Book 4: The Several Moral Virtues and Vices—Continued.

Chapter 4: Of a similar virtue in smaller matters.

But it appears (as we said at the outset) that there is also a virtue concerned with honour, which bears the same relation to high-mindedness that liberality bears to magnificence; i.e. both the virtue in question and liberality have nothing to do with great things, but cause us to behave properly in matters of moderate or of trifling importance. Just as in the taking and giving of money it is possible to observe the mean, and also to exceed or fall short of it, so it is possible in desire for honour to go too far or not far enough, or, again, to desire honour from the right source and in the right manner.

A man is called ambitious or fond of honour (ϕιλότιμος) in reproach, as desiring honour more than he ought, and from wrong sources; and a man is called unambitious, or not fond of honour (ἀϕιλότιμος) in reproach, as not desiring to be honoured even for noble deeds.

But sometimes a man is called ambitious or fond of honour in praise, as being manly and fond of noble things; and sometimes a man is called unambitious or not fond of honour in praise, as being moderate and temperate (as we said at the outset).

It is plain, then, that there are various senses in which a man is said to be fond of a thing, and that the term fond of honour has not always the same sense, but that as a term of praise it means fonder than most men, and as a term of reproach it means fonder than is right. But, as there is no recognized term for the observance of the mean, the extremes fight, so to speak, for what seems an empty place. But wherever there is excess and defect there is also a mean: and honour is in fact desired more than is right, and less: therefore it may also be desired to the right degree: this character then is praised, being observance of the mean in the matter of honour, though it has no recognized name. Compared with ambition, it seems to be lack of ambition; compared with lack of ambition, it seems to be ambition; compared with both at once, it seems in a way to be both at once. This, we may observe, also happens in the case of the other virtues. But in this case the extreme characters seem to be opposed to one another [instead of to the moderate character], because the character that observes the mean has no recognized name.


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