Food for thought from Aristotle on Friendship

Aristotle uses the word “philia” for friendship, but he notes that there are three sorts of friendship.


The first is “friendship” of utility, It’s where you use someone to get something from them and they use us to get something.

So, I can be “friends” with a car dealer. I get a car from him, he gets my money.


The second is common interests.

So I can be “friends” with people on my football team, my political party or my workmates.


The third and highest form of friendship is that which fosters virtue.

This is where two people live for the good of each other and make each other better people.

So, in my most important friendship, my wife makes me a better employee, she encourages me to be better at sport and she makes me a better friend to other people.


Aristotle provides a powerful set of criteria for evaluating “friendships.”


*Is this person “friends” with me because they get something from me? If that’s all there is, the person is not a true friend, but someone who exploits you.

*Is this person “friends” with me because we do things together? This friendship is OK, but not the best form of friendship. It’s also temporary and contingent. It's not enduring.

*Does this person make me better? Do they encourage me to get better grades, to participate better in sports, to do better at work, do they encourage me to have healthy relationships with others, and do they encourage me to excel in all my pursuits? This is the deepest and best form of friendship and it is the friendship that endures.

How would you categorise your own friendships?


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