previous next

Book 8

1. Our next business after this will be to discuss Friendship.1 For friendship is a virtue,2 or involves virtue; and also it is one of the most indispensable requirements of life. For no one would choose to live without friends, but possessing all other good things. In fact rich men, rulers and potentates are thought especially to require friends, since what would be the good of their prosperity without an outlet for beneficence, which is displayed in its fullest and most praiseworthy form towards friends? and how could such prosperity be safeguarded and preserved without friends? for the greater it is, the greater is its insecurity. 1. [2] And in poverty or any other misfortune men think friends are their only resource. Friends are an aid to the young, to guard them from error; to the elderly, to tend them, and to supplement their failing powers of action; to those in the prime of life, to assist them in noble deeds— “ When twain together go3

”for two are better able both to plan and to execute. 1. [3] And the affection of parent for offspring and of offspring for parent seems to be a natural instinct, not only in man but also in birds and in most animals; as also is friendship between members of the same species; and this is especially strong in the human race; for which reason we praise those who love their fellow men.4 Even when travelling abroad one can observe that a natural affinity and friendship exist between man and man universally. 1. [4] Moreover, as friendship appears to be the bond of the state; and lawgivers seem to set more store by it than they do by justice, for to promote concord, which seems akin to friendship, is their chief aim, while faction, which is enmity, is what they are most anxious to banish. And if men are friends, there is no need of justice between them; whereas merely to be just is not enough—a feeling of friendship also is necessary. Indeed the highest form of justice seems to have an element of friendly feeling in it.5 1. [5]

And friendship is not only indispensable as a means, it is also noble in itself. We praise those who love their friends, and it is counted a noble thing to have many friends; and some people think that a true friend must be a good man. 1. [6]

But there is much difference of opinion as to the nature of friendship. Some define it as a matter of similarity; they say that we love those who are like ourselves: whence the proverbs ‘Like finds his like,’ ‘Birds of a feather flock together,’6 and so on. Others on the contrary say that with men who are alike it is always a case of ‘two of a trade.’7 Some try to find a more profound and scientific explanation of the nature of affection. Euripides8 writes that ‘Earth yearneth for the rain’ when dried up, ‘And the majestic Heaven when filled with rain Yearneth to fall to Earth.’ Heracleitus says, ‘Opposition unites,’ and ‘The fairest harmony springs from difference,’ and ‘'Tis strife that makes the world go on.’ Others maintain the opposite view, notably Empedocles, who declares that ‘Like seeks after like.’ 1. [7]

Dismissing then these scientific speculations as not germane to our present enquiry, let us investigate the human aspect of the matter, and examine the questions that relate to man's character and emotions: for instance, whether all men are capable of friendship, or bad men cannot be friends; and whether there is only one sort of friendship or several. Those who hold that all friendship is of the same kind because friendship admits of degree, are relying on an insufficient proof, for things of different kinds also can differ in degree. But this has been discussed before.9 2.

Perhaps the answer to these questions will appear if we ascertain what sort of things arouse liking or love. It seems that not everything is loved, but only what is lovable, and that this is either what is good, or pleasant, or useful. But useful may be taken to mean productive of some good or of pleasure, so that the class of things lovable as ends is reduced to the good and the pleasant. 2. [2] Then, do men like what is really good, or what is good for them? for sometimes the two may be at variance; and the same with what is pleasant. Now it appears that each person loves what is good for himself, and that while what is really good is lovable absolutely, what is good for a particular person is lovable for that person. Further, each person loves not what is really good for himself, but what appears to him to be so; however, this will not affect our argument, for ‘lovable’ will mean ‘what appears lovable.’ 2. [3]

There being then three motives of love, the term Friendship is not applied to love for inanimate objects, since here there is no return of affection, and also no wish for the good of the object—for instance, it would be ridiculous to wish well to a bottle of wine: at the most one wishes that it may keep well in order that one may have it oneself; whereas we are told that we ought to wish our friend well for his own sake. But persons who wish another good for his own sake, if the feeling is not reciprocated, are merely said to feel goodwill for him: only when mutual is such goodwill termed friendship. 2. [4] And perhaps we should also add the qualification that the feeling of goodwill must be known to its object. For a man often feels goodwill towards persons whom he has never seen, but whom he believes to be good or useful, and one of these persons may also entertain the same feeling towards him. Here then we have a case of two people mutually well-disposed, whom nevertheless we cannot speak of as friends, because they are not aware of each other's regard. To be friends therefore, men must (1) feel goodwill for each other, that is, wish each other's good, and (2) be aware of each other's goodwill, and (3) the cause of their goodwill must be one of the lovable qualities mentioned above. 3.

Now these qualities differ in kind; hence the affection or friendship they occasion may differ in kind also. There are accordingly three kinds of friendship, corresponding in number to the three lovable qualities; since a reciprocal affection, known to either party, can be based on each of the three, and when men love each other, they wish each other well in respect of the quality which is the ground of their friendship.10 Thus friends whose affection is based on utility do not love each other in themselves, but in so far as some benefit accrues to them from each other. And similarly with those whose friendship is based on pleasure: for instance, we enjoy the society of witty people not because of what they are in themselves, but because they are agreeable to us. 3. [2] Hence in a friendship based on utility or on pleasure men love their friend for their own good or their own pleasure, and not as being the person loved, but as useful or agreeable. And therefore these friendships are based on an accident, since the friend is not loved for being what he is, but as affording some benefit or pleasure as the case may be. 3. [3] Consequently friendships of this kind are easily broken off, in the event of the parties themselves changing, for if no longer pleasant or useful to each other, they cease to love each other. And utility is not a permanent quality; it differs at different times. Hence when the motive of the friendship has passed away, the friendship itself is dissolved, having existed merely as a means to that end. 3. [4]

Friendships of Utility seem to occur most frequently between the old, as in old age men do not pursue pleasure but profit; and between those persons in the prime of life and young people whose object in life is gain. Friends of this kind do not indeed frequent each other's company much, for in some cases they are not even pleasing to each other, and therefore have no use for friendly intercourse unless they are mutually profitable; since their pleasure in each other goes no further than their expectations of advantage.

