Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 12: Of the friendship of kinsmen and comrades.

All friendship, as we have already said, implies association; but we may separate from the rest the friendship of kinsmen and that of comrades. The friendships of fellow-citizens, of fellow-tribesmen, of fellow-sailors, etc., seem, as opposed to these, to have more to do with association; for they appear to be founded upon some sort of compact. The friendship of host and guest might also be included in this class.

Kinsmen’s friendship seems to include several species, but to be dependent in all its forms upon the friendship of parent and child. For parents love their children as part of themselves; children love their parents as the source of their being. But parents know their children better than the children know that these are their parents, and that which gives birth is more closely attached to that which proceeds from it, than the offspring is to that which gave it life: for that which proceeds from us belongs to us, as a tooth or a hair, or anything of that sort, to its owner; but we do not belong to it at all, or belong to it in a less degree.

Again, there is a difference in respect of time; for parents love their offspring from the moment of their birth, but children love their parents only after the lapse of time, when they have acquired understanding or sense.

These considerations also show why mothers love their children more than fathers do.

Parents, then, love their children as themselves (for what proceeds from them is as it were a second self when it is severed), but children love their parents as the source of their being, and brothers love each other because they proceed from the same source: for the identity of their relation to this source constitutes an identity between them; so that they say that they are of the same blood and stock, etc. And so they are in a way identical, though they are separate persons.

But friendship between brothers is greatly furthered by common nurture and similarity of age; for those of the same age naturally love one another, as the saying is, and those who are used to one another naturally make comrades of one another, so that the friendship of brothers comes to resemble that of comrades.

Cousins and other kinsfolk become attached to each other for the same reason—I mean because they come of the same stock. But the attachment is more or less close according to the nearness or remoteness of the founder of the family.

The friendship of children for their parents (like that of men for the gods) is friendship for what is good and superior to themselves, as the source of the greatest benefits, namely, of their life and nurture, and their education from their birth upwards.

Friendship of this kind brings with it more, both of pleasure and profit, than that of strangers, in proportion as there is more community of life.

The friendship of brothers has all the characteristics of the friendship of comrades, and has them in a greater degree (provided they are good and generally resemble one another) inasmuch as they belong more to one another and love each other from their birth up, and have more similarity of character, as being of the same stock and brought up together and educated alike; moreover, they have had the longest and the surest experience of one another.

In all other kinsmen’s friendships the same elements will be found in proportion to the relationship.

The friendship of man and wife seems to be natural; for human beings are by nature more apt to join together in couples than to form civil societies, inasmuch as the family is prior in time to the state and more indispensable, and the propagation of the species is a more fundamental characteristic of animal existence. The other animals associate for this purpose alone, but man and wife live together not merely for the begetting of children, but also to satisfy the needs of their life: for the functions of the man and the woman are clearly divided and distinct the one from the other; they supply each other’s wants, therefore, both contributing to the common stock. And so this sort of friendship is thought to bring with it both pleasure and profit. But it will be based on virtue, too, if they be good; for each sex has its own virtue, and both will rejoice in that which is of like nature.

Children also seem to be a bond that knits man and wife together (which is a reason why childless unions are more quickly dissolved); for children are a good which both have in common, but that which people have in common holds them together.

To ask on what terms a man should live with his wife, and generally friend with friend, seems the same as to ask what justice requires in these cases; for what is required of a man towards his friend is different from what is required of him towards a stranger, a comrade, or a fellow-student.


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