Aristotle's Theory of Friendship

Dissertation, Harvard University (1988)

Michael Pakaluk
Harvard University
This thesis is an investigation of Aristotle's theory of friendship, as found in books VIII and IX of the Nicomachean Ethics. It has two major concerns: first, Aristotle's theory of goodness; second, Aristotle's view of the relationship between self-love and love of another. Aristotle's theory of goodness is important, because friendship consists of love, and love is always on account of some good. Thus, Aristotle's distinctions among various goods underlie his theory of the various sorts of friendships and their nature. Aristotle's views on the relationship between self-love and friendship are examined to discover a theory different from contemporary theories of morality, which are vexed by the problem of the relationship between egoism and altruism. The first chapter examines the Platonic background of Aristotle's theory of friendship. The Lysis is given special attention, and then Aristotle's criticism of the Platonic theory of the good in EN I.6 is examined as giving us Aristotle's positive theory of goodness. This positive theory is used in the second chapter to understand Aristotle's division of friendship into three forms. It is argued that, according to Aristotle, just as being varies categorically, so goodness varies categorically; thus love and friendship also vary categorically. The third chapter examines Aristotle's thesis that friendship 'comes from' self-love. It is claimed that this is intended to show that self-love is social, not that sociability is selfish. Aristotle's saying that a 'friend is another self' is interpreted as a qualified metaphor based on an unanalyzeable analogy. It is claimed that Aristotle's understanding of analogy enables him to take a position on the relationship between self-love and love of another unavailable to moderns. The final chapter attempts an interpretation of the difficult argument in EN IX.9, 1170b13ff. It is argued that Aristotle is trying to explain how a person's own life is good for him and pleasant to him, and that Aristotle is claiming that this is how a friend is good for and pleasant to a good person.
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