Summary and Analysis Book IX: Chapter VII



It is a common observation that a benefactor has friendlier feelings toward the beneficiary of his kindness than the beneficiary has toward his benefactor. The usual explanation for this apparent paradox is that the parties are related to each other as creditor and debtor, but this is false because benefactors and recipients, as friends, are united by mutual affection, but there is no affection in the commercial relations between debtor and creditor.

There are several reasons for the difference in feelings between benefactor and beneficiary:

  1. A man who creates something lives partly through the object of his activity, and in a sense a benefactor is the creator of some aspect of his beneficiary's life or character.
  2. As a man who has done something fine and noble, a benefactor is proud of his deed. A beneficiary cannot feel that there is anything noble about his relationship with his benefactor; at best he has profited from it, but things that are profitable are thought of with less pleasure than things that are noble.
  3. Memory of something noble does not pass away easily, so the benefactor, as the doer of a noble deed, tends to remember his act for a long time. Utility is transient and soon forgotten by the beneficiary.
  4. Loving is an active experience and being loved is passive. It is natural that the beneficiary, as the active partner, should have the stronger and more affectionate feelings.