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- Ethics - 20/58 -


who is really a man of great worth, for what would he have done had his worth been less?

The Great-minded man is then, as far as greatness is concerned, at the summit, but in respect of propriety he is in the mean, because he estimates himself at his real value (the other characters respectively are in excess and defect). Since then he justly estimates himself at a high, or rather at the highest possible rate, his character will have respect specially to one thing: this term "rate" has reference of course to external goods: and of these we should assume that to be the greatest which we attribute to the gods, and which is the special object of desire to those who are in power, and which is the prize proposed to the most honourable actions: now honour answers to these descriptions, being the greatest of external goods. So the Great-minded man bears himself as he ought in respect of honour and dishonour. In fact, without need of words, the Great-minded plainly have honour for their object-matter: since honour is what the great consider themselves specially worthy of, and according to a certain rate.

The Small-minded man is deficient, both as regards himself, and also as regards the estimation of the Great-minded: while the Vain man is in excess as regards himself, but does not get beyond the Great-minded man. Now the Great-minded man, being by the hypothesis worthy of the greatest things, must be of the highest excellence, since the better a man is the more is he worth, and he who is best is worth the most: it follows then, that to be truly Great-minded a man must be good, and whatever is great in each virtue would seem to belong to the Great-minded. It would no way correspond with the character of the Great-minded to flee spreading his hands all abroad; nor to injure any one; for with what object in view will he do what is base, in whose eyes nothing is great? in short, if one were to go into particulars, the Great-minded man would show quite ludicrously unless he were a good man: he would not be in fact deserving of honour if he were a bad man, honour being the prize of virtue and given to the good.

This virtue, then, of Great-mindedness seems to be a kind of ornament of all the other virtues, in that it makes them better and cannot be without them; and for this reason it is a hard matter to be really and truly Great-minded; for it cannot be without thorough goodness and nobleness of character.

[Sidenote:1124a] Honour then and dishonour are specially the object-matter of the Great-minded man: and at such as is great, and given by good men, he will be pleased moderately as getting his own, or perhaps somewhat less for no honour can be quite adequate to perfect virtue: but still he will accept this because they have nothing higher to give him. But such as is given by ordinary people and on trifling grounds he will entirely despise, because these do not come up to his deserts: and dishonour likewise, because in his case there cannot be just ground for it.

Now though, as I have said, honour is specially the object-matter of the Great-minded man, I do not mean but that likewise in respect of wealth and power, and good or bad fortune of every kind, he will bear himself with moderation, fall out how they may, and neither in prosperity will he be overjoyed nor in adversity will he be unduly pained. For not even in respect of honour does he so bear himself; and yet it is the greatest of all such objects, since it is the cause of power and wealth being choiceworthy, for certainly they who have them desire to receive honour through them. So to whom honour even is a small thing to him will all other things also be so; and this is why such men are thought to be supercilious.

It seems too that pieces of good fortune contribute to form this character of Great-mindedness: I mean, the nobly born, or men of influence, or the wealthy, are considered to be entitled to honour, for they are in a position of eminence and whatever is eminent by good is more entitled to honour: and this is why such circumstances dispose men rather to Great-mindedness, because they receive honour at the hands of some men.

Now really and truly the good man alone is entitled to honour; only if a man unites in himself goodness with these external advantages he is thought to be more entitled to honour: but they who have them without also having virtue are not justified in their high estimate of themselves, nor are they rightly denominated Great-minded; since perfect virtue is one of the indispensable conditions to such & character.

[Sidenote:1124b] Further, such men become supercilious and insolent, it not being easy to bear prosperity well without goodness; and not being able to bear it, and possessed with an idea of their own superiority to others, they despise them, and do just whatever their fancy prompts; for they mimic the Great-minded man, though they are not like him, and they do this in such points as they can, so without doing the actions which can only flow from real goodness they despise others. Whereas the Great-minded man despises on good grounds (for he forms his opinions truly), but the mass of men do it at random.

