Book 04
Chapter 03
Greatness of soul means knowing you can do great things, and stepping up, and doing them.

There is a difference between making a claim on something great and being worthy of that thing. Someone may claim command of an enterprise (e.g. generalship of an expedition), and such a thing is going to have to go to someone; if they are truly worthy then they should get what they claimed; if not then they do not know themselves and have gone beyond what they can do. Likewise also, if someone is most worthy of something, and they do not step up and claim that thing, then they also do not know themselves; they should have done something; they should have used the gifts they have, rather than keep quiet and hang back.

Like-to how the difference between magnificence and liberality is in how much money is spent, so also the difference between the virtues of magnanimity (which is like magnificence) and proper pride (which is like liberality) is based on how great the thing is that is claimed by the person. Magnanimity (also called "greatness of soul") is about claims to greatness. If proper pride is about putting in for a promotion, then magnanimity is running for mayor or founding a company. The opposing vices are vanity (claiming too much of great things) and "littleness of soul" (claiming too little of great things).

The magnanimous person believes themselves to be worthy of great things, and the truth is that they really are so; and they act on their belief by rightly stepping up and laying claim to those things which they are worthy of. The vain person also thinks themselves worthy, but is not really so, yet they still step up to make claims. The small-souled person is worthy of great things (they truly do have abilities), but this person does not think themselves worthy, and so does not step up.

And what about a person that both is not worthy but also does not (wrongly) think that they are worthy? Well, such people are not even in the running, so these virtues and the vices do not apply to them. What would we say about a common sort of person seeking rulership? Or what if an average person started training for the Olympic Games? If they were not mad then surely they would at least be indulging their ego and their fancy, since setting about something great is pleasing, at least in the beginning. Temperance is the virtue of resisting pleasures, so let us say that those people who are not worthy, and do not think that they are, and do not make claims (even though they would like to) are temperate.

The magnanimous lay claim to one thing above all: honor. The magnanimous have it in themselves to do the greatest of things, and so they seek to do the greatest of deeds. And what can be a fitting reward for such noble service? Surely it cannot be wealth. After all, the greatest gifts to- and greatest services done for- mankind are done by the gods, and while we do sacrifice to them and make votive offerings, they are done for the purpose of honoring the gods and not as if we are paying a bill. So likewise, the sacrifices made to the great heroes of old, such as Heracles, are for honoring their great deeds and noble service to mankind. Now we, of course, do not make sacrifices to our fellow citizens, but we do honor them. And think here of a great athlete performing splendid feats at the Games, and how they are not paid like a mercenary or entertainer, but honored with the laurel wreath. So if we think about it, we can well see that great claims and great deeds are done for the sake of honor (not wealth), and that is the good which the magnanimous seek.

Again, as having the virtue of magnificence implies having the virtue of liberality, so also having the virtue of magnanimity implies having many other virtues also. Whoever deserves the most must be most deserving. Yet how can one be deserving of great honors when they also have vices which earn them blame? It would be very odd to say that someone was magnanimous, but also a coward! Or how should it be that a magnanimous person does anything for the sake of gaining money, even though what they would have to do would also cause them to be disgraced? For the magnanimous, why should they do any such thing when all is nothing to them in comparison with honor? In fact, the more we think about this, the more absurd it seems to be to have a magnanimous person that is not also someone that is very good and decent and respectable. And if such a person were bad then they would not be worthy of the honor that they seek. But they do seek honor, and honor is the prize of virtue, and so they must needs be virtuous all-around. As the pentathletes are the most beautiful of athletes, so also we say of the magnanimous they their souls are the greatest of all citizens.

It is very hard to be truly magnanimous, for it means having many virtues, and being capable of great things, and knowing one's own worth, and stepping up to make bold and just claims. Very few can truly be such a person as this.

Now, honors that are great and are given by good people will be such a prize as will make the magnanimous happy. In this way, the great-souled person is recognized for what they are and are acknowledged as coming into their own, or really, still less than their own. For perfect virtue is greater than any honor, but still the magnanimous will graciously accept that honor which is the best that can be offered. But honor that random people try to give, and honor given for small things, the magnanimous will totally brush aside. It is not for little things that the magnanimous go to the trouble of building up and perfecting their virtue. Likewise also, the magnanimous will brush off any dishonors that random people try to put on them, because such things cannot be just and are of zero concern.

The magnanimous will have a steady and sturdy character. The ups and downs of life are not going to upset such a person. Nor will wealth and power corrupt such a person. Wealth and power are for the sake of getting honor, so thinks the magnanimous. Yet the things which corrupt people do are dishonorable and vicious and the magnanimous person will have nothing to do with them.

Also, wealth and power can come and go with turns of fortune. But a great-souled man is not one to get puffed up when they get something by good luck, nor are they one to cry when their luck turns bad. So, again, the magnanimous do not care all that much about keeping hold of money and power.

Even honor is held by the magnanimous to be small when compared with the greatness of virtue. So the magnanimous are thought to be disdainful (they look down on things as beneath them), they do not think many things are worthy of their time or care.

Being well-off can help with being magnanimous. People born into honorable families are generally thought to be worthy of honor. Likewise also, people who have gained much in power or wealth are generally thought to be worthy of honor. These people are higher up and what is higher tends to get honor.

