“Friendship or Love” sumarrised from the book: “Nicomachean Ethics”, by: Aristotle


  1. nocomachaen ethics1.: Uses of friendship. Differences of opinions about it.

Aristotle argues that  friendship is a sort of virtue, or at least implies virtue. He believes that no one would care to live without friends, even though he had all other good things, as well as power and authority,
because that think what is the use of if he have no opportunity to be benevolence”or how could they preserve and maintain their position without friends?
In poverty and all other misfortunes, again friends is their only refuge.Young people need friend to keep them from error  and old people need friends to carry out their plans when they are lack of strength to execute themselves.on the whole we are more efficient both in thought and in action when we are together.

Aristotle’s belief about friendship is broad. He believes that love implanted in the parents towards offspring and vice versa, also among birds and animals, and in those of same race towards one another, specifically among men because we commend those who love their fellow-men.

Again, it seems that friendship is the bond that holds states together, and that lawgivers are even more eager to secure it than justice. If citizens be friends, they have no need of justice, but when they are just, they need friendship or love also.

Moreover, friendship is not only an indispensable, but also a beautiful or noble thing: for we commend those who love their friends, and to have many friends is thought to be a noble thing; and some even think that a good man is the same as a friend.

Some hold that the reason of friendship is that it is a kind of likeness, and that those who are like one another are friends; and this is the origin of “Like to like,” and “Birds of a feather flock together,” . {Morad: A Persian proverb says: pigeon with pigeon , eagle with eagle}. There are also opposite ideas such as: “two of a trade never agree.” And  Euripides, for instance says—“The parched earth loves the rain, And the high heaven, with moisture laden, loves Earthwards to fall.” Heraclitus also says, “Opposites fit together,” and “Out of discordant elements comes the fairest harmony,” and “It is by battle that all things come into the world.” Others, and notably Empedocles, take the opposite view, and say that like desires like.

There are discussions—as, for instance, whether friendship can exist in all men, or whether it is impossible for men to be friends if they are bad, and whether there be one form of friendship or rather many. For those who suppose that there is only one kind of friendship, because it admits of degrees, go upon insufficient grounds. Things that differ in kind may differ also in degree.

2.: Three motives of friendship. Friendship defined.

Aristotle questions that what is the  nature of the lovable. For it seems that we only love things that are lovable and that the lovable is either good or pleasant or useful. But useful would appear to mean that which helps us to get something good, or some pleasure; so that the good and the pleasant only would be loved as ends.

Now, there is a difference between what is good and  what is good for the men? The same question may be asked about the pleasant. It seems that each man loves what is good for himself, and that, while the good is lovable in itself, that is lovable to each man which is good for him. What if each man loves not what is really good for him, but what seems good for him.

Therefore the motives of love are threefold, the love of inanimate things is not called friendship. For there is no return of affection here and it would be absurd to wish well to them. But it is commonly said that we must wish our friend’s good for his own sake. One who thus wishes the good of another is called a well-wisher, when the wish is not reciprocated; when the well-wishing is mutual, it is called friendship.

In well-wishing one is no necessarily aware of the other’s well- wishing. For a man often wishes well to those whom he has never seen, but supposes to be good or useful men; and one of these may have the same sentiments towards him. But in friendship they must wish each other’s good from one of the three motives above mentioned, and be aware of each other’s feelings.

3.: Three kinds of friendship, corresponding to the three motives. Perfect friendship is that whose motive is the good.

The kinds of friendship accordingly are three, being equal in number to the motives of love (good, pleasant or useful); for any one of these may be the basis of a mutual affection of which each is aware.

