Nicomachean Ethics

by Aristotle
translated by W. D. Ross
From: http://graduate.gradsch.uga.edu/archive/Aristotle/nicethic.txt.TXT
 
Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Book VI Book VII Book VIII Book IX Book X

BOOK IV

1

LET us speak next of liberality. It seems to be the mean with regard
to wealth; for the liberal man is praised not in respect of military
matters, nor of those in respect of which the temrate man is
praised, nor of judicial decisions, but with regard to the giving
and taking of wealth, and especially in respect of giving. Now by
'wealth' we mean all the things whose value is measured by money.
Further, prodigality and meanness are excesses and defects with regard
to wealth; and meanness we always impute to those who care more than
they ought for wealth, but we sometimes apply the word 'prodigality'
in a complex sense; for we call those men prodigals who are
incontinent and spend money on self-indulgence. Hence also they are
thought the poorest characters; for they combine more vices than
one. Therefore the application of the word to them is not its proper
use; for a 'prodigal' means a man who has a single evil quality,
that of wasting his substance; since a prodigal is one who is being
ruined by his own fault, and the wasting of substance is thought to be
a sort of ruining of oneself, life being held to depend on
possession of substance.
This, then, is the sense in which we take the word 'prodigality'.
Now the things that have a use may be used either well or badly; and
riches is a useful thing; and everything is used best by the man who
has the virtue concerned with it; riches, therefore, will be used best
by the man who has the virtue concerned with wealth; and this is the
liberal man. Now spending and giving seem to be the using of wealth;
taking and keeping rather the possession of it. Hence it is more the
mark of the liberal man to give to the right people than to take
from the right sources and not to take from the wrong. For it is
more characteristic of virtue to do good than to have good done to
one, and more characteristic to do what is noble than not to do what
is base; and it is not hard to see that giving implies doing good
and doing what is noble, and taking implies having good done to one or
not acting basely. And gratitude is felt towards him who gives, not
towards him who does not take, and praise also is bestowed more on
him. It is easier, also, not to take than to give; for men are apter
to give away their own too little than to take what is another's.
Givers, too, are called liberal; but those who do not take are not
praised for liberality but rather for justice; while those who take
are hardly praised at all. And the liberal are almost the most loved
of all virtuous characters, since they are useful; and this depends on
their giving.
Now virtuous actions are noble and done for the sake of the noble.
Therefore the liberal man, like other virtuous men, will give for
the sake of the noble, and rightly; for he will give to the right
people, the right amounts, and at the right time, with all the other
qualifications that accompany right giving; and that too with pleasure
or without pain; for that which is virtuous is pleasant or free from
pain-least of all will it be painful. But he who gives to the wrong
people or not for the sake of the noble but for some other cause, will
be called not liberal but by some other name. Nor is he liberal who
gives with pain; for he would prefer the wealth to the noble act,
and this is not characteristic of a liberal man. But no more will
the liberal man take from wrong sources; for such taking is not
characteristic of the man who sets no store by wealth. Nor will he
be a ready asker; for it is not characteristic of a man who confers
benefits to accept them lightly. But he will take from the right
sources, e.g. from his own possessions, not as something noble but
as a necessity, that he may have something to give. Nor will he
neglect his own property, since he wishes by means of this to help
others. And he will refrain from giving to anybody and everybody, that
he may have something to give to the right people, at the right
time, and where it is noble to do so. It is highly characteristic of a
liberal man also to go to excess in giving, so that he leaves too
little for himself; for it is the nature of a liberal man not to
look to himself. The term 'liberality' is used relatively to a man's
substance; for liberality resides not in the multitude of the gifts
but in the state of character of the giver, and this is relative to
the giver's substance. There is therefore nothing to prevent the man
who gives less from being the more liberal man, if he has less to give
those are thought to be more liberal who have not made their wealth
but inherited it; for in the first place they have no experience of
want, and secondly all men are fonder of their own productions, as are
parents and poets. It is not easy for the liberal man to be rich,
since he is not apt either at taking or at keeping, but at giving
away, and does not value wealth for its own sake but as a means to
giving. Hence comes the charge that is brought against fortune, that
those who deserve riches most get it least. But it is not unreasonable
that it should turn out so; for he cannot have wealth, any more than
anything else, if he does not take pains to have it. Yet he will not
give to the wrong people nor at the wrong time, and so on; for he
would no longer be acting in accordance with liberality, and if he
spent on these objects he would have nothing to spend on the right
objects. For, as has been said, he is liberal who spends according
to his substance and on the right objects; and he who exceeds is
prodigal. Hence we do not call despots prodigal; for it is thought not
easy for them to give and spend beyond the amount of their
possessions. Liberality, then, being a mean with regard to giving
and taking of wealth, the liberal man will both give and spend the
right amounts and on the right objects, alike in small things and in
great, and that with pleasure; he will also take the right amounts and
from the right sources. For, the virtue being a mean with regard to
both, he will do both as he ought; since this sort of taking
accompanies proper giving, and that which is not of this sort is
contrary to it, and accordingly the giving and taking that accompany
each other are present together in the same man, while the contrary
kinds evidently are not. But if he happens to spend in a manner
contrary to what is right and noble, he will be pained, but moderately
and as he ought; for it is the mark of virtue both to be pleased and
to be pained at the right objects and in the right way. Further, the
liberal man is easy to deal with in money matters; for he can be got
the better of, since he sets no store by money, and is more annoyed if
he has not spent something that he ought than pained if he has spent
something that he ought not, and does not agree with the saying of
Simonides.
