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Nicomachean Ethics   


Therefore if we can we should return the equivalent of what we have
received (for we must not make a man our friend against his will; we
must recognize that we were mistaken at the first and took a benefit
from a person we should not have taken it from-since it was not from a
friend, nor from one who did it just for the sake of acting so-and we
must settle up just as if we had been benefited on fixed terms).
Indeed, one would agree to repay if one could (if one could not, even
the giver would not have expected one to do so); therefore if it is
possible we must repay. But at the outset we must consider the man by
whom we are being benefited and on what terms he is acting, in order
that we may accept the benefit on these terms, or else decline it.
It is disputable whether we ought to measure a service by its utility
to the receiver and make the return with a view to that, or by the
benevolence of the giver. For those who have received say they have
received from their benefactors what meant little to the latter and
what they might have got from others-minimizing the service; while the
givers, on the contrary, say it was the biggest thing they had, and
what could not have been got from others, and that it was given in
times of danger or similar need. Now if the friendship is one that
aims at utility, surely the advantage to the receiver is the measure.
For it is he that asks for the service, and the other man helps him on
the assumption that he will receive the equivalent; so the assistance
has been precisely as great as the advantage to the receiver, and
therefore he must return as much as he has received, or even more (for
that would be nobler). In friendships based on virtue on the other
hand, complaints do not arise, but the purpose of the doer is a sort
of measure; for in purpose lies the essential element of virtue and
character.
14
Differences arise also in friendships based on superiority; for each
expects to get more out of them, but when this happens the friendship
is dissolved. Not only does the better man think he ought to get more,
since more should be assigned to a good man, but the more useful
similarly expects this; they say a useless man should not get as much
as they should, since it becomes an act of public service and not a
friendship if the proceeds of the friendship do not answer to the
worth of the benefits conferred. For they think that, as in a
commercial partnership those who put more in get more out, so it
should be in friendship. But the man who is in a state of need and
inferiority makes the opposite claim; they think it is the part of a
good friend to help those who are in need; what, they say, is the use
of being the friend of a good man or a powerful man, if one is to get
nothing out of it?
At all events it seems that each party is justified in his claim, and
that each should get more out of the friendship than the other-not
more of the same thing, however, but the superior more honour and the
inferior more gain; for honour is the prize of virtue and of
beneficence, while gain is the assistance required by inferiority.
It seems to be so in constitutional arrangements also; the man who
contributes nothing good to the common stock is not honoured; for what
belongs to the public is given to the man who benefits the public, and
honour does belong to the public. It is not possible to get wealth
from the common stock and at the same time honour. For no one puts up
with the smaller share in all things; therefore to the man who loses
in wealth they assign honour and to the man who is willing to be paid,
wealth, since the proportion to merit equalizes the parties and
preserves the friendship, as we have said. This then is also the way
in which we should associate with unequals; the man who is benefited
in respect of wealth or virtue must give honour in return, repaying
what he can. For friendship asks a man to do what he can, not what is
proportional to the merits of the case; since that cannot always be
done, e.g. in honours paid to the gods or to parents; for no one could
ever return to them the equivalent of what he gets, but the man who
serves them to the utmost of his power is thought to be a good man.

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