  • Those whose love for one another is based on the useful, do not love each other for what they are, but only in so far as each gets some good from the other. Those, then, whose love is based on the useful care for each other on the ground of their own good. Friendship of this kind seems especially to be found among elderly men (for at that time of life men pursue the useful rather than the pleasant) and those middle-aged and young men who have a keen eye to what is profitable. But friends of this kind do not generally even live together; for sometimes they are by no means pleasant (nor indeed do they want such constant intercourse with others, unless they are useful); for they make themselves pleasant only just so far as they have hopes of getting something good thereby. With these friendships is generally classed the kind of friendship that exists between host and guest.
  • It is the same also with those whose affection is based on pleasure; people care for a wit, for instance, not for what he is, but as the source of pleasure to themselves. Those whose love is based on pleasure care for each other on the ground of what is pleasant to themselves. The friendship of young men is thought to be based on pleasure; for young men live by impulse, and, for the most part, pursue what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately present. But the things in which they take pleasure change as they advance in years. They are quick to make friendships, therefore, and quick to drop them; for their friendship changes as the object which pleases them changes; and pleasure of this kind is liable to rapid alteration. Moreover, young men are apt to fall in love; for love is, for the most part, a matter of impulse and based on pleasure: so they fall in love, and again soon cease to love, passing from one state to the other many times in one day. Friends of this kind wish to spend their time together and to live together; for thus they attain the object of their friendship.

In the couple of cases mentioned above, each loving the other, not as being what he is, but as useful or pleasant. These friendships, then, are “accidental;” for the object of affection is loved, not as being the person or character that he is, but as the source of some good, or some pleasure. Friendships of this kind, therefore, are easily dissolved, as the persons do not continue unchanged; for if they cease to be pleasant or useful to one another, their love ceases. But the useful is nothing permanent, but varies from time to time.

  • Those who love one another wish each other’s good in respect of that which is the motive of their love. It is the perfect kind of friendship is that of good men who resemble one another in virtue. For they both alike wish well to one another as good men, and it is their essential character to be good men. And those who wish well to their friends for the friends’ sake are friends in the truest sense; for they have these sentiments towards each other as being what they are, and not in an accidental way: their friendship, therefore, lasts as long as their virtue, and that is a lasting thing. Again, each is both good simply and good to his friend; for it is true of good men that they are both good simply and also useful to one another. In like manner they are pleasant too; for good men are both pleasant in themselves and pleasant to one another: for every kind of character takes delight in the acts that are proper to it and those that resemble these; but the acts of good men are the same or similar and so it is between persons of this sort that the truest and best love and friendship is found.

It is but natural that such friendships should be uncommon, as such people are rare. Such a friendship, moreover, requires long and familiar intercourse. Nor can they accept one another as friends, or be friends, till each show and approve himself to the other as worthy to be loved. Those who quickly come to treat one another like friends may wish to be friends, but are not really friends, unless they not only are lovable, but know each other to be so; a wish to be friends may be of rapid growth, but not friendship. This kind of friendship, then, is complete in respect of duration and in all other points, and that which each gets from the other is in all respects identical or similar, as should be the case with friends.

4.: The others are imperfect copies of this.

Pleasure can exist in perfect friendship as well, for good men, too, are pleasant to each other and they are useful also to one another The friendship is most likely to endure when that which each gets from the other is the same (e.g. pleasure), and not only the same, but arising from the same source—a friendship between two wits, for instance, rather than one between a lover and his beloved. For the source of pleasure in the latter case is not the same for both: the lover delights to look upon his beloved, the beloved likes to have attentions paid him; but when the bloom of youth is gone, the friendship sometimes vanishes also; for the one misses the beauty that used to please him, the other misses the attentions. But, on the other hand, they frequently continue friends, i.e. when their intercourse has brought them to care for each other’s characters, and they are similar in character.

Those who in matters of love exchange not pleasure but profit, are less truly and less permanently friends. The friendship whose motive is profit ceases when the advantage ceases; for it was not one another that they loved, but the profit. For pleasure, then, or for profit it is possible even for bad men to be friends with one another, and good men with bad, and those who are neither with people of any kind, but it is evident that the friendship in which each loves the other for himself is only possible between good men; for bad men take no delight in each other unless some advantage is to be gained.

The friendship of good men implies mutual trust, and the certainty that neither would ever wrong the other, and all else that is implied in true friendship; while in other friendships there is no such security. Therefore, this is the only one that can defy calumny. The truest friendship, then, is that which exists between good men, as we have said again and again.

5.: Intercourse necessary to the maintenance of friendship.