With these friendships are classed family ties of hospitality with foreigners. 3. [5]

With the young on the other hand the motive of friendship appears to be pleasure, since the young guide their lives by emotion, and for the most part pursue what is pleasant to themselves, and the object of the moment. And the things that please them change as their age alters; hence they both form friendships and drop them quickly, since their affections alter with what gives them pleasure, and the tastes of youth change quickly. Also the young are prone to fall in love, as love is chiefly guided by emotion, and grounded on pleasure; hence they form attachments quickly and give them up quickly, often changing before the day is out.

The young do desire to pass their time in their friend's company, for that is how they get the enjoyment of their friendship. 3. [6]

The perfect form of friendship is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue. For these friends wish each alike the other's good in respect of their goodness,11 and they are good in themselves; but it is those who wish the good of their friends for their friends' sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally.12 Hence the friendship of these lasts as long as they continue to be good; and virtue is a permanent quality. And each is good relatively to his friend as well as absolutely, since the good are both good absolutely and profitable to each other. And each is pleasant in both ways also, since good men are pleasant both absolutely and to each other; for everyone is pleased by his own actions, and therefore by actions that resemble his own, and the actions of all good men are the same or similar.— 3. [7] Such friendship is naturally permanent, since it combines in itself all the attributes that friends ought to possess. All affection is based on good or on pleasure, either absolute or relative to the person who feels it, and is prompted by similarity13 of some sort; but this friendship possesses all these attributes in the friends themselves, for they are alike, et cetera,14 in that way.15 Also the absolutely good is pleasant absolutely as well; but the absolutely good and pleasant are the chief objects of affection; therefore it is between good men that affection and friendship exist in their fullest and best form. 3. [8]

Such friendships are of course rare, because such men are few. Moreover they require time and intimacy: as the saying goes, you cannot get to know a man till you have consumed the proverbial amount of salt16 in his company; and so you cannot admit him to friendship or really be friends, before each has shown the other that he is worthy of friendship and has won his confidence. 3. [9] People who enter into friendly relations quickly have the wish to be friends, but cannot really be friends without being worthy of friendship, and also knowing each other to be so; the wish to be friends is a quick growth, but friendship is not. 4.

This form of friendship is perfect both in point of duration and of the other attributes17 of friendship; and in all respects either party receives from the other the same or similar benefits, as it is proper that friends should do.

Friendship based on pleasure has a similarity to friendship based on virtue, for good men are pleasant to one another; and the same is true of friendship based on utility, for good men are useful to each other. In these cases also the friendship is most lasting when each friend derives the same benefit, for instance pleasure, from the other, and not only so, but derives it from the same thing, as in a friendship between two witty people, and not as in one between a lover and his beloved. These do not find their pleasure in the same things: the lover's pleasure is in gazing at his beloved, the loved one's pleasure is in receiving the attentions of the lover; and when the loved one's beauty fades, the friendship sometimes fades too, as the lover no longer finds pleasure in the sight of his beloved, and the loved one no longer receives the attentions of the lover; though on the other hand many do remain friends if as a result of their intimacy they have come to love each other's characters, both being alike in character. [2] But when a pair of lovers exchange not pleasure for pleasure but pleasure for gain, the friendship is less intense and less lasting.

A friendship based on utility dissolves as soon as its profit ceases; for the friends did not love each other, but what they got out of each other.

Friendships therefore based on pleasure and on and utility can exist between two bad men, between one bad man and one good, and between a man neither good nor bad and another either good, bad, or neither. But clearly only good men can be friends for what they are in themselves; since bad men do not take pleasure in each other, save as they get some advantage from each other. [3]

Also friendship between good men alone is proof against calumny; for a man is slow to believe anybody's word about a friend whom he has himself tried and tested for many years, and with them there is the mutual confidence, the incapacity ever to do each other wrong, and all the other characteristics that are required in true friendship. Whereas the other forms of friendship are liable to be dissolved by calumny and suspicion. [4]

But since people do apply the term ‘friends’ to persons whose regard for each other is based on utility, just as states can be ‘friends’ (since expediency is generally recognized as the motive of international alliances), or on pleasure, as children make friends, perhaps we too must call such relationships friendships; but then we must say that there are several sorts of friendship, that between good men, as good, being friendship in the primary and proper meaning of the term, while the other kinds are friendships in an analogical sense,18 since such friends are friends in virtue of a sort of goodness and of likeness19 in them: insomuch as pleasure is good in the eyes of pleasure-lovers. [5] But these two secondary forms of friendship are not very likely to coincide: men do not make friends with each other both for utility and for pleasure at the same time, since accidental qualities are rarely found in combination. [6]

Friendship then being divided into these species, inferior people will make friends for pleasure or for use, if they are alike in that respect,20 while good men will be friends for each other's own sake, since they are alike in being good.21 The latter therefore are friends in an absolute sense, the former accidentally, and through their similarity to the latter. 5.

It is with friendship as it is with the virtues; men are called good in two senses, either as having a virtuous disposition or as realizing virtue in action, and similarly friends when in each other's company derive pleasure from and confer benefits on each other, whereas friends who are asleep or parted are not actively friendly, yet have the disposition to be so. For separation does not destroy friendship absolutely, though it prevents its active exercise. If however the absence be prolonged, it seems to cause the friendly feeling itself to be forgotten: hence the poet's remark22 “ Full many a man finds friendship end
For lack of converse with his friend.

