Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Chapter 7 (1167b16-1168a28)

By Aristotle

Book 9, Chapter 7 (1167b16-1168a28)

  • Aristotle wants to investigate a paradox: givers seem to love the people they benefit more than the recipient loves his benefactor. Why is that?
  • He says it is because there is a debt that exists between giver and receiver, so that the receiver can't always love the person to whom he owes something.
  • The giver, on the other hand, has a vested interest in valuing the receiver. After all, he's owed to.
  • Others say that this is a cynical view of things. Sometimes, benefactors just love the people they're helping without any thought of receiving something in return.
  • Besides, the benefactor is already rewarded through the good work he's done. The work itself doesn't need to love him back.
  • There's a kind of self-identification with our own work—whether it's a work of art or a good deed. Loving the work is like loving ourselves.
  • It is less exciting for the recipient of a good deed. He neither does the good thing nor gets the honor of it.
  • On top of it, the benefactor gets to think back on his lovely good deed and smile. It's always useful to him. Not some much for the recipient.
  • Giving affection is a little like this, too. Being a friend is an active and noble thing. The effort we put into the relationship helps us love our friend more, since he's the work we identify with.
  • We all love what's difficult to achieve more than that which is easy, which is also why benefactors love more than the recipients.