14 December 2017

I owe Xu Fuguan an apology


Xu Fuguan 徐復觀

I’ve let it be known before that I’m slightly hostile to that group of scholars known as the New Confucians – the ones who promoted Confucian doctrines in the wake of the Republican revolution. A significant part of my distaste comes from the political fact that many of them were intimately tied to Jiang Jieshi’s Guomindang government, which was both corrupt and every bit as thuggish and dictatorial as the Communists. But, according to some of the reading I’ve been doing recently, the reality is far more complicated than that – and Chinese history during the Republican-warlordist era, the Sino-Japanese War and the Civil War was a remarkably messy time.

Xu Fuguan, for example, was highly sympathetic to socialism and approved many aspects of the CCP’s programme; however, he used these insights to provide Jiang Jieshi with intelligence on the CCP in the hope that the Guomindang could be reformed from within. Upon seeing that this hope had been misguided, it became a matter of deep and intense shame for him after his exile to Taiwan in 1949, and caused him to spend the rest of his career railing – with good cause – against KMT corruption, cronyism, looting and the cult of personality around Jiang; against the moral cowardice of China’s intelligentsia and its liberal élite (Hu Shi in particular); against the CCP’s abandonment of humaneness; and against American imperialism and support for anti-communist dictatorships in Asia. His socialist- and collectivist-leaning ‘democratic Confucian’ critique of the political situation actually sounds very much like Zhang Junmai’s (or my own, for that matter), and I was quite wrong to criticise him as I did. The fact that Xu Fuguan had precious little use for postmodern ‘art’ is equally endearing to me, I must admit.

Xu Fuguan’s later critique of the CCP (that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution essentially continued all the bad points of the feudalism of the ‘old society’ while continuing none of its good points) is also something I can get on board with, though I’m not entirely sanguine about where and how he casts the blame. His distaste for rural peasant leaders and their methods is understandable, but it doesn’t fit well with his general sympathy for the poor; it also doesn’t really accord with fact. The greatest damage done during the Cultural Revolution was in the big cities and in the old centres of culture, where the Red Guards attacked anything that smacked of the ‘Four Olds’. The rural effects of the Cultural Revolution, though by no means absent or harmless, were far more attenuated and less dramatic.

In short – Xu Fuguan was a far more complex and, to my mind now, more sympathetic character than I had originally thought. I was deeply unfair to him before, and I apologise for that. His thought parallels that of Zhang Junmai. He didn’t cling to the lies of the Guomindang once he saw them for what they truly were, and I respect that deeply – nor was his early support for the CCP something that blinkered him either. I still think that the apolitical quietism of his colleagues and their tacit support for the Guomindang’s policies both on the mainland and on Taiwan is something reprehensible, but I’m now much more aware of the difficulties and complexities of the time.

12 December 2017

A year of reading Plato


I’ve had sympathies with Platonic philosophy for a long time – in fact, since graduate school when I started reading John Milbank, George Grant, Simone Weil and Vladimir Solovyov. I knew and could perceive, to a limited extent, the light that was shining behind these towering intellectual figures, all of whom defied easy political or philosophical description, and all of whom had a certain degree of influence on me.

I admit, though, my own personal motivations for going ad fontes this year were somewhat petty and politically-motivated. I desired to understand, through reading Plato’s political theory, the ways in which democratic and oligarchic régimes decay and degenerate into tyranny. And, in numerous of the Dialogues, I found the political critiques both of democracy and of oligarchy that I had been looking toward. But to say that I found way, way more therein would be trite, it would be a cliché, and it would be an understatement.

Reading Plato’s Dialogues was like holding up a mirror to my own experiences and weaknesses, my own vices and insecurities, my own (like Glaucon’s) deep erotic yearnings and hidden love for tyranny and various compelling but ultimately empty visions of perfection. I had to let Plato’s Socrates interrogate me on all of that, and even though I didn’t necessarily like everything I found, I at least attempted to face it with some degree of honesty. Did I come off a wiser man for it? Ehh. Give me a few months and a few more selective re-reads, and check back in with me again. There’s a lot to process.

