters not too commonplace and obvious has a
not ungraceful air.
The boaster seems to be the opposite of the sincere man, because Boastfulness is worse
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,
certain propriety in the sort of things we say and in our manner of saying them, and also
in the sort of things we allow to be said to us; and it will also concern us whether those
in whose company we speak or to whom we listen conform to the same rules of propriety.
And it is clear that in these matters too it is
possible either to exceed or to fall short of the mean.
Those then who go to excess in ridicule are thought to be buffoons and vulgar fellows,
who itch to have their joke at all costs, and are more concerned to raise a laugh than to
keep within the bounds of decorum and avoid giving pain to the object of their raillery.
Those on the other hand who never by any chance say anything funny themselves and take
offence at those who do, are considered boorish and morose. Those who jest with good taste
are called witty48
or versatile—that is to say, full of good turns; for such sallies seem to spring
from the character, and we judge men's characters, like their bodies, by their movements.
But as matter for ridicule is always ready to hand, and
as most men are only too fond of fun and raillery, even buffoons are called witty and pass
for clever fellows; though it is clear from what has been said that Wit is different, and
widely different, from Buffoonery.
The middle disposition
is further characterized by the quality of tact, the possessor of which will say, and
allow to be said to him, only the sort of things that are suitable to a virtuous man and a
gentleman: since there is a certain propriety in what such a man will say and hear in jest, and the jesting of a gentleman differs
from that of a person of servile nature, as does that of an educated from that of an
The difference may be seen by comparing
the old and the modern comedies; the earlier dramatists found their fun in obscenity, the
moderns prefer innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum.
Can we then define proper raillery by saying that its jests are never
unbecoming to gentlemen, or that it avoids giving pain or indeed actually gives pleasure
to its object? Or is it impossible to define anything so elusive? for tastes differ as to
what is offensive and what amusing.
Whatever rule we lay
down, the same will apply to the things that a man should allow to be said to him, since
we feel that deeds which a man permits to be ascribed to him he would not stop at actually
Hence a man will draw the line at some jokes; for
raillery is a sort of vilification, and some forms of vilification are forbidden by law;
perhaps some forms of raillery ought to be prohibited also.
The cultivated gentleman will therefore regulate his wit, and will be as
it were a law to himself.
Such then is the middle character, whether he be called ‘tactful’ or
‘witty.’ The buffoon is one who cannot resist a joke; he will not keep
his tongue off himself or anyone else, if he can raise a laugh, and will say things
man of refinement would never say, and some of which he would not even allow to be said to
him. The boor is of no use in playful conversation: he contributes nothing and takes
offence at everything;
yet relaxation and amusement seem
to be a necessary element in life.
We have now discussed three modes of observing the mean in our behavior, all of which are
concerned with conversation or with common occupations of some sort. They differ in that
one is concerned with truthfulness and the others with being pleasant. Of the two that
deal with pleasure, one is displayed in our amusements, and the other in the general
intercourse of life.9.
Modesty cannot properly be described as a virtue, for it seems to be a feeling rather
than a disposition;
at least it is defined as a kind of
fear of disrepute, and indeed in its effects it is akin to the fear of danger; for people
who are ashamed blush, while those in fear of their lives turn pale; both therefore appear
to be in a sense bodily affections, and this indicates a feeling rather than a
The feeling of modesty is not suitable to every age, but only to the young. We think it
proper for the young to be modest, because as they live by feeling they often err, and
modesty may keep them in check; and we praise young people when they are modest,
though no one would praise an older man for being
shamefaced, since we think he ought not to do anything of which he need be ashamed.
For indeed the virtuous man does not feel shame, if
shame is the feeling caused by base actions;
ought not to do base actions （the distinction between acts really shameful and
those reputed to be so is immaterial, since one ought not to do either）, and so
one never ought to feel shame.
Shame is a mark of a base
man, and springs from a character capable of doing a shameful act. And it is absurd that,
because a man is of such a nature that he is ashamed if he does a shameful act, he should
therefore think himself virtuous, since actions to cause shame must be voluntary, but a
virtuous man will never voluntarily do a base action.
Modesty can only be virtuous conditionally—in the sense that a good man would
be ashamed if
he were to do so and so; but the virtues are not conditional.
And though shamelessness and not shrinking from shameful actions is base, this does not
prove that to be ashamed when one a does shameful acts is virtuous—
any more than Self-restraint is a virtue, and not rather a mixture
of virtue and vice. But this will be explained later.49
Let us now speak of Justice.