QUESTION 134: OF MAGNIFICENCE
We must now consider magnificence and the vices opposed to it. With
regard to magnificence there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether magnificence is a virtue?
(2) Whether it is a special virtue?
(3) What is its matter?
(4) Whether it is a part of fortitude?
Article 1: Whether magnificence is a virtue?
Objection 1: It seems that magnificence is not a virtue. For whoever has one
virtue has all the virtues, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). But one
may have the other virtues without having magnificence: because the
Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "not every liberal man is
magnificent." Therefore magnificence is not a virtue.
Objection 2: Further, moral virtue observes the mean, according to Ethic. ii,
6. But magnificence does not seemingly observe the mean, for it exceeds
liberality in greatness. Now "great" and "little" are opposed to one
another as extremes, the mean of which is "equal," as stated in Metaph.
x. Hence magnificence observes not the mean, but the extreme. Therefore
it is not a virtue.
Objection 3: Further, no virtue is opposed to a natural inclination, but on
the contrary perfects it, as stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article , Objection ). Now according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 2) the "magnificent
man is not lavish towards himself": and this is opposed to the natural
inclination one has to look after oneself. Therefore magnificence is not
Objection 4: Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 4) "act is
right reason about things to be made." Now magnificence is about things
to be made, as its very name denotes [*Magnificence= magna facere---i.e.
to make great things]. Therefore it is an act rather than a virtue.
On the contrary, Human virtue is a participation of Divine power. But
magnificence [virtutis] belongs to Divine power, according to Ps. 47:35:
"His magnificence and His power is in the clouds." Therefore magnificence
is a virtue.
I answer that, According to De Coelo i, 16, "we speak of virtue in
relation to the extreme limit of a thing's power," not as regards the
limit of deficiency, but as regards the limit of excess, the very nature
of which denotes something great. Wherefore to do something great, whence
magnificence takes its name, belongs properly to the very notion of
virtue. Hence magnificence denotes a virtue.
Reply to Objection 1: Not every liberal man is magnificent as regards his
actions, because he lacks the wherewithal to perform magnificent deeds.
Nevertheless every liberal man has the habit of magnificence, either
actually or in respect of a proximate disposition thereto, as explained
above (Question , Article , ad 2), as also (FS, Question , Article ) when we were
treating of the connection of virtues.
Reply to Objection 2: It is true that magnificence observes the extreme, if we
consider the quantity of the thing done: yet it observes the mean, if we
consider the rule of reason, which it neither falls short of nor exceeds,
as we have also said of magnanimity (Question , Article , ad 1).
Reply to Objection 3: It belongs to magnificence to do something great. But that
which regards a man's person is little in comparison with that which
regards Divine things, or even the affairs of the community at large.
Wherefore the magnificent man does not intend principally to be lavish
towards himself, not that he does not seek his own good, but because to
do so is not something great. Yet if anything regarding himself admits of
greatness, the magnificent man accomplishes it magnificently: for
instance, things that are done once, such as a wedding, or the like; or
things that are of a lasting nature; thus it belongs to a magnificent man
to provide himself with a suitable dwelling, as stated in Ethic. iv.
Reply to Objection 4: As the Philosopher says (Ethic. vi, 5) "there must needs be
a virtue of act," i.e. a moral virtue, whereby the appetite is inclined
to make good use of the rule of act: and this is what magnificence does.
Hence it is not an act but a virtue.
Article 2: Whether magnificence is a special virtue?
Objection 1: It seems that magnificence is not a special virtue. For
magnificence would seem to consist in doing something great. But it may
belong to any virtue to do something great, if the virtue be great: as in
the case of one who has a great virtue of temperance, for he does a great
work of temperance. Therefore, magnificence is not a special virtue, but
denotes a perfect degree of any virtue.
Objection 2: Further, seemingly that which tends to a thing is the same as
that which does it. But it belongs to magnanimity to tend to something
great, as stated above (Question , Articles ,2). Therefore it belongs to
magnanimity likewise to do something great. Therefore magnificence is not
a special virtue distinct from magnanimity.
Objection 3: Further, magnificence seems to belong to holiness, for it is
written (Ex. 15:11): "Magnificent [Douay: 'glorious'] in holiness," and
(Ps. 95:6): "Holiness and magnificence [Douay: 'Majesty'] in His
sanctuary." Now holiness is the same as religion, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore magnificence is apparently the same as religion.
Therefore it is not a special virtue, distinct from the others.