When friends are living together, they take pleasure in, and do good to, each other; when they are asleep or at a distance from one another, they are not acting as friends, but they have the disposition which, if manifested, issues in friendly acts; for distance does not destroy friendship simply, but the manifestation of friendship. But if the absence be prolonged, it is thought to obliterate even friendship. {Morad: “Out of sight, out of mind”}. Those who accept each other’s company, but do not live together, seem to be rather well-wishers than friends. For there is nothing so characteristic of friendship as living together. But people cannot live together unless they are pleasant to each other, nor unless they take delight in the same things, which seems to be a necessary condition of comradeship.

Love and friendship of good men: While love is a feeling, friendship is a habit or trained faculty. For inanimate things can equally well be the object of love, but the love of friends for one another implies purpose, and purpose proceeds from a habit or trained faculty. And in wishing well for their sakes to those they love, they are swayed not by feeling, but by habit. Again, in loving a friend they love what is good for themselves; for he who gains a good man for his friend gains something that is good for himself. Each then, loves what is good for himself, and what he gives in good wishes and pleasure is equal to what he gets; for love and equality are found in the highest degree in the friendship of good men.

6.: Impossible to have many true friends.

Morose men and elderly men are less apt to make friends (contrast to the young men that are quick to make friends) in proportion as they are harsher in temper, and take less pleasure in society; for delight in society seems to be, more than anything else, characteristic of friendship and productive of it (people do not make friends with those who do not please them). Moreover, there is little in them that can give pleasure: but as our nature seems, above all things, to shun the painful and seek the pleasant, even these kind of people cannot pass their days without friends. {Morad: I am against this idea in regard to the elderly and rating elderly the same as morose men, as some of them are the source of wisdom and experience that attracts many people and are they who shun others sometimes. In addition, they are attractive for other elderly}

It is impossible to have friendship, in the full sense of the word, for many people at the same time, just as it is impossible to be in love with many persons at once and it is not easy for one man to find at one time many very agreeable persons, perhaps not many good ones. Moreover, they must have tested and become accustomed to each other, which is a matter of great difficulty. But in the way of profit or pleasure, it is quite possible to find many agreeable persons; for such people are not rare, and their services can be rendered in a short time.

People in exalted positions seem to make distinct classes of friends. They have some who are useful, and others who are pleasant, but seldom any that unite both these qualities; for they do not seek for people who are at once agreeable and virtuous, or people who can be useful to them in noble actions, but they seek for witty persons to satisfy their craving for pleasure, while for other purposes they choose men who are clever at carrying out their instructions: but these two qualities are seldom united in one person.

The good man, indeed, as we have already said, is both pleasant and useful; but such a man does not make friends with a man in a superior station, unless he allows himself inferior in virtue: only thus does he meet the good man on equal terms, being inferior in one respect in the same ratio as he is superior in another. But great men are by no means wont to behave in this manner.

7.: Of friendship between unequal persons and its rule of proportion. Limits within which this is possible.

There is another kind of friendship, in which the persons are unequal, as that of a father for a son, and generally of an elder for a younger person, or of a man for a woman, or of a ruler of any kind for a subject. These also are different from one another; for that of parent for child is not the same as that of ruler for subject, nor even that of father for son the same as that of son for father, nor that of man for woman the same as that of woman for man. For each of these classes has a different excellence and a different function, and the grounds of their affection are different; therefore their love and their friendship also are different. What each does for the other, then, is not the same, nor should they expect it to be the same; but when children give to their parents what they owe to those who begot them, and parents on their part give what they owe to their children, then such friendship will be lasting, and what it ought to be. But in all friendships based on inequality, the love on either side should be proportional—I mean that the better of the two (and the more useful, and so on in each case) should receive more love than he gives; for when love is proportioned to desert, then there is established a sort of equality, which seems to be a necessary condition of friendship.

But there seems to be a difference between the equality that prevails in the sphere of justice and that which prevails in friendship: for in the sphere of justice the primary sense of “equal” [or “fair,”] is “proportionate to merit,” and “equal in quantity” is only the secondary sense; but in friendship “equal in quantity” is the primary, and “proportionate to merit” the secondary sense.*

This is plainly seen in cases where there comes to be a great distance between the persons in virtue, or vice, or wealth, or in any other respect; for they no longer are, nor expect to be, friends. It is most plainly seen in the case of the gods; for they have the greatest superiority in all good things. But it is seen also in the case of princes; for here also those who are greatly inferior do not claim their friendship; nor do people of no consideration expect to be friends with the best and wisest in the state.