But there is a reason that I dwelt so heavily on Plato’s investigations into and dialectical treatments of erōs. And it isn’t just because I’m a horndog who, for Freudian reasons, reads something into Plato that isn’t there already. (Okay, maybe partly that. I started investigating Edo Japan and late Imperial Chinese opera this year, too; and I’d be lying if I said they weren’t a propos or driven to some extent by my own ‘Asiatic’ erotic drive, which has no doubt also shaped my politics, my higher æsthetic and moral ideals and even my religious tendencies.) But for Plato, the thirst, the desire for truth and for the really real, is in actuality that same erotic urge, a yearning after a spiritual and physical unity that has been lost and must be recovered.

For Plato, virtue as a whole – and in its constituent ‘pieces’, which Socrates takes pains to get people to rightly understand each – has to begin with knowledge (as opposed to opinion) of things that are, rather than things that only appear to be, true. And indeed, the closer one draws to truth, the more dangerous the seductions of the merely-similar seem to become. Plato had a much higher tolerance for the merely ignorant, than for one who could draw close to the truth but preferred to artfully disguise it with lies instead. As Socrates’ rhetorical bouts with Hippias demonstrated, the skilled liar who understands (at least part of) what is true, is capable of doing far more damage than an unskilled liar who does not understand what is true.

The challenge of ‘curing’ the skilled liar is what draws Socrates – physically and intellectually – to the ‘perilous youths’, the fair faces which conceal possibly monstrous and tyrannical hearts: Alcibiades, Charmides, Phædrus, Agathon, Meno, Glaucon, Plato himself. In one sense, the nihilistic ‘tyranny-loving’ tendency that shows itself in Glaucon and Charmides and Alcibiades puts them as far away as possible from the ideal kingship or aristocracy, and this is one of the points of Socrates’ discourse on the degeneration of régimes in the Republic. In another sense, though, it seems Plato’s Socrates felt the tyranny-lovers to be the ones closest to philosophy, the ones most biddable to it. The tyrannical violence of their erotic loves could be sublimated into a love for wisdom. But this could only be accomplished – in Glaucon’s case – with a Persian myth (if we are to believe Pausanias): the myth of Er to counter the myth of Gyges.

But there is nothing harder and more dangerous than this appeal to young lovers of tyranny, and Plato would have us acknowledge that in many of these cases (Alcibiades and Charmides, notably) his teacher actually failed. Alcibiades (like, we may assume, Menexenus in the Funeral Oration) chose to listen to the flatteries of Aspasia rather than the hard truths of Diotima. (Remember that Alcibiades entered the Symposium, drunk, after Socrates had recounted Diotima’s philosophical discourse on love!) Socrates wasn’t corrupting the youth with philosophy. Instead he was trying, with the bait of higher loves and the more demanding erotic pursuit of wisdom, to reach the ones most prone to the deadliest sorts of corruption. There is something significant also in that he only called young men to the pursuit and the love of wisdom in this way. Tyranny-lovers more advanced in years, like Critias and Callicles, are presented by Plato without this sort of sympathy, without this double pity. This dovetails nicely with Plato’s thoughts, both in the Laws and before, about the distinction between curable and incurable criminal tendencies.

Plato dug deep into the human psyche and held a mirror up to what he found, expressing it through myth and allegory as well as through the psychologically-dense discussions between Socrates and his friends, pupils and enemies. His insights there are unspeakably profound. I can now easily understand why the Greek Fathers, unlike the ill-fated Tertullian, were so unwilling to dispense with Plato completely. It would be fairly simple to draw those lines. Plato’s view of sin undoubtedly coincided somewhat with the early Christian view: as a malady rather than as a debt. He was therefore willing to speak of treatments and cures, of medicines and gymnastic regimens.

But the consolations of pure philosophy are, even if not entirely unsatisfying and unneeded, still quite cold. Even though Plato has some strong personalist tendencies himself, understanding the needed role of each part of the soul in the function and well-being of the whole – his form of the Good in the pure Platonic philosophy is something impersonal. Even though it is eternal and true and beautiful, it is still abstracted past the forms of the Platonic solids and geometric shapes. The Greek Fathers, on the other hand, had Our Lord: the true, the beautiful, the complete and absolute form of the Good embodied completely in human flesh. The presence and reality of an immediate, immanently personal Truth, immortal and yet fully human, allowed them to be even more personalistic than Plato or Aristotle without sacrificing the Socratic method, the Platonic dialectic or the Platonic treatments of the soul.