Moreover, he is not a man to incur little risks, nor does he court danger, because there are but few things he has a value for; but he will incur great dangers, and when he does venture he is prodigal of his life as knowing that there are terms on which it is not worth his while to live. He is the sort of man to do kindnesses, but he is ashamed to receive them; the former putting a man in the position of superiority, the latter in that of inferiority; accordingly he will greatly overpay any kindness done to him, because the original actor will thus be laid under obligation and be in the position of the party benefited. Such men seem likewise to remember those they have done kindnesses to, but not those from whom they have received them: because he who has received is inferior to him who has done the kindness and our friend wishes to be superior; accordingly he is pleased to hear of his own kind acts but not of those done to himself (and this is why, in Homer, Thetis does not mention to Jupiter the kindnesses she had done him, nor did the Lacedaemonians to the Athenians but only the benefits they had received).

Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading strength against the weak.

And again, not to put himself in the way of honour, nor to go where others are the chief men; and to be remiss and dilatory, except in the case of some great honour or work; and to be concerned in few things, and those great and famous. It is a property of him also to be open, both in his dislikes and his likings, because concealment is a consequent of fear. Likewise to be careful for reality rather than appearance, and talk and act openly (for his contempt for others makes him a bold man, for which same reason he is apt to speak the truth, except where the principle of reserve comes in), but to be reserved towards the generality of men.

[Sidenote: II25a] And to be unable to live with reference to any other but a friend; because doing so is servile, as may be seen in that all flatterers are low and men in low estate are flatterers. Neither is his admiration easily excited, because nothing is great in his eyes; nor does he bear malice, since remembering anything, and specially wrongs, is no part of Great-mindedness, but rather overlooking them; nor does he talk of other men; in fact, he will not speak either of himself or of any other; he neither cares to be praised himself nor to have others blamed; nor again does he praise freely, and for this reason he is not apt to speak ill even of his enemies except to show contempt and insolence.

And he is by no means apt to make laments about things which cannot be helped, or requests about those which are trivial; because to be thus disposed with respect to these things is consequent only upon real anxiety about them. Again, he is the kind of man to acquire what is beautiful and unproductive rather than what is productive and profitable: this being rather the part of an independent man. Also slow motion, deep-toned voice, and deliberate style of speech, are thought to be characteristic of the Great-minded man: for he who is earnest about few things is not likely to be in a hurry, nor he who esteems nothing great to be very intent: and sharp tones and quickness are the result of these.

This then is my idea of the Great-minded man; and he who is in the defect is a Small-minded man, he who is in the excess a Vain man. However, as we observed in respect of the last character we discussed, these extremes are not thought to be vicious exactly, but only mistaken, for they do no harm.

The Small-minded man, for instance, being really worthy of good deprives himself of his deserts, and seems to have somewhat faulty from not having a sufficiently high estimate of his own desert, in fact from self-ignorance: because, but for this, he would have grasped after what he really is entitled to, and that is good. Still such characters are not thought to be foolish, but rather laggards. But the having such an opinion of themselves seems to have a deteriorating effect on the character: because in all cases men's aims are regulated by their supposed desert, and thus these men, under a notion of their own want of desert, stand aloof from honourable actions and courses, and similarly from external goods.

But the Vain are foolish and self-ignorant, and that palpably: because they attempt honourable things, as though they were worthy, and then they are detected. They also set themselves off, by dress, and carriage, and such-like things, and desire that their good circumstances may be seen, and they talk of them under the notion of receiving honour thereby. Small-mindedness rather than Vanity is opposed to Great-mindedness, because it is more commonly met with and is worse.

[Sidenote:1125b] Well, the virtue of Great-mindedness has for its object great Honour, as we have said: and there seems to be a virtue having Honour also for its object (as we stated in the former book), which may seem to bear to Great-mindedness the same relation that Liberality does to Magnificence: that is, both these virtues stand aloof from what is great but dispose us as we ought to be disposed towards moderate and small matters. Further: as in giving and receiving of wealth there is a mean state, an excess, and a defect, so likewise in grasping after Honour there is the more or less than is right, and also the doing so from right sources and in right manner.

For we blame the lover of Honour as aiming at Honour more than he ought, and from wrong sources; and him who is destitute of a love of Honour as not choosing to be honoured even for what is noble. Sometimes again we praise the lover of Honour as manly and having a love for what is noble, and him who has no love for it as being moderate and modest (as we noticed also in the former discussion of these virtues).

It is clear then that since "Lover of so and so" is a term capable of several meanings, we do not always denote the same quality by the term "Lover of Honour;" but when we use it as a term of commendation we denote more than the mass of men are; when for blame more than a man should be.

And the mean state having no proper name the extremes seem to dispute


Ethics - 20/58

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