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Aristotle

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People for the most part, are social beings who fill their lives with other people and name them friends. More often than not, we are always trying (or willing) to add new people to our group of friends. Books VIII and IX of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics focus exclusively on the issue of friendship. Aristotle understood the importance of friendship. Today friendship is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "one joined to another in intimacy and mutual benevolence independently of sexual or family love". Aristotle's account of friendship is more complex than this simple, modern definition. This essay will outline Aristotle's account of friendship as presented in Books VIII and IX of the Nicomachean Ethics.

Aristotle places much importance on friendship. This is clearly stated throughout Books IIIV and IX, beginning with the opening where he claims, "For friendship is a virtue, or involves virtue; and also it is one of the most indispensable requirements of life. For no one would choose to live without friends, but possessing all other good things" (Book VIII 451). Happiness, according to Aristotle, happiness is not a private matter but a public event, so those we share our happiness with are of much meaning and worth. Aristotle not only discusses friendship, but every type of relationship. He also delves into family relationships.

Aristotle claims friends are not bonded together through necessity, family, or for beneficial reasons, but through mutual respect and shared virtue. In Aristotle's definition of friendship, there are three requirements for a two people to be friends. The first requirement is that the two people must feel goodwill toward one another, or want the best for each other. The second is that they must be aware of and acknowledge each other's good will. The third is that the reason for their goodwill must be one of these loveable qualities (Book VIII 457). Aristotle goes on to claim that friendship is based on the act of loving someone rather than the act of being loved by someone.

According to Aristotle there are three different kinds of friendship. The first is Friendship of Utility, where each person gains some sort of benefit from the other. The second is Friendship of Pleasure, where both people are attracted to the other's characteristics or traits, such as charm, sense of humor, or handsomeness (Book VIII 459). These, in Aristotle's opinion, are not true friendships because these friendships are based on accident, since one person is not being loved for the person he is, rather for attributes the other person can benefit from. Therefore these friendships break up easily, because utility is not an everlasting quality. Most often Aristotle relates Friendships of Utility to older people and Friendships of Pleasure to younger people.

The third, Friendship of Virtue, is a friendship that is based on goodness and decency, where each person respects and appreciates the other's goodness and helps one another to achieve goodness. This, Aristotle claims, is the perfect friendship. In the Friendship of Virtue, friends wish for each other's well being more than anything. Those friends who wish each other good have to be friends in the fullest sense, who love each other for who they are rather than love each other by way of accident. These are the longest lasting friendships because they are true friendships, and virtue, unlike pleasure and utility, is a permanent quality (Book VIII 461). Friendship of Virtue is ultimately permanent, since it unites all the qualities that friends need to possess in order to work.

Friendship of Virtue is considered true friendship by Aristotle's standards. The truest form of friendship takes place between two good men as Aristotle claims:

Friendship between good men is the truest friendship, as has been several times before. For it is agreed that what is good and pleasant absolutely is loveable and desirable strictly, while what is god and pleasant for a particular person is loveable and desirable relatively to that person; but the friendship of good men for each other rests on both these grounds (Book VIII 471).

Aristotle's meaning behind this is that men who are considered to be good love each other based on the fact that they are both completely good and pleasant, as well as good and pleasant for each other.

Aristotle later introduces a Friendship of Unequals, which is explained with and example of a father and son relationship. The Friendship of Unequals is defined by dominance of one person over the other (Book VIII 477). Other examples are an elder to a younger person in general, a husband to a wife, or a monarch who rules people under him. In these friendships, the benefits

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