Forgive these meanderings, gentle readers. It’s been a lot to process, and I feel I may need a few more re-reads. This year of reading Plato has certainly had a profound impact on the way that I think, but it’s hard to gauge at present the full extent of that impact. Other than that, dear readers: tolle, lege! There is some truly deep commentary on the human condition here, and it is not an accident that Plato’s philosophy is considered a cornerstone of Western thought, however fall we may have fallen from his political-philosophical thinking.

08 December 2017

Yet another quote from the Laws


Water is the greatest element of nutrition in gardens, but is easily polluted. You cannot poison the soil, or the sun or the air, which are the other elements of nutrition in plants, or divert them, or steal them; but all these things may very likely happen to water, which must therefore be protected by law.

And let this be the law: If anyone intentionally pollutes the water of another, whether the water of a spring, or collected in reservoirs, either by poisonous substances, or by digging, or by theft, let the injured party bring the cause before the wardens of the city, and claim in writing the value of the loss; if the accused be found guilty of injuring the water by deleterious substances, let him not only pay damages, but purify the stream or the cistern which contains the water, in such manner as the laws of the interpreters order the purification to be made by the offender in each case.


   - The Athenian Stranger, Plato’s Laws (845d-e)

Another quote from the Laws


‘We are quite agreed, Stranger, that we should legislate about such things [as music, dancing and martial arts], and that the whole state should practise them.’

‘And what is the reason that dances and contests of this sort hardly ever exist in states, at least not to any extent worth speaking of? Is this due to the ignorance of mankind and their legislators?’

‘Perhaps.’

‘Certainly not, sweet Cleinias; there are two causes, which are quite enough to account for the deficiency [in education in music, dance and martial arts].’

‘What are they?’

‘One cause is the love of wealth, which wholly absorbs men, and never for a moment allows them to think of anything but their own private possessions; on this the soul of every citizen hangs suspended, and can attend to nothing but his daily gain; mankind are ready to learn any branch of knowledge, and to follow any pursuit which tends to this end, and they laugh at every other: that is one reason why a city will not be in earnest about such contests or any other good and honourable pursuit. But from an insatiable love of gold and silver, every man will stoop to any art or contrivance, seemly or unseemly, in the hope of becoming rich; and will make no objection to performing any action, holy, or unholy and utterly base; if only like a beast he have the power of eating and drinking all kinds of things, and procuring for himself in every sort of way the gratification of his lusts.’

‘True.’

‘Let this, then, be deemed one of the causes which prevent states from pursuing in an efficient manner the art of war, or any other noble aim, but makes the orderly and temperate part of mankind into merchants, and captains of ships, and servants, and converts the valiant sort into thieves and burglars, and robbers of temples, and violent, tyrannical persons; many of whom are not without ability, but they are unfortunate.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Must not they be truly unfortunate whose souls are compelled to pass through life always hungering?’

‘That is one cause, Stranger; but you spoke of another.’

‘Thank you for reminding me.’

‘The insatiable lifelong love of wealth, as you were saying, is one cause which absorbs mankind, and prevents them from rightly practising the arts of war: granted; and now tell me, what is the other?’

‘Do you imagine that I delay because I am in a perplexity?’

‘No; but we think that you are too severe upon the money-loving temper, of which you seem in the present discussion to have a peculiar dislike.’

‘That is a very fair rebuke, Cleinias; and now I will proceed to the second cause.’

‘Proceed.’

‘I say that governments are a cause—democracy, oligarchy, tyranny, concerning which I have often spoken in the previous discourse; or rather governments they are not, for none of them exercises a voluntary rule over voluntary subjects; but they may be truly called states of discord, in which while the government is voluntary, the subjects always obey against their will, and have to be coerced; and the ruler fears the subject, and will not, if he can help, allow him to become either noble, or rich, or strong, or valiant, or warlike at all. These two are the chief causes of almost all evils, and of the evils of which I have been speaking they are notably the causes. But our state has escaped both of them; for her citizens have the greatest leisure, and they are not subject to one another, and will, I think, be made by these laws the reverse of lovers of money. Such a constitution may be reasonably supposed to be the only one existing which will accept the education which we have described, and the martial pastimes which have been perfected according to our idea.’


   - The Athenian Stranger and Cleinias, Plato’s Laws (831b-832d)

07 December 2017

In Hunan, the kids are alright


It’s a distinct pleasure to be able to teach high-school kids.

