Ethics By Aristotle Summary and Analysis Book IV: Chapter II - Magnificence

Summary

Magnificence is another virtue pertaining to wealth, but unlike generosity it is confined to expenditures involving the use of money, and is concerned only with spending on a grand scale (as for civic projects). The scale for judging magnificence is relative, depending on how much is a suitable outlay considering the spender, the circumstances in which he makes the outlay, and the object of his spending. To clarify the difference between magnificence and generosity, it should be noted that the magnificent man is always generous, but the generous man is not always magnificent.

The corresponding extremes are: Deficiency — shabbiness or niggardliness; excess — vulgarity and bad taste. Excess may not be shown in the amount spent, but in the way it is spent and the purpose for which it is spent. The vulgar man usually spends more than he should on any given project and shows off improperly. His motives are ignoble, and he is often more concerned with making a grand impression than with the public welfare. The niggardly man falls short in all areas, cutting corners wherever possible, hesitating before spending, and grumbling when he finally does, but his vice does not do any serious harm to his neighbors. The magnificent man has the capacity to judge what is needed and suitable, and to spend large sums of money with good taste.

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