Monthly Archives: May 2016

True friendship, for the virtuous dog

True friends?

Has Oscar found true friendship in his all-furry twin?

Aristotle might think so. He thought that true friendship can only exist between men of equal “goodness” (virtue). The affection you feel for a friend of this kind comes from an admiration of their virtue, and since your ability to recognize, admire and value their virtue comes from being equally virtuous yourself, the love of a true friend is a love of the self, a second self**:

“The truest kind of friendship is that which exists between good men, as we have said more than once. For it is agreed that what is good or pleasant absolutely is lovable and desirable absolutely, and what is good or pleasant for a particular person is lovable and desirable for that person.

But friendship between good men rests on both grounds – the good are good and pleasant absolutely, and good and pleasant to each other… In loving a friend men are loving their own good, as a good man benefits a person whose affection he wins. Each party to a friendship therefore promotes his own good and makes an equal return in goodwill and in the pleasure that he gives. There is a saying, ‘Amity is equality’, and this is most fully realized in the friendships between good men.

Friendship is essentially a partnership. Also a friend is a second self, so that our consciousness of a friend’s existence, when given reality by intercourse with him, makes us more fully conscious of our own existence.”


True friends.

**This quote is from a version of the Nicomachean Ethics called “Aristotle’s Ethics for English Readers” and seems to include a more colloquial translation differing from many others, particularly with the reference to the friend as a “second self” made explicit. For reference, here’s a more recent translation of the Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics translated by Joe Sachs, which – as a whole text – was intended to remain more faithful to the Greek and better suited to understanding the place of friendship in the structure of Aristotle’s metaphysics as a whole:

“Friendship, then, belongs most of all to good people, as has been said repeatedly; for it seems that what is loveable and preferable is what is simply good or pleasant, while what is loved and preferred by each person is what is good or pleasing to that person, and to a good person, a good person is that way on both counts.

Affection seems like a feeling, but friendship seems like an active condition, for affection is no less present for inanimate things, but loving in return involves choice, and choice comes from an active condition. And people wish for good things for those they love for those others’ own sake, not as a result of feeling but as a result of an active condition. And by loving the friend, they love what is good for themselves, for when a good person becomes a friend, he becomes good for the one to whom he is a friend. So each of them loves what is good for himself, and also gives back an equal amount in return in wishing as well as in what is pleasant; for it is said that ‘friendship is equal relationship,’ and this belongs most of all to the friendship of the good.”

Don’t open the moon room

Last week, something strange happened in Francine’s bathroom. Unbeknownst to our heroes, a moonbeam came in through the bathroom window to rustle the bale of Oscar’s fur left in the tub. We’ll find out what happens this week, but it’s no secret that people have always thought of moonlight as the cause of many ills.

Maybe that explains why Lassie’s foster-mother kept the moon, the stars and the sun trapped in closets. Today’s “From the Bookshelf” is from a beautifully illustrated book of Norse folk tales called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. The whole book is worth a read.

out popped the sunNow, when the Lassie had grown to be big enough to know right and wrong, her Foster-mother got ready to go on a journey.

“You have my leave,” she said, “to go all over the house, except those rooms which I shew you;” and when she had said that, away she went.

But the Lassie could not forbear just to open one of the doors a little bit, when—Pop! out flew a Star.

When her Foster-mother came back, she was very vexed to find that the star had flown out, and she got very angry with her Foster-daughter, and threatened to send her away; but the child cried and begged so hard that she got leave to stay.

Now, after a while, the Foster-mother had to go on another journey; and, before she went, she forbade the Lassie to go into those two rooms into which she had never been. She promised to beware; but when she was left alone, she began to think and to wonder what there could be in the second room, and at last she could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when—Pop! out flew the Moon.

When her Foster-mother came home and found the moon let out, she was very downcast, and said to the Lassie she must go away, she could not stay with her any longer. But the Lassie wept so bitterly, and prayed so heartily for forgiveness, that this time, too, she got leave to stay.

Some time after, the Foster-mother had to go away again, and she charged the Lassie, who by this time was half grown up, most earnestly that she mustn’t try to go into, or to peep into, the third room. But when her Foster-mother had been gone some time, and the Lassie was weary of walking about alone, all at once she thought, “Dear me, what fun it would be just to peep a little into that third room.” Then she thought she mustn’t do it for her Foster-mother’s sake; but when the bad thought came the second time she could hold out no longer; come what might, she must and would look into the room; so she just opened the door a tiny bit, when—POP! out flew the Sun.

But when her Foster-mother came back and saw that the sun had flown away, she was cut to the heart, and said, “Now, there was no help for it, the Lassie must and should go away; she couldn’t hear of her staying 69 any longer.” Now the Lassie cried her eyes out, and begged and prayed so prettily; but it was all no good.

“Nay! but I must punish you!” said her Foster-mother; “but you may have your choice, either to be the loveliest woman in the world, and not to be able to speak, or to keep your speech, and to be the ugliest of all women; but away from me you must go.”

And the Lassie said, “I would sooner be lovely.” So she became all at once wondrous fair; but from that day forth she was dumb.