Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 2: Three motives of friendship. Friendship defined.

Perhaps these difficulties will be cleared up if we first ascertain what is the nature of the lovable. For it seems that we do not love anything, but only the lovable, and that the lovable is either good or pleasant or useful. But useful would appear to mean that which helps us to get something good, or some pleasure; so that the good and the pleasant only would be loved as ends.

Now, do men love what is good, or what is good for themselves? for there is sometimes a discrepancy between these two.

The same question may be asked about the pleasant.

It seems that each man loves what is good for himself, and that, while the good is lovable in itself, that is lovable to each man which is good for him. It may be said that each man loves not what is really good for him, but what seems good for him. But this will make no difference; for the lovable we are speaking of will then be the apparently lovable.

The motives of love being thus threefold, the love of inanimate things is not called friendship. For there is no return of affection here, nor any wish for the good of the object: it would be absurd to wish well to wine, for instance; at the most, we wish that it may keep well, in order that we may have it. But it is commonly said that we must wish our friend’s good for his own sake. One who thus wishes the good of another is called a well-wisher, when the wish is not reciprocated; when the well-wishing is mutual, it is called friendship.

But ought we not to add that each must be aware of the other’s well-wishing? For a man often wishes well to those whom he has never seen, but supposes to be good or useful men; and one of these may have the same sentiments towards him. These two, then, are plainly well-wishers one of another; but how could one call them friends when each is unaware of the other’s feelings?

In order to be friends, then, they must be wellwishers one of another, i.e. must wish each other’s good from one of the three motives above mentioned, and be aware of each other’s feelings.


Icon for the Public Domain license

This work (The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle) is free of known copyright restrictions.