Book 9: Friendship or Love—Continued.

Chapter 4: A man’s relation to his friend like his relation to himself.

Friendly relations to others, and all the characteristics by which friendship is defined, seem to be derived from our relations towards ourselves. A friend is sometimes described as one who wishes and does to another what is good or seems good for that other’s sake, or as one who wishes his friend to exist and to live for his (the friend’s) sake. (This is what mothers feel towards their children, and what friends who have had a difference feel for one another.) Others describe a friend as one who lives with another and chooses what he chooses, or as one who sympathizes with the griefs and joys of his friend. (This, also, is especially the case with mothers.) And, similarly, friendship is usually defined by some one or other of these characteristics.

Now, every one of these characteristics we find in the good man’s relations to himself (and in other men just so far as they suppose themselves to be good; but it seems, as we have said, that virtue and the good man are in everything the standard): for the good man is of one mind with himself, and desires the same things with all his soul, and wishes for himself what both is and seems good, and does that (for it is characteristic of him to work out that which is good) for his own sake—for the sake, that is to say, of the rational part of him, which seems to be a man’s self. And he wishes his self to live and be preserved, and especially that part of his self by which he thinks: for existence is good to the good man. But it is for himself that each wishes the good; no one would choose to have all that is good (as e.g. God is in complete possession of the good) on condition of becoming some one else, but only on condition of still being just himself. But his reason would seem to be a man’s self, or, at least, to be so in a truer sense than any other of his faculties.

Such a man also wishes to live with himself; for his own company is pleasant to him. The memory of his past life is sweet, and for the future he has good hopes; and such hopes are pleasant. His mind, moreover, is well stored with matter for contemplation: and he sympathizes with himself in sorrow and in joy; for at all seasons the same things give him pain and pleasure, not this thing now, and then another thing,—for he is, so to speak, not apt to change his mind.

Since, then, all these characteristics are found in the good man’s relations to himself, and since his relations to his friend are the same as his relations to himself (for his friend is his second self), friendship is described by one or other of these characteristics, and those are called friends in whom these characteristics are found.

The question whether friendship towards one’s self is or is not possible may be dismissed at present; but that it is possible so far as one has two or more selves would seem to follow from what has been already said, and also from the fact that the extreme of friendship for another is likened to friendship for one’s self.

But the characteristics we have mentioned appear to be found in the generality of men, though they are not good. Perhaps we may say that so far as they are agreeable to themselves, and believe they are good, so far do they share these characteristics. People who are utterly worthless and impious never have them, nor do they even seem to have them. But we might almost say roundly that they are wanting in all who are not good; for such men are not at one with themselves: they desire one thing while they wish another, as the incontinent do, for instance (for, instead of what they hold to be good, they choose what is pleasant though injurious). Others, again, through cowardice or laziness, shrink from doing that which they believe is the best for them; while those who have done many terrible things out of wickedness, hate life, and wish to get rid of it, and sometimes actually destroy themselves.

Bad men try to find people with whom to spend their time, and eschew their own company; for there is much that is painful in the past on which they look back and in the future to which they look forward when they are by themselves, but the company of others diverts them from these thoughts. As there is nothing lovable in them, they have no friendly feelings towards themselves.

He who is not good, then, cannot sympathize with himself in joy or sorrow; for his soul is divided against itself: one part of him, by reason of its viciousness, is pained at being deprived of something, while another part of him is pleased; one part pulls this way, another that, tearing him to pieces, as it were, between them. Or if it be impossible to be pained and pleased at the same time, yet, at any rate, after a short interval he is pained that he was pleased, and wishes that he had never partaken of this pleasure; for those who are not good are full of remorse.

Thus we may say roundly that he who is not good has no friendly feelings even for himself, as there is nothing lovable in him. If, then, to be in this state is utterly miserable, we ought to strain every nerve to avoid vice, and try to be good; for thus we may be friendly disposed towards ourselves, and make friends with others.


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