” [2]

The old and the morose do not appear to be much given to friendship, for their capacity to please is small, and nobody can pass his days in the company of one who is distasteful to him, or not pleasing, since it seems to be one of the strongest instincts of nature to shun what is painful and seek what is pleasant. [3] And when persons approve of each other without seeking such other's society, this seems to be goodwill rather than friendship. Nothing is more characteristic of friends than that they seek each other's society: poor men desire their friends' assistance, and even the most prosperous wish for their companionship (indeed they are the last people to adopt the life of a recluse); but it is impossible for men to spend their time together unless they give each other pleasure, or have common tastes. The latter seems to be the bond between the members of a comradeship.23 [4]

Friendship between good men then is the truest friendship, as has been said several times before. For it is agreed that what is good and pleasant absolutely is lovable and desirable strictly, while what is good and pleasant for a particular person is lovable and desirable relatively to that person; but the friendship of good men for each other rests on both these grounds.24 [5]

Liking25 seems to be an emotion, friendship a fixed disposition, for liking can be felt even for inanimate things, but reciprocal liking26 involves deliberate choice, and this springs from a fixed disposition. Also, when men wish the good of those they love for their own sakes, their goodwill does not depend on emotion but on a fixed disposition. And in loving their friend they love their own good, for the good man in becoming dear to another becomes that other's good. Each party therefore both loves his own good and also makes an equivalent return by wishing the other's good, and by affording him pleasure; for there is a saying, ‘Amity is equality,’ and this is most fully realized in the friendships of the good. 6.

Morose and elderly people rarely make friends, as they are inclined to be surly, and do not take much pleasure in society; good temper and sociability appear to be the chief constituents or causes of friendship. Hence the young make friends quickly, but the old do not, since they do not make friends with people if they do not enjoy their company; and the same applies to persons of a morose temper. It is true that the old or morose may feel goodwill for each other, since they may wish each other well and help each other in case of need; but they cannot properly be called friends, as they do not seek each other's society nor enjoy it, and these are thought to be the chief marks of friendship. [2]

It is not possible to have many friends in the full meaning of the word friendship, any more than it is to be in love with many people at once (love indeed seems to be an excessive state of emotion, such as is naturally felt towards one person only); and it is not easy for the same person to like a number of people at once, nor indeed perhaps can good men be found in large numbers. [3] Also for perfect friendship you must get to know a man thoroughly, and become intimate with him, which is a very difficult thing to do. But it is possible to like a number of persons for their utility and pleasantness, for useful and pleasant people are plentiful, and the benefits they confer can be enjoyed at once. [4]

Of these two inferior kinds of friendship, the one that more closely resembles true friendship is that based on pleasure, in which the same benefit is conferred by both parties, and they enjoy each other's company, or have common tastes; as is the case with the friendships of young people. For in these there is more generosity of feeling, whereas the friendship of utility is a thing for sordid souls. Also those blessed with great prosperity have no need of useful friends, but do need pleasant ones, since they desire some society; and though they may put up with what is unpleasant for a short time, no one would stand it continually: you could not endure even the Absolute Good itself for ever, if it bored you; and therefore the rich seek for friends who will be pleasant. No doubt they ought to require them to be good as well as pleasant, and also good for them, since then they would possess all the proper qualifications for friendship. [5] But princes and rulers appear to keep their friends in separate compartments: they have some that are useful, and some that are pleasant, but rarely any that are both at once. For they do not seek for friends who are pleasant because they are good, or are useful for noble purposes, but look for witty people when they desire pleasure, and for the other sort seek men who are clever at executing their commissions; and these two qualities are rarely found in the same person. [6] The good man, as we have said, is both useful and pleasant, but the good man does not become the friend of a superior, unless his superior in rank be also his superior in virtue; otherwise the good man as the inferior party cannot make matters proportionally equal.27 But potentates of such superior excellence are scarcely common. [7]

But to resume: the forms of friendship of which we have spoken are friendships of equality, for both parties render the same benefit and wish the same good to each other, or else exchange28 two different benefits, for instance pleasure and profit. (These29 are less truly friendships, and less permanent, as we have said; and opinions differ as to whether they are really friendships at all, owing to their being both like and unlike the same thing. In view of their likeness to friendship based on virtue they do appear to be friendships, for the one contains pleasure and the other utility, and these are attributes of that form of friendship too; but in that friendship based on virtue is proof against calumny, and permanent, while the others quickly change, besides differing in many other respects, they appear not to be real friendships, owing to their unlikeness to it.) 7.

But there is a different kind of friendship, which involves superiority of one party over the other, for example, the friendship between father and son, and generally between an older person and a younger, and that between husband and wife, and between any ruler and the persons ruled. These friendships also vary among themselves. The friendship between parents and children is not the same as that between ruler and ruled, nor indeed is the friendship of father for son the same as that of son for father, nor that of husband for wife as that of wife for husband; for each of these persons has a different excellence and function, and also different motives for their regard, and so the affection and friendship they feel are different. [2] Now in these unequal friendships the benefits that one party receives and is entitled to claim from the other are not the same on either side; but the friendship between parents and children will be enduring and equitable, when the children render to the parents the services due to the authors of one's being, and the parents to the children those due to one's offspring. The affection rendered in these various unequal friendships should also be proportionate30: the better of the two parties, for instance, or the more useful or otherwise superior as the case may be, should receive more affection than he bestows; since when the affection rendered is proportionate to desert, this produces equality in a sense between the parties, and equality is felt to be an essential element of friendship. [3]

Equality in friendship, however, does not seem to be like equality in matters of justice. In the sphere of justice, ‘equal’ (fair) means primarily proportionate to desert, and ‘equal in quantity’ is only a secondary sense; whereas in friendship ‘equal in quantity’ is the primary meaning, and ‘proportionate to desert’ only secondary. [4] This is clearly seen when a wide disparity arises between two friends in point of virtue or vice, or of wealth, or anything else; they no longer remain nor indeed expect to remain friends. This is most manifest in the case of the gods, whose superiority in every good attribute is pre-eminent; but it is also seen with princes: in their case also men much below them in station do not expect to be their friends, nor do persons of no particular merit expect to be the friends of men of distinguished excellence or wisdom. [5] It is true that we cannot fix a precise limit in such cases, up to which two men can still be friends; the gap may go on widening and the friendship still remain31; but when one becomes very remote from the other, as God is remote from man, it can continue no longer. [6] This gives rise to the question, is it not after all untrue that we wish our friends the greatest of goods? for instance, can we wish them to become gods? for then they will lose us as friends, and therefore lose certain goods, for friends are goods.32 If then it was rightly said above33 that a true friend wishes his friend's good for that friend's own sake, the friend would have to remain himself, whatever that may be; so that he will really wish him only the greatest goods compatible with his remaining a human being. And perhaps not all of these, for everybody wishes good things for himself most of all. 8.

