Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 5: Intercourse necessary to the maintenance of friendship.

But just as with regard to the virtues we distinguish excellence of character or faculty from excellence manifested, so is it also with friendship: when friends are living together, they take pleasure in, and do good to, each other; when they are asleep or at a distance from one another, they are not acting as friends, but they have the disposition which, if manifested, issues in friendly acts; for distance does not destroy friendship simply, but the manifestation of friendship. But if the absence be prolonged, it is thought to obliterate even friendship; whence the saying—

“Full many a friendship hath ere now been loosed

By lack of converse.”

Old men do not seem apt to make friends, nor morose men; for there is little in them that can give pleasure: but no one can pass his days in intercourse with what is painful or not pleasant; for our nature seems, above all things, to shun the painful and seek the pleasant.

Those who accept each other’s company, but do not live together, seem to be rather well-wishers than friends. For there is nothing so characteristic of friendship as living together: those who need help seek it thus, but even those who are happy desire company; for a solitary life suits them least of all men. But people cannot live together unless they are pleasant to each other, nor unless they take delight in the same things, which seems to be a necessary condition of comradeship.

The truest friendship, then, is that which exists between good men, as we have said again and again. For that, it seems, is lovable and desirable which is good or pleasant in itself, but to each man that which is good or pleasant to him; and the friendship of good men for one another rests on both these grounds.

But it seems that while love is a feeling, friendship is a habit or trained faculty. For inanimate things can equally well be the object of love, but the love of friends for one another implies purpose, and purpose proceeds from a habit or trained faculty. And in wishing well for their sakes to those they love, they are swayed not by feeling, but by habit. Again, in loving a friend they love what is good for themselves; for he who gains a good man for his friend gains something that is good for himself. Each then, loves what is good for himself, and what he gives in good wishes and pleasure is equal to what he gets; for love and equality, which are joined in the popular saying ϕιλότης ἰσότης, are found in the highest degree in the friendship of good men.


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