The prodigal errs in these respects also; for he is neither
pleased nor pained at the right things or in the right way; this
will be more evident as we go on. We have said that prodigality and
meanness are excesses and deficiencies, and in two things, in giving
and in taking; 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.
despots when they sack cities and spoil temples, we do not call mean
but rather wicked, impious, and unjust. But the gamester and the
footpad (and the highwayman) belong to the class of the mean, since
they have a sordid love of gain. For it is for gain that both of
them ply their craft and endure the disgrace of it, and the one
faces the greatest dangers for the sake of the booty, while the
other makes gain from his friends, to whom he ought to be giving.
Both, then, since they are willing to make gain from wrong sources,
are sordid lovers of gain; therefore all such forms of taking are
mean.
And it is natural that meanness is described as the contrary of
liberality; for not only is it a greater evil than prodigality, but
men err more often in this direction than in the way of prodigality as
we have described it.
So much, then, for liberality and the opposed vices.

2

It would seem proper to discuss magnificence next. For this also
seems to be a virtue concerned with wealth; but it does not like
liberality extend to all the actions that are concerned with wealth,
but only to those that involve expenditure; and in these it
surpasses liberality in scale. For, as the name itself suggests, it is
a fitting expenditure involving largeness of scale. But the scale is
relative; for the expense of equipping a trireme is not the same as
that of heading a sacred embassy. It is what is fitting, then, in
relation to the agent, and to the circumstances and the object. The
man who in small or middling things spends according to the merits
of the case is not called magnificent (e.g. the man who can say
'many a gift I gave the wanderer'), but only the man who does so in
great things. For the magnificent man is liberal, but the liberal
man is not necessarily magnificent. The deficiency of this state of
character is called niggardliness, the excess vulgarity, lack of
taste, and the like, which do not go to excess in the amount spent
on right objects, but by showy expenditure in the wrong
circumstances and the wrong manner; we shall speak of these vices
later.
The magnificent man is like an artist; for he can see what is
fitting and spend large sums tastefully. For, as we said at the
begining, a state of character is determined by its activities and
by its objects. Now the expenses of the magnificent man are large
and fitting. Such, therefore, are also his results; for thus there
will be a great expenditure and one that is fitting to its result.
Therefore the result should be worthy of the expense, and the
expense should be worthy of the result, or should even exceed it.
