“Ethics Book 4” by Aristotle (349 BC)

“Ethics Book 4” by Aristotle (349 BC)

 

Ch. 1

  • Liberality – in giving & getting wealth, especially giving
    • The virtue is the mean between prodigality & meanness
  • Prodigality – unrestrained, squandering of money usually on debauchery
    • Combination of vices but particularly in wasting one’s own substance – ruining yourself by your own agency
    • Riches be used for good or bad – you are judged on which one you use it for
      • Use of wealth – spending & giving money
      • Acquisition of wealth – getting & keeping money
    • A liberal man is more concerned about giving to the right recipient than getting it from the right sources
      • Focused on doing good more than having good done to one & performing noble acts rather than avoiding base ones
        • Doing good & acting nobly for giving
        • having good done & avoiding base acts for getting
      • Gratitude given to a giver not to one who refrains from taking
      • Men are more reluctant to give something of theirs away than not taking something that isn’t theirs
    • Givers are called Liberal
    • Those who don’t take wrongly are called Just
    • Virtuous acts are noble & done for that sake
      • Liberal men for the nobility of giving to the right people the right amount at the right time with pleasure & without pain
    • Can’t take from the wrong source either – gives the give a bad esteem
      • Won’t give indiscriminately because it has to be done right
      • Giving too much to be regardless of oneself
    • Gift is less about the amount than the disposition of the giver – that’s what gives the gift its substance
      • A smaller gift may be greater if the giver has smaller means
    • Those who inherit money are more likely to be liberal because they’ve never lived without
      • Not easy for a liberal man to be rich because he’s always giving his money away
    • Can’t give to the wrong people or at the wrong time, etc.
      • Must give correct proportion with respect to one’s means
      • Lavish princes aren’t prodigal because they can afford to spend the money
    • Right getting goes hand in hand with right giving
    • Liberal man can be cheated & he feels bad when spending too much money or too little
    • Prodigal man gives too much but usually doesn’t have a problem earning because he’d have nothing to give
      • Prodigal man is better at getting & giving than a mean man – age or poverty will usually fix him
      • He can learn to budget or scale back
      • Not seen as bad, but usually foolish
    • Prodigal men sometimes take from bad sources if they run out of good ways of getting & are forced to use bad ones
      • Many rich men give a lot away to people who ought not to receive it – cheaters, flatterers, etc.
      • Most prodigal men are also profligates & squander money in debauchery & have no moral standard, so they give into temptation
    • If he has no discipline, he goes broke or debauched
    • If he learns discipline, he’ll easily find the mean
  • Meanness is incurable because it’s much more ingrained into a man’s nature than prodigality
    • May take many form because of 2 parts
      • giving too little & getting too much
    • Can be seen as tightfisted or stingy
      • May not actually be covetous
      • Skinflints reluctant to give or take
    • Those who get too much take from any source they can, including robbery, prostitution, usury, gambling
      • Common trait is greed, not caring about dishonor or risk to one’s life
      • Those with improper sources aren’t necessarily mean but usually wicked, impious or unjust

 

Ch. 2

  • Magnificence is a virtue dealing with wealth but refers purely to the spending of wealth at a great scale
    • Scale is relative & suitability is of expenditure depends on the spender himself but most spend enough to call his purchases important
  • Extremes are paltriness & vulgarity
    • Vulgarity – not by spending too much on proper objects but by making a great display on wrong occasions in the wrong way
  • Magnificent men make an art of expenditure & discern what’s suitable & spend lots of money in good taste
    • The object must be worth of the expenditure & the expenditure must be worth of the object produced
    • Motive is the major determinant of the nobility of the action
      • Not too much focused on penny-pinching or trying to make it more expensive
  • He’ll have to be liberal because he’ll have to spend the right amount in the right manner, etc. & it will display greatness
    • Not necessarily contingent on an amount spent
      • More modest men can give something great & noble reflecting excellence
    • May be votive offering, public buildings, sacrifices, ships of war or public banquets, as needed
    • Donation suitable to the giver & occasion
      • Poor man can’t do this & would be foolish because he’ll try to spend more than he can to impress
      • Must come from man of adequate resources to benefit the public
    • May be private affairs – weddings, welcoming foreign guests
    • Furnishing a house worthy of his wealth & buying permanent objects [more noble]
  • On excessive side – a vulgar man exceeds his spending beyond what’s right in a tasteless display on unimportant occasions
    • Not from a noble motive but to show off wealth & try to get people to like them
  • A paltry man will cheap out on everything spoiling the occasion with his cheapness
  • The extremes of magnificence [paltriness & vulgarity] aren’t major vices but not good behavior

