A sort of large-scale but tasteful, civic-minded generosity.

a.k.a. munificence, philanthropy?

In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he includes as one of his virtues “megaloprepeia”. It is a sort of large-scale, community-facing generosity such as would be involved in financing and directing a great festival or in lavishly hosting foreign dignitaries. Part of the trick here is to not only do it unsparingly and generously, but also tastefully and not in a vulgar, ostentatious way.

Cicero (De Oficiis) notes that people who aim at virtues like magnanimity and courage sometimes do so for love of glory. Because they’re more interested in the kudos than in the virtues themselves, they can go astray and miss the mark.

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • ostentation, poor taste, vulgarity (spending to show off rather than out of generosity)
  • stinginess, cheapness (trying to be munificent but being unwilling to really put yourself out)

Virtues possibly in tension

  • frugality: Aristotle seemed usually to think of this as the virtue of the already-wealthy. But he noted that it’s a matter of attitude and it’s possible to be magnificent in small things: “greatness in the work differs from greatness in the expense (for the most beautiful ball or bottle is magnificent as a gift to a child, but the price of it is small).”
  • humility
  • moderation

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links

Mentioned elsewhere

Inspirational quotes

  • “Liberality or bounty is a noble quality in man, entertained of few, yet praised of all, but the covetous dislike it, because it reproaches their sordidness. In this she differs from charity, that she has sometimes other objects, and exceeds in proportion. For she will cast her eye on those that do not absolutely want, as well as those that do; and always outdoes necessities and services.” ―William Penn
  • Alas, says Thoreau: “He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.”