On Benefits Book III, XIV

“Benefits, then, will be fewer, but more genuine: well, what harm is there in restricting people from giving recklessly?”

Even those who would have no legislation upon the subject follow this rule, that we ought to be somewhat careful in giving, and in choosing those upon whom we bestow favours.

Reflect over and over again to whom you are giving: you will have no remedy at law, no means of enforcing repayment.

You are mistaken if you suppose that the judge will assist you: no law will make full restitution to you, you must look only to the honour of the receiver.

Thus only can benefits retain their influence, and thus only are they admirable: you dishonour them if you make them the grounds of litigation. “Pay what you owe” is a most just proverb; and one which carries with it the sanction of all nations; but in dealing with benefits it is most shameful. “Pay!”

How is a man to pay who owes his life, his position, his safety, or his reason to another?

None of the greatest benefits can be repaid.

“Yet,” it is said, “you ought to give in return for them something of equal value.”

This is just what I have been saying, that the grandeur of the act is ruined if we make our benefits commercial transactions.

We ought not to encourage ourselves in avarice, in discontent, or in quarrels; the human mind is prone enough to these by nature.

As far as we are able, let us check it, and cut off the opportunities for which it seeks.