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All friendship, as we have said,1 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,2 or at least perception. [3] These considerations3 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 separate4); 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,’5 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 way6; 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.7

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,8 inasmuch as the family is an earlier and more fundamental institution than the State, and the procreation of offspring a more general9 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.

1 chap. 9.1.

2 Cf. 6.11.2 and note.

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

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

5 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.

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

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

8 See 1.7.6, note.

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

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1371b
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 240c
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