Book 8: Friendship or Love.

Chapter 8: Of loving and being loved.

Most people seem, from a desire for honour, to wish to be loved rather than to love, and on this account most men are fond of flatterers; for a flatterer is an inferior friend, or pretends to be so and to love more than he is loved: but being loved is thought to come near to being honoured, and that most men strive for.

But they seem to desire honour not for its own sake, but accidentally: it is expectation that makes most men delight in being honoured by those in authority; for they hope to get from them anything they may want: they delight in this honour, therefore, as a token of good things to come. On the other hand, those who desire the honour or respect of good men and men who know, are anxious to confirm their own opinion of themselves; they rejoice, therefore, in the assurance of their worth which they gain from confidence in the judgment of those who declare it.

But men delight in being loved for its own sake; wherefore it would seem that being loved is better than being honoured, and that friendship is desirable for its own sake.

Friendship, however, seems to lie in the loving, rather than in the being loved. This is shown by the delight that mothers take in loving; for some give their children to others to rear, and love them since they know them, but do not look for love in return, if it be impossible to have both, being content to see their children doing well, and loving them, though they receive from them, in their ignorance, nothing of what is due to a mother.

Since friendship lies more in loving [than in being loved], and since we praise those who love their friends, it would seem that the virtue of a friend is to love, so that when people love each other in proportion to their worth, they are lasting friends, and theirs is a lasting friendship.

This is also the way in which persons who are unequal can be most truly friends; for thus they will make themselves equal: but equality and similarity tend to friendship, and most of all the similarity of those who resemble each other in virtue; for such men, being little liable to change, continue as they were in themselves and to one another, and do not ask anything unworthy of one another, or do anything unworthy for one another—nay, rather restrain one another from anything of the sort; for it is characteristic of a good man neither to go wrong himself, nor to let his friend go wrong.

Bad men on the other hand [as friends] have no stability: for they do not even continue like themselves; but for a short space they become friends, rejoicing in each other’s wickedness.

Those, however, who are useful and agreeable to one another continue friends longer, i.e. so long as they continue to furnish pleasure or profit.

The friendship whose motive is utility seems, more than any other kind, to be a union of opposites, as of rich and poor, ignorant and learned; for when a man wants a thing, in his desire to get it he will give something else in exchange. And perhaps we might include the lover and his beloved, the beautiful and the ugly person, in this class. And this is the reason why lovers often make themselves ridiculous by claiming to be loved as they love; if they were equally lovable they might perhaps claim it, but when there is nothing lovable about them the claim is absurd.

But perhaps nothing desires its opposite as such but only accidentally, the desire being really for the mean which is between the two; for this is good. For the dry, for instance, it is good not to become wet, but to come to the intermediate state, and so with the hot, and with the rest of these opposites. But we may dismiss these questions; for, indeed, they are somewhat foreign to our present purpose.


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