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[Aristotle,_Roger_Crisp]_Nicomachean_Ethics_(Cambr(BookFi)

1123a

1123a Nicomachean Ethics The magni®cent person will spend such amounts for the sake of what is noble, since this is a feature common to the virtues. Again, he will do it with pleasure and lavishly, because precise counting of the cost is niggardly; and he will think more about how he might achieve the most noble and ®tting result than about the cost or the cheapest way to produce it. The magni®cent person, then, must also be generous, since the generous person too will spend the right amount in the right way. But it is in meeting these criteria that we see the greatness, the largeness of scale, of the magni®cent person, these being the things with which generosity is concerned, and he will produce a more magni®cent result even at the same expense. For the virtue of a possession is not the same as that of an achieved result; the most honourable possession is that which is worth most, such as gold, while the most honourable result is that which is great and noble, because the contemplation of such a thing excites admiration, and what is magni®cent excites admiration. Virtue in an achieved result on a large scale ± that is magni®cence. Magni®cence is found among the sorts of expenditure we call honourable, such as those connected with the gods ± votive offerings, temples, and sacri®ces ± and similarly those concerning religion as a whole; and all those that are appropriate objects of public-spirited ambition, such as when people somewhere decide that a splendid chorus or warship or feast for the city must be provided. But in all cases, as we have said, the expenditure is to be seen as relative to the identity and resources of the agent; the amounts should be worthy of these, and ®tting not only for the result but also for the person bringing it about. So a poor person could not be magni®cent, because he does not have resources from which he can spend large sums in a ®tting way; and anyone who tries is a fool, since he spends beyond what is worthy of him and what is right, whereas correct expenditure is that which is in accordance with virtue. Great expenditure is appropriate to those who have the resources, either through their own efforts, or those of their ancestors or connections, and to those of high birth, high reputation, and so on; for all these involve greatness and distinction. In particular, then, the magni®cent person is like this, and magni®cence is shown in expenditures of this kind, as we have said, for these are the greatest and most honoured. But it is seen also on those private occasions that happen only once, at 66

Book IV weddings and suchlike; and on those that might excite the whole city or those in high places ± arrangements for receiving and sending off foreign guests, for gifts and reciprocal gifts. For the magni®cent person spends not on himself but on the community, and his gifts are rather like votive offerings. It is also typical of the magni®cent person to furnish his house in a way appropriate to his wealth (even this is a sort of ornament), and to spend more on those results that will last for a long time (because they are the noblest), and in each case to spend what is ®tting: what be®ts the gods is not the same as what be®ts human beings, what be®ts a temple not the same as what be®ts a tomb. And since each expenditure will be great relative to its kind; and the expenditure most magni®cent without quali®cation is when it is great and for a great object, and in a given case that which is great for that kind of case; and greatness in the result is different from that in the expense (for a very noble ball or oil-¯ask is magni®cent as a gift for a child, though its cost is small and petty); since these things are so, it is characteristic of the magni®cent person, whatever kind of thing he is producing, to do it in a magni®cent way (because a result like this will not easily be surpassed) and so that it is worthy of the expenditure. Such, then, is the magni®cent person. The person who goes to excess and is vulgar, as we have said, exceeds by spending more than he should. For in small matters, he spends a great deal and puts on an unharmonious display, feasting the members of his dining-club, for example, as if they were at a wedding; or, when funding the chorus for a comedy, bringing them onto the stage in purple, as they do at Megara. And all such things he will do, not for the sake of what is noble, but to show off his wealth and because he thinks it will win him admiration. Where he ought to spend much, he spends little, and where little, much. The niggardly person, however, will be de®cient in everything, and having spent the greatest sums will ruin something noble to save a tiny amount. In whatever he does, he is hesitant and considers how he may keep the cost as low as possible; he complains even about this, and thinks he is doing everything on a grander scale than is required. These states are vices, but they do not bring opprobrium, because they are neither harmful to one's neighbours nor particularly offensive. 67

(Hackett Classics) Aristotle, C. D. C. Reeve (Trans.)-Nicomachean Ethics-Hackett Publishing (2014)
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