Most men however, because they love honor, seem to be more desirous of receiving than of bestowing affection. Hence most men like flattery, for a flatterer is a friend who is your inferior,34 or pretends to be so, and to love you more than you love him; but to be loved is felt to be nearly the same as to be honored, which most people covet. [2] They do not however appear to value honor for its own sake, but for something incidental to it. Most people like receiving honor from men of high station, because they hope for something from them: they think that if they want something, the great man will be able to give it them; so they enjoy being honored by him as a token of benefits to come. Those on the other hand who covet being honored by good men, and by persons who know them, do so from a desire to confirm their own opinion of themselves; so35 these like honor because they are assured of their worth by their confidence in the judgement of those who assert it. Affection on the other hand men like for its own sake; from which we infer that it is more valuable than honor, and that friendship is desirable in itself. [3]

But in its essence friendship seems to consist more in giving than in receiving affection: witness the pleasure that mothers take in loving their children. Some mothers put their infants out to nurse, and though knowing and loving them, do not ask to be loved by them in return, if it be impossible to have this as well, but are content if they see them prospering; they retain their own love for them even though the children, not knowing them, cannot render them any part of what is due to a mother. [4] As then friendship consists more especially in bestowing affection, and as we praise men for loving their friends, affection seems to be the mark of a good friend. Hence it is friends that love each other as each deserves who continue friends and whose friendship is lasting. [5]

Also it is by rendering affection in proportion to desert that friends who are not equals may approach most nearly to true friendship, since this will make them equal. Amity consists in equality and similarity, especially the similarity of those who are alike in virtue; for being true to themselves, these also remain true to one another, and neither request nor render services that are morally degrading. Indeed they may be said actually to restrain each other from evil: since good men neither err themselves nor permit their friends to err. Bad men on the other hand have no constancy in friendship, for they do not even remain true to their own characters; but they can be friends for a short time, while they take pleasure in each other's wickedness. [6] The friendships of useful and pleasant people last longer, in fact as long as they give each other pleasure or benefit. It is friendship based on utility that seems most frequently to spring from opposites, for instance a friendship between a poor man and a rich one, or between an ignorant man and a learned; for a person desiring something which he happens to lack will give something else in return for it. One may bring under this class the friendship between a lover and the object of his affections, or between a plain person and a handsome one. This is why lovers sometimes appear ridiculous when they claim that their love should be equally reciprocated; no doubt if they are equally lovable this is a reasonable demand, but it is ridiculous if they have nothing attractive about them. [7]

But perhaps there is no real attraction between opposites as such, but only accidentally, and what they actually desire is the mean between them (since this is the Good); the dry for instance striving not to become wet, but to reach an intermediate state, and so with the hot, and everything else. Let us however dismiss this question, as being indeed somewhat foreign to our subject. 9.

The objects and the personal relationships with which friendship is concerned appear, as was said at the outset,36 to be the same as those which are the sphere of justice. For in every partnership we find mutual rights of some sort, and also friendly feeling: one notes that shipmates and fellow-soldiers speak of each other as ‘my friend,’ and so in fact do the partners in any joint undertaking. But their friendship is limited to the extent of their association in their common business, for so also are their mutual rights as associates. Again, the proverb says ‘Friends' goods are common property,’ and this is correct, since community is the essence of friendship. [2] Brothers have all things in common, and so do members of a comradeship37; other friends hold special possessions in common, more or fewer in different cases, inasmuch as friendships vary in degree. The claims of justice also differ in different relationships. The mutual rights of parents and children are not the same as those between brothers; the obligations of members of a comradeship not the same as those of fellow-citizens; and similarly with the other forms of friendship. [3] Injustice therefore also is differently constituted in each of these relationships: wrong is increasingly serious in proportion as it is done to a nearer friend. For example, it is more shocking to defraud a comrade of money than a fellow-citizen; or to refuse aid to a brother than to do so to a stranger; or to strike one's father than to strike anybody else. Similarly it is natural that the claims of justice also should increase with the nearness of the friendship, since friendship and justice exist between the same persons and are co-extensive in range. [4]

But all associations are parts as it were of the association of the State. Travellers for instance associate together for some advantage, namely to procure some of their necessary supplies. But the political association too, it is believed, was originally formed, and continues to be maintained, for the advantage of its members: the aim of lawgivers is the good of the community, and justice is sometimes defined as that which is to the common advantage. [5] Thus the other associations aim at some particular advantage; for example sailors combine to seek the profits of seafaring in the way of trade or the like, comrades in arms the gains of warfare, their aim being either plunder, or victory over the enemy or the capture of a city38; and similarly the members of a tribe or parish39 [And some associations appear to be formed for the sake of pleasure, for example religious guilds and dining-clubs, which are unions for sacrifice and social intercourse. But all these associations seem to be subordinate to the association of the State, which aims not at a temporary advantage but at one covering the whole of life.] combine to perform sacrifices and hold festivals in connection with them, thereby both paying honor to the gods and providing pleasant holidays for themselves. For it may be noticed that the sacrifices and festivals of ancient origin take place after harvest, being in fact harvest-festivals; this is because that was the season of the year at which people had most leisure. [6] All these associations then appear to be parts of the association of the State; and the limited friendships which we reviewed will correspond to the limited associations from which they spring. 10.