On the contrary, The Philosopher reckons it with other special virtues
(Ethic. ii, 7; iv 2).
I answer that, It belongs to magnificence to do [facere] something
great, as its name implies [magnificence= magna facere---i.e. to make
great things]. Now "facere" may be taken in two ways, in a strict sense,
and in a broad sense. Strictly "facere" means to work something in
external matter, for instance to make a house, or something of the kind;
in a broad sense "facere" is employed to denote any action, whether it
passes into external matter, as to burn or cut, or remain in the agent,
as to understand or will.
Accordingly if magnificence be taken to denote the doing of something
great, the doing [factio] being understood in the strict sense, it is
then a special virtue. For the work done is produced by act: in the use
of which it is possible to consider a special aspect of goodness, namely
that the work produced [factum] by the act is something great, namely in
quantity, value, or dignity, and this is what magnificence does. In this
way magnificence is a special virtue.
If, on the other hand, magnificence take its name from doing something
great, the doing [facere] being understood in a broad sense, it is not a
Reply to Objection 1: It belongs to every perfect virtue to do something great in the genus of that virtue, if "doing" [facere] be taken in the broad sense, but not if it be taken strictly, for this is proper to magnificence.
Reply to Objection 2: It belongs to magnanimity not only to tend to something
great, but also to do great works in all the virtues, either by making
[faciendo], or by any kind of action, as stated in Ethic. iv, 3: yet so
that magnanimity, in this respect, regards the sole aspect of great,
while the other virtues which, if they be perfect, do something great,
direct their principal intention, not to something great, but to that
which is proper to each virtue: and the greatness of the thing done is
sometimes consequent upon the greatness of the virtue.
On the other hand, it belongs to magnificence not only to do something
great, "doing" [facere] being taken in the strict sense, but also to tend
with the mind to the doing of great things. Hence Tully says (De Invent.
Rhet. ii) that "magnificence is the discussing and administering of great
and lofty undertakings, with a certain broad and noble purpose of mind,
discussion" referring to the inward intention, and "administration" to
the outward accomplishment. Wherefore just as magnanimity intends
something great in every matter, it follows that magnificence does the
same in every work that can be produced in external matter [factibili].
Reply to Objection 3: The intention of magnificence is the production of a great
work. Now works done by men are directed to an end: and no end of human
works is so great as the honor of God: wherefore magnificence does a
great work especially in reference to the Divine honor. Wherefore the
Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "the most commendable expenditure is
that which is directed to Divine sacrifices": and this is the chief
object of magnificence. For this reason magnificence is connected with
holiness, since its chief effect is directed to religion or holiness.
Article 3: Whether the matter of magnificence is great expenditure?
Objection 1: It seems that the matter of magnificence is not great
expenditure. For there are not two virtues about the same matter. But
liberality is about expenditure, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Therefore magnificence is not about expenditure.
Objection 2: Further, "every magnificent man is liberal" (Ethic. iv, 2). But
liberality is about gifts rather than about expenditure. Therefore
magnificence also is not chiefly about expenditure, but about gifts.
Objection 3: Further, it belongs to magnificence to produce an external work.
But not even great expenditure is always the means of producing an
external work, for instance when one spends much in sending presents.
Therefore expenditure is not the proper matter of magnificence.
Objection 4: Further, only the rich are capable of great expenditure. But the
poor are able to possess all the virtues, since "the virtues do not
necessarily require external fortune, but are sufficient for
themselves," as Seneca says (De Ira i: De vita beata xvi). Therefore
magnificence is not about great expenditure.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "magnificence
does not extend, like liberality, to all transactions in money, but only
to expensive ones, wherein it exceeds liberality in scale." Therefore it
is only about great expenditure.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), it belongs to magnificence to
intend doing some great work. Now for the doing of a great work,
proportionate expenditure is necessary, for great works cannot be
produced without great expenditure. Hence it belongs to magnificence to
spend much in order that some great work may be accomplished in becoming
manner. Wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "a magnificent
man will produce a more magnificent work with equal," i.e. proportionate,
"expenditure." Now expenditure is the outlay of a sum of money; and a man
may be hindered from making that outlay if he love money too much. Hence
the matter of magnificence may be said to be both this expenditure
itself, which the magnificent man uses to produce a great work, and also
the very money which he employs in going to great expense, and as well as
the love of money, which love the magnificent man moderates, lest he be
hindered from spending much.
