Aristotle Essay

Aristotle claims that “one gets far more out of giving than receiving”; therefore, the truly self-serving person gives of him/herself to others. To be self-serving, one must make virtuous decisions. One must first love oneself (in a self-serving manner) before one can truly love another; a common example of this is Scrooge. Once he loved himself, he was able to help others and give to them just for the satisfaction of giving, and received so much more in return (the inherent reward of giving that is).

These individuals develop friendships; Aristotle claims that “a friend is another self”. When someone is helping other people to live good lives, that person is really helping themself. Erich Fromm gives a very good example and points out that love is primarily giving and not receiving. He says that giving is the highest expression of potency, and in the act of giving he experiences his “strength, wealth, and power”, which fills him with delight; he feels more alive in the act of giving.

Fromm says that the giving of oneself, one’s life, will make the other more alive and enriched. Joy, interest, understanding, knowledge, humor, life, etc. can emerge between the two individuals, as the very action of giving enlivens them both. It must be noted that in claiming that “one gets far more out of giving than receiving”, Aristotle is not declaring that the giving is done because such an action might result in a returning of the respect. He is claiming that the very act of giving (being compassionate, respectful … is inherently valuable and rewarding; the very act of giving is good in and of itself, and is humanly satisfying and productive. There is a clear difference between “getting something of value from the recipient of one’s giving in return for one’s giving” and “the inherent value one receives from the mere giving of one’s talents, skills, knowledge, … to another”. The former is not what Aristotle is claiming; it is such a reason for giving by one who is not truly self-serving.

On the other hand, the latter is exactly what Aristotle’s argument is saying. This inherent value that one receives is the feeling of joy and power, and is from the very act of giving, regardless of whether one receives something from the recipient or others in return. Such a truly self-serving person treats others with respect/dignity, honesty, justice/fairness, and compassion. They do so because one gets far more out of giving than receiving. For example, those who volunteer at soup kitchens do so not for something in return.

They know that they will receive nothing for their presence there. These people help out the less fortunate because the act of giving itself is humanly satisfying and productive. My great aunt used to help out at a food pantry out of the goodness of her heart. She did it because it brought her joy and kept her alive. A friend of mine works at a fast food restaurant with a drive-thru window. Just the other day, one person decided to pay for the bill of the people in the car behind them.

When that next vehicle drove up and found that their bill was already paid, they did the same for the people behind them. This lasted for about five cars, and none of these people knew each other. All of these generous people expected nothing in return for their giving. In this act of giving lies an inherent sense of delight. In all of these cases, nothing is expected in return for the act of giving. It is only within the act of giving itself, that people receive satisfaction.

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