Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 3: Three kinds of friendship, corresponding to the three motives Perfect friendship is that whose motive is the good.

But these three motives are specifically different from one another; the several affections and friendships based upon them, therefore, will also be specifically different. The kinds of friendship accordingly are three, being equal in number to the motives of love; for any one of these may be the basis of a mutual affection of which each is aware.

Now, those who love one another wish each other’s good in respect of that which is the motive of their love. Those, therefore, whose love for one another is based on the useful, do not love each other for what they are, but only in so far as each gets some good from the other.

It is the same also with those whose affection is based on pleasure; people care for a wit, for instance, not for what he is, but as the source of pleasure to themselves.

Those, then, whose love is based on the useful care for each other on the ground of their own good, and those whose love is based on pleasure care for each other on the ground of what is pleasant to themselves, each loving the other, not as being what he is, but as useful or pleasant.

These friendships, then, are “accidental;” for the object of affection is loved, not as being the person or character that he is, but as the source of some good or some pleasure. Friendships of this kind, therefore, are easily dissolved, as the persons do not continue unchanged; for if they cease to be pleasant or useful to one another, their love ceases. But the useful is nothing permanent, but varies from time to time. On the disappearance, therefore, of that which was the motive of their friendship, the friendship itself is dissolved, since it existed solely with a view to that.

Friendship of this kind seems especially to be found among elderly men (for at that time of life men pursue the useful rather than the pleasant) and those middle-aged and young men who have a keen eye to what is profitable. But friends of this kind do not generally even live together; for sometimes they are by no means pleasant (nor indeed do they want such constant intercourse with others, unless they are useful); for they make themselves pleasant only just so far as they have hopes of getting something good thereby.

With these friendships is generally classed the kind of friendship that exists between host and guest.

The friendship of young men is thought to be based on pleasure; for young men live by impulse, and, for the most part, pursue what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately present. But the things in which they take pleasure change as they advance in years. They are quick to make friendships, therefore, and quick to drop them; for their friendship changes as the object which pleases them changes; and pleasure of this kind is liable to rapid alteration.

Moreover, young men are apt to fall in love; for love is, for the most part, a matter of impulse and based on pleasure: so they fall in love, and again soon cease to love, passing from one state to the other many times in one day.

Friends of this kind wish to spend their time together and to live together; for thus they attain the object of their friendship.

But the perfect kind of friendship is that of good men who resemble one another in virtue. For they both alike wish well to one another as good men, and it is their essential character to be good men. And those who wish well to their friends for the friends’ sake are friends in the truest sense; for they have these sentiments towards each other as being what they are, and not in an accidental way: their friendship, therefore, lasts as long as their virtue, and that is a lasting thing.

Again, each is both good simply and good to his friend; for it is true of good men that they are both good simply and also useful to one another.

In like manner they are pleasant too; for good men are both pleasant in themselves and pleasant to one another: for every kind of character takes delight in the acts that are proper to it and those that resemble these; but the acts of good men are the same or similar.

This kind of friendship, then, is lasting, as we might expect, since it unites in itself all the conditions of true friendship. For every friendship has for its motive some good or some pleasure (whether it be such in itself or relatively to the person who loves), and is founded upon some similarity: but in this case all the requisite characteristics belong to the friends in their own nature; for here there is similarity and the rest, viz. what is good simply and pleasant simply, and these are the most lovable things: and so it is between persons of this sort that the truest and best love and friendship is found.

It is but natural that such friendships should be uncommon, as such people are rare. Such a friendship, moreover, requires long and familiar intercourse. For, as the proverb says, it is impossible for people to know one another till they have consumed the requisite quantity of salt together. Nor can they accept one another as friends, or be friends, till each show and approve himself to the other as worthy to be loved. Those who quickly come to treat one another like friends may wish to be friends, but are not really friends, unless they not only are lovable, but know each other to be so; a wish to be friends may be of rapid growth, but not friendship.

This kind of friendship, then, is complete in respect of duration and in all other points, and that which each gets from the other is in all respects identical or similar, as should be the case with friends.


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