And the magnificent man will spend such sums for honour's sake; for
this is common to the virtues. And further he will do so gladly and
lavishly; for nice calculation is a niggardly thing. And he will
consider how the result can be made most beautiful and most becoming
rather than for how much it can be produced and how it can be produced
most cheaply. It is necessary, then, that the magnificent man be
also liberal. For the liberal man also will spend what he ought and as
he ought; and it is in these matters that the greatness implied in the
name of the magnificent man-his bigness, as it were-is manifested,
since liberality is concerned with these matters; and at an equal
expense he will produce a more magnificent work of art. For a
possession and a work of art have not the same excellence. The most
valuable possession is that which is worth most, e.g. gold, but the
most valuable work of art is that which is great and beautiful (for
the contemplation of such a work inspires admiration, and so does
magnificence); and a work has an excellence-viz. magnificence-which
involves magnitude. Magnificence is an attribute of expenditures of
the kind which we call honourable, e.g. those connected with the
gods-votive offerings, buildings, and sacrifices-and similarly with
any form of religious worship, and all those that are proper objects
of public-spirited ambition, as when people think they ought to
equip a chorus or a trireme, or entertain the city, in a brilliant
way. But in all cases, as has been said, we have regard to the agent
as well and ask who he is and what means he has; for the expenditure
should be worthy of his means, and suit not only the result but also
the producer. Hence a poor man cannot be magnificent, since he has not
the means with which to spend large sums fittingly; and he who tries
is a fool, since he spends beyond what can be expected of him and what
is proper, but it is right expenditure that is virtuous. But great
expenditure is becoming to those who have suitable means to start
with, acquired by their own efforts or from ancestors or connexions,
and to people of high birth or reputation, and so on; for all these
things bring with them greatness and prestige. Primarily, then, the
magnificent man is of this sort, and magnificence is shown in
expenditures of this sort, as has been said; for these are the
greatest and most honourable. Of private occasions of expenditure
the most suitable are those that take place once for all, e.g. a
wedding or anything of the kind, or anything that interests the
whole city or the people of position in it, and also the receiving
of foreign guests and the sending of them on their way, and gifts
and counter-gifts; for the magnificent man spends not on himself but
on public objects, and gifts bear some resemblance to votive
offerings. A magnificent man will also furnish his house suitably to
his wealth (for even a house is a sort of public ornament), and will
spend by preference on those works that are lasting (for these are the
most beautiful), and on every class of things he will spend what is
becoming; for the same things are not suitable for gods and for men,
nor in a temple and in a tomb. And since each expenditure may be great
of its kind, and what is most magnificent absolutely is great
expenditure on a great object, but what is magnificent here is what is
great in these circumstances, and greatness in the work differs from
greatness in the expense (for the most beautiful ball or bottle is
magnificent as a gift to a child, but the price of it is small and
mean),-therefore it is characteristic of the magnificent man, whatever
kind of result he is producing, to produce it magnificently (for
such a result is not easily surpassed) and to make it worthy of the
expenditure.
Such, then, is the magnificent man; the man who goes to excess and
is vulgar exceeds, as has been said, by spending beyond what is right.
For on small objects of expenditure he spends much and displays a
tasteless showiness; e.g. he gives a club dinner on the scale of a
wedding banquet, and when he provides the chorus for a comedy he
brings them on to the stage in purple, as they do at Megara. And all
such things he will do not for honour's sake but to show off his
wealth, and because he thinks he is admired for these things, and
where he ought to spend much he spends little and where little,
much. The niggardly man on the other hand will fall short in
everything, and after spending the greatest sums will spoil the beauty
of the result for a trifle, and whatever he is doing he will
hesitate and consider how he may spend least, and lament even that,
and think he is doing everything on a bigger scale than he ought.
These states of character, then, are vices; yet they do not bring
disgrace because they are neither harmful to one's neighbour nor
very unseemly.
3

Pride seems even from its name to be concerned with great things;
what sort of great things, is the first question we must try to
answer. It makes no difference whether we consider the state of
character or the man characterized by it. Now the man is thought to be
proud who thinks himself worthy of great things, being worthy of them;
for he who does so beyond his deserts is a fool, but no virtuous man
is foolish or silly. The proud man, then, is the man we have
described. For he who is worthy of little and thinks himself worthy of
little is temperate, but not proud; for pride implies greatness, as
beauty implies a goodsized body, and little people may be neat and
well-proportioned but cannot be beautiful. On the other hand, he who
thinks himself worthy of great things, being unworthy of them, is
vain; though not every one who thinks himself worthy of more than he
really is worthy of in vain. The man who thinks himself worthy of
worthy of less than he is really worthy of is unduly humble, whether
his deserts be great or moderate, or his deserts be small but his
claims yet smaller. And the man whose deserts are great would seem
most unduly humble; for what would he have done if they had been less?
The proud man, then, is an extreme in respect of the greatness of
his claims, but a mean in respect of the rightness of them; for he
claims what is accordance with his merits, while the others go to
excess or fall short.