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 judgement 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.

9.: Every society has its own form of  friendship as of justice. All societies are summed up in civil society.

Every community or association, it is thought, gives some occasion for justice, and also for friendship; at least, people address as friends their partners in a voyage or campaign, and so on with other associations. To what extent soever they are partners, to that extent is there occasion for friendship; for to that extent is there occasion for justice. Moreover, “friends’ goods are common property,” says the proverb rightly; for friendship implies community. Brothers, indeed, and comrades have all things in common: other friends have certain definite things in common, some more and some less; for friendships also differ in degree. But what justice requires is also different in different cases; it does not require from parents towards children, for instance, the same as from brothers towards one another, nor from comrades the same as from fellow-citizens, and so on through the other kinds of friendship.

Injustice also assumes different forms in these several relations, and increases according to the degree of friendship; e.g. it is a grosser wrong to rob a comrade than a fellow-citizen, and to refuse help to a brother than to a stranger, and to strike one’s father than to strike any other man. The claims of justice, in fact, are such as to increase as friendship increases, both having the same field and growing side by side.

But all kinds of association or community seem to be, as it were, parts of the political community or association of citizens; and the several kinds of friendship will correspond to the several kinds of association. For in all of them men join together with a view to some common interest, and in pursuit of some one or other of the things they need for their life and this is why legislators said the common interest of all to be just.

10.: Of the three forms of constitution.

There are three kinds of constitutions, and an equal number of perverted forms, which are, so to speak, corruptions of these. Constitutions proper are kingly government,  aristocracy, and timocracy. Timocracy is a form of government based upon an assessment of property, though most people are wont to speak of it as constitutional government simply. Of these, kingly government is the best and timocracy the worst.

The perversion of kingly government is tyranny: for tyranny is a vicious form of monarchy; the bad king, then, becomes a tyrant. Both are monarchies, but there is a vast difference between them; for the tyrant seeks his own interest, the king seeks the interest of his subjects. Tyranny is the opposite of kingly rule, because the tyrant seeks his own good; and of this government it is quite obvious that it is the worst of all. The association of father and sons has the form of kingly rule; for the father cares for his children and the association of master and slave is tyrannical; for it is the interest of the master that is secured by it. But this seems to be a legitimate kind of tyranny.

Aristocracy degenerates into oligarchy through the vice of the rulers, who, instead of distributing public property and honours according to merit, take all or most of the good things for themselves, and give the offices always to the same people, setting the greatest store by wealth; you have, then, a small number of bad men in power, in place of the best men. The association of man and wife seems to be aristocratic: for the husband bears rule proportionate to his worth, i.e. he rules in those matters which are his province; but he entrusts to his wife those matters that properly belong to her. But when the man lords it in all things, he perverts this relation into an oligarchical one; for he then takes rule where he is not entitled to it, and not only in those matters in which he is better. Sometimes, on the other hand, the wife rules because she is an heiress. In these cases authority is not proportionate to merit, but is given on the ground of wealth and influence, just as in oligarchies.

Lastly, timocracy degenerates into democracy: and indeed they border closely upon each other; for even timocracy is intended to be government by the multitude, and all those who have the property qualification are equal. Democracy is the least bad [of the corrupt forms], for it is but a slight departure from the corresponding form of constitution. The association of brothers resembles a timocracy; for they are equal except in so far as they differ in age. On this account, if they differ very widely in age, their friendship can no longer be a brotherly friendship. A democratic form of association is chiefly found in those households which have no master (for there all are on a footing of equality), or where the head of the house is weak, and every one does what he likes.

11.: Of the corresponding forms of friendship.

In each of these forms of government friendship has place to the same extent as justice. In the first place, the king shows his friendship for his subjects by transcendent benefits; for he does good to his subjects, seeing that he is good, and tends them with a view to their welfare, as a shepherd tends his sheep.

The friendship of a father for his child is of a similar kind, though the benefits conferred are still greater. For the father is the author of the child’s existence, which seems the greatest of all benefits, and of his nurture and education; and we also ascribe these to our forefathers generally: and thus it is in accordance with nature that fathers should rule their children, forefathers their descendants, kings their subjects.

