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The name of this vice (which signifies etymologically unchastened-ness) we apply also to the faults of children, there being a certain resemblance between the cases: to which the name is primarily applied, and to which secondarily or derivatively, is not relevant to the present subject, but it is evident that the later in point of time must get the name from the earlier. And the metaphor seems to be a very good one; for whatever grasps after base things, and is liable to great increase, ought to be chastened; and to this description desire and the child answer most truly, in that children also live under the direction of desire and the grasping after what is pleasant is most prominently seen in these.
Unless then the appetite be obedient and subjected to the governing principle it will become very great: for in the fool the grasping after what is pleasant is insatiable and undiscriminating; and every acting out of the desire increases the kindred habit, and if the desires are great and violent in degree they even expel Reason entirely; therefore they ought to be moderate and few, and in no respect to be opposed to Reason. Now when the appetite is in such a state we denominate it obedient and chastened.
In short, as the child ought to live with constant regard to the orders of its educator, so should the appetitive principle with regard to those of Reason.
So then in the man of Perfected Self-Mastery, the appetitive principle must be accordant with Reason: for what is right is the mark at which both principles aim: that is to say, the man of perfected self-mastery desires what he ought in right manner and at right times, which is exactly what Reason directs. Let this be taken for our account of Perfected Self-Mastery.
We will next speak of Liberality. Now this is thought to be the mean state, having for its object-matter Wealth: I mean, the Liberal man is praised not in the circumstances of war, nor in those which constitute the character of perfected self-mastery, nor again in judicial decisions, but in respect of giving and receiving Wealth, chiefly the former. By the term Wealth I mean “all those things whose worth is measured by money.”
Now the states of excess and defect in regard of Wealth are respectively Prodigality and Stinginess: the latter of these terms we attach invariably to those who are over careful about Wealth, but the former we apply sometimes with a complex notion; that is to say, we give the name to those who fail of self-control and spend money on the unrestrained gratification of their passions; and this is why they are thought to be most base, because they have many vices at once.
It must be noted, however, that this is not a strict and proper use of the term, since its natural etymological meaning is to denote him who has one particular evil, viz. the wasting his substance: he is unsaved (as the term literally denotes) who is wasting away by his own fault; and this he really may be said to be; the destruction of his substance is thought to be a kind of wasting of himself, since these things are the means of living. Well, this is our acceptation of the term Prodigality.
Again. Whatever things are for use may be used well or ill, and Wealth belongs to this class. He uses each particular thing best who has the virtue to whose province it belongs: so that he will use Wealth best who has the virtue respecting Wealth, that is to say, the Liberal man. Expenditure and giving are thought to be the using of money, but receiving and keeping one would rather call the possessing of it. And so the giving to proper persons is more characteristic of the Liberal man, than the receiving from proper quarters and forbearing to receive from the contrary. In fact generally, doing well by others is more characteristic of virtue than being done well by, and doing things positively honourable than forbearing to do things dishonourable; and any one may see that the doing well by others and doing things positively honourable attaches to the act of giving, but to that of receiving only the being done well by or forbearing to do what is dishonourable.
Besides, thanks are given to him who gives, not to him who merely forbears to receive, and praise even more. Again, forbearing to receive is easier than giving, the case of being too little freehanded with one’s own being commoner than taking that which is not one’s own.
And again, it is they who give that are denominated Liberal, while they who forbear to receive are commended, not on the score of Liberality but of just dealing, while for receiving men are not, in fact, praised at all.
And the Liberal are liked almost best of all virtuous characters, because they are profitable to others, and this their profitableness consists in their giving.
Furthermore: all the actions done in accordance with virtue are honourable, and done from the motive of honour: and the Liberal man, therefore, will give from a motive of honour, and will give rightly; I mean, to proper persons, in right proportion, at right times, and whatever is included in the term “right giving:” and this too with positive pleasure, or at least without pain, since whatever is done in accordance with virtue is pleasant or at least not unpleasant, most certainly not attended with positive pain.
But the man who gives to improper people, or not from a motive of honour but from some other cause, shall be called not Liberal but something else. Neither shall he be so [Sidenote:1120b] denominated who does it with pain: this being a sign that he would prefer his wealth to the honourable action, and this is no part of the Liberal man’s character; neither will such an one receive from improper sources, because the so receiving is not characteristic of one who values not wealth: nor again will he be apt to ask, because one who does kindnesses to others does not usually receive them willingly; but from proper sources (his own property, for instance) he will receive, doing this not as honourable but as necessary, that he may have somewhat to give: neither will he be careless of his own, since it is his wish through these to help others in need: nor will he give to chance people, that he may have wherewith to give to those to whom he ought, at right times, and on occasions when it is honourable so to do.
Again, it is a trait in the Liberal man’s character even to exceed very much in giving so as to leave too little for himself, it being characteristic of such an one not to have a thought of self.
Now Liberality is a term of relation to a man’s means, for the Liberal-ness depends not on the amount of what is given but on the moral state of the giver which gives in proportion to his means. There is then no reason why he should not be the more Liberal man who gives the less amount, if he has less to give out of.