Not that it isn’t a pleasure to teach kids from all age groups. The most fun I had as an English teacher in China was in teaching grade-school students from the Fun Fun English books (a set of Korean English primers which, as a running joke, the Baotou Teachers’ College foreign teachers group turned into a soap opera between two of the protagonists, Sim-soon and Dol-dol). I considered my junior-high teaching to be the most rewarding, and got the most gratification from seeing my students progress in their English skills. But high-school kids are a challenge of an altogether different variety, and it’s interesting to see them tackle the ‘bigger picture’ questions.

Teaching AP Language and Composition is… let’s put this politely… a bit dull unless you can ‘massage’ the curriculum and spice it up a bit. (I’m on record saying how much I hate the entire idea of teaching to the test.) I’ve done my best to massage it, giving my students books that are either classics or head-scratchers or just plain fun (like Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) or interesting for other reasons (like Brave New World). But it’s also interesting to see them take on the synthetic and persuasive essay questions on what would, on this side of the Pacific, be considered ‘hot topics’. Let’s just say that my students have surprised me, pleasantly, with their thoughtfulness and their ability to ask tough questions.

It’s been slightly disconcerting to me, and at the same time refreshing, to have to defend – if only for the purposes of being a devil’s advocate and bringing out the strongest possible forms of my students’ arguments and lines of thinking – the standard ‘Western liberal’ position encouraged by these questions in how they’re formulated. Usually, I’m the one pushing back against the idea that individual liberty in the abstract is in most or all possible cases a desirable good. But in this case, it’s my students who are making that case for me.

For example, when the question of freedom of speech and political correctness on college and high school campuses came up, my students in Changsha overwhelmingly supported informal (that is to say, peer-enforced rather than administration-enforced) limitations on freedom of speech, to protect vulnerable groups. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at this, but it was a bit disconcerting to see it expressed openly. And I, of all people, was left taking up the cause for freedom of speech and arguing that even people with bad ideas should be allowed to express them. On the other hand, most of my students argued against political correctness when it was applied to comedy and comedians, even though they frowned, on the whole, on comedic routines that ‘punched down’ instead of ‘punching up’.

In another case, when the issue of school uniforms came up, most of the students defended school uniform policies for some surprising reasons. As a group, they were worried in particular about clothing becoming a status symbol, about student expenditures on clothing and about the possibilities of bullying. And on the positive side, they defended school uniforms as being a contributor to a positive esprit de corps in the school. One girl in one of my classes – a bit of a nonconformist herself in her dress – said she hated the school uniforms herself, but understood why the school implemented these policies and agreed with their reasoning. (Of course, I often will show up to class in heavy metal band T-shirts, so I kind of felt I had to agree with her there or else end up looking like a hypocrite.) This kind of reasoning was fairly typical in my classes – and it applied also to national esprit de corps. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy in my classes for protests of the national anthem (like Colin Kaepernick’s); they felt it wasn’t relevant or appropriate to express political dissent at a public commemoration of the country. At the same time, they again felt that public censure rather than legal action or punishment was the appropriate response.

As a whole, though, my students in Hunan tended to be concerned with œconomic equality and support for financially-disadvantaged groups. They gave fairly short shrift to neoliberal œconomic positions and arguments that would sacrifice the interests of the poorest members of society even if it meant supposedly achieving a greater utilitarian goal. Not only on the school uniforms debate but also on the ‘small change’ debate, they tended to show the greatest sympathy to the arguments that getting rid of denominations of small change (whether in China or in the United States) would adversely affect poorer consumers and reduce everyday contributions to charities.

This was, to me, quite telling. From my experiences in Baotou and Luoyang, too, it always seemed to be the young people who inclined toward the left-traditionalist tendency, and the older people of the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin generations who inclined toward the (neo)-liberal tendency, even if it was with some degree of personal inconsistency. My colleague Vivian praised the traditionalist viewpoint to a remarkably high degree, yet still deeply valued her own personal freedom and ability to choose her own romantic partner – to a degree which would likely have been inconceivable under the ‘old society’ and even to a degree that many of her older colleagues were uncomfortable with. On the other hand, one of my other colleagues there, Patrick, who was considerably older than either myself or Vivian, positively glowed with praises for America, our freedom of speech and entrepreneurial ingenuity and free enterprise, and on the other hand had nothing but disgust for, in particular, his own country’s alliance with North Korea. And yet he would swear by traditional Chinese medicinal remedies and dietary advice. But all that only goes so far as to say that actual people are people, embodied in their own personal situations and relationships, rather than ideological abstractions.