These friendships involve the superiority of one side to the other; and on this account parents receive honour as well [as service]. Moreover, what justice requires here is not the same on both sides, but that which is proportionate to their worth; for this is the rule of friendship also [as well as of justice].

The friendship, again, of man and wife is the same as that which has place in an aristocracy; for both benefit in proportion to their merit, the better getting more good, and each what is fitting; but this is the rule of justice also.

The friendship of brothers resembles that of comrades, for they are equal and of like age; but those with whom that is the case for the most part have the same feelings and character. And the friendship in a timocracy is of the same type as this; for the citizens here wish to be equal and fair; so they take office in turn, and share it equally: their friendship, then, will follow the same rule.

In the corrupt forms, as there is but little room for justice, so there is but little room for friendship, and least of all in the worst; in a tyranny there is little or no friendship. For where ruler and subject have nothing in common, there cannot be any friendship, any more than there can be any justice,—e.g. when the relation is that of a workman to his tools, or of the soul to the body, or of master to slave. The tools and the body and the slave are all benefited by those who use them; but our relations with inanimate objects do not admit of friendship or justice; nor our relations with a horse or an ox; nor our relations with a slave as such. For there is nothing in common between master and slave. The slave is a living tool; the tool is a lifeless slave. As a slave, then, his master’s relations with him do not admit of friendship, but as a man they may: for there seems to be room for some kind of justice in the relations of any man to any one that can participate in law and contract,—and if so, then for some kind of friendship, so far, that is to say, as he deserves the name man.

And so friendships and justice are found to some small extent even in tyrannies, but to a greater extent in democracies than in any other of the corrupt forms; for there the citizens, being equal, have many things in common.

12.: Of the friendship of kinsmen and comrades.

All friendship, as we have already said, implies association; but we may separate from the rest the friendship of kinsmen and that of comrades. The friendships of fellow-citizens, of fellow-tribesmen, of fellow-sailors, etc., seem, as opposed to these, to have more to do with association; for they appear to be founded upon some sort of compact. The friendship of host and guest might also be included in this class.

Kinsmen’s friendship seems to include several species, but to be dependent in all its forms upon the friendship of parent and child. For parents love their children as part of themselves; children love their parents as the source of their being. But parents know their children better than the children know that these are their parents, and that which gives birth is more closely attached to that which proceeds from it, than the offspring is to that which gave it life: for that which proceeds from us belongs to us, as a tooth or a hair, or anything of that sort, to its owner; but we do not belong to it at all, or belong to it in a less degree. Again, there is a difference in respect of time; for parents love their offspring from the moment of their birth, but children love their parents only after the lapse of time, when they have acquired understanding or sense. These considerations also show why mothers love their children more than fathers do.

Friendship of this kind brings with it more, both of pleasure and profit, than that of strangers, in proportion as there is more community of life. The friendship of brothers has all the characteristics of the friendship of comrades, and has them in a greater degree (provided they are good and generally resemble one another) inasmuch as they belong more to one another and love each other from their birth up, and have more similarity of character, as being of the same stock and brought up together and educated alike; moreover, they have had the longest and the surest experience of one another.

In all other kinsmen’s friendships the same elements will be found in proportion to the relationship. The friendship of man and wife seems to be natural; for human beings are by nature more apt to join together in couples than to form civil societies, inasmuch as the family is prior in time to the state and more indispensable, and the propagation of the species is a more fundamental characteristic of animal existence. The other animals associate for this purpose alone, but man and wife live together not merely for the begetting of children, but also to satisfy the needs of their life: for the functions of the man and the woman are clearly divided and distinct the one from the other; they supply each other’s wants, therefore, both contributing to the common stock. And so this sort of friendship is thought to bring with it both pleasure and profit. But it will be based on virtue, too, if they be good; for each sex has its own virtue, and both will rejoice in that which is of like nature. Children also seem to be a bond that knits man and wife together (which is a reason why childless unions are more quickly dissolved); for children are a good which both have in common, but that which people have in common holds them together.

13.: Of the terms of interchange and quarrels hence arising in equal friendships.

