On Benefits Book III, I

Not to return gratitude for benefits, my Æbutius Liberalis, is both base in itself, and is thought base by all men; wherefore even ungrateful men complain of ingratitude, and yet what all condemn is at the same time rooted in all; and so far do men sometimes run into the other extreme that some of them become our bitterest enemies, not merely after receiving benefits from us, but because they have received them.

I cannot deny that some do this out of sheer badness of nature; but more do so because lapse of time destroys their remembrance, for time gradually effaces what they felt vividly at the moment.

I remember having had an argument with you about this class of persons, whom you wished to call forgetful rather than ungrateful, as if that which caused a man to be ungrateful was any excuse for his being so, or as if the fact of this happening to a man prevented his being ungrateful, when we know that it only happens to ungrateful men.

There are many classes of the ungrateful, as there are of thieves or of homicides, who all have the same fault, though there is a great variety in its various forms.

The man is ungrateful who denies that he has received a benefit; who pretends that he has not received it; who does not return it.

The most ungrateful man of all is he who forgets it.

The others, though they do not repay it, yet feel their debt, and possess some traces of worth, though obstructed by their bad conscience.

They may by some means and at some time be brought to show their gratitude, if, for instance, they be pricked by shame, if they conceive some noble ambition such as occasionally rises even in the breasts of the wicked, if some easy opportunity of doing so offers; but the man from whom all recollection of the benefit has passed away can never become grateful.

Which of the two do you call the worse⁠—he who is ungrateful for kindness, or he who does not even remember it?

The eyes which fear to look at the light are diseased, but those which cannot see it are blind.

It is filial impiety not to love one’s parents, but not to recognise them is madness.