And this is all, of course, anecdotal on my part. I teach at a fairly high-end public school. And it isn’t meant to demonstrate anything broader than my own personal observations. But from what I can tell, the kids are alright. They already do, to a significant degree, engage on a deep level with the questions the test poses and that they encounter in Western literature, but they come to conclusions that the average American would be fairly uncomfortable with. The fact that they do appear to trend more collectivist in their approach to these kinds of issues – or at least more collectivist than the AP test or their Western readers expect them to – does not make them defective or incomplete thinkers. They can and do consider all sides and apply their own reasoning to the questions given to them.

06 December 2017

Realism and the pelvic issues, part 8: ‘city in speech’ and world state


Apologies, gentle readers; I had planned to wrap this series up at the end of part six, but each time I come back to the topic it seems there is something more to say. In particular, I wanted to get down my thoughts on Brave New World and the points of similarity I tracked between that work and the Republic.

It strikes me that I really ought to have read Brave New World far, far sooner than I did. Orwell was the preferred dystopian author in my high school and college English courses: Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Burmese Days were all to be found on the curriculum; Brave New World was not. Which is a pity! Brave New World is an endlessly-fascinating work, and remains relevant to our experience in late capitalism today in ways which make Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm seem dated. Huxley’s work seems even more relevant and fascinating when read in concert with Plato’s Republic. It strikes me that there is an element in Huxley’s dystopian work which aims directly at Plato’s ‘city in speech’, even though Huxley himself may not have intended it.

I can’t be the first person to have noticed this (in fact, I know I am not). But there are a number of intriguing similarities. For both Plato’s Socrates and the designers of the world state, communal stability is the primary consideration, and this stability is guaranteed through the use of a ‘noble lie’ about procreation. The ‘city in speech’ and the world state both depend on assigning class statuses to children at birth, and educating them into their assigned rôle in the polity. Whereas in the Republic, the biological facts linking coitus to pregnancy and childbirth are all carefully kept hidden from its guardian class (though not necessarily from the lower classes), in Huxley’s world state they have all become completely untethered: coitus is rendered completely sterile by means of chemical sterilisation and contraceptives; all children are born in factories and assigned a class from the time they are an embryo in a test tube. The ‘lie’ at work in the world state comes from a suggestion that ‘viviparous’ birth is uncivilised and distasteful. The logical sequel is this: in Plato’s ‘city in speech’, women and children are shared communally among the guardian class, as ‘friends have all things in common’; in Huxley’s world state, this abolition of the family is guaranteed by a hypnopædic platitude that ‘every one belongs to every one else’.

Plato notes the influence of music on the psyche; in Huxley this influence is transfigured into ‘hypnopædia’: using poetic rhythm and metre to implant suggestions into children while they sleep. In Plato’s ‘city in speech’, poets are exiled if their work produces social discord, just as Helmholtz Watson is exiled from the world state to the Falklands for his own poetic work. Plato and Huxley also each emphasise the need to educate the citizens not to fear death, or at least to fear death less than other things. In Huxley’s world state, human beings have a ‘planned obsolescence’ at the age of sixty, which is taken in stride by the people who are subject to it.

But here we begin to notice a difference, or at least an inversion. In Huxley’s world state, citizens are cushioned from the reality of death, or at least distracted from its enormity, by means of various forms of bodily pleasure. Plato took the opposite view, that death should be greeted stoically and philosophically. At heart, I think Huxley and Plato are actually agreed on the question of death (and therefore also of erōs), yet the two of them take opposite approaches to highlight it.

For Plato, erōs is both enlivening and dangerous. He sees in the erotic impulse a direct line between the body and the divine that bypasses the mind. Even if as a form of ‘divine madness’, the erotic impulse can’t be controlled, at least it can be tutored by attempting to get the lover to ‘forget the body’ for a brief time. In fact, Plato’s justice, driven as it is by eroticism, requires such ‘forgetting’ to be glimpsed in its ‘large print’ form in the ‘city in speech’.

