Book 8: Friendship or Love.
After the foregoing, a discussion of friendship will naturally follow, as it is a sort of virtue, or at least implies virtue, and is, moreover, most necessary to our life. For no one would care to live without friends, though he had all other good things. Indeed, it is when a man is rich, and has got power and authority, that he seems most of all to stand in need of friends; for what is the use of all this prosperity if he have no opportunity for benevolence, which is most frequently and most commendably displayed towards friends? or how could his position be maintained and preserved without friends? for the greater it is, the more is it exposed to danger. In poverty and all other misfortunes, again, we regard our friends as our only refuge. We need friends when we are young to keep us from error, when we get old to tend upon us and to carry out those plans which we have not strength to execute ourselves, and in the prime of life to help us in noble deeds—“two together” [as Homer says]; for thus we are more efficient both in thought and in action.
Love seems to be implanted by nature in the parent towards the offspring, and in the offspring towards the parent, not only among men, but also among birds and most animals; and in those of the same race towards one another, among men especially—for which reason we commend those who love their fellow-men. And when one travels one may see how man is always akin to and dear to man.
Again, it seems that friendship is the bond that holds states together, and that lawgivers are even more eager to secure it than justice. For concord bears a certain resemblance to friendship, and it is concord that they especially wish to retain, and dissension that they especially wish to banish as an enemy. If citizens be friends, they have no need of justice, but though they be just, they need friendship or love also; indeed, the completest realization of justice seems to be the realization of friendship or love also.
Moreover, friendship is not only an indispensable, but also a beautiful or noble thing: for we commend those who love their friends, and to have many friends is thought to be a noble thing; and some even think that a good man is the same as a friend.
But there are not a few differences of opinion about the matter. Some hold that it is a kind of likeness, and that those who are like one another are friends; and this is the origin of “Like to like,” and “Birds of a feather flock together,” and other similar sayings. Others, on the contrary, say that “two of a trade never agree.”
Others go deeper into these questions, and into the causes of the phenomena; Euripides, for instance says—
“The parched earth loves the rain,
And the high heaven, with moisture laden, loves
Earthwards to fall.”
Heraclitus also says, “Opposites fit together,” and “Out of discordant elements comes the fairest harmony,” and “It is by battle that all things come into the world.” Others, and notably Empedocles, take the opposite view, and say that like desires like.
Of these difficulties, all that refer to the constitution of the universe may be dismissed (for they do not properly concern our present inquiry); but those that refer to human nature, and are intimately connected with man’s character and affections, we will discuss—as, for instance, whether friendship can exist in all men, or whether it is impossible for men to be friends if they are bad, and whether there be one form of friendship or rather many. For those who suppose that there is only one kind of friendship, because it admits of degrees, go upon insufficient grounds. Things that differ in kind may differ also in degree (But we have already spoken about this point.)