Aristotle on Friendship

AristotleDuring the course of study this morning, I came across a portion of Aristotle’s literature that made the case that whole (τέλειος) friendship is based on the virtue (ἀρετή) between two persons.

Here is a snippet from Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1157a.1–15.

In the following, Aristotle points out how friendship that based on the good and virtue of the other results lasting friendship — unlike two friends that exchange please for gain.

Friendship based on pleasure has a similarity to friendship based on virtue, for good men are pleasant to one another; and the same is true of friendship based on utility, for good men are useful to each other. In these cases also the friendship is most lasting when each friend derives the same benefit, for instance pleasure, from the other, and not only so, but derives it from the same thing, as in a friendship between two witty people, and not as in one between a lover and his beloved. These do not find their pleasure in the same things: the lover’s pleasure is in gazing at his beloved, the loved one’s pleasure is in receiving the attentions of the lover; and when the loved one’s beauty fades, the friendship sometimes fades too, as the lover no longer finds pleasure in the sight of his beloved, and the loved one no longer receives the attentions of the lover; though on the other hand many do remain friends if as a result of their intimacy they have come to love each other’s characters, both being alike in character. But when a pair of lovers exchange not pleasure for pleasure but pleasure for gain, the friendship is less intense and less lasting.

This quote stands out as most helpful. Friendship ceases when another builds a relationship on what they may gain from the relationship.

A friendship based on utility dissolves as soon as its profit ceases; for the friends did not love each other, but what they got out of each other.


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