Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 13: Of the terms of interchange and quarrels hence arising in equal friendships.

There are three kinds of friendship, as we said at the outset, and in each kind there are both equal and unequal friendships; I mean that sometimes two equally good persons make friends, and sometimes a better and a worse,—and so with those who are pleasant to one another, and with those who are friends with a view to profit—sometimes rendering equal services to one another, and sometimes unequal.

Now, those who are equal should effect equality by loving one another, etc., equally, but those who are unequal should effect equality by making what each renders proportionate to the greater or less merit of the other.

But accusations and reproaches arise solely or mostly in friendships whose motive is profit, as we should expect. For those whose friendship is based on virtue are eager to do good to each other (for this is the office of virtue and friendship); and between people who are thus vieing with one another no accusations or quarrels can arise; for a man cannot be embittered against one who loves him and does him a service, but, if he be of a gracious nature, requites him with a like service. And he who renders the greater service will not reproach his friend, since he gets what he desires; for each desires what is good.

Such quarrels, again, are not apt to arise in friendships whose motive is pleasure; for both get at the same time that which they desire, if they delight in each other’s company; but if one were to accuse the other for not being agreeable to him, he would make himself ridiculous, seeing that he was under no compulsion to associate with him.

But the friendship whose motive is utility is fruitful in accusations; for as the friends here use each other solely with a view to their own advantage, each always wants the larger share and thinks he has less than his due, and reproaches the other with not doing for him so much as he requires and deserves; though, in truth, it is impossible for the one who is doing a service to supply all that the other wants.

But it seems that as the rules of justice are two-fold, the unwritten and those that are set down in laws, so the friendship whose motive is utility is of two kinds—one resting on disposition, the other on contract. And accusations are most apt to arise when the relation is understood in one sense at the commencement, and in the other sense at the conclusion.

That which rests on contract is that in which there are specified conditions, and it is of two kinds: one is purely commercial, on the principle of cash payments; the other is less exacting in point of time, though in it also there is a specified quid pro quo.

In the latter case, what is due is evident and cannot be disputed, but there is an element of friendliness in the deferment of payment; for which reason, in some states, there is no recovery by law in such cases, but it is held that when a man has given credit he must take the consequences.

That which rests on disposition has no specified conditions, but one gives another presents (or whatever else it may be) as a friend. But afterwards he claims as much or more in return, regarding what he gave not as a gift, but as a loan. And thus, wishing to terminate the relation in a different spirit from that in which he entered upon it, he will accuse the other. And this is apt to happen because all or nearly all men, though they wish for what is noble, choose what is profitable; and while it is noble to do a good service without expecting a return, it is profitable to receive a benefit.

In such cases, then, we should, if we have the power, make an equivalent return for benefits received (for we must not treat a man as a friend if he does not wish it: we should consider that we made a mistake at the beginning, and received a benefit from a person from whom we ought not to have accepted it—for he was not a friend and did not act disinterestedly—and so we ought to terminate the relation in the same way as if we had received a service for a stipulated consideration): and the return should be what we would have agreed to repay if able; if we were unable, the donor would not even have expected repayment. So we may fairly say that we should repay if we have the power.

But we ought at the outset carefully to consider who it is that is doing us a service, and on what understanding, so that we may accept it on that understanding or else reject it.

It is a debatable question whether the requital is to be measured by, and to be made proportionate to, the value of the service to the recipient or to the benefactor. For the recipients are apt to say that they received what was but a small matter to their benefactors, and what they might just as well have got from others, depreciating the service done them; but the others, on the contrary, are apt to say that what they gave was the best they had, and what could not be got from any one else, and that it was given in a time of danger or on some other pressing occasion.

Perhaps we may say that, if the friendship have profit for its motive, the benefit received should be taken as the measure; for it is the recipient who asks a service, which the other renders in expectation of an equal service in return: the amount of the assistance rendered, then, is determined by the extent to which the former is benefited, and he should repay as much as he received, or even more; for that would be the nobler course.

In friendships based on virtue, on the other hand, such accusations do not occur, but it would seem that the measure of the service is the purpose of him who does it; for virtue and moral character are determined by purpose.


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