Friendship and Love: Aristotle's View vs Plato's

Essay by jmvglickman April 2004

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Throughout the history of art, literature, and theater, the themes of friendship and love have been the most prevalent. In numerous compositions, including Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Plato's The Symposium, these themes are recurrent as the main topics of discussion. Aristotle believes friendship to be a high and noble aim for mankind. Analogously, Plato considers love a necessity of life that enables "human beings to acquire courage and happiness, in both life and death." Both philosophers believe that these two themes lead a person to eudaimonia, or happiness. Due to the similarity of the two themes, friendship and love are closely interwoven, thereby allowing the reader to intermingle the two themes.

In several chapters of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle develops an original definition for "friendship." According to Aristotle, "We ought to wish for the good of our friend for the friend's sake...If the good will is on a reciprocal basis, it is friendship."

This companionship can therefore be defined as the relationship between people who care about the general well being of each other. This mutual concern for the good of the other person is the glue that holds together their relationship. "We conclude, therefore, that to be friends men must have good will for one another, must each wish for the good of the other...and must each be aware of one another's good will." As a result, people will only wish the best for a friend, for the friend's own sake. This behavior of a true friend demonstrates genuine, caring feelings for the other person. As stated by Aristotle, "there are three kinds of friendship, corresponding in number to the objects worthy of affection [the good, the pleasant, and the useful]...when the useful is the basis of affection, men love because of the good they get our of it...