Giving appropriately and unstingily of yourself and your possessions.

a.k.a. liberality, being unselfish

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • miserliness
  • niggardliness
  • an unwise excess of generosity is one variety of prodigality
  • being a skinflint
  • stinginess
  • tight-fistedness
  • being ungenerous

Virtues possibly in tension

  • thrift / frugality — Can you be generous and also frugal? Maybe ironically the virtue of generosity is most fruitfully exercised by those of limited means: “One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.” (George Eliot)

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links

  • Aristotle on charity
  • Skills You Need: Generosity
  • Peter Singer’s utilitarian/consequentialist case for philanthropy: The Life You Can Save
  • Cicero (De Officiis I.14+) counseled that generosity needs to be done in proportion to how we have been treated by the person we’re being generous to, with respect to our relationship to that person, in a way that does not inadvertently do harm (wisely, not merely with good intentions), in a way that does not harm others (robbing Peter to pay Paul), and in a manned that is within our means. He also said you should certainly be generous to strangers if it costs you little or nothing (e.g. it doesn’t make your fire go out to light somebody else’s lamp with it).
  • Cicero also recommends being generous in time/labor as being better than money, both more appreciated and less likely to deplete your resources. (De Officiis II.15)
  • Generosity was apparently the first thing the Buddha taught to new followers.

Mentioned elsewhere

Inspirational quotes

  • “Love of man manifests itself in a twofold manner: through free giving and through rewarding good deeds.” ―Cicero
  • “The generality are the worse for their plenty. The voluptuous consumes it, the miser hides it; it is the good man that uses it, and to good purposes.” ―William Penn
  • “Gifts burst rocks.” — Poor Richard’s Almanac