Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Nicomachean Ethics

Previous | Next

Nicomachean Ethics   

what is base and which develops quickly ought to be kept in a
chastened condition, and these characteristics belong above all to
appetite and to the child, since children in fact live at the beck and
call of appetite, and it is in them that the desire for what is
pleasant is strongest. If, then, it is not going to be obedient and
subject to the ruling principle, it will go to great lengths; for in
an irrational being the desire for pleasure is insatiable even if it
tries every source of gratification, and the exercise of appetite
increases its innate force, and if appetites are strong and violent
they even expel the power of calculation. Hence they should be
moderate and few, and should in no way oppose the rational
principle-and this is what we call an obedient and chastened state-and
as the child should live according to the direction of his tutor, so
the appetitive element should live according to rational principle.
Hence the appetitive element in a temperate man should harmonize with
the rational principle; for the noble is the mark at which both aim,
and the temperate man craves for the things be ought, as he ought, as
when he ought; and when he ought; and this is what rational principle
Here we conclude our account of temperance.
Nicomachean Ethics
By Aristotle
Written 350 B.C.E 1
Let us speak next of liberality. It seems to be the mean with regard
to wealth; for the liberal man is praised not in respect of military
matters, nor of those in respect of which the temrate man is praised,
nor of judicial decisions, but with regard to the giving and taking of
wealth, and especially in respect of giving. Now by 'wealth' we mean
all the things whose value is measured by money. Further, prodigality
and meanness are excesses and defects with regard to wealth; and
meanness we always impute to those who care more than they ought for
wealth, but we sometimes apply the word 'prodigality' in a complex
sense; for we call those men prodigals who are incontinent and spend
money on self-indulgence. Hence also they are thought the poorest
characters; for they combine more vices than one. Therefore the
application of the word to them is not its proper use; for a
'prodigal' means a man who has a single evil quality, that of wasting
his substance; since a prodigal is one who is being ruined by his own
fault, and the wasting of substance is thought to be a sort of ruining
of oneself, life being held to depend on possession of substance.
This, then, is the sense in which we take the word 'prodigality'. Now
the things that have a use may be used either well or badly; and
riches is a useful thing; and everything is used best by the man who
has the virtue concerned with it; riches, therefore, will be used best
by the man who has the virtue concerned with wealth; and this is the
liberal man. Now spending and giving seem to be the using of wealth;
taking and keeping rather the possession of it. Hence it is more the
mark of the liberal man to give to the right people than to take from
the right sources and not to take from the wrong. For it is more
characteristic of virtue to do good than to have good done to one, and
more characteristic to do what is noble than not to do what is base;
and it is not hard to see that giving implies doing good and doing
what is noble, and taking implies having good done to one or not
acting basely. And gratitude is felt towards him who gives, not
towards him who does not take, and praise also is bestowed more on
him. It is easier, also, not to take than to give; for men are apter
to give away their own too little than to take what is another's.
Givers, too, are called liberal; but those who do not take are not
praised for liberality but rather for justice; while those who take
are hardly praised at all. And the liberal are almost the most loved
of all virtuous characters, since they are useful; and this depends on
their giving.
Now virtuous actions are noble and done for the sake of the noble.
Therefore the liberal man, like other virtuous men, will give for the

Previous | Next
Site Search