St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province


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Question: 135  [<< | >>]

OF MEANNESS* (TWO ARTICLES) [*"Parvificentia," or doing mean things, just as "magnificentia" is doing great things.]

Deinde considerandum est de vitiis oppositis magnificentiae. Et circa hoc quaeruntur duo.    We must now consider the vices opposed to magnificence: under which head there are two points of inquiry:
Primo, utrum parvificentia sit vitium.     (1) Whether meanness is a vice?
Secundo, de vitio ei opposito.     (2) Of the vice opposed to it.


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Question: 135  [<< | >>]
Article: 1  [<< | >>]

Whether meanness is a vice?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod parvificentia non sit vitium. Virtus enim, sicut est moderativa magnorum, ita etiam est moderativa parvorum, unde et liberales et magnifici aliqua parva faciunt. Sed magnificentia est virtus. Ergo similiter parvificentia magis est virtus quam vitium.   Objection 1: It seems that meanness is not a vice. For just as vice moderates great things, so does it moderate little things: wherefore both the liberal and the magnificent do little things. But magnificence is a virtue. Therefore likewise meanness is a virtue rather than a vice.
Praeterea, philosophus dicit, in IV Ethic., quod diligentia ratiocinii est parvifica. Sed diligentia ratiocinii videtur esse laudabilis, quia bonum hominis est secundum rationem esse, ut Dionysius dicit, IV cap. de Div. Nom. Ergo parvificentia non est vitium.   Objection 2: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "careful reckoning is mean." But careful reckoning is apparently praiseworthy, since man's good is to be in accordance with reason, as Dionysius states (Div. Nom. iv, 4). Therefore meanness is not a vice.
Praeterea, philosophus dicit, in IV Ethic., quod parvificus consumit pecuniam tristatus. Sed hoc pertinet ad avaritiam, sive ad illiberalitatem. Ergo parvificentia non est vitium ab aliis distinctum.   Objection 3: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "a mean man is loth to spend money." But this belongs to covetousness or illiberality. Therefore meanness is not a distinct vice from the others.
Sed contra est quod philosophus, in II et IV Ethic., ponit parvificentiam speciale vitium magnificentiae oppositum.   On the contrary, The Philosopher (Ethic. ii) accounts meanness a special vice opposed to magnificence.
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, moralia speciem a fine sortiuntur. Unde et a fine ut pluries nominantur. Ex hoc ergo dicitur aliquis parvificus quod intendit ad aliquid parvum faciendum. Parvum autem et magnum, secundum philosophum, in praedicamentis, relative dicuntur. Unde cum dicitur quod parvificus intendit aliquid parvum faciendum, facere parvum intelligendum est in comparatione ad genus operis quod facit. In quo quidem parvum et magnum potest attendi dupliciter, uno modo, ex parte operis fiendi; alio modo, ex parte sumptus. Magnificus igitur principaliter intendit magnitudinem operis, secundario intendit magnitudinem sumptus, quam non vitat, ut faciat magnum opus, unde philosophus dicit, in IV Ethic., quod magnificus ab aequali sumptu opus facit magis magnificum. Parvificus autem e converso principaliter quidem intendit parvitatem sumptus, unde philosophus dicit, in IV Ethic., quod intendit qualiter minimum consumat, ex consequenti autem intendit parvitatem operis, quam scilicet non recusat, dummodo parvum sumptum faciat. Unde philosophus dicit, ibidem, quod parvificus, maxima consumens in parvo, quod scilicet non vult expendere, bonum perdit, scilicet magnifici operis. Sic ergo patet quod parvificus deficit a proportione quae debet esse secundum rationem inter sumptum et opus. Defectus autem ab eo quod est secundum rationem, causat rationem vitii. Unde manifestum est quod parvificentia vitium est.   