There are three kinds of friendship, as we said at the outset, and in each kind there are both equal and unequal friendships; I mean that sometimes two equally good persons make friends, and sometimes a better and a worse,—and so with those who are pleasant to one another, and with those who are friends with a view to profit—sometimes rendering equal services to one another, and sometimes unequal. Now, those who are equal should effect equality by loving one another, etc., equally, but those who are unequal should effect equality by making what each renders proportionate to the greater or less merit of the other.

Accusations and reproaches arise solely or mostly in friendships whose motive is profit and utility, as the friends here use each other solely with a view to their own advantage, each always wants the larger share and thinks he has less than his due, and reproaches the other with not doing for him so much as he requires and deserves; though, in truth, it is impossible for the one who is doing a service to supply all that the other wants.

For those whose friendship is based on virtue are eager to do good to each other (for this is the office of virtue and friendship); and between people who are thus viewing with one another no accusations or quarrels can arise; for a man cannot be embittered against one who loves him and does him a service, but, if he be of a gracious nature, requites him with a like service. And he who renders the greater service will not reproach his friend, since he gets what he desires; for each desires what is good.

Such quarrels, again, are not apt to arise in friendships whose motive is pleasure; for both get at the same time that which they desire, if they delight in each other’s company; but if one were to accuse the other for not being agreeable to him, he would make himself ridiculous, seeing that he was under no compulsion to associate with him.

But it seems that as the rules of justice are two-fold, the friendship whose motive is utility is of two kinds—one resting on disposition, the other on contract. And accusations are most apt to arise when the relation is understood in one sense at the commencement, and in the other sense at the conclusion.

That which rests on contract is that in which there are specified conditions, and it is of two kinds: one is purely commercial, on the principle of cash payments; the other is less exacting in point of time, though in it also there is a specified quid pro quo. In the latter case, what is due is evident and cannot be disputed, but there is an element of friendliness in the deferment of payment; for which reason, in some states, there is no recovery by law in such cases, but it is held that when a man has given credit he must take the consequences.

That which rests on disposition has no specified conditions, but one gives another presents (or whatever else it may be) as a friend. But afterwards he claims as much or more in return, regarding what he gave not as a gift, but as a loan. And thus, wishing to terminate the relation in a different spirit from that in which he entered upon it, he will accuse the other.And this is apt to happen because all or nearly all men, though they wish for what is noble, choose what is profitable; and while it is noble to do a good service without expecting a return, it is profitable to receive a benefit.

It is a debatable question whether the requital is to be measured by, and to be made proportionate to, the value of the service to the recipient or to the benefactor. For the recipients are apt to say that they received what was but a small matter to their benefactors, and are also apt to say that what they gave was the best they had, and what could not be got from any one else, and that it was given in a time of danger or on some other pressing occasion. Perhaps we may say that, if the friendship have profit for its motive, the benefit received should be taken as the measure. In friendships based on virtue, on the other hand, such accusations do not occur, but it would seem that the measure of the service is the purpose of him who does it; for virtue and moral character are determined by purpose.

14.: Of the same in unequal friendships.

Quarrels occur also in unequal friendships; for sometimes each claims the larger share, but when this happens the friendship is dissolved. For instance, the better of the two thinks he ought to have the larger share; “the good man’s share is larger. The needy man and the inferior man argue in the contrary way; “it is the office of a good friend,” they say, “to help you when you are in need; for what is the use of being friends with a good man or a powerful man, if you are to get nothing by it?”

It seems that the claims of both are right, and that each ought to receive a larger share than the other, but not of the same things—the superior more honour, the needy man more profit; for honour is the tribute due to virtue and benevolence, while want receives its due succour in the pecuniary gain..


1.: Of the rule of proportion in dissimilar friendships.


In all dissimilar friendships it is proportionate exchange that maintains equality and preserves the friendship. For instance,  where the shoemaker, in exchange for his shoes, receives some return proportionate to his desert, and so on with the weaver and the rest. In this case, a common measure is supplied by money; money is the standard to which everything is referred, and by which it is measured. In sentimental friendships, on the other hand, the lover sometimes complains that while he loves excessively he gets no love in return, although, maybe, there is nothing lovable about him; often the beloved complains that whereas the other used to promise everything, he now performs nothing.

