by Scotty Hendricks
Think of the people you can talk to about anything, the ones you've known for a while, the ones you can always call.
Now, think of how many
on Facebook you can really say are
anything like that group. We all still have a guy from high school
on our Facebook that we don't think about until his birthday.
The median Facebook user has a much higher number of friends than that,
In his ethical masterpiece The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle turns his brilliant mind to the problem of what friendship actually is.
Aristotle views the good life as requiring not only virtue, an internal good that you are largely responsible for; but also requiring external goods which facilitate virtue and are enjoyable in themselves.
Such things include being
Greek, male, well-off financially, educated, reasonably healthy,
having decent luck, and having good friends. The question of what a
friend is takes on a new importance for him.
As with all of Aristotle's virtues, Philia is the midway point between two vices. A lack of brotherly love leads to the vice of egoism, while the person who is too friendly with everyone is also vicious in their own way.
Aristotle would agree that,
To be a self-actualized
person, in the Aristotelian sense, you need to master the art of
These friendships are based on what the two-people involved can do for one another, and often have little to do with the other individual as a person at all. The person you buy a drink for so they can score you tickets, put in a good word for you, or even just make you look better by comparison.
Such friendships as this
include offering hospitality, so he claims. These friendships can
end rapidly, as soon as any possible use for the other person is
The person you drink with but would never have over for dinner. The guy who you go to a football game with but would never be able to tolerate seeing anywhere else.
Aristotle declares it to
be the friendship of the young. This is, again, an often-short
tenured friendship as people may change what they like to do and
suddenly be without connection their friend.
While these are listed as
"lesser" friendships due to the motive, Aristotle is open to the
idea of the final, and greatest, form of friendship finding its
genesis in these categories, however.
The friendship of virtue or the friendship of "the good". These are the people you like for themselves, the people who push you to be a better person.
The motivation is that you care for the person themselves and therefore the relationship is much more stable than the previous two categories.
These friendships are
hard to find because people who make the cut of "virtuous" are hard
to find. Aristotle laments the rarity of such friendships, but notes
they are possible between two virtuous people who can invest the
time needed to create such a bond.
While he admits that some pleasures are bad for you, he also calls pleasure a good which people do want to enjoy.
The real problem in these
friendships is when you fail to understand that they are of the
lower kind and make no effort to find better friendships.
Start thinking about your friendships. Are any of your friends who you think you would like to know better? Do it! If it doesn't work out try again.
Aristotle is clear,
friendships of virtue are rare, it might take a while. Before
anything can work, you need
to be virtuous too. You needn't be
a paragon of virtue right away, even
Cicero questioned how virtuous
you needed to be to make true friends, but an understanding of "Philia"
would be useful.
The guidance of Aristotle, with his views of differing friendships and the possibility for improvement, are one much needed suggestion in our modern world.