Now there are three forms of constitution, and also an equal number of perversions or corruptions of those forms. The constitutions are Kingship, Aristocracy, and thirdly, a constitution based on a property classification, which it seems appropriate to describe as timocratic, although most people are accustomed to speak of it merely as a constitutional government or Republic. [2] The best of these constitutions is Kingship, and the worst Timocracy. The perversion of Kingship is Tyranny. Both are monarchies, but there is a very wide difference between them: a tyrant studies his own advantage, a king that of his subjects. For a monarch is not a king40 if he does not possess independent resources, and is not better supplied with goods of every kind than his subjects; but a ruler so situated lacks nothing, and therefore will not study his own interests but those of his subjects. (A king who is not independent of his subjects will be merely a sort of titular king.41) Tyranny is the exact opposite in this respect, for the tyrant pursues his own good. The inferiority of Tyranny among the perversions is more evident than that of Timocracy among the constitutions, for the opposite of the best must be the worst. [3]

When a change of constitution takes place, Kingship passes into Tyranny, because Tyranny is the bad form of monarchy, so that a bad king becomes a tyrant. Aristocracy passes into Oligarchy owing to badness in the rulers, who do not distribute what the State has to offer according to desert, but give all or most of its benefits to themselves, and always assign the offices to the same persons, because they set supreme value upon riches; thus power is in the hands of a few bad men, instead of being in the hands of the best men. Timocracy passes into Democracy, there being an affinity between them, inasmuch as the ideal of Timocracy also is government by the mass of the citizens, and within the property qualification all are equal. Democracy is the least bad of the perversions, for it is only a very small deviation from the constitutional form of government.42 These are the commonest ways in which revolutions occur in states, since they involve the smallest change, and come about most easily. [4]

One may find likenesses and so to speak models of these various forms of constitution in the household. The relationship of father to sons is regal in type, since a father's first care is for his children's welfare. This is why Homer styles Zeus ‘father,’ for the ideal of kingship is paternal government. Among the Persians paternal rule is tyrannical, for the Persians use their sons as slaves. The relation of master to slaves is also tyrannic, since in it the master's interest is aimed at. The autocracy of a master appears to be right, that of the Persian father wrong; for different subjects should be under different forms of rule. [5] The relation of husband to wife seems to be in the nature of an aristocracy: the husband rules in virtue of fitness, and in matters that belong to a man's sphere; matters suited to a woman he hands over to his wife. When the husband controls everything, he transforms the relationship into an oligarchy, for he governs in violation of fitness, and not in virtue of superiority. And sometimes when the wife is an heiress it is she who rules. In these cases then authority goes not by virtue but by wealth and power, as in an oligarchy. [6] The relation between brothers constitutes a sort of timocracy; they are equals, save in so far as they differ in age; hence, if the divergence in age be great, the friendship between them cannot be of the fraternal type. Democracy appears most fully in households without a master, for in them all the members are equal; but it also prevails where the ruler of the house is weak, and everyone is allowed to do what he likes. 11.

Under each of these forms of government we find friendship existing between ruler and ruled, to the same extent as justice. The friendship of a king for his subjects is one of superiority in beneficence; for a king does good to his subjects, inasmuch as being good he studies to promote their welfare, as a shepherd studies the welfare of his sheep; hence Homer called Agamemnon ‘shepherd of the people.’ [2] The friendship of a father for his child is of the same kind (only here the benefits bestowed are greater, for the father is the source of the child's existence, which seems to be the greatest of all boons, and of its nurture and education; and we also ascribe the same benefits to our forefathers). For it is as natural for a father to rule his children, and forefathers those descended from them, as for a king to rule his subjects. [3] These friendships then involve a superiority of benefits on one side, which is why parents receive honor as well as service.43 The claims of justice also, therefore, in these relations are not the same on both sides, but proportionate to desert, as is the affection bestowed. [4]

The friendship between husband and wife again is the same as that which prevails between rulers and subjects in an aristocracy; for it is in proportion to excellence, and the better party receives the larger share [of good],44 whilst each party receives what is appropriate to each; and the same is true of the claims of justice on either side. [5]

Friendship between brothers is like that between members of a comradeship: the two parties are equal in station and age, and this usually implies identity of feelings and of character. The counterpart of fraternal friendship is that which exists under the timocratic form of constitution; since the ideal of Timocracy is that all citizens shall be equal and shall be good, so that they all rule in turn, and all have an equal share of power; and therefore the friendship between them is also one of equality. [6]

Under the perverted forms of constitution friendship like justice can have but little scope, and least of all in the worst: there is little or no friendship between ruler and subjects in a tyranny. For where there is nothing in common between ruler and ruled, there can be no friendship between them either, any more than there can be justice. It is like the relation between a craftsman and his tool, or between the soul and the body [or between master and slave45]: all these instruments it is true are benefited by the persons who use them, but there can be no friendship, nor justice, towards inanimate things; indeed not even towards a horse or an ox, nor yet towards a slave as slave. For master and slave have nothing in common: a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave. [7] Therefore there can be no friendship with a slave as slave, though there can be as human being: for there seems to be some room for justice in the relations of every human being with every other that is capable of participating in law and contract, and hence friendship also is possible with everyone so far as he is a human being. [8] Hence even in tyrannies there is but little scope for friendship and justice between ruler and subjects; but there is most room for them in democracies, where the citizens being equal have many things in common. 12.

