Posts Tagged: Aristotle

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.”