Being all deep and stuff: Friendship and Self-Love–The More The Better

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

In Book VIII and IX of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses friendship. Friendship typically involves people of similar character and beliefs because a friend is someone that another person will want to spend time with and enjoy the friend’s pleasantness. Friends come to be considered friends insofar as they are lovable. The definition of lovable encompasses some good or pleasure. People can love in different ways: either through a one sided nonreciprocal relationship whereby a person loves something such as an object, or through a relationship whereby one person’s love is recognize but not acted upon, or a relationship where both people recognize and act on the other person’s love. Since there are different ways in which people love there are also different types of friendship which are based on how people love. Friendships based on gaining utility are based only on a person’s respective good; therefore, these friendships typically are not long lasting. Another type of friendship exists between old people in which the original purpose for the friendship is gone, but both are still around. The best type of friendship is between people that are good and alike in virtue. Aristotle posits that justice is concerned with the same ends as friendship. Therefore, the three states of character (monarchy, aristocracy, and timocratic) seem to act as a microcosm for three possible societies. The societal application is not the focal point of the discussion, but the reader can see how Aristotle’s philosophy forms a systematic unity. The discussion of friendship articulated methodically and accurately a simple truth—good friends are hard to find. An interesting point is that a good person should have self love while a wicked person should not because then a good person can follow their noble desires for their just ends (for themselves and for friends) while a wicked person will follow evil desires. Most people think of a good person as selfless, but Aristotle gives new meaning to a truly selfish person.

In Book X, Aristotle discusses the nature of happiness. Aristole realizes that happiness is: “found…in activities expressing virtue” (1177a5). Happiness is a good that is intrinsically valuable; therefore, it seems to be some sort of object of study, and in order to be happy a person needs external prosperity. Law has possesses understanding and has the power to make others realize this understanding. Therefore, the study of the implementation of laws in society, political science is a highly beneficial end. The study of political science, however, must be coupled with practical experience in order for it to be fully understood. Once again, Aristotle’s progression is quite logical and practical.

Works Cited
Cohen, S. Marc., Patricia Curd, and C. Reeve. Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy: from Thales to Aristotle. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2005. Print.


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