All friendship, as we have said,46 involves community; but the friendship between relatives and between members of a comradeship may be set apart as being less in the nature of partnerships than are the friendships between fellow-citizens, fellow-tribesmen, shipmates, and the like; since these seem to be founded as it were on a definite compact. With the latter friendships may be classed family ties of hospitality between foreigners. [2]

Friendship between relatives itself seems to include a variety of species, but all appear to derive from the affection of parent for child. For parents love their children as part of themselves, whereas children love their parents as the source of their being. Also parents know their offspring with more certainty than children know their parentage; and progenitor is more attached to progeny than progeny to progenitor, since that which springs from a thing belongs to the thing from which it springs—for instance, a tooth or hair or what not to its owner—whereas the thing it springs from does not belong to it at all, or only in a less degree. The affection of the parent exceeds that of the child in duration also; parents love their children as soon as they are born, children their parents only when time has elapsed and they have acquired understanding,47 or at least perception. [3] These considerations48 also explain why parental affection is stronger in the mother. Parents then love their children as themselves (one's offspring being as it were another self—other because separate49); children love their parents as the source of their being; brothers love each other as being from the same source, since the identity of their relations to that source identifies them with one another, which is why we speak of ‘being of the same blood’ or ‘of the same stock’ or the like; brothers are therefore in a manner the same being, though embodied in separate persons. [4] But friendship between brothers is also greatly fostered by their common upbringing and similarity of age; ‘two of an age agree,’50 and ‘familiarity breeds fellowship,’ which is why the friendship between brothers resembles that between members of a comradeship. Cousins and other relatives derive their attachment from the fraternal relationship, since it is due to their descent from the same ancestor; and their sense of attachment is greater or less, according as the common ancestor is nearer or more remote. [5]

The affection of children for their parents, like that of men for the gods, is the affection for what is good, and superior to oneself; for their parents have bestowed on them the greatest benefits in being the cause of their existence and rearing, and later of their education. [6] Also the friendship between parents and children affords a greater degree both of pleasure and of utility than that between persons unrelated to each other, inasmuch as they have more in common in their lives.

Friendship between brothers has the same characteristics as that between members of a comradeship, and has them in a greater degree, provided they are virtuous, or resemble one another in any way51; inasmuch as brothers belong more closely to each other, and have loved each other from birth, and inasmuch as children of the same parents, who have been brought up together and educated alike, are more alike in character; also with brothers the test of time has been longest and most reliable. [7] The degrees of friendship between other relatives vary correspondingly.52

The friendship between husband and wife appears to be a natural instinct; since man is by nature a pairing creature even more than he is a political creature,53 inasmuch as the family is an earlier and more fundamental institution than the State, and the procreation of offspring a more general54 characteristic of the animal creation. So whereas with the other animals the association of the sexes aims only at continuing the species, human beings cohabit not only for the sake of begetting children but also to provide the needs of life; for with the human race division of labor begins at the outset, and man and woman have different functions; thus they supply each other's wants, putting their special capacities into the common stock. Hence the friendship of man and wife seems to be one of utility and pleasure combined. But it may also be based on virtue, if the partners be of high moral character; for either sex has its special virtue, and this may be the ground of attraction. Children, too, seem to be a bond of union, and therefore childless marriages are more easily dissolved; for children are a good possessed by both parents in common, and common property holds people together. [8]

The question what rules of conduct should govern the relations between husband and wife, and generally between friend and friend, seems to be ultimately a question of justice. There are different claims of justice between friends and strangers, between members of a comradeship and schoolfellows. 13.

There are then, as we said at the outset, three kinds of friendship, and in each kind there are both friends who are on an equal footing and friends on a footing of disparity; for two equally good men may be friends, or one better man and one worse; and similarly with pleasant friends and with those who are friends for the sake of utility, who may be equal or may differ in the amount of the benefits55 which they confer. Those who are equals must make matters equal by loving each other, etc.,56 equally; those who are unequal by making a return57 proportionate to the superiority of whatever kind on the one side. [2]

Complaints and recriminations occur solely or chiefly in friendships of utility, as is to be expected. In a friendship based on virtue each party is eager to benefit the other, for this is characteristic of virtue and of friendship; and as they vie with each other in giving and not in getting benefit, no complaints nor quarrels can arise, since nobody is angry with one who loves him and benefits him, but on the contrary, if a person of good feeling, requites him with service in return; and the one who outdoes the other in beneficence will not have any complaint against his friend, since he gets what he desires, and what each man desires is the good.58 [3] Nor again are complaints likely to occur between friends whose motive is pleasure either; for if they enjoy each other's company, both alike get what they wish for; and indeed it would seem ridiculous to find fault with somebody for not being agreeable to you, when you need not associate with him if you do not want to do so. [4] But a friendship whose motive is utility is liable to give rise to complaints. For here the friends associate with each other for profit, and so each always wants more, and thinks he is getting less than his due; and they make it a grievance that they do not get as much as they want and deserve; and the one who is doing a service can never supply all that the one receiving it wants. [5]

It appears that, as justice is of two kinds, one unwritten and the other defined by law, so the friendship based on utility may be either moral59 or legal. Hence occasions for complaint chiefly occur when the type of friendship in view at the conclusion of the transaction is not the same as when the a relationship was formed. [6] Such a connection when on stated terms is one of the legal type, whether it be a purely business matter of exchange on the spot, or a more liberal accommodation for future repayment,60 though still with an agreement as to the quid pro quo; and in the latter case the obligation is clear and cannot cause dispute, though there is an element of friendliness in the delay allowed, for which reason in some states there is no action at law in these cases, it being held that the party to a contract involving credit must abide by the consequences. [7] The moral type on the other hand is not based on stated terms, but the gift or other service is given as to a friend, although the giver expects to receive an equivalent or greater return, as though it had not been a free gift but a loan; and as he ends the relationship in a different spirit from that in which he began it, he will complain.61 [8] The reason of this is that all men, or most men, wish what is noble but choose what is profitable; and while it is noble to render a service not with an eye to receiving one in return, it is profitable to receive one. [9] One ought therefore, if one can, to return the equivalent of services received, and to do so willingly; for one ought not to make a man one's friend if one is unwilling to return his favors. Recognizing therefore that one has made a mistake at the beginning and accepted a service from a wrong person—that is, a person who was not a friend, and was not acting disinterestedly62 —one should accordingly end the transaction as if one had accepted the service on stated terms. Also, one would agree63 to repay a service if able to do so (and if one were not able, the giver on his side too would not have expected repayment); hence, if possible, one ought to make a return. But one ought to consider at the beginning from whom one is receiving the service, and on what terms, so that one may accept it on those terms or else decline it. [10]