If, then, he deserves and claims great things, and above all the
great things, he will be concerned with one thing in particular.
Desert is relative to external goods; and the greatest of these, we
should say, is that which we render to the gods, and which people of
position most aim at, and which is the prize appointed for the noblest
deeds; and this is honour; that is surely the greatest of external
goods. Honours and dishonours, therefore, are the objects with respect
to which the proud man is as he should be. And even apart from
argument it is with honour that proud men appear to be concerned;
for it is honour that they chiefly claim, but in accordance with their
deserts. The unduly humble man falls short both in comparison with his
own merits and in comparison with the proud man's claims. The vain man
goes to excess in comparison with his own merits, but does not
exceed the proud man's claims.
Now the proud man, since he deserves most, must be good in the
highest degree; for the better man always deserves more, and the
best man most. Therefore the truly proud man must be good. And
greatness in every virtue would seem to be characteristic of a proud
man. And it would be most unbecoming for a proud man to fly from
danger, swinging his arms by his sides, or to wrong another; for to
what end should he do disgraceful acts, he to whom nothing is great?
If we consider him point by point we shall see the utter absurdity
of a proud man who is not good. Nor, again, would he be worthy of
honour if he were bad; for honour is the prize of virtue, and it is to
the good that it is rendered. Pride, then, seems to be a sort of crown
of the virtues; for it makes them greater, and it is not found without
them. Therefore it is hard to be truly proud; for it is impossible
without nobility and goodness of character. It is chiefly with honours
and dishonours, then, that the proud man is concerned; and at
honours that are great and conferred by good men he will be moderately
Pleased, thinking that he is coming by his own or even less than his
own; for there can be no honour that is worthy of perfect virtue,
yet he will at any rate accept it since they have nothing greater to
bestow on him; but honour from casual people and on trifling grounds
he will utterly despise, since it is not this that he deserves, and
dishonour too, since in his case it cannot be just. In the first
place, then, as has been said, the proud man is concerned with
honours; yet he will also bear himself with moderation towards
wealth and power and all good or evil fortune, whatever may befall
him, and will be neither over-joyed by good fortune nor over-pained by
evil. For not even towards honour does he bear himself as if it were a
very great thing. Power and wealth are desirable for the sake of
honour (at least those who have them wish to get honour by means of
them); and for him to whom even honour is a little thing the others
must be so too. Hence proud men are thought to be disdainful.
The goods of fortune also are thought to contribute towards pride.
For men who are well-born are thought worthy of honour, and so are
those who enjoy power or wealth; for they are in a superior
position, and everything that has a superiority in something good is
held in greater honour. Hence even such things make men prouder; for
they are honoured by some for having them; but in truth the good man
alone is to be honoured; he, however, who has both advantages is
thought the more worthy of honour. But those who without virtue have
such goods are neither justified in making great claims nor entitled
to the name of 'proud'; for these things imply perfect virtue.
Disdainful and insolent, however, even those who have such goods
become. For without virtue it is not easy to bear gracefully the goods
of fortune; and, being unable to bear them, and thinking themselves
superior to others, they despise others and themselves do what they
please. They imitate the proud man without being like him, and this
they do where they can; so they do not act virtuously, but they do
despise others. For the proud man despises justly (since he thinks
truly), but the many do so at random.
