Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 6: Impossible to have many true friends.

Morose men and elderly men are less apt to make friends in proportion as they are harsher in temper, and take less pleasure in society; for delight in society seems to be, more than anything else, characteristic of friendship and productive of it. So young men are quick to make friends, but not old men (for people do not make friends with those who do not please them), nor morose men. Such people may, indeed, be well-wishers, for they wish each other good and help each other in need; but they are by no means friends, since they do not live with nor delight in each other, which things are thought to be, more than anything else, characteristic of friendship.

It is impossible to have friendship, in the full sense of the word, for many people at the same time, just as it is impossible to be in love with many persons at once (for it seems to be something intense, but intense feeling implies a single object); and it is not easy for one man to find at one time many very agreeable persons, perhaps not many good ones. Moreover, they must have tested and become accustomed to each other, which is a matter of great difficulty. But in the way of profit or pleasure, it is quite possible to find many agreeable persons; for such people are not rare, and their services can be rendered in a short time.

Of these other kinds, that which more nearly resembles true friendship is that whose motive is pleasure, when each renders the same service to the other, and both take pleasure in one another, or in the same things, such as young men’s friendships are wont to be; for a generous spirit is commoner in them than in others. But the friendship whose motive is utility is the friendship of sordid souls. Those who are happy do not need useful, but pleasant friends; it is people to live with that they want, and though they may for a short time put up with what is painful, yet no one could endure anything continually, not even the good itself, if it were painful to him; so they require that their friends shall be pleasant. But they ought, we may say, to require that they shall be good as well as pleasant, and good for them; then all the characteristics of a friend will be combined.

People in exalted positions seem to make distinct classes of friends. They have some who are useful, and others who are pleasant, but seldom any that unite both these qualities; for they do not seek for people who are at once agreeable and virtuous, or people who can be useful to them in noble actions, but they seek for witty persons to satisfy their craving for pleasure, while for other purposes they choose men who are clever at carrying out their instructions: but these two qualities are seldom united in one person.

The good man, indeed, as we have already said, is both pleasant and useful; but such a man does not make friends with a man in a superior station, unless he allows himself inferior in virtue:* only thus does he meet the good man on equal terms, being inferior in one respect in the same ratio as he is superior in another. But great men are by no means wont to behave in this manner.

In the friendships hitherto spoken of the persons are equal, for they do the same and wish the same for each other, or else exchange equal quantities of different things, as pleasure for profit. (We have already explained that the latter less deserve the name of friendship, and are less lasting than the former kind. We may even say that, being at once both like it and unlike it, they seem both to be and not to be friendships. On the ground of their resemblance to the friendship that is based on virtue, they seem to be friendships; for one involves pleasure, the other profit, both of which belong to true friendship; but, again, inasmuch as it is beyond calumny and is lasting, while they are liable to rapid change and different in many other respects, they seem not to be friendships because of their unlikeness to it.)


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