Dispute may arise however as to the value of the service rendered. Is it to be measured by the benefit to the recipient, and the return made on that basis, or by the cost to the doer? The recipient will say that what he received was only a trifle to his benefactor, or that he could have got it from someone else: he beats down the value. The other on the contrary will protest that it was the most valuable thing he had to give, or that it could not have been obtained from anybody else, or that it was bestowed at a time of danger or in some similar emergency. [11] Perhaps then we may say that, when the friendship is one of utility, the measure of the service should be its value to the recipient, since it is he who wants it, and the other comes to his aid in the expectation of an equivalent return; therefore the degree of assistance rendered has been the amount to which the recipient has benefited, and so he ought to pay back as much as he has got out of it; or even more, for that will be more noble.

In friendships based on virtue, complaints do not arise, but the measure of the benefit seems to be the intention64 of the giver; for intention is the predominant factor in virtue and in character. 14.

Differences also arise in friendships where there is disparity between the parties. Each claims to get more than the other, and this inevitably leads to a rupture. If one is a better man than the other, he thinks he has a right to more, for goodness deserves the larger share. And similarly when one is more useful than the other: if a man is of no use, they say, he ought not to have an equal share, for it becomes a charity and not a friendship at all, if what one gets out of it is not enough to repay one's trouble. For men think that it ought to be in a friendship as it is in a business partnership, where those who contribute more capital take more of the profits. On the other hand the needy or inferior person takes the opposite view: he maintains that it is the part of a good friend to assist those in need; what is the use (he argues) of being friends with the good and great if one is to get nothing out of it? [2]

Now it appears that each of these rival claims is right. Both parties should receive a larger share from the friendship, but not a larger share of the same thing: the superior should receive the larger share of honor, the needy one the larger share of profit; for honor is the due reward of virtue and beneficence, while need obtains the aid it requires in pecuniary gain. [3]

The same principle is seen to obtain in public life.65 A citizen who contributes nothing of value to the common stock is not held in honor, for the common property is given to those who benefit the community, and honor is a part of the common property. For a man cannot expect to make money out of the community and to receive honor as well. For66 nobody is content to have the smaller share all round, and so we pay honor to the man who suffers money loss by holding office, and give money to the one who takes bribes; since requital in accordance with desert restores equality, and is the preservative of friendship,67 as has been said above.

This principle therefore should also regulate the intercourse of friends who are unequal: the one who is benefited in purse or character must repay what he can, namely honor. [4] For friendship exacts what is possible, not what is due; requital in accordance with desert is in fact sometimes impossible, for instance in honoring the gods, or one's parents: no one could ever render them the honor they deserve, and a man is deemed virtuous if he pays them all the regard that he can. Hence it would appear that a son never ought to disown his father, although a father may disown his son; for a debtor ought to pay what he owes, but nothing that a son can do comes up to the benefits he has received, so that a son is always in his father's debt. But a creditor may discharge his debtor, and therefore a father may disown his son. At the same time, no doubt it is unlikely that a father ever would abandon a son unless the son were excessively vicious; for natural affection apart, it is not in human nature to reject the assistance that a son will be able to render. Whereas a bad son will look on the duty of supporting his father as one to be avoided, or at all events not eagerly undertaken; for most people wish to receive benefits, but avoid bestowing them as unprofitable.

So much then for a discussion of these subjects.

1 φιλία, ‘friendship,’ sometimes rises to the meaning of affection or love, but also includes any sort of kindly feeling, even that existing between business associates, or fellow-citizens. The corresponding verb means both ‘to like’ and ‘to love’; the adjective is generally passive, ‘loved,’ ‘liked,’ ‘dear,’ but sometimes active ‘loving,’ ‘liking,’ and so on, as a noun ‘a friend.’

2 That is, the social grace of friendliness described in Bk. 4.6.; it is there said to be nameless, but it is called φιλία at 2.7.13.

3 Hom. Il. 10.224

4 φιλάνθρωπος means ‘humane,’ ‘kindly.’

5 Or possibly, ‘And the just are thought to possess friendliness in its highest form.’

6 Literally ‘Jackdaw to jackdaw.’

7 Literally, ‘all such men are potters to each other,’ an allusion to Hes. WD 25, καὶ κεραμεὺς κεραμεῖ κοτέει καὶ τέκτονι τέκτων—‘Potter with potter contends, and joiner quarrels with joiner.’

8 Fr. 890 Dindorf, from an unknown play.

9 No passage in the Ethics answers exactly to this reference.

10 i.e., they wish each other to become more virtuous, pleasant, or useful as the case may be; so that there is a different species of will-wishing in each case.

11 See 3.1 above, and note.

12 i.e., for some accidental, i.e., temporary or not essential, quality: cf. sects. 2, 3.

13 There is some uncertainty here and elsewhere in these chapters whether ‘similarity’ refers to resemblance between the friends (as 3.6, and cf. 1139a 10, καθ᾽ ὁμοιότητά τινα), or between the different forms of friendship (as καθ᾽ ὁμοιότητα, 1157a 32, 1158b 6) , friendships based on pleasure or profit being only so called ‘by way of resemblance,’ i.e. in an analogical and secondary sense. But the latter consideration seems irrelevant here, and is first developed in the next chapter (sects. 1, 4). It is true that whether similarity between the parties is an element in all friendship (although this is implied by the words ‘who resemble each other in virtue’ in 3.6) is nowhere clearly decided, and it can hardly be predicated of some friendships considered below.

