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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

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.’

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