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Question , Article ), those virtues that are
about external things experience a certain difficulty arising from the
genus itself of the thing about which the virtue is concerned, and
another difficulty besides arising from the greatness of that same thing.
Hence the need for two virtues, concerned about money and its use;
namely, liberality, which regards the use of money in general, and
magnificence, which regards that which is great in the use of money.
Reply to Objection 2: The use of money regards the liberal man in one way and the
magnificent man in another. For it regards the liberal man, inasmuch as
it proceeds from an ordinate affection in respect of money; wherefore all
due use of money (such as gifts and expenditure), the obstacles to which
are removed by a moderate love of money, belongs to liberality. But the
use of money regards the magnificent man in relation to some great work
which has to be produced, and this use is impossible without expenditure
Reply to Objection 3: The magnificent man also makes gifts of presents, as stated
in Ethic. iv, 2, but not under the aspect of gift, but rather under the
aspect of expenditure directed to the production of some work, for
instance in order to honor someone, or in order to do something which
will reflect honor on the whole state: as when he brings to effect what
the whole state is striving for.
Reply to Objection 4: The chief act of virtue is the inward choice, and a virtue
may have this without outward fortune: so that even a poor man may be
magnificent. But goods of fortune are requisite as instruments to the
external acts of virtue: and in this way a poor man cannot accomplish the
outward act of magnificence in things that are great simply. Perhaps,
however, he may be able to do so in things that are great by comparison
to some particular work; which, though little in itself, can nevertheless
be done magnificently in proportion to its genus: for little and great
are relative terms, as the Philosopher says (De Praedic. Cap. Ad
Article 4: Whether magnificence is a part of fortitude?
Objection 1: It seems that magnificence is not a part of fortitude. For
magnificence agrees in matter with liberality, as stated above (Article ).
But liberality is a part, not of fortitude, but of justice. Therefore
magnificence is not a part of fortitude.
Objection 2: Further, fortitude is about fear and darings. But magnificence
seems to have nothing to do with fear, but only with expenditure, which
is a kind of action. Therefore magnificence seems to pertain to justice,
which is about actions, rather than to fortitude.
Objection 3: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 2) that "the
magnificent man is like the man of science." Now science has more in
common with prudence than with fortitude. Therefore magnificence should
not be reckoned a part of fortitude.
On the contrary, Tully (De Invent. Rhet. ii) and Macrobius (De Somn.
Scip. i) and Andronicus reckon magnificence to be a part of fortitude.
I answer that, Magnificence, in so far as it is a special virtue, cannot
be reckoned a subjective part of fortitude, since it does not agree with
this virtue in the point of matter: but it is reckoned a part thereof, as
being annexed to it as secondary to principal virtue.
In order for a virtue to be annexed to a principal virtue, two things
are necessary, as stated above (Question ). The one is that the secondary
virtue agree with the principal, and the other is that in some respect it
be exceeded thereby. Now magnificence agrees with fortitude in the point
that as fortitude tends to something arduous and difficult, so also does
magnificence: wherefore seemingly it is seated, like fortitude, in the
irascible. Yet magnificence falls short of fortitude, in that the arduous
thing to which fortitude tends derives its difficulty from a danger that
threatens the person, whereas the arduous thing to which magnificence
tends, derives its difficulty from the dispossession of one's property,
which is of much less account than danger to one's person. Wherefore
magnificence is accounted a part of fortitude.
Reply to Objection 1: Justice regards operations in themselves, as viewed under
the aspect of something due: but liberality and magnificence regard
sumptuary operations as related to the passions of the soul, albeit in
different ways. For liberality regards expenditure in reference to the
love and desire of money, which are passions of the concupiscible
faculty, and do not hinder the liberal man from giving and spending: so
that this virtue is in the concupiscible. On the other hand, magnificence
regards expenditure in reference to hope, by attaining to the difficulty,
not simply, as magnanimity does, but in a determinate matter, namely
expenditure: wherefore magnificence, like magnanimity, is apparently in
the irascible part.
Reply to Objection 2: Although magnificence does not agree with fortitude in
matter, it agrees with it as the condition of its matter: since it tends
to something difficult in the matter of expenditure, even as fortitude
tends to something difficult in the matter of fear.
Reply to Objection 3: Magnificence directs the use of art to something great, as
stated above and in the preceding Article. Now art is in the reason.
Wherefore it belongs to the magnificent man to use his reason by
observing proportion of expenditure to the work he has in hand. This is
especially necessary on account of the greatness of both those things,
since if he did not take careful thought, he would incur the risk of a