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Aristotle's View Of Friendship
Aristotle views friendship as one of the most necessary and integral components to life, something sought after by all men. He goes so far as to imply that without friendship, life is not worth living at all. Friendship is described by Aristotle as one of the most important human needs, more so than power, status or prestige and is held in higher regard than these things by powerful men. Impoverished men, on the other hand also greatly value friendship, but for different reasons as poor men see friendship as potentially on of their only assets, as the most important refuge from a harsh world. Not only is the necessity of friendship recognized, but also the nobility of friendship. As stated by Aristotle in Book VIII of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, "we praise those who love their friends, and it is thought to be a fine thing to have many friends; and again we think it is the same people that are good men and are friends." In other words, Aristotle describes friendship as the most key expression and manifestation of nobility.
Friendship is described by Aristotle as being centered around the concept of love, in that only if a person is lovable can he be considered a friend to someone else. Also, in order for people to be friends it is necessary that each recognizes in each other mutual wishes for goodwill unto the other as well as acknowledgment that the other person is lovable. But what makes a person lovable? Aristotle described three potential qualities that determine how lovable an individual is. These characteristics are whether the person is good, useful or pleasant, which leads into Aristotle's discussion of the three distinct types of friendship.
The first type of friendship described by Aristotle is friendship of utility, where two individuals share an associative friendship based on how useful they are to each other, or what they can gain by associating with the other person. People who engage in friendships based in utility do not care for the sake of the other person, but instead exclusively have their own needs and interests in mind as they engage in the friendship, looking out only for the good of themselves. These types of friendships are described by Aristotle as being incidental and often temporary and transient, easy dissolved as soon as one person is perceived as no longer useful in the relationship. An example of a friendship based on utility is the relationship commonly seen between a host and guest. It is described how friendships of utility are generally experienced more by elderly people, while younger people generally experience more friendships based in pleasure, which leads into the second type of friendship explained by Aristotle.
Friendships based in pleasure, where individuals choose to spend time together not because of respect for the good of the other person, but because doing so leads to each person experiencing feelings that are pleasant to themselves. This type of friendship is also described by Aristotle as being incidental and non-permanent, easily fading away as one person in the relationship is no longer regarded as pleasant. It is described by Aristotle that friendships based in pleasure are more prevalent among young people due to the fact that their thoughts, feelings and actions are largely directed by emotions, and generally gravitate toward those who are perceived as most immediately pleasurable. Since young people change quickly, so do their preferences or perceptions of what is pleasant. Therefore, friendships based in pleasure among young people come and go rather quickly. Furthermore, this helps to explain how young people so rapidly fall in and out of love.
The third type of friendship described by Aristotle is that which is based in likeness in virtue and a common goodness. Aristotle considered this type as "perfect friendship," in that these friendships are based in a common love for each other based in recognition of the good in each person, and well-wishing not based in selfish motivations, but for genuine care for the other individual. Goodness in men is considered by Aristotle to be a long-lasting, enduring quality, which therefore lends to the long life of friendships based in goodness, especially compared to those based in utility or pleasure. Friendships based in goodness also encompass qualities of both usefulness and pleasure, as individuals involved in these friendships find usefulness in certain aspects of the other and also find the other person pleasant. However, friendships based in goodness go beyond those qualities, leading to relationships with more permanence, as the individuals exhibit all the characteristics attributed to true friends. Good men are described as virtuous friends that find this like quality in each other. The perfection of this type of friendship is described by Aristotle when he states: "Love and friendship therefore are found most and in their best form between such men."
In friendships based in the goodness of each person, there is equality where each person gets out of the relationship what is put in. This reciprocal nature of these friendships lends to their increased likelihood of permanence. Aristotle also describes how the lesser forms of friendship, both those of utility and of pleasure, also experience increased longevity when the individuals involved perceive that they are receiving from the other person as much as they are giving. Furthermore, reciprocity is viewed as vital to the permanence of any friendship.
The difference between men that are good and men that are bad is also explored by Aristotle. Good men are may be defined by the state of their character or in respect of an activity demonstrated. It is suggested that the difference lies in that bad men seek out friendships based in utility or pleasure only, while good men are friends with individuals for their own sake with recognition to each other's goodness. However, generally bad men befriend each other in pleasure or utility, while good men befriend each other in their inherent goodness. These friendships between men alike in virtue and goodness are rare and infrequent, occurring much less often than friendships based in utility or pleasure. Friendships among bad men are incidental in nature, while friendships among good men require no qualification. Aristotle describes how friendships based in goodness require familiarity and plenty of time to develop and grow in order to establish trust, and it is noted how the desire for friendship with another can develop quickly, but the development of the friendship cannot. Another key quality of friendship among good men is that distance does not have the ability to change the essence of the relationship. This is described by Aristotle when he states: "distance does not break off the friendship absolutely, but only the activity of it."
Aristotle states that good men exhibit the truest of friendships since good people recognize the lovable and desirable in each other without the need for qualification. Good men choose to be in friendships with each other, demonstrating mutual love for each other for their own sake, which benefits each other and themselves, reflecting equality. However, even the lesser forms of friendship described by Aristotle have equality even though they lack the true quality and permanence seen in friendships based in goodness. In friendships based in utility and pleasure, equality is obtained by receiving the same things from each other or perceptions of equal exchange.
Aristotle also discusses friendships based in inequality, those between the superior and the inferior. Examples include friendships between father and son, older person and younger person, man to wife, as well as ruler to subject. In friendships of these sorts, the individuals involved do not receive similar benefits from each and do not expect them either, thus implying inequality. Love in these friendships is proportional to the merits of the individuals, thus leading to inequality.…[continue]
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