14 i.e., absolutely and relatively good and pleasant: cf. 4.1.

15 i.e., in themselves, and not accidentally.

16 Cf. Aristot. Eud. Eth. 1238a 2, διὸ ἐις παροιμίαν ἐλήλυθεν μέδιμνος τῶν ἁλῶν, ‘hence “the peck of salt” has passed into a proverb.’

17 Cf. 3.7.

18 Literally, ‘by way of resemblance to true friendship’ : see 3.7, note.

19 Perhaps the words ‘and of likeness’ are interpolated; the following clause explains ‘goodness’ only. That utility is ‘a sort of goodness’ is assumed.

20 i.e., in being pleasant or useful to each other; or possibly ‘since they are alike in loving pleasure or profit.’

21 Or possibly ‘since they like each other as being good.’

22 The source of this is unknown.

23 The ἑταιρεῖαι, or Comradeships, at Athens were associations of men of the same age and social standing. In the fifth century they had a political character, and were oligarchical in tendency, but in Aristotle's day they seem to have been no more than social clubs, whose members were united by personal regard, and were felt to have claims on each other's resources. See chaps. 9.2, 11.5, 12.4, 6; 9.2.1, 3, 9; Bk. 10.6.

24 i.e., good men love each other because they are both good and pleasant absolutely and good and pleasant for each other.

25 This sentence would come better after the following one.

26 Cf. 2.3.

27 For this ‘proportional equalization’ of the parties to an unequal friendship see 7.2, 13.1. It would appear that the meaning here is, that unless the great man is also better than the good man, the good man cannot give more love or respect to the great man than the great man gives to him, which is the only way in which the good man can compensate the great man for giving more benefits than he gets, and so be put on an equality; see further on 9.1.1.

28 i.e., equivalent amounts of two different things.

29 i.e., friendships based on pleasure or utility or both, in contrast to those based on virtue; although the latter also are, of course, ‘friendships of equality.’ The parenthesis breaks the flow of the argument.

30 i.e., unequal, and proportionate to the benefits received.

31 Lit. ‘though many things are taken away, (friendship) still remains’; apparently an allusion to the Sorites fallacy (ratio ruentis acervi, Hor. Ep. 2.1.47) , How many grains can be taken from a heap of corn for it still to be in a heap?

32 It is a contradiction in terms to wish a friend a good that involves a loss of good.

33 2.3.

34 i.e., the party to the friendship who gets more than he gives, and redresses the balance by repaying more affection or esteem than he receives.

35 Or possibly ‘so what they really enjoy is being assured,’ etc.

36 1.4.

37 See 5.3, note.

38 Literally ‘plunder or victory or a city’; the last words may refer either to colonists or exiles who obtain a new abode by conquest, or to civil war; but the expression is improbable, and perhaps should be emended to ‘or to defend the city.’

39 The bracketed sentences, as Cook Wilson points out, look like an interpolated fragment of a parallel version.

40 Probably the text should read ‘a king is not a king at all unless—’

41 Literally, ‘a king elected by lot,’ like the annual archon at Athens, who had the title of king, but retained only certain religious functions from the primitive monarchy.

42 i.e., timocracy: see 10.1 fin.

43 Sc., because their children cannot fully repay their services in kind.

44 The word ‘good’ looks like an interpolation. The sense seems to require ‘a larger share of affection’ ( φιλίας, or φιλήσεως, understood); it is clear throughout that in an unequal friendship the superior party receives not more but less benefit (though more affection) than the inferior. In 10.5 the conjugal association is compared to the aristocratic polity in virtue of the fact that the superior party has more power, not more benefit; and from 10.3 it appears that when the ruling class takes all or most of the benefits for itself, the government is no longer an aristocracy but an oligarchy.

45 These words are better omitted, as they anticipate what comes below.

46 chap. 9.1.

47 Cf. 6.11.2 and note.

48 That is, greater certainty of parentage, closer affinity and earlier commencement of affection.

49 Or ‘a second self produced by separation from oneself.’

50 ἧλιξ ἥλικα sc. τέρπει, Aristot. Rh. 1371b 15. ‘Crabbed age and youth cannot live together.’ In its fuller form the proverb continues, ‘the old get on with the old,’ ἧλιξ ἥλικα τέρπε, γέρων δέ τε τέρπε γέροντα schol. ad Plat. Plat. Phaedrus 240c. The next phrase appears to be a proverb as well.

51 Sc. not only when they are alike in virtue.

52 i.e., in proportion to the closeness of the relationship: cf. 12.4 fin.

53 See 1.7.6, note.

54 More universal than the gregarious instinct, which finds its highest expression in the state.

55 i.e., the pleasure or utility as the case may be.

56 i.e., ‘and by being good or pleasant and useful.’

57 The one who is less good or pleasant or useful must give more affection: see 6.6, note, 7.2.

58 The last clause is suspected as an interpolation.

59 i.e., either a ‘moral obligation’ or a contract enforceable by law. It is noteworthy that the term ‘friendship’ is stretched to include the latter.

60 Or ‘more liberal in point of time.’

61 Sc., if disappointed of the return he expects.

62 Lit., ‘was not doing the service for its own sake,’ or perhaps ‘for the sake of friendship.’ But probably the text should be corrected to read ‘was not doing the service for one's own sake’: cf. 9.1.7, 10.6 fin.

63 i.e., in any case of the sort, if at the outset the question of repayment were raised.

64 Lit., ‘choice’ in Aristotle's technical sense.

65 Cf. 5.2.12, 5.4.2.

66 This explains why a benefactor of the commonwealth must receive a reward in the shape of honor.

67 i.e., the friendly feeling between the citizens as such, see 9.1. But that this is maintained by τὸ κατ᾽ ἀξίαν has not been said before: indeed the phrase is an odd description of what precedes, and its applicability to private friendship is denied just below. Perhaps ‘since requital . . . above’ is an interpolation.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Athens (Greece) (2)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: