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Nicomachean Ethics   


for we include spending under giving. Now prodigality exceeds in
giving and not taking, while meanness falls short in giving, and
exceeds in taking, except in small things.
The characteristics of prodigality are not often combined; for it is
not easy to give to all if you take from none; private persons soon
exhaust their substance with giving, and it is to these that the name
of prodigals is applied- though a man of this sort would seem to be in
no small degree better than a mean man. For he is easily cured both by
age and by poverty, and thus he may move towards the middle state. For
he has the characteristics of the liberal man, since he both gives and
refrains from taking, though he does neither of these in the right
manner or well. Therefore if he were brought to do so by habituation
or in some other way, he would be liberal; for he will then give to
the right people, and will not take from the wrong sources. This is
why he is thought to have not a bad character; it is not the mark of a
wicked or ignoble man to go to excess in giving and not taking, but
only of a foolish one. The man who is prodigal in this way is thought
much better than the mean man both for the aforesaid reasons and
because he benefits many while the other benefits no one, not even
himself.
But most prodigal people, as has been said, also take from the wrong
sources, and are in this respect mean. They become apt to take because
they wish to spend and cannot do this easily; for their possessions
soon run short. Thus they are forced to provide means from some other
source. At the same time, because they care nothing for honour, they
take recklessly and from any source; for they have an appetite for
giving, and they do not mind how or from what source. Hence also their
giving is not liberal; for it is not noble, nor does it aim at
nobility, nor is it done in the right way; sometimes they make rich
those who should be poor, and will give nothing to people of
respectable character, and much to flatterers or those who provide
them with some other pleasure. Hence also most of them are
self-indulgent; for they spend lightly and waste money on their
indulgences, and incline towards pleasures because they do not live
with a view to what is noble.
The prodigal man, then, turns into what we have described if he is
left untutored, but if he is treated with care he will arrive at the
intermediate and right state. But meanness is both incurable (for old
age and every disability is thought to make men mean) and more innate
in men than prodigality; for most men are fonder of getting money than
of giving. It also extends widely, and is multiform, since there seem
to be many kinds of meanness.
For it consists in two things, deficiency in giving and excess in
taking, and is not found complete in all men but is sometimes divided;
some men go to excess in taking, others fall short in giving. Those
who are called by such names as 'miserly', 'close', 'stingy', all fall
short in giving, but do not covet the possessions of others nor wish
to get them. In some this is due to a sort of honesty and avoidance of
what is disgraceful (for some seem, or at least profess, to hoard
their money for this reason, that they may not some day be forced to
do something disgraceful; to this class belong the cheeseparer and
every one of the sort; he is so called from his excess of
unwillingness to give anything); while others again keep their hands
off the property of others from fear, on the ground that it is not
easy, if one takes the property of others oneself, to avoid having
one's own taken by them; they are therefore content neither to take
nor to give.
Others again exceed in respect of taking by taking anything and from
any source, e.g. those who ply sordid trades, pimps and all such
people, and those who lend small sums and at high rates. For all of
these take more than they ought and from wrong sources. What is common
to them is evidently sordid love of gain; they all put up with a bad
name for the sake of gain, and little gain at that. For those who make
great gains but from wrong sources, and not the right gains, e.g.

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