I answer that, As stated above (FS, Question [1], Article [3]; FS, Question [18], Article [6]), moral acts take their species from their end, wherefore in many cases they are denominated from that end. Accordingly a man is said to be mean [parvificus] because he intends to do something little [parvum]. Now according to the Philosopher (De Praedic. Cap. Ad aliquid.) great and little are relative terms: and when we say that a mean man intends to do something little, this must be understood in relation to the kind of work he does. This may be little or great in two ways: in one way as regards the work itself to be done, in another as regards the expense. Accordingly the magnificent man intends principally the greatness of his work, and secondarily he intends the greatness of the expense, which he does not shirk, so that he may produce a great work. Wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 4) that "the magnificent man with equal expenditure will produce a more magnificent result." On the other hand, the mean man intends principally to spend little, wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "he seeks how he may spend least." As a result of this he intends to produce a little work, that is, he does not shrink from producing a little work, so long as he spends little. Wherefore the Philosopher says that "the mean man after going to great expense forfeits the good" of the magnificent work, "for the trifle" that he is unwilling to spend. Therefore it is evident that the mean man fails to observe the proportion that reason demands between expenditure and work. Now the essence of vice is that it consists in failing to do what is in accordance with reason. Hence it is manifest that meanness is a vice.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod virtus moderatur parva secundum regulam rationis, a qua deficit parvificus, ut dictum est. Non enim dicitur parvificus qui parva moderatur, sed qui in moderando magna vel parva deficit a regula rationis. Et ideo habet vitii rationem.   Reply to Objection 1: Virtue moderates little things, according to the rule of reason: from which rule the mean man declines, as stated in the Article. For he is called mean, not for moderating little things, but for declining from the rule of reason in moderating great or little things: hence meanness is a vice.
Ad secundum dicendum quod, sicut dicit philosophus, in II Rhet., timor facit consiliativos. Et ideo parvificus diligenter ratiociniis intendit, quia inordinate timet bonorum suorum consumptionem, etiam in minimis. Unde hoc non est laudabile, sed vitiosum et vituperabile, quia non dirigit affectum suum secundum rationem, sed potius rationis usum applicat ad inordinationem sui affectus.   Reply to Objection 2: As the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 5), "fear makes us take counsel": wherefore a mean man is careful in his reckonings, because he has an inordinate fear of spending his goods, even in things of the least account. Hence this is not praiseworthy, but sinful and reprehensible, because then a man does not regulate his affections according to reason, but, on the contrary, makes use of his reason in pursuance of his inordinate affections.
Ad tertium dicendum quod sicut magnificus convenit cum liberali in hoc quod prompte et delectabiliter pecunias emittit, ita etiam parvificus convenit cum illiberali sive avaro in hoc quod cum tristitia et tarditate expensas facit. Differt autem in hoc quod illiberalitas attenditur circa communes sumptus, parvificentia autem circa magnos sumptus, quos difficilius est facere. Et ideo minus vitium est parvificentia quam illiberalitas. Unde philosophus dicit, in IV Ethic., quod quamvis parvificentia et oppositum vitium sint malitiae, non tamen opprobria inferunt, quia neque sunt nociva proximo, neque sunt valde turpes.   Reply to Objection 3: Just as the magnificent man has this in common with the liberal man, that he spends his money readily and with pleasure, so too the mean man in common with the illiberal or covetous man is loth and slow to spend. Yet they differ in this, that illiberality regards ordinary expenditure, while meanness regards great expenditure, which is a more difficult accomplishment: wherefore meanness is less sinful than illiberality. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "although meanness and its contrary vice are sinful, they do not bring shame on a man, since neither do they harm one's neighbor, nor are they very disgraceful."


