Aristotle on Friendship
The Greek Philosopher, Logician and natural scientist Aristotle was born in the Macedonian town Stagira 384 BC. Around 367 he moved to Athens to study in Plato's academy. In the 20 years in which he remained there, he developed his own philosophical conceptions which more and more digressed from the conceptions of his teacher. One of the most important works that he conceived was the Nicomachean Ethics.
Aristotle died at the age of 64. The fundamental question in his here mentioned work is, what a well-turned out life is and how to reach such a life through the "Eudaimonia".
The Eudaimonia, translated into English as "happiness", "welfare" or "blessedness" is the highest aim that one can reach with righteousness and a virtuous conduct as prerequisite.
The Nicomachean Ethics deal not only with friendship and virtuous conduct but also with justice and its manifestations, diagnostic virtues (solely rational) and ethical virtues (character). An important feature of these books is the "Golden mean", which can be determined by just reason.
Let's start with the definition of the word friendship and which meaning the word friendship had to Aristotle:
The Greek word for friendship is "philia", for which the word friendship is only a vague translation, as the term "philia" contains in a broader sense also benevolence, sympathy, affection and love.
To Aristotle the term friendship was very important, as this served as the most crucial element for integrating into society. In book 8 & 9 Aristotle controverts the term friendship extensively and states that friendship is the bare necessity of life (NE VIII, 1156a, 2-4).
But what exactly is the definition of friendship according to Aristotle:
A friendship exists when both characters coincide and both accept and internalize the temper of the other over time. Those however, to which the benefit of a friendship is in the foreground, are no true friends and such a friendship will not survive, for the true aim of a friendship rests upon loving another person and not on the benefit (book VIII 5, 1157a).
To Aristotle, friendship is the ideal among virtuous people. People that resemble each other, that share interests, that share their thoughts, may thrive on a friendship.
Friendship is so essential to him that he states that even the happiest and most self-satisfied person needs friends because that is the greatest good.
There would be little point in possessing every good in the world but to live alone, unable to share these goods with anybody as man is by nature a gregarious being, in need of coexisting with other people.
To get to the heart of it, to Aristotle a virtuous and true friend is like a second self.
As a friend can inspire his counterpart, can take in energy from his virtues and his delights and learn, the same way a friendship among bad people, a community of evil people, may encourage bad things in someone. It is like a swirl of exchanging energy which may lead up or down.
A friendship must always be cultivated and improved, one must practice and experience oneself in various circumstances. Such a friendship, in which both accept and respect each other, exchanging ideas, is very rare and needs a lot of time and also experience.
Every person should consider oneself fortunate having friends that stand by oneself. Only this way a friendship can be made a reality, because friends correct themselves mutually by internalizing the traits that one likes of a counterpart while gently pointing towards traits that one is displeased with.
In my opinion his works are as relevant today as they were in his time and they can be transferred wonderfully into our current time because man as such has not changed but only the circumstances. Philosophy is more relevant today than ever.
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