This getting of honor makes people want to keep it up and be as the magnanimous person is. But of such people, only the truly good are truly worthy of honor. Now, one does not need to be well-off to be worthy of honor, but being both a good person and also well-off does make someone more worthy of honor. This is because they have the greater means to do greater things, and where greater deeds are done, greater honors are given. However, many people mistakenly think that being well-off and having greater means can make them be deserving without them having virtue or doing good things. They go around puffed up, like as if they were really magnanimous, and act as if they are superior when they are not, and they look down on other people, and they do whatever they feel like.

But a great-souled one is not at all like that. The magnanimous never looks down on any person without just cause (and yet most people take any random thing as a reason to look down on someone else).

The magnanimous do not risk their lives for little things, nor do they like danger, because there are many ways to die, but few things worth dying for. Still, the magnanimous will face great dangers, and once in the danger, they will see things through, and would rather die than give up or give in.

The magnanimous is the sort of person that likes to help those in need, but does not like to need help. Being able to help others means being higher up, but needing help from people means being lower down. The magnanimous wants to be higher. But if a magnanimous person does get help from someone, then you will see the magnanimous person turn around and repay the debt as soon as possible, and then do even more for the other person. This brings them back up to a higher place.

While the magnanimous will remember what good things they have done for other people, they do not like to be reminded of anything good they have received. This is not because they are ungrateful, but because it is painful for them to remember themselves as being in need. This is why when Thetis, the mother of Achilles, asks Zeus to help her son, she does not remind Zeus of how she once helped him (and if she did, it would have annoyed Zeus).

Again, the magnanimous do not like to need help and so they do not often ask for it, but they are ready to give help to other people. They act in a way that is dignified when dealing with people in high places, but in a way that is natural and friendly when dealing with other people. After all, it is hard to be superior to people high up just as it is hard to hit an Olympic boxer, but it is easy for one of complete virtue to be superior to normal people, just as it is easy for the Olympic boxer to hit an untrained man. Yet virtue and the magnanimous are both about hard things, so why should a magnanimous person puff themselves up and strut about when around ordinary folk? That would be bad in the same way that a stronger person bullying a weak person is bad; and because it would be bad, the truly magnanimous would never do it.

Even though the magnanimous will have complete virtue, still they will not be seen trying to do many things, neither common nor great. They will not compete in areas that others are already great. Rather they will tend to hold back, but then when some great honor or work is at stake, they will step up to that task. They will do few deeds, but the ones they do will be great and notable.

A magnanimous person does not hide their feelings, and so they will be open in their love and their hate. This is because they care more about the truth than what other people would have be so. The magnanimous will straight up tell other people what they think (except when they say ironic things to people who have no idea anyways), and so magnanimous people are often thought to be contemptuous.

A great-souled one does not have their life revolve around someone else, except perhaps a dear and true friend; otherwise, it is a slavish thing to do. Compare this to the flatterer, who does revolve around other people, and is unlike the magnanimous in that flattery is servile and flatterers lack in self-respect.

The magnanimous do not tend to be struck with admiration. There are very few things they find to be great.

Those with great souls do not keep mind of the wrongs that have been done them, nor do they hold bitterness in their hearts as vengeful people do. Rather the great-souled are the ones to let things go or overlook them, as being not worthy of their care.

The magnanimous do not gossip. They will not talk up themselves, nor will they talk down other people, nor will they give praise to people that do not deserve it, even if those people want and are expecting it. They do not care about these things like other people do. They do not even talk bad about their enemies, unless they stand against their opponents taunt them or have defeated them and are vaunting over them (which things the heroes in the Iliad do).

When something bad happens to befall a magnanimous person, they do not cry about it or ask for help. To be great-souled is to not to take little things as if they were serious, and still less to act so around other people.

As for personal possessions, the magnanimous will tend to have things that are beautiful, but not profitable or useful. They already have what they want in just being themselves, and so they have little need of possessions.

The magnanimous have a distinct manner that sets them apart from other people. Their walk is slow, not hurried (and certainly not scurrying). Their voice is deep and their speech is level. This is because they take only a few things seriously, and so most things do not excite them or hurry them along, this way and that.

So that is the virtue of magnanimity. Now, what are the vices? On the side of deficiency we have a "too humble" person. On the side of excess we have the vain. Now these kinds of people are not wicked because they do not have an ill-will, but they are mistaken and they do not do what is right.

For the person that is too humble, they do have the ability to do great things and yet they leave them undone; this is wasteful and is, in a way, robbing oneself of what one truly deserves. This type of person gives a bad impression since they themselves have an opinion of themselves as being unworthy, and seem not to follow the ancient precept: "Know thyself." If they did know themselves then they would want good things for themselves, because it is good to do great things, and it is also good to get honor from it. These people are not exactly fools, but rather they too easily give way or stand back.

The vain also do not know themselves, and, to make matters worse, they are fools. These are people who try to do things that they do not have the real ability to do, and then it gets found out that they are all show. But before that, you find such people wearing fine and impressive clothing and talking up anything that they get from good fortune, as if that were proof that they were great and that they should get honor for it. Even so, being too humble is more against greatness of soul than vanity is. It more common to find these people who do not step up, and them wasting their abilities in the name of humility is actually the worse thing.

Now to sum up: the magnanimous are great-souled, have complete virtue, make claims to great honors, and do only a few things, but the things that they do are great, and in doing them they show their high worth.


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