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Questions also arise upon such points as the following: Whether one’s father has an unlimited claim on one’s services and obedience, or whether the sick man is to obey his physician? or, in an election of a general, the warlike qualities of the candidates should be alone regarded?

In like manner whether one should do a service rather to one’s friend or to a good man? whether one should rather requite a benefactor or give to one’s companion, supposing that both are not within one’s power?

1165a] Is not the true answer that it is no easy task to determine all such questions accurately, inasmuch as they involve numerous differences of all kinds, in respect of amount and what is honourable and what is necessary? It is obvious, of course, that no one person can unite in himself all claims. Again, the requital of benefits is, in general, a higher duty than doing unsolicited kindnesses to one’s companion; in other words, the discharging of a debt is more obligatory upon one than the duty of giving to a companion. And yet this rule may admit of exceptions; for instance, which is the higher duty? for one who has been ransomed out of the hands of robbers to ransom in return his ransomer, be he who he may, or to repay him on his demand though he has not been taken by robbers, or to ransom his own father? for it would seem that a man ought to ransom his father even in preference to himself.

Well then, as has been said already, as a general rule the debt should be discharged, but if in a particular case the giving greatly preponderates as being either honourable or necessary, we must be swayed by these considerations: I mean, in some cases the requital of the obligation previously existing may not be equal; suppose, for instance, that the original benefactor has conferred a kindness on a good man, knowing him to be such, whereas this said good man has to repay it believing him to be a scoundrel.

And again, in certain cases no obligation lies on a man to lend to one who has lent to him; suppose, for instance, that a bad man lent to him, as being a good man, under the notion that he should get repaid, whereas the said good man has no hope of repayment from him being a bad man. Either then the case is really as we have supposed it and then the claim is not equal, or it is not so but supposed to be; and still in so acting people are not to be thought to act wrongly. In short, as has been oftentimes stated before, all statements regarding feelings and actions can be definite only in proportion as their object-matter is so; it is of course quite obvious that all people have not the same claim upon one, nor are the claims of one’s father unlimited; just as Jupiter does not claim all kinds of sacrifice without distinction: and since the claims of parents, brothers, companions, and benefactors, are all different, we must give to each what belongs to and befits each.

And this is seen to be the course commonly pursued: to marriages men commonly invite their relatives, because these are from a common stock and therefore all the actions in any way pertaining thereto are common also: and to funerals men think that relatives ought to assemble in preference to other people, for the same reason.

And it would seem that in respect of maintenance it is our duty to assist our parents in preference to all others, as being their debtors, and because it is more honourable to succour in these respects the authors of our existence than ourselves. Honour likewise we ought to pay to our parents just as to the gods, but then, not all kinds of honour: not the same, for instance, to a father as to a mother: nor again to a father the honour due to a scientific man or to a general but that which is a father’s due, and in like manner to a mother that which is a mother’s.

To all our elders also the honour befitting their age, by rising up in their presence, turning out of the way for them, and all similar marks of respect: to our companions again, or brothers, frankness and free participation in all we have. And to those of the same family, or tribe, or city, with ourselves, and all similarly connected with us, we should constantly try to render their due, and to discriminate what belongs to each in respect of nearness of connection, or goodness, or intimacy: of course in the case of those of the same class the discrimination is easier; in that of those who are in different classes it is a matter of more trouble. This, however, should not be a reason for giving up the attempt, but we must observe the distinctions so far as it is practicable to do so.


A question is also raised as to the propriety of dissolving or not dissolving those Friendships the parties to which do not remain what they were when the connection was formed.

1165b] Now surely in respect of those whose motive to Friendship is utility or pleasure there can be nothing wrong in breaking up the connection when they no longer have those qualities; because they were friends [not of one another, but] of those qualities: and, these having failed, it is only reasonable to expect that they should cease to entertain the sentiment.

But a man has reason to find fault if the other party, being really attached to him because of advantage or pleasure, pretended to be so because of his moral character: in fact, as we said at the commencement, the most common source of quarrels between friends is their not being friends on the same grounds as they suppose themselves to be.

Now when a man has been deceived in having supposed himself to excite the sentiment of Friendship by reason of his moral character, the other party doing nothing to indicate he has but himself to blame: but when he has been deceived by the pretence of the other he has a right to find fault with the man who has so deceived him, aye even more than with utterers of false coin, in proportion to the greater preciousness of that which is the object-matter of the villany.

But suppose a man takes up another as being a good man, who turns out, and is found by him, to be a scoundrel, is he bound still to entertain Friendship for him? or may we not say at once it is impossible? since it is not everything which is the object-matter of Friendship, but only that which is good; and so there is no obligation to be a bad man’s friend, nor, in fact, ought one to be such: for one ought not to be a lover of evil, nor to be assimilated to what is base; which would be implied, because we have said before, like is friendly to like.

Are we then to break with him instantly? not in all cases; only where our friends are incurably depraved; when there is a chance of amendment we are bound to aid in repairing the moral character of our friends even more than their substance, in proportion as it is better and more closely related to Friendship. Still he who should break off the connection is not to be judged to act wrongly, for he never was a friend to such a character as the other now is, and therefore, since the man is changed and he cannot reduce him to his original state, he backs out of the connection.

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