Complaints of this sort are wont to arise when, pleasure being the motive of the friendship with one person and profit with the other, they do not both get what they want. For the friendship, being based on these motives, is dissolved whenever they fail to obtain that for the sake of which they made friends; for it was not the other’s self that each loved, but only something which he had, and which is not apt to endure; for which reason these friendships also are not apt to endure. But friendship based on character, being pure, is likely to last, as we said.

Sometimes, again, friends quarrel when they find they are getting something different from what they want, for failing to get what you want is like getting nothing. This may be illustrated by the story of the harper: a man promised him that the better he played, the more he should receive; but when, as dawn drew near, the harper claimed the fulfilment of his promise, the other replied that he had already paid him pleasure for pleasure. Now, if this was what both wished, there would be nothing more to say: but if the one wanted pleasure and the other profit, and the one has what he wants, while the other has not, the bargain will not be fairly carried out; for it is what a man happens to want that he sets his heart on, and consents for the sake of it to render this particular service.

But when there is no express agreement about the service rendered, when one voluntarily helps another for that other’s sake, no accusation can arise, as we said: for this is the nature of friendship based on virtue. The return must here be regulated by the purpose of him who renders the first service; for it is purpose that makes both friend and virtue. The same rule would seem to apply also to the relations of a philosopher and his disciples; for desert cannot here be measured in money, and no honour that could be paid him would be an adequate return; but, nevertheless, as in our relations to gods and parents, the possible is accepted as sufficient.

2.: On the conflict of duties.

There are some further questions that here suggest themselves, such as whether the father’s claims to service ought to be unlimited, and the son should obey him in everything, or whether in sickness he should obey the physician, and in the election of a general should choose him who is skilled in war; and, similarly, whether one ought to help one’s friend rather than a good man, and repay a benefactor rather than make a present to a comrade, if one cannot do both.

As a general rule, we ought to repay benefits received before we do a favour to a comrade—just as, if we had borrowed money, we ought to pay our creditors before we make presents to our comrades. But it may be that even this rule will not hold good in all cases; for instance, if a man has been ransomed from a band of brigands, ought he in turn to ransom his ransomer, whoever he may be, or repay him when he demands it, even though he be not captured, in preference to ransoming his father? For it would seem that a man ought to ransom his father even before himself.

As we said then, generally speaking, we should repay what we owe: but if giving [instead of repaying] be more noble or meet a more pressing need, it is right to incline in this direction; for sometimes it is not even fair to repay the original service, e.g. when one man has helped another, knowing him to be a good man, while the latter in repaying him would be helping one whom he believes to be a bad man. And so a man is sometimes not bound to lend in turn to one who has lent him money: A may have lent to B in full expectation of being repaid, as B is an honourable man; but B may have no hope of being repaid by A, who is a rascal. If this be the real state of the case, the demand for a loan in return is not fair; but even if the facts be otherwise, yet, if they think thus of each other, their conduct would be regarded as natural.

To all our elders, again, we should pay the honour due to their age, by rising up at their approach and by giving them the place of honour at the table, and so forth. But between comrades and brothers there should be freedom of speech and community in everything. And to kinsfolk and fellow-tribesmen and fellow-citizens, and all other persons, we should always try to give their due, and to assign to each what properly belongs to him, according to the closeness of his connection with us, and his goodness or usefulness. When the persons are of one kind this assignment is comparatively easy, but when they are of different kinds it is more difficult. We must not, however, on this account shirk the difficulty, but must distinguish as best as we can.

3.: Of the dissolution of friendships.

Another difficult question is, whether we should or should not break off friendship with those who have ceased to be what they were. We may, perhaps, say that those whose friendship is based on profit or pleasure naturally part when these cease; for it was these that they loved: when these are gone, therefore, it is to be expected that the love goes too. But complaints would be likely to arise if a man who loved another for profit or pleasure’s sake pretended to love him for his character; for, as we said at the outset, quarrels between friends very frequently arise from a difference between the real and the supposed motives of the friendship. If, then, a man deceives himself, and supposes that he is beloved for his character, though the other’s behaviour gives no ground for the supposition, he has only himself to blame; but if he is deceived by the other’s pretence, then there is a fair ground of complaint against such an impostor, even more than against those who counterfeit the coinage, inasmuch as it is a more precious thing that is tampered with.