He does not run into trifling dangers, nor is he fond of danger,
because he honours few things; but he will face great dangers, and
when he is in danger he is unsparing of his life, knowing that there
are conditions on which life is not worth having. And he is the sort
of man to confer benefits, but he is ashamed of receiving them; for
the one is the mark of a superior, the other of an inferior. And he is
apt to confer greater benefits in return; for thus the original
benefactor besides being paid will incur a debt to him, and will be
the gainer by the transaction. They seem also to remember any
service they have done, but not those they have received (for he who
receives a service is inferior to him who has done it, but the proud
man wishes to be superior), and to hear of the former with pleasure,
of the latter with displeasure; this, it seems, is why Thetis did
not mention to Zeus the services she had done him, and why the
Spartans did not recount their services to the Athenians, but those
they had received. It is a mark of the proud man also to ask for
nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily, and to be
dignified towards people who enjoy high position and good fortune, but
unassuming towards those of the middle class; for it is a difficult
and lofty thing to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the
latter, and a lofty bearing over the former is no mark of
ill-breeding, but among humble people it is as vulgar as a display
of strength against the weak. Again, it is characteristic of the proud
man not to aim at the things commonly held in honour, or the things in
which others excel; to be sluggish and to hold back except where great
honour or a great work is at stake, and to be a man of few deeds,
but of great and notable ones. He must also be open in his hate and in
his love (for to conceal one's feelings, i.e. to care less for truth
than for what people will think, is a coward's part), and must speak
and act openly; for he is free of speech because he is contemptuous,
and he is given to telling the truth, except when he speaks in irony
to the vulgar. He must be unable to make his life revolve round
another, unless it be a friend; for this is slavish, and for this
reason all flatterers are servile and people lacking in self-respect
are flatterers. Nor is he given to admiration; for nothing to him is
great. Nor is he mindful of wrongs; for it is not the part of a
proud man to have a long memory, especially for wrongs, but rather
to overlook them. Nor is he a gossip; for he will speak neither
about himself nor about another, since he cares not to be praised
nor for others to be blamed; nor again is he given to praise; and
for the same reason he is not an evil-speaker, even about his enemies,
except from haughtiness. With regard to necessary or small matters
he is least of all me given to lamentation or the asking of favours;
for it is the part of one who takes such matters seriously to behave
so with respect to them. He is one who will possess beautiful and
profitless things rather than profitable and useful ones; for this
is more proper to a character that suffices to itself.
Further, a slow step is thought proper to the proud man, a deep
voice, and a level utterance; for the man who takes few things
seriously is not likely to be hurried, nor the man who thinks
nothing great to be excited, while a shrill voice and a rapid gait are
the results of hurry and excitement.
Such, then, is the proud man; the man who falls short of him is
unduly humble, and the man who goes beyond him is vain. Now even these
are not thought to be bad (for they are not malicious), but only
mistaken. For the unduly humble man, being worthy of good things, robs
himself of what he deserves, and to have something bad about him
from the fact that he does not think himself worthy of good things,
and seems also not to know himself; else he would have desired the
things he was worthy of, since these were good. Yet such people are
not thought to be fools, but rather unduly retiring. Such a
reputation, however, seems actually to make them worse; for each class
of people aims at what corresponds to its worth, and these people
stand back even from noble actions and undertakings, deeming
themselves unworthy, and from external goods no less. Vain people,
on the other hand, are fools and ignorant of themselves, and that
manifestly; for, not being worthy of them, they attempt honourable
undertakings, and then are found out; and tetadorn themselves with
clothing and outward show and such things, and wish their strokes of
good fortune to be made public, and speak about them as if they
would be honoured for them. But undue humility is more opposed to
pride than vanity is; for it is both commoner and worse.
Pride, then, is concerned with honour on the grand scale, as has
been said.
4

There seems to be in the sphere of honour also, as was said in our
first remarks on the subject, a virtue which would appear to be
related to pride as liberality is to magnificence. For neither of
these has anything to do with the grand scale, but both dispose us
as is right with regard to middling and unimportant objects; as in
getting and giving of wealth there is a mean and an excess and defect,
so too honour may be desired more than is right, or less, or from
the right sources and in the right way. We blame both the ambitious
man as am at honour more than is right and from wrong sources, and the
unambitious man as not willing to be honoured even for noble
reasons. But sometimes we praise the ambitious man as being manly
and a lover of what is noble, and the unambitious man as being
moderate and self-controlled, as we said in our first treatment of the
subject. Evidently, since 'fond of such and such an object' has more
than one meaning, we do not assign the term 'ambition' or 'love of
honour' always to the same thing, but when we praise the quality we
think of the man who loves honour more than most people, and when we
blame it we think of him who loves it more than is right. The mean
being without a name, the extremes seem to dispute for its place as
though that were vacant by default. But where there is excess and
defect, there is also an intermediate; now men desire honour both more
than they should and less; therefore it is possible also to do so as
one should; at all events this is the state of character that is
praised, being an unnamed mean in respect of honour. Relatively to
ambition it seems to be unambitiousness, and relatively to
unambitiousness it seems to be ambition, while relatively to both
severally it seems in a sense to be both together. This appears to
be true of the other virtues also. But in this case the extremes
seem to be contradictories because the mean has not received a name.
