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Aristotle’s View on Friendship

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When it comes to friendship, most everyone has something to say. No matter where you look, the theme of friendship is always present, whether it be through quotes, such as one written by Saint Jerome that states, "The friendship that can cease has never been real" or through songs, such as You’ve Got a Friend in Me from the film Toy Story. Aristotle felt that friendship was so important that he devoted an entire section of the Nicomachean Ethics to it. Aristotle’s beliefs of friendship are, for the most part, in accordance with mine and also pretty well expressed through Saint Jerome’s quote. Happiness as a motive for friendship, the three levels of friendship, and salvaging friendships at all costs are a few philosophies that Aristotle holds.

Aristotle is adamant on the idea that friendship is absolutely necessary to our lives and that we cannot be truly happy without it. No matter how many material objects a person has, none of them will bring the sense of virtue, good and happiness that friendship does. Even when it comes to the idea of government and the bond of the people within a state, friendship seems to be the base, the glue that holds everything and everyone together. While it is often said that opposites attract, Aristotle strongly believes in a differing point of view that birds of a feather flock together. He strongly feels, as do I, that people with similarities and a common ground are able to get along better and connect better with one of their kind, rather than a complete opposite.

Aristotle found that several people believed that there is only one kind of friendship. As a philosopher, though, he went on to explain that there is a possibility to have three different kinds of friendship, or three levels of friendship. It is necessary for there to be some sort of bond or connection in order for a friendship to develop, especially to a level three virtuous friendship. However, this idea is even true in level one and two, utility and pleasure friendships.

The most insignificant, and short-lived level of friendship is a friendship based solely on utility, basically a friendship based on convenience. These friendships are self-centered friendships that only exist for the good of one party. Examples of utility friendships are business partners, carpooling, or study groups. I personally know that these kinds of friendships exist, whether I would like to admit it or not. How many of us would stop being friends with the kid down the hall if he was not the smart kid who could help you with homework?

The next level of friendship is the friendship based solely on pleasure. These are, incidentally, friendships that last a little longer than utility friendships but are still not everlasting. In these friendships, the person is accepted and admired for the pleasure the person brings, whether it be laughter or satisfaction. Once the pleasure has exhausted itself, there is no longer a need for the friendship, and the people usually lose contact with one another. Casual sexual relationships or relationships with people for purely their sense of humor or some other trait are examples of pleasurable friendships. These friendships, once again, satisfy the needs of a person.

The most sacred, precious, and rare friendship is the level three friendship. A friendship based on virtue is one that comes few and far between, and a person is lucky to be able to have even one of these friendships in his or her life. In a virtuous friendship, the well being of the other party is the main focus; basically, it is allocentric, centered on the other person, as opposed to egocentric, self-centered. People of this nature are rare, making it more difficult to develop a level one or two friendship into a level three friendship. In addition, people are not willing to spend the time or put forth the effort to make such strong bonds with others. Virtuous friendships are considered to be the perfect friendships that are long lasting, because they unite the two beings. Aristotle best expresses the idea through his quote, “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” In order to reach this state, Aristotle believes that each individual must be able to show the other that he or she is worthy of being loved.

One of Aristotle’s most pressing questions is, “What are the reasons for dissolving a friendship?”. In the case of utility and pleasure friendships, once the utility and pleasure run out, the love runs out, leading to the end of the friendship.

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