Book 9: Friendship or Love—Continued.
Benefactors seem to love those whom they have benefited more than those who have received benefits love those who have conferred them; and as this appears irrational, people seek for the cause of this phenomenon.
Most people think the reason is that the one is in the position of a debtor, the other in the position of a creditor; and that, therefore, just as in the case of a loan the debtor wishes his creditor were out of the way, while the lender, on the other hand, is anxious that his debtor may be preserved, so here the benefactor desires the existence of him whom he has benefited in hopes of receiving favours in return, while the other is not at all anxious to repay.
Epicharmus, indeed, might perhaps say that this is only the view of “those who have bad places at the play,” but it seems to be true to life; for the generality of men have short memories, and are more eager to receive benefits than to confer them.
But it would seem that the real cause is something that lies deeper in the nature of things, and that the case of creditors does not even resemble this: for creditors have no real affection for their debtors, but only a wish that they may be preserved in order that they may repay; but those who have conferred benefits have a real love and affection for those whom they have benefited, even though they are not, and are never likely to be, of any service.
The same phenomenon may be observed in craftsmen; for every craftsman loves the work of his own hands more than it would love him if it came to life. But perhaps poets carry it furthest; for they love their own poems to excess, and are as fond of them as if they were their children.
Now, the case of the benefactors seems to resemble theirs; those whom they have benefited they have made, so to speak: that which they have made, then, they love more than the work loves its maker. And the reason of this is that we all desire existence and love it: but it is in the exercise of our faculties, or in the realization of ourselves, that our existence lies (for it lies in living and doing): but that which a man makes is, in a way, a realization of his self; therefore he loves it, because he loves existence.
But this is in accordance with the nature of things; for it is a law of nature that what a thing is as yet potentially is exhibited in realization by that which it makes or does.
Moreover, the manifestation of his action is beautiful to the benefactor, so that he delights in the person that makes it manifest; but to him who has received the benefit there is nothing beautiful in the benefactor, but at the most something useful; and such an object is less pleasing and less lovable.
Again, we take pleasure in realizing ourselves in the present, in hopes for the future, and in memories of the past; but that in which we are realizing ourselves is the most pleasant, and likewise the most lovable. Now, for the benefactor what he has done endures (for that which is beautiful is lasting), while for him who has received the benefit the advantage soon passes away.
Again, the memory of beautiful deeds is pleasant, of profitable actions not at all pleasant, or not so pleasant; but with expectation the reverse seems to be the case.
Again, loving seems like doing something, being loved like having something done to you: but those who have the better part in the transaction naturally feel and show more love.
Again, we all have more affection for what we have achieved with toil, as those who have made money love it more than those who have inherited it; but receiving a benefit seems to involve no labour, while conferring one seems to be troublesome. And for this reason mothers have more affection for their children than fathers; for they have more trouble in giving them birth, and fuller assurance that they are their own. But this would seem to be a characteristic of benefactors also.