5

Good temper is a mean with respect to anger; the middle state
being unnamed, and the extremes almost without a name as well, we
place good temper in the middle position, though it inclines towards
the deficiency, which is without a name. The excess might called a
sort of 'irascibility'. For the passion is anger, while its causes are
many and diverse.
The man who is angry at the right things and with the right
people, and, further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he
ought, is praised. This will be the good-tempered man, then, since
good temper is praised. For the good-tempered man tends to be
unperturbed and not to be led by passion, but to be angry in the
manner, at the things, and for the length of time, that the rule
dictates; but he is thought to err rather in the direction of
deficiency; for the good-tempered man is not revengeful, but rather
tends to make allowances.
The deficiency, whether it is a sort of 'inirascibility' or whatever
it is, is blamed. For those who are not angry at the things they
should be angry at are thought to be fools, and so are those who are
not angry in the right way, at the right time, or with the right
persons; for such a man is thought not to feel things nor to be pained
by them, and, since he does not get angry, he is thought unlikely to
defend himself; and to endure being insulted and put up with insult to
one's friends is slavish.
The excess can be manifested in all the points that have been
named (for one can be angry with the wrong persons, at the wrong
things, more than is right, too quickly, or too long); yet all are not
found in the same person. Indeed they could not; for evil destroys
even itself, and if it is complete becomes unbearable. Now
hot-tempered people get angry quickly and with the wrong persons and
at the wrong things and more than is right, but their anger ceases
quickly-which is the best point about them. This happens to them
because they do not restrain their anger but retaliate openly owing to
their quickness of temper, and then their anger ceases. By reason of
excess choleric people are quick-tempered and ready to be angry with
everything and on every occasion; whence their name. Sulky people
are hard to appease, and retain their anger long; for they repress
their passion. But it ceases when they retaliate; for revenge relieves
them of their anger, producing in them pleasure instead of pain. If
this does not happen they retain their burden; for owing to its not
being obvious no one even reasons with them, and to digest one's anger
in oneself takes time. Such people are most troublesome to
themselves and to their dearest friends. We call had-tempered those
who are angry at the wrong things, more than is right, and longer, and
cannot be appeased until they inflict vengeance or punishment.
To good temper we oppose the excess rather than the defect; for
not only is it commoner since revenge is the more human), but
bad-tempered people are worse to live with.
What we have said in our earlier treatment of the subject is plain
also from what we are now saying; viz. that it is not easy to define
how, with whom, at what, and how long one should be angry, and at what
point right action ceases and wrong begins. For the man who strays a
little from the path, either towards the more or towards the less,
is not blamed; since sometimes we praise those who exhibit the
deficiency, and call them good-tempered, and sometimes we call angry
people manly, as being capable of ruling. How far, therefore, and
how a man must stray before he becomes blameworthy, it is not easy
to state in words; for the decision depends on the particular facts
and on perception. But so much at least is plain, that the middle
state is praiseworthy- that in virtue of which we are angry with the
right people, at the right things, in the right way, and so on,
while the excesses and defects are blameworthy- slightly so if they
are present in a low degree, more if in a higher degree, and very
much if in a high degree. Evidently, then, we must cling to the
middle state.- Enough of the states relative to anger.
6

In gatherings of men, in social life and the interchange of words
and deeds, some men are thought to be obsequious, viz. those who to
give pleasure praise everything and never oppose, but think it their
duty 'to give no pain to the people they meet'; while those who, on
the contrary, oppose everything and care not a whit about giving
pain are called churlish and contentious. That the states we have
named are culpable is plain enough, and that the middle state is
laudable- that in virtue of which a man will put up with, and will
resent, the right things and in the right way; but no name has been
assigned to it, though it most resembles friendship. For the man who
corresponds to this middle state is very much what, with affection
added, we call a good friend. But the state in question differs from
friendship in that it implies no passion or affection for one's
associates; since it is not by reason of loving or hating that such
a man takes everything in the right way, but by being a man of a
certain kind. For he will behave so alike towards those he knows and
those he does not know, towards intimates and those who are not so,
except that in each of these cases he will behave as is befitting; for
it is not proper to have the same care for intimates and for
strangers, nor again is it the same conditions that make it right to
give pain to them. Now we have said generally that he will associate
with people in the right way; but it is by reference to what is
honourable and expedient that he will aim at not giving pain or at
contributing pleasure. For he seems to be concerned with the pleasures
and pains of social life; and wherever it is not honourable, or is
harmful, for him to contribute pleasure, he will refuse, and will
choose rather to give pain; also if his acquiescence in another's
action would bring disgrace, and that in a high degree, or injury,
on that other, while his opposition brings a little pain, he will
not acquiesce but will decline. He will associate differently with
people in high station and with ordinary people, with closer and
more distant acquaintances, and so too with regard to all other
differences, rendering to each class what is befitting, and while
for its own sake he chooses to contribute pleasure, and avoids the
giving of pain, he will be guided by the consequences, if these are
greater, i.e. honour and expediency. For the sake of a great future
pleasure, too, he will inflict small pains.
