Benefactors seem to love those whom they benefit more than those who have received
benefits love those who have conferred them; and it is asked why this is so, as it seems
to be unreasonable. The view most generally taken is that it is because the one party is in the position of a debtor and the other of a
creditor; just as therefore in the case of a loan, whereas the borrower would be glad to
have his creditor out of the way, the lender actually watches over his debtor's safety, so
it is thought that the conferrer of a benefit wishes the recipient to live in order that
he may receive a return, but the recipient is not particularly anxious to make a return.
Epicharmus no doubt would say that people who give this explanation are ‘looking
at the seamy side’1
of life; but all the same it appears to be not untrue to
human nature, for most men have short memories, and are more desirous of receiving
benefits than of bestowing them.
But it might be held that the real reason lies deeper,2
and that the case of the creditor is not really a parallel. With him
it is not a matter of affection, but only of wishing his debtor's preservation for the
sake of recovering his money; whereas a benefactor feels friendship and affection for the
recipient of his bounty even though he is not getting anything out of him and is never
likely to do so.
The same thing happens with the artist: every artist loves his own handiwork more than
that handiwork if it were to come to life would love him. This is perhaps especially true
of poets, who have an exaggerated affection for their own poems and love them as parents
love their children.
The position of the benefactor then
resembles that of the artist; the recipient of his bounty is his handiwork, and he
therefore loves him more than his handiwork loves its maker. The reason of this is that
all things desire and love existence; but we exist in activity, since we exist by living
and doing; and in a sense3
one who has made something exists actively, and so he loves
his handiwork because he loves existence. This is in fact a fundamental principle of
nature: what a thing is potentially, that its work reveals in actuality.
Moreover for the benefactor there is an element of nobility in the act, and so he feels
pleased with the person who is its object; but there is nothing noble for the recipient of
the benefit in his relation to his benefactor: at most, it is profitable; and what is
profitable is not so pleasant or lovable as what is noble.
The doer's achievement therefore remains, for nobility or beauty is long-lived, but its
utility to the recipient passes away.4
But while the actuality of the present, the hope of
the future, and the memory of the past are all pleasant, actuality is the most pleasant of
the three, and the most loved. Also whereas the memory of noble things is pleasant, that
of useful ones is hardly at all so, or at least less so; although with anticipation the
reverse seems to be the case.
Again, loving seems to be an active experience,
being loved a passive one; hence affection and the various forms of friendly feeling are
naturally found in the more active party to the relationship.
Again, everybody loves a thing more if it has cost him trouble: for instance those who
have made money love money more than those who have inherited it. Now to receive a benefit
seems to involve no labor, but to confer one is an effort. （This is why mothers
love their children more than fathers, because parenthood costs the mother more trouble
[and the mother is more certain that the child is her own].5
） This also then would seem to be a characteristic of benefactors.