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Types

of Friendships in Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics books 8-9


Aristotle distinguishes three main types of friendships each of which corresponds to a
particular type of basic good either coming from or residing in the friend. Among the
different ways in which something can be good for us and can be perceived as good,
desired as a good, pursued or protected as a good there are several main categories.


THE NOBLE OR FINE
THE USEFUL
THE PLEASURABLE

(to kalon)
(to sumpheron)
(to hedon)

intrinsically good and
good for something
good to the one who

valuable
for its own sake
providing or leading to
derives or enjoys pleasure

a higher class of good
something else desired
from it



Examples:
Having or Getting a Job
Money or Other Wealth
Business Contacts
Medicine or Exercise

Examples:
Eating Tasty Foods
Joking Around and Play
Romance and Having Sex
Going Out For Drinks

Examples:
Virtues of Character
Making Contributions
Genuine Intimacy
Studying Hard Subjects


Corresponding to each of these types of goods, there is a distinctive type of Friendship or
more broadly speaking, relationship (since some of these seem less friendly than others)

Friendship On Account
Of Virtue



FRIEND
FRIEND





has virtue
Virtue
Virtue
has virtue
OR FINE


THE NOBLE


recognizes virtue
(to kalon)
recognizes virtue





Friendship





On Account Of Pleasure


FRIEND



FRIEND







takes p leasure
in other


takes pleasure in other




THE PLEASANT

gives pleasure to other
gives pleasure to other
(to hedon)







Friendship On Account Of Usefulness


FRIEND

FRIEND





gets
s
omething
useful

gets
something useful

THE
U
SEFUL



(to
s
umpheron)
gives something useful
gives something useful




Copyright 2013 Gregory B. Sadler, ReasonIO
ReasonIO: philosophy into practice

Types of Friendships in Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics books 8-9


Friendship that is based upon Virtue is the fullest type of friendship, according to Aristotle,
with Friendship based on Pleasure coming in a distant second, and Friendship based on
Usefulness last. These modes of relationship vary from each other in significant ways.

Friendship of Virtue


really based on the persons
and their character, who the
persons are in themselves

Friendship of Pleasure Friendship of Usefulness


based on the pleasure which based solely on usefulness of
the people can and do
the people to each other,
provide to each other
benefits provided to each other

friends wish continual good friends wish good to the other
to the other person for the
person for the sake of the
sake of the pleasure
benefits they provide

friends wish continual good


to the other person for their
own sake

based very much on
could be based on
generally based on differences
commonality or similarity
similarities or on differences which meet needs of people
durable or permanent , does less durable, liable to break least durable of all, will break
not easily break up
up when pleasure ends or
up when one person is no
Does not give rise to
lessens,
longer useful to the other
complaints
gives rise to complaints
Often gives rise to complaints

not possible to have many
possible to have many
possible to have all sorts of
close, intimate friends
friends of this sort.
friends of this sort.
these take much time
these can develop quickly
these develop when needed

not possible for a morally
possible for a morally bad
possible for a morally bad
bad person to have (or even person to have, but likely to person to have, but youd
likely appreciate)
lead to problems . . . .
better watch them!


Aristotle notes that as one moves up from Friendships of Usefulness to Friendships of
Pleasure, and then to Friendships in the fuller sense of Virtue or Character, the goods
provided at the lower level are also present in the upper level. It is not that one simply has
to choose between either Usefulness or Pleasure or Nobility.

The Pleasant person is also Useful to the friend in a Friendship of Pleasure useful for
getting pleasure that is. Friendships of Pleasure might also involve a trade-off where one
person is giving Pleasure, and the other person is giving something Useful in return.

The Friends in a Friendship of Virtue are going to be able to enjoy all of the goods in the
lower, less complete forms of Friendship. Why?
In order to be friends of this sort, they need to be good people, and good people are
pleasant for other good people to be with both absolutely and to each other
Good people are also going to be useful to each other, to provide each other benefits
when needed, helpful, or even just to do something noble for the other person

Copyright 2013 Gregory B. Sadler, ReasonIO

ReasonIO: philosophy into practice