The man who attains the mean, then, is such as we have described,
but has not received a name; of those who contribute pleasure, the man
who aims at being pleasant with no ulterior object is obsequious,
but the man who does so in order that he may get some advantage in the
direction of money or the things that money buys is a flatterer; while
the man who quarrels with everything is, as has been said, churlish
and contentious. And the extremes seem to be contradictory to each
other because the mean is without a name.
7

The mean opposed to boastfulness is found in almost the same sphere;
and this also is without a name. It will be no bad plan to describe
these states as well; for we shall both know the facts about character
better if we go through them in detail, and we shall be convinced that
the virtues are means if we see this to be so in all cases. In the
field of social life those who make the giving of pleasure or pain
their object in associating with others have been described; let us
now describe those who pursue truth or falsehood alike in words and
deeds and in the claims they put forward. The boastful man, then, is
thought to be apt to claim the things that bring glory, when he has
not got them, or to claim more of them than he has, and the
mock-modest man on the other hand to disclaim what he has or
belittle it, while the man who observes the mean is one who calls a
thing by its own name, being truthful both in life and in word, owning
to what he has, and neither more nor less. Now each of these courses
may be adopted either with or without an object. But each man speaks
and acts and lives in accordance with his character, if he is not
acting for some ulterior object. And falsehood is in itself mean and
culpable, and truth noble and worthy of praise. Thus the truthful
man is another case of a man who, being in the mean, is worthy of
praise, and both forms of untruthful man are culpable, and
particularly the boastful man.
Let us discuss them both, but first of all the truthful man. We
are not speaking of the man who keeps faith in his agreements, i.e. in
the things that pertain to justice or injustice (for this would belong
to another virtue), but the man who in the matters in which nothing of
this sort is at stake is true both in word and in life because his
character is such. But such a man would seem to be as a matter of fact
equitable. For the man who loves truth, and is truthful where
nothing is at stake, will still more be truthful where something is at
stake; he will avoid falsehood as something base, seeing that he
avoided it even for its own sake; and such a man is worthy of
praise. He inclines rather to understate the truth; for this seems
in better taste because exaggerations are wearisome.
He who claims more than he has with no ulterior object is a
contemptible sort of fellow (otherwise he would not have delighted
in falsehood), but seems futile rather than bad; but if he does it for
an object, he who does it for the sake of reputation or honour is (for
a boaster) not very much to be blamed, but he who does it for money,
or the things that lead to money, is an uglier character (it is not
the capacity that makes the boaster, but the purpose; for it is in
virtue of his state of character and by being a man of a certain
kind that he is boaster); as one man is a liar because he enjoys the
lie itself, and another because he desires reputation or gain. Now
those who boast for the sake of reputation claim such qualities as
will praise or congratulation, but those whose object is gain claim
qualities which are of value to one's neighbours and one's lack of
which is not easily detected, e.g. the powers of a seer, a sage, or
a physician. For this reason it is such things as these that most
people claim and boast about; for in them the above-mentioned
qualities are found.
Mock-modest people, who understate things, seem more attractive in
character; for they are thought to speak not for gain but to avoid
parade; and here too it is qualities which bring reputation that
they disclaim, as Socrates used to do. Those who disclaim trifling and
obvious qualities are called humbugs and are more contemptible; and
sometimes this seems to be boastfulness, like the Spartan dress; for
both excess and great deficiency are boastful. But those who use
understatement with moderation and understate about matters that do
not very much force themselves on our notice seem attractive. And it
is the boaster that seems to be opposed to the truthful man; for he is
the worse character.
