“A magnificent man will also furnish his house suitably to his wealth, for even a house is a sort of public ornament, and will spend by preference on those works that are lasting, for these are the most beautiful.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
At root wealth always has a public aspect to it. It is mine precisely so that I can use it well for the good of all—and this even when I am using it in private affairs.
According to Aristotle, the wealthy have a particular duty to use their wealth with magnificence. This means both spending well on public goods, such as divine worship and various civic projects, and spending well on private goods, such as making and furnishing a truly beautiful and enduring structure for one’s home.
This seems likewise to apply to us all. There is a public aspect to our house. Its architecture and its upkeep, and indeed all aspects of its appearance can contribute, or detract from, the commonweal of the community.
While this might seem at first to constrict or impose on the freedom of individuals, perhaps rather it is an obligation that elevates and points to a deeper meaning for our home life, and for our very house.
Aristotle suggests that the beauty of our home is a way that we serve those around us. And he goes further: building for permanence is an aspect of building for beauty. Perhaps this is one reason that there is always something about a stone house.
Many of us are not in the position to build a new home; and among those that are, financial considerations will often be a real limiting factor in what we can do. Yet it seems Aristotle has given us a special perspective, one from which to appreciate styles that endure, and materials and construction that endure. For the sake of beauty, and for the sake of others, as well as for ourselves.
Regardless of our financial situation we can bear in mind this wonderful, even if challenging aspect of what our houses can be and can mean, right down to their furnishings.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his major ethical work.
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