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Question: 135  [<< | >>]
Article: 2  [<< | >>]

Whether there is a vice opposed to meanness?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod parvificentiae nullum vitium opponatur. Parvo enim opponitur magnum. Sed magnificentia non est vitium, sed virtus. Ergo parvificentiae non opponitur vitium.   Objection 1: It seems that there is no vice opposed to meanness. For great is opposed to little. Now, magnificence is not a vice, but a virtue. Therefore no vice is opposed to meanness.
Praeterea, cum parvificentia sit vitium ex defectu, ut dictum est, videtur quod, si aliquod vitium esset parvificentiae oppositum, quod consisteret solum in superabundanti consumptione. Sed illi qui consumunt multa ubi pauca oporteret consumere, consumunt pauca ubi multa oporteret consumere, ut dicitur in IV Ethic., et sic habent aliquid de parvificentia. Non ergo est aliquod vitium parvificentiae oppositum.   Objection 2: Further, since meanness is a vice by deficiency, as stated above (Article [1]), it seems that if any vice is opposed to meanness, it would merely consist in excessive spending. But those who spend much, where they ought to spend little, spend little where they ought to spend much, according to Ethic. iv, 2, and thus they have something of meanness. Therefore there is not a vice opposed to meanness.
Praeterea, moralia sortiuntur speciem ex fine, ut dictum est. Sed illi qui superflue consumunt, hoc faciunt causa ostentationis divitiarum, ut dicitur in IV Ethic. Hoc autem pertinet ad inanem gloriam, quae opponitur magnanimitati, ut dictum est. Ergo nullum vitium parvificentiae opponitur.   Objection 3: Further, moral acts take their species from their end, as stated above (Article [1]). Now those who spend excessively, do so in order to make a show of their wealth, as stated in Ethic. iv, 2. But this belongs to vainglory, which is opposed to magnanimity, as stated above (Question [131], Article [2]). Therefore no vice is opposed to meanness.
Sed contra est auctoritas philosophi, qui, in II et IV Ethic., ponit magnificentiam medium duorum oppositorum vitiorum.   On the contrary, stands the authority of the Philosopher who (Ethic. ii, 8; iv, 2) places magnificence as a mean between two opposite vices.
Respondeo dicendum quod parvo opponitur magnum. Parvum autem et magnum, ut dictum est, relative dicuntur. Sicut autem contingit sumptum esse parvum per comparationem ad opus, ita etiam contingit sumptum esse magnum in comparatione ad opus, ut scilicet excedat proportionem quae esse debet sumptus ad opus secundum regulam rationis. Unde manifestum est quod vitio parvificentiae, qua aliquis deficit a proportione debita expensarum ad opus, intendens minus expendere quam dignitas operis requirat, opponitur vitium quo aliquis dictam proportionem excedit, ut scilicet plus expendat quam sit operi proportionatum. Et hoc vitium Graece quidem dicitur banausia, a furno dicta, quia videlicet ad modum ignis qui est in furno, omnia consumit, vel dicitur apirocalia, idest sine bono igne, quia ad modum ignis consumit non propter bonum. Unde Latine hoc vitium nominari potest consumptio.   I answer that, Great is opposed to little. Also little and great are relative terms, as stated above (Article [1]). Now just as expenditure may be little in comparison with the work, so may it be great in comparison with the work in that it exceeds the proportion which reason requires to exist between expenditure and work. Hence it is manifest that the vice of meanness, whereby a man intends to spend less than his work is worth, and thus fails to observe due proportion between his expenditure and his work, has a vice opposed to it, whereby a man exceeds this same proportion, by spending more than is proportionate to his work. This vice is called in Greek {banausia}, so called from the Greek {baunos}, because, like the fire in the furnace, it consumes everything. It is also called {apyrokalia}, i.e. lacking good fire, since like fire it consumes all, but not for a good purpose. Hence in Latin it may be called "consumptio" [waste].
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod magnificentia dicitur esse eo quod facit magnum opus, non autem ex eo quod in sumptu excedat proportionem operis. Hoc enim pertinet ad vitium quod opponitur parvificentiae.   Reply to Objection 1: Magnificence is so called from the great work done, but not from the expenditure being in excess of the work: for this belongs to the vice which is opposed to meanness.
Ad secundum dicendum quod idem vitium contrariatur virtuti quae est in medio, et contrario vitio. Sic igitur vitium consumptionis opponitur parvificentiae in eo quod excedit in sumptu operis dignitatem, expendens multa ubi pauca oporteret expendere. Opponitur autem magnificentiae ex parte operis magni, quod praecipue intendit magnificus, inquantum scilicet, ubi oportet multa expendere, nihil aut parum expendit.   Reply to Objection 2: To the one same vice there is opposed the virtue which observes the mean, and a contrary vice. Accordingly, then, the vice of waste is opposed to meanness in that it exceeds in expenditure the value of the work, by spending much where it behooved to spend little. But it is opposed to magnificence on the part of the great work, which the magnificent man intends principally, in so far as when it behooves to spend much, it spends little or nothing.
Ad tertium dicendum quod consumptor ex ipsa specie actus opponitur parvifico, inquantum transcendit regulam rationis, a qua parvificus deficit. Nihil tamen prohibet quin hoc ad finem alterius vitii ordinetur, puta inanis gloria, vel cuiuscumque alterius.   Reply to Objection 3: Wastefulness is opposed to meanness by the very species of its act, since it exceeds the rule of reason, whereas meanness falls short of it. Yet nothing hinders this from being directed to the end of another vice, such as vainglory or any other.

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