 

Ch. 3

  • Greatness of soul – when a person claims much & deserves much, the claim matches the merit
    • If you claim more than you deserve, you’re a fool or vain
    • If you claim little & deserve little, you’re small-souled
  • Being worthy of honor is being worthy of a good external to the man
    • An honor to which good & great-souled men have the right disposition
    • Small-souled men fall short & vain men over claim
  • If a great-souled mean claims much, he must be worth of it & be good
    • Can’t be a coward or dishonest because these aren’t great qualities
    • Bad man aren’t worthy of honor, the prize of virtue & tribute to the good
    • Greatness of soul is a crowning ornament of virtues because it enhances their greatness but can’t exist without them
  • Honor & dishonor are the main concern
    • Honor can only give a moderate amount of pleasure & can’t come from common people or on trivial grounds
    • Dishonor is bad because it is undesirable & undeserved for the virtuous man
    • Observing a moderate respect for wealth, power, & good & bad fortunes – not over-rejoicing in prosperity or over-grieving adversity
    • Honor is only small & a great-souled man may be indifferent to it
  • Honor is often placed on richer men because they seem worth of the good fortune of wealth
    • Only good men should be honored & those with good fortune & esteem are given honor on top of them
  • High worth is unjustified without honor because you need virtue & honor to be of high worth
    • Those who are naughty or insolent aren’t eligible because they see themselves as superior & carry good fortune unbecomingly even though their conduct is no better than others’.
      • They imitate great-souled men without the virtuous conduct
      • Most proud men have no grounds for their pride
    • Great-souled men don’t seek or love danger & only do so for great causes, ready to sacrifice themselves
    • Giving is a sign of superiority [so is memory of giving]
    • Receiving is a sign of inferiority [so is memory of receiving]
    • Great-souled men return favors & services with interest
  • Great-souled men:
    • Never ask for help from others [only with reluctance[ but remember to help others willingly
    • Are haughty toward rich men & courteous toward poor & honest men
      • Not bad to be superior to rich men
      • Ill-bred to lord it over poor men
    • Don’t compete for objects of common ambitions
    • Undertake only important & distinguished things
    • Care more for the truth than what people think
      • Open with love & hate because concealment shows timidity
      • Incapable of living at the will of another because it’s slavish
        • Flatterers are servile
    • Not prone to admiration – nothing is great to him
    • Doesn’t bear grudges because they’re not a mark of a great soul to remember wrongs done to you
    • Doesn’t gossip, talk about himself or others
    • Doesn’t like to hear compliments or hear others run down
    • Only asks for help in times of great trouble
    • Has a slow gait, deep voice & deliberate speech
      • The opposites show an excitable, nervous manner
  • A deficient case is a small-souled man who deprives himself of the good he deserves & makes it seem there’s something about himself or there’s nothing good about him
  • An excessive case is a vain man who is deficient in self-knowledge & exposes their lack of it
    • Not vicious because there’s no real harm but just mistaken in self-evaluation
    • They undertake honorable responsibilities they aren’t worthy of & are eventually found out
    • Ostentatious in dress & manner
    • Brags about how well-off they are imagining this gets them respect

Ch. 4

  • Honor has its own virtue that feeds greatness of the soul in the same way liberality feeds magnificence
  • A man is highly ambitious if he seeks more honor than is right or honor from the wrong sources
    • Unambitious men don’t want honor even on noble grounds
  • We praise an ambitious man as manly * a loner the noble & praise unambitious man as modest & temperate
  • Being fond of honor is good & bad
    • Good – more fond of it than most men
    • Bad – more than is right
      • Aim for the mean

 

Ch. 5

  • Gentleness is the mean with respect to anger
    • It is the mean, although it sounds like the defect
    • We praise felling anger for the right reason, toward the right person, in the right way, time & duration
    • Gentle temper seems like a defect because it doesn’t seek redress
  • The defect – Lack of Spirit – doesn’t get angry when it’s right to
    • May seem like he doesn’t feel injury but he just never stands up for himself & is considered servile to suffer  insults
    • More likely to see redress than to forgive
  • Irascibility is anger at the wrong people for the wrong reasons, too violently for too long. All excesses cannot exist at once because evil will eventually destroy itself
    • Bitter-tempered people are implacable & remain angry for a long time, under a sort of resentment & concealed anger
    • Quick-tempered people are passionate & become angry quickly & seemingly at anything
    • Harsh-tempered people are angry at the wrong thing, more often & longer than what’s right & refuse to reconcile without retaliation
  • It’s difficult to define what’s right because it’s OK to get angry & it’s hard to say when it’s too much
  • We often praise people who don’t get angry
  • It’s best to stick to the mean of these 2

