Book 9: Friendship or Love—Continued.

Chapter 1: Of the rule of proportion in dissimilar friendships.

In all dissimilar friendships it is proportionate exchange that maintains equality and preserves the friendship (as we have already said), just as in the association of citizens, where the shoemaker, in exchange for his shoes, receives some return proportionate to his desert, and so on with the weaver and the rest.

Now, in these latter cases, a common measure is supplied by money; money is the standard to which everything is referred, and by which it is measured.

In sentimental friendships, on the other hand, the lover sometimes complains that while he loves excessively he gets no love in return, although, maybe, there is nothing lovable about him; often the beloved complains that whereas the other used to promise everything, he now performs nothing.

Complaints of this sort are wont to arise when, pleasure being the motive of the friendship with one person and profit with the other, they do not both get what they want. For the friendship, being based on these motives, is dissolved whenever they fail to obtain that for the sake of which they made friends; for it was not the other’s self that each loved, but only something which he had, and which is not apt to endure; for which reason these friendships also are not apt to endure. But friendship based on character, being pure, is likely to last, as we said.

Sometimes, again, friends quarrel when they find they are getting something different from what they want, for failing to get what you want is like getting nothing. This may be illustrated by the story of the harper: a man promised him that the better he played, the more he should receive; but when, as dawn drew near, the harper claimed the fulfilment of his promise, the other replied that he had already paid him pleasure for pleasure. Now, if this was what both wished, there would be nothing more to say: but if the one wanted pleasure and the other profit, and the one has what he wants, while the other has not, the bargain will not be fairly carried out; for it is what a man happens to want that he sets his heart on, and consents for the sake of it to render this particular service.

But whose business is it to fix the value of the service? his who first gives, or rather his who first receives?—for he who first gives seems to leave it to the other. This, they say, was the custom of Protagoras: when he had been giving lessons in any subject, he used to tell his pupil to estimate the value of the knowledge he had acquired, and so much he would take.

Some, however, think the rule should be, “Let a friend be content with his stated wage.”

But if a man, after being paid in advance, fulfils none of his engagements, because he had promised more than he could perform, he is rightly held chargeable; for he does not fulfil his contract. But the sophists, perhaps, are compelled to adopt this plan [of payment in advance]; for otherwise no one would give anything for what they know.

He, then, who fails to do that for which he has already been paid, is rightly chargeable. But when there is no express agreement about the service rendered, (a) when one voluntarily helps another for that other’s sake, no accusation can arise, as we said: for this is the nature of friendship based on virtue. The return must here be regulated by the purpose of him who renders the first service; for it is purpose that makes both friend and virtue. The same rule would seem to apply also to the relations of a philosopher and his disciples; for desert cannot here be measured in money, and no honour that could be paid him would be an adequate return; but, nevertheless, as in our relations to gods and parents, the possible is accepted as sufficient. (b) If, however, the first gift has been made, not in this spirit, but on the understanding that there shall be some return, the return should, if possible, be such as both deem proportionate to desert: but if this cannot be, it would seem to be not only necessary, but just, that the recipient of the first benefit should assess it; for whatever be the amount of the advantage he has received, or whatever he would have been willing to give for the pleasure, the other, in receiving the same amount, will receive as much as is due from him. For even in sales this is plainly what takes place; and in some states there is no recovery by law in voluntary contracts, as it is held that when you have given a man credit, you must conclude your bargain with him in the same spirit in which you began it. It is held to be fairer that the service should be valued by him who is trusted than by him who trusts. For most things are differently valued by those who have them and by those who wish to get them: what belongs to us, and what we give away, always seems very precious to us. Nevertheless, the return to be made must be measured by the value which is set upon the service by the receiver. But perhaps he ought to put it, not at what it seems to be worth when he has got it, but at the value he set upon it before he had it.


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