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Nicomachean Ethics   


sake of the noble, and rightly; for he will give to the right people,
the right amounts, and at the right time, with all the other
qualifications that accompany right giving; and that too with pleasure
or without pain; for that which is virtuous is pleasant or free from
pain-least of all will it be painful. But he who gives to the wrong
people or not for the sake of the noble but for some other cause, will
be called not liberal but by some other name. Nor is he liberal who
gives with pain; for he would prefer the wealth to the noble act, and
this is not characteristic of a liberal man. But no more will the
liberal man take from wrong sources; for such taking is not
characteristic of the man who sets no store by wealth. Nor will he be
a ready asker; for it is not characteristic of a man who confers
benefits to accept them lightly. But he will take from the right
sources, e.g. from his own possessions, not as something noble but as
a necessity, that he may have something to give. Nor will he neglect
his own property, since he wishes by means of this to help others. And
he will refrain from giving to anybody and everybody, that he may have
something to give to the right people, at the right time, and where it
is noble to do so. It is highly characteristic of a liberal man also
to go to excess in giving, so that he leaves too little for himself;
for it is the nature of a liberal man not to look to himself. The term
'liberality' is used relatively to a man's substance; for liberality
resides not in the multitude of the gifts but in the state of
character of the giver, and this is relative to the giver's substance.
There is therefore nothing to prevent the man who gives less from
being the more liberal man, if he has less to give those are thought
to be more liberal who have not made their wealth but inherited it;
for in the first place they have no experience of want, and secondly
all men are fonder of their own productions, as are parents and poets.
It is not easy for the liberal man to be rich, since he is not apt
either at taking or at keeping, but at giving away, and does not value
wealth for its own sake but as a means to giving. Hence comes the
charge that is brought against fortune, that those who deserve riches
most get it least. But it is not unreasonable that it should turn out
so; for he cannot have wealth, any more than anything else, if he does
not take pains to have it. Yet he will not give to the wrong people
nor at the wrong time, and so on; for he would no longer be acting in
accordance with liberality, and if he spent on these objects he would
have nothing to spend on the right objects. For, as has been said, he
is liberal who spends according to his substance and on the right
objects; and he who exceeds is prodigal. Hence we do not call despots
prodigal; for it is thought not easy for them to give and spend beyond
the amount of their possessions. Liberality, then, being a mean with
regard to giving and taking of wealth, the liberal man will both give
and spend the right amounts and on the right objects, alike in small
things and in great, and that with pleasure; he will also take the
right amounts and from the right sources. For, the virtue being a mean
with regard to both, he will do both as he ought; since this sort of
taking accompanies proper giving, and that which is not of this sort
is contrary to it, and accordingly the giving and taking that
accompany each other are present together in the same man, while the
contrary kinds evidently are not. But if he happens to spend in a
manner contrary to what is right and noble, he will be pained, but
moderately and as he ought; for it is the mark of virtue both to be
pleased and to be pained at the right objects and in the right way.
Further, the liberal man is easy to deal with in money matters; for he
can be got the better of, since he sets no store by money, and is more
annoyed if he has not spent something that he ought than pained if he
has spent something that he ought not, and does not agree with the
saying of Simonides.
The prodigal errs in these respects also; for he is neither pleased
nor pained at the right things or in the right way; this will be more
evident as we go on. We have said that prodigality and meanness are
excesses and deficiencies, and in two things, in giving and in taking;

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