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Aristotle’s Views on the Concept of Friendship

Aristotle gives a fairly broad meaning to friendship, giving numerous and varied examples. For instance, one type of friendship is care for the elderly (Aristotle. 142). The philosopher also notes that parents “feel it for offspring” and vice versa, meaning friendship also encompasses love between relatives (Aristotle. 142). To summarize, friendship, in Aristotle’s understanding, refers to any kind of interpersonal relationship that is both affectionate and beneficial.

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There are three essential prerequisites of friendship, as Aristotle describes it. First of all, it should be between sentient persons and not, say, a person and object – as the philosopher notes, “it would surely be ridiculous to wish wine well” (Aristotle, 143). Secondly, the persons in question must wish each other good (Aristotle 143). Thirdly, and also importantly, they need to be acquainted with each other since to be called friends, people have to “know their mutual feelings” (Aristotle 144). Thus, friendship is only possible between sentient people who wish each other well and a mutually aware of that due to a personal acquaintance.

Aristotle identified three main types of friendship: utility, pleasure, and the development of virtue. As follows from the names, they are based on exchanging different things – something of practical use, something that brings pleasure, and the promotion of good. The first two types value a friend not for “being the man he is” but for the advantages provided (Aristotle 144). The third type, though, views friends as an end in themselves, meaning that it appreciates people not merely for what they can offer but for their intrinsic qualities.

It is possible because this kind occurs between people “who are good, and alike in virtue” and, thus, may appreciate this virtue in each other without needing the utility of pleasure as additional motivation (Aristotle 145). However, the third type of friendship is also useful because it promotes the development of virtue and is pleasurable because all things that are good in themselves are pleasant (Aristotle 145). It makes the third kind of friendship complete and perfect because it unites the features of all three kinds for the best possible result.

Friendship, as interpreted by Aristotle, is also inherently linked to happiness. The Greek philosopher points out that “happiness lies in living and being active” in accordance with virtue and, thus, exercising the capacity for virtue is the main way to be happy (Aristotle 177). As mentioned above, true and complete friendship relies on the appreciation of virtue and contributes to its development. As such, friendship is an important avenue toward happiness, and happiness is most likely to follow a friendship that is true.

References

Aristotle. (2009). The Nicomachean ethics (D. Ross, Trans.). Oxford UP.

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StudyCorgi. "Aristotle’s Views on the Concept of Friendship." November 1, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/aristotles-views-on-the-concept-of-friendship/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Aristotle’s Views on the Concept of Friendship." November 1, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/aristotles-views-on-the-concept-of-friendship/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Aristotle’s Views on the Concept of Friendship'. 1 November.

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