 

Ch. 6

  • Obsequious men complaisantly approve of everything & never object & see it as their duty to avoid giving pain to anyone
  • Surly men don’t care at all if & to whom they cause pain
  • The mean is to be praised – tendency to acquiesce in the right way at the right time, etc. & to disapprove of the things is right to disapprove of in the right way, etc.
    • Those who exemplify the mean are the “good friends” (different from an emotional way) who act with same propriety with strangers & acquaintances but preserve the appropriate distinctions of each class
    • Will disapprove of pleasures when it’s correct to, prefers to do pain when it’s appropriate to
    • Will disapprove of & refuse to acquiesce in a pleasure that brings discredit or harm if his opposition won’t cause harm
    • Will give small amount of pain at the moment for the sake of a large amount of pleasure in the future

 

Ch. 7

  • The mean in boastfulness is similar in telling the truth & falsehoods
    • A boaster claims qualities he doesn’t have or has to a lesser degree than he claims
    • A self-depreciator disclaims or disparages his good qualities
    • A straightforward man is sincere in behavior & speech & admits his true qualities without boasting or exaggerating or understating
      • Can be done with or without an ulterior motive
      • Without an ulterior motive, words, actions & conduct represent a man’s true character
  • False hood is base & reprehensible while truth is noble & praiseworthy
  • A sincere man stands in the mean of the 2 extremes
    • This is different to truthfulness in business relations – different virtue
    • Cases of truth in speech & conduct from disposition of habitual sincerity
    • Sincerity is esteemed a moral excellence because a lover of truth who is truthful when nothing depends on it
      • If you avoid falsehoods for the sake of doing so, then it’s easy to do if it’s morally base
      • A sincere man may understate but not exaggerate but that’s the extent of his deviation from truth
  • Man who claims more merit than he has for no ulterior motive is of inferior character but is more foolish than vicious
    • Understandable if for glory or honor but unseemly for monetary gain
  • Liars in 2 groups
    • 1 – lying for its own sake
    • 2 – for reputation or profit, claiming to have qualities praised or admired or by profiting by claiming accomplishments useful to one’s fellows – easily counterfeited without detection
      • Prophecy, philosophy, medicine
  • Self-depreciators seem more refined out of dislike for ostentation
    • Disowning highly esteemed qualities [Socrates did this]
    • Humble bragging is contemptible because it’s just disguised bragging [Spartans did this]

 

Ch. 8

  • There’s good taste in social behavior & propriety in what we say, how we say it, in whose company
  • Those who got to excess in ridicule are buffoons & vulgar, needing to tell jokes at any cost
    • More concerned with jokes than staying within the bounds of decorum
  • Those who never joke & get offended at those who do are boorish & morose
  • Those who are funny with good taste are witty & versatile in that their jokes come from good character & we judge a man’s character on how it is in action
    • Witty men possess tact that allows him to joke when appropriate & to refrain when appropriate
    • Jesting by a gentleman is different to that of a servile men as jesting by an educated man is different to jesting by an uneducated man
    • Difference is apparent in comparing old & new comedy
      • Old comedy is about obscenity
      • New comedy is about innuendo –> progress in decorum
  • May be difficult to saw gentlemen refrain in giving offense & pain because tastes & what’s offensive varies from person to person
    • Some men will draw a line at some jokes because raillery is a form of vilification & may be illegal
  • A witty man will be tactful
    • Buffoons can’t resist a joke & will try at any cost
    • Boors will have no playful conversation & contribute nothing & take offense at anything
      • Relaxation & amusement are necessities of life

 

Ch. 9

  • Modesty isn’t a virtue because it’s more of a feeling than a disposition as far as fear of disrepute & like the fear of anger & danger because those people who are ashamed blush & those who fear for their lives turn pale
    • Only suitable for the young because they live by feeling & they often err
      • Modesty can keep that in check
    • We praise the young when modest
    • Nobody would praise an old modest man when ashamed because he ought not to do anything to be ashamed of
  • Virtuous men don’t feel shame because it’s caused by base actions & virtuous men don’t do base actions
  • Shame is a mark of a base man who is capable of doing base acts & a virtuous man will never voluntarily do a base act.

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