In Huxley, conversely, we see no such eroticism in the ‘large print’, despite the fact that sex is everywhere in the world state. The genuine erōs in Huxley’s novel is all on the personal level among the characters. Bernard seeks to feel it (but shies away from it repeatedly). Lenina begins to feel erotic desire for John but can’t break through her own conditioning to understand it. And erōs completely overwhelms John to the point where he lashes out – at Lenina and at himself. But for the world state, for Mustapha Mond and the Director, erōs is something dangerous that has to be stamped out and conditioned away, rather than tutored. Thus, in Huxley’s world state, sex has been completely emptied, not only of its procreative meaning but also of its erotic, desiring content! Sex is simply there, suffusing everything. It becomes a product to be consumed like any other, available for a nominal price. It’s a dire mistake to see John the Savage as some kind of body-hating Gnostic, even and especially by the end of Huxley’s novel. He is all embodied erotic impulse, and that frightens the people of the world state – not least Lenina, the object of his desires.

Ultimately what makes the world state a dystopia rather than a utopia is precisely this lack of eroticism, this total dearth of higher striving – and this is how the novel culminates in John’s philosophical conversations with Mustapha Mond (a conversation which quotes, among other people, Cardinal John Henry Newman). Huxley may not ever have referenced Plato either in his original manuscript or in Revisited, but I think he understood exactly what Socrates was trying to do. Huxley fashioned a world in which the ‘policy’ prescriptions of Socrates’ ‘city in speech’ can be and are fulfilled through the use of assembly-line automation, in vitro fertilisation, contraceptives, psychological conditioning and drugs – but out of which all of the erotic longing and tragic sensibility has been emptied. Even the foremost poet of this ‘brave new world’, Helmholtz Watson, cannot understand Romeo and Juliet before his exile to the Falklands – and laughs at it. Plato would have us ‘forget the body’ briefly, but the controllers of the world state would have us forget everything else completely!

Plato’s ‘city in speech’, too, is meant to be something of a comedic distortion of justice (the image of men and women, young and old, training naked together in the palæstra is meant to draw laughter), but one which is necessary to get Adeimantus and Glaucon to understand the demands of citizenship upon them. The ‘city in speech’ can never be realised as long as people have separate bodies and are compelled by erōs. But persons can behave as though they are citizens of the ‘city in speech’, which in turn is but a shadow of justice. To understand this is to begin to turn around and look toward where the light is coming from.

There is no such ‘wiggle room’ in Huxley’s dystopia. The world state, in its concern for happiness on a utilitarian level, does not permit of the dangers of eroticism, and therefore it cannot permit of citizenship. The attempts to ‘turn around’ and see where the shadows are coming from ends up in exile (for Bernard and Helmholtz), in madness and suicide (for John) and in an unspecified (but cruel) fate for Lenina.

At the same time, I still feel that Plato and Huxley would have been in agreement on the nature of justice; they simply took mirror-image and opposite routes to find it. In his Foreword Huxley called, against both the world state and the anarcho-primitivist alternative of Malpais, for something like ‘sanity’: a ‘decentralist’, ‘Kropotkin-esque coöperative’ with appropriate applications of technology and an eschatological religion informed by the Dao and an ethics oriented to the ‘final end’ of man. I’m not sure Plato would have approved all of this; he and Huxley lived in two very different times and we must do Plato the justice of speaking for himself and to his own circumstances rather than shoehorning him into anachronistic projects. Still, it’s interesting to note the similarities when they occur.

05 December 2017

A quote from the Laws

For they mean by ‘the rich’ the few who have the most valuable possessions, although the owner of them may quite well be a rogue.

And if this is true, I can never assent to the doctrine that the rich man will be happy--he must be good as well as rich. And good in a high degree, and rich in a high degree at the same time, he cannot be. Some one will ask, why not? And we shall answer--Because acquisitions which come from sources which are just and unjust indifferently, are more than double those which come from just sources only; and the sums which are expended neither honourably nor disgracefully, are only half as great as those which are expended honourably and on honourable purposes. Thus, if the one acquires double and spends half, the other who is in the opposite case and is a good man cannot possibly be wealthier than he…

For he who receives money unjustly as well as justly, and spends neither [justly] nor unjustly, will be a rich man if he be also thrifty. On the other hand, the utterly bad is in general profligate, and therefore very poor; while he who spends on noble objects, and acquires wealth by just means only, can hardly be remarkable for riches.


  - The Athenian Stranger, Plato’s Laws (742e-743c)