Ideas on Friendship by Aristotle

Applying Aristotle’s Ideas on Friendship to your Own Life:
1. In your own WORDS or in a DRAWING, explain what the three ‘levels’ or ‘types’ (or ‘stages’?) of friendship are, according to Aristotle’s Books 8 and 9.

[For a written sample student reply to this THREE-STEP Question, see BELOW]

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2. Then analyze one or more of your own friendships to see whether or not your friendship is operating at the highest level, or whether the relationship can sustain until the friendship reaches Aristotle’s highest level.

What must your friendship have, do, or be before you can make it to the ‘highest’ level with this particular friend you are analyzing?
Think back on the terms on the ‘Scale of EVIL’ (or “Scale of LIVE!”): Is your friend “higher” or “lower” than you are in “continence,” “temperance,” or “virtue”? What are some examples of your own “continence” or “self-control,” and what are some examples of your friend’s self-control? Who MOST ENJOYS being good for the sake of being good: you or your friend? Why?  What does your friend have that you don’t have, or what do you have that your friend does not have?

3. Finally, identify a KEY SUPPORTING PRINCIPLE that makes “friendship” work so well! You can’t say ‘friendliness,’ ‘friendship,’ kindness’ here, as those words already sound too much like the word “friend” – Go deeper in analysis; don’t just repeat!

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“For Aristotle’s two lower types of friendships, he notes that they can start and stop quickly. As he says at the top of page 122, old people especially quickly end a friendship of utility, because they “pursue the advantageous” at that age. Similarly, young people who pursue friendships of pleasure start and end friendships of pleasure. Such flimsy friendships happen because “their lives are guided by their feelings, and they pursue above all what is pleasant for themselves and what is at hand. But as they grow up what they find pleasant changes too.” (122). So no wonder a “complete friendship”, the third type of friendship, is the highest state of friendship, because we’re not using someone (1) for their goods (utility) or (2) for our pleasure (both of which actions mark the LOWER LEVEL friendships).

In this HIGHER type of friendship, Aristotle says that both parties are “good people, similar in virtue.” Rather than use someone for their usefulness or pleasure, these types of friends “wish goods to their friend for the friend’s own sake”. A friendship “lasts as long as [both people] are good; and virtue is enduring” (122). Aristotle says late, on page 125, that “no one can have complete friendship for many people, just as no one can have an erotic passion for many at the same time.” Someone should tell the dating apps this good advice, for there one can see people pursing MANY erotic relationships or other lesser forms of friendships/ relationships.  Interestingly, Aristotle admits that “complete” friendship is really excessive, as it requires excessive loyalty and devotion.

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I would say I have two best friends, one I never see because she moved to Texas two years ago. I think I have a complete friendship with her, because even though I rarely see her in person and I can only communicate with her through calls and texts, our friendship has endured and is something we both value very much. I think that even though she and her family basically have given me more than I have been able to give to her, that’s more of an economic thing, rather than a sign that our friendship could be based on “pleasure” or material goods. We both truly wish the best for each other and seek to improve each others lives, even if it’s just in the form of helpful communication or understanding. Other than her, I think I have complete friendships with some of my Cross Country/Track and Field teammates, because our friendship is really all about encouragement, support, and appreciation, without expecting something in return. ” For more information on Ideas on Friendship by Aristotle check out:




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