8

Since life includes rest as well as activity, and in this is
included leisure and amusement, there seems here also to be a kind
of intercourse which is tasteful; there is such a thing as saying-
and again listening to- what one should and as one should. The
kind of people one is speaking or listening to will also make a
difference. Evidently here also there is both an excess and a
deficiency as compared with the mean. Those who carry humour to excess
are thought to be vulgar buffoons, striving after humour at all costs,
and aiming rather at raising a laugh than at saying what is becoming
and at avoiding pain to the object of their fun; while those who can
neither make a joke themselves nor put up with those who do are
thought to be boorish and unpolished. But those who joke in a tasteful
way are called ready-witted, which implies a sort of readiness to turn
this way and that; for such sallies are thought to be movements of the
character, and as bodies are discriminated by their movements, so
too are characters. The ridiculous side of things is not far to
seek, however, and most people delight more than they should in
amusement and in jestinly. and so even buffoons are called
ready-witted because they are found attractive; but that they differ
from the ready-witted man, and to no small extent, is clear from
what has been said.
To the middle state belongs also tact; it is the mark of a tactful
man to say and listen to such things as befit a good and well-bred
man; for there are some things that it befits such a man to say and to
hear by way of jest, and the well-bred man's jesting differs from that
of a vulgar man, and the joking of an educated man from that of an
uneducated. One may see this even from the old and the new comedies;
to the authors of the former indecency of language was amusing, to
those of the latter innuendo is more so; and these differ in no
small degree in respect of propriety. Now should we define the man who
jokes well by his saying what is not unbecoming to a well-bred man, or
by his not giving pain, or even giving delight, to the hearer? Or is
the latter definition, at any rate, itself indefinite, since different
things are hateful or pleasant to different people? The kind of
jokes he will listen to will be the same; for the kind he can put up
with are also the kind he seems to make. There are, then, jokes he
will not make; for the jest is a sort of abuse, and there are things
that lawgivers forbid us to abuse; and they should, perhaps, have
forbidden us even to make a jest of such. The refined and well-bred
man, therefore, will be as we have described, being as it were a law
to himself.
Such, then, is the man who observes the mean, whether he be called
tactful or ready-witted. The buffoon, on the other hand, is the slave
of his sense of humour, and spares neither himself nor others if he
can raise a laugh, and says things none of which a man of refinement
would say, and to some of which he would not even listen. The boor,
again, is useless for such social intercourse; for he contributes
nothing and finds fault with everything. But relaxation and
amusement are thought to be a necessary element in life.
The means in life that have been described, then, are three in
number, and are all concerned with an interchange of words and deeds
of some kind. They differ, however, in that one is concerned with
truth; and the other two with pleasantness. Of those concerned with
pleasure, one is displayed in jests, the other in the general social
intercourse of life.
9

Shame should not be described as a virtue; for it is more like a
feeling than a state of character. It is defined, at any rate, as a
kind of fear of dishonour, and produces an effect similar to that
produced by fear of danger; for people who feel disgraced blush, and
those who fear death turn pale. Both, therefore, seem to be in a sense
bodily conditions, which is thought to be characteristic of feeling
rather than of a state of character.
The feeling is not becoming to every age, but only to youth. For
we think young people should be prone to the feeling of shame
because they live by feeling and therefore commit many errors, but are
restrained by shame; and we praise young people who are prone to
this feeling, but an older person no one would praise for being
prone to the sense of disgrace, since we think he should not do
anything that need cause this sense. For the sense of disgrace is
not even characteristic of a good man, since it is consequent on bad
actions (for such actions should not be done; and if some actions
are disgraceful in very truth and others only according to common
opinion, this makes no difference; for neither class of actions should
be done, so that no disgrace should be felt); and it is a mark of a
bad man even to be such as to do any disgraceful action. To be so
constituted as to feel disgraced if one does such an action, and for
this reason to think oneself good, is absurd; for it is for
voluntary actions that shame is felt, and the good man will never
voluntarily do bad actions. But shame may be said to be
conditionally a good thing; if a good man does such actions, he will
feel disgraced; but the virtues are not subject to such a
qualification. And if shamelessness-not to be ashamed of doing base
actions-is bad, that does not make it good to be ashamed of doing such
actions. Continence too is not virtue, but a mixed sort of state; this
will be shown later. Now, however, let us discuss justice.