So also the number of one's
friends must be limited, and should perhaps be the largest number with whom one can
constantly associate; since, as we saw,1
to live together is the chief mark of friendship,
but it is quite clear that it is not possible to live with and to share
oneself among a large number of people. Another essential is that one's friends must also
be the friends of one another, if they are all to pass the time in each other's company;
but for a large number of people all to be friends is a difficult matter.
Again, it is difficult to share intimately in the joys and sorrows of
many people; for one may very likely be called upon to rejoice with one and to mourn with
another at the same time.
Perhaps therefore it is a good rule not to seek to have as many friends as possible, but
only as many as are enough to form a circle of associates. Indeed it would appear to be
impossible to be very friendly with many people, for the same reason as it is impossible
to be in love with several people. Love means friendship in the superlative degree, and
that must be with one person only; so also warm friendship is only possible with a few.
This conclusion seems to be supported by experience. Friendships between comrades2
only include a few people, and
the famous examples of poetry3
are pairs of
friends. Persons of many friendships, who are hail-fellow-well-met with everybody, are
thought to be real friends of nobody （otherwise than as fellow-citizens are
friends） : I mean the sort of people we call obsequious. It is true that one may
be friendly with many fellow-citizens and not be obsequious, but a model of excellence;
but it is not possible to have many friends whom we love for their virtue and for
themselves. We may be glad to find even a few
friends of this sort. 11.
But do we need friends more in prosperity or in adversity? As a matter of fact men seek
friends in both. The unfortunate require assistance; the prosperous want companions, and
recipients of their bounty, since they wish to practise beneficence. Hence friendship is
more necessary in adversity, so then it is useful friends that are wanted; but it is
nobler in prosperity, so the prosperous seek also for good men as friends, since these are
preferable both as objects of beneficence and as associates.
the mere presence of friends is pleasant both in prosperity and adversity.
Sorrow is lightened by the sympathy of friends. Hence the question may be raised whether
friends actually share the burden of grief, or whether, without this being the case, the
pain is nevertheless diminished by the pleasure of their company and by the consciousness
of their sympathy. Whether one of these reasons or some other gives the true explanation
of the consoling power of friendship need not now be considered, but in any case it
appears to have the effect described.
Yet the pleasure that the company of friends affords seems to be of a mixed nature. It is
true that the very sight of them is pleasant,