But if a man admit another to his friendship as a good man, and he becomes and shows himself to be a bad man, is he still to be loved? Perhaps we may answer that it is impossible, but, as we said before, it is like that makes friends with like. Is the friendship, then, to be immediately broken off? Perhaps not in all cases, but only in the case of those who are incurably bad: when their reformation is possible, we are more bound to help them in their character than their fortune, inasmuch as character is a nobler thing, and has more to do with friendship than fortune has. But a man who withdraws his friendship in such a case, would seem to do nothing unnatural; for it was not with such a man that he made friends: his friend has become another man, and as he cannot restore him, he stands aloof from him.

4.: A man’s relation to his friend like his relation to himself.

Friendly relations to others, and all the characteristics by which friendship is defined, seem to be derived from our relations towards ourselves. A friend is sometimes described as one who wishes and does to another what is good or seems good for that other’s sake, or as one who wishes his friend to exist and to live for his (the friend’s) sake. Others describe a friend as one who lives with another and chooses what he chooses, or as one who sympathizes with the griefs and joys of his friend. And, similarly, friendship is usually defined by some one or other of these characteristics.

Such a man also wishes to live with himself; for his own company is pleasant to him. The memory of his past life is sweet, and for the future he has good hopes; and such hopes are pleasant. Since, then, all these characteristics are found in the good man’s relations to himself, and since his relations to his friend are the same as his relations to himself (for his friend is his second self), friendship is described by one or other of these characteristics, and those are called friends in whom these characteristics are found.

Suppose that one has two or more selves would seem to follow from what has been already said, and also from the fact that the extreme of friendship for another is likened to friendship for one’s self. And since one’s relations to his friend are the same as his relations to himself (for his friend is his second self), friendship is described by one or other of these characteristics, and those are called friends in whom these characteristics are found.

Bad men try to find people with whom to spend their time, and eschew their own company; for there is much that is painful in the past on which they look back and in the future to which they look forward when they are by themselves, but the company of others diverts them from these thoughts. As there is nothing lovable in them, they have no friendly feelings towards themselves. He who is not good, then, cannot sympathize with himself in joy or sorrow; for his soul is divided against itself: one part of him, by reason of its viciousness, is pained at being deprived of something, while another part of him is pleased; one part pulls this way, another that, tearing him to pieces, as it were, between them. Or if it be impossible to be pained and pleased at the same time, yet, at any rate, after a short interval he is pained that he was pleased, and wishes that he had never partaken of this pleasure; for those who are not good are full of remorse. Thus we may say roundly that he who is not good has no friendly feelings even for himself, as there is nothing lovable in him. If, then, to be in this state is utterly miserable, we ought to strain every nerve to avoid vice, and try to be good; for thus we may be friendly disposed towards ourselves, and make friends with others.

5.: Friendship and goodwill.

Well-wishing seems to be friendly, but is not friendship: for we may wish well to those who are unknown to us, and who are not aware that we wish them well; but there can be no friendship in such cases. But this we have already said. Neither is well-wishing the same as love; for it has none of the intense emotion and the desire which accompany love.

Love, moreover, implies intimate acquaintance, while well-wishing may spring up in a moment; it does so, for instance, when athletes are competing for a prize: we may wish well to a competitor, and be eager for his success, though we would not do anything to help him; for, as we said, we suddenly become well-wishers and conceive a sort of superficial affection in such cases.

The truth seems to be that well-wishing is the germ of friendship, in the same way as pleasure in the sight of a person is the germ of love: for no one falls in love unless he is first pleased by visible beauty; but he who delights in the beauty of a person is not one whit in love on that account, unless he also feels the absence and desires the presence of that person. Just so it is impossible for people to be friends unless they first become well-wishers, but people who wish each other well are not a whit on that account friends; for they merely wish good to those whose well-wishers they are, but would never help them in any enterprise, or put themselves out for them. One might say, then—extending the meaning of the term—that well-wishing is an undeveloped friendship, which with time and intimate acquaintance may become friendship proper,—not that friendship whose motive is profit, nor that whose motive is pleasure; for well-wishing is no element in them. He who has received a benefit does indeed give his good wishes in return to his benefactor, and it is but just that he should; but he who wishes that another may prosper, in the hope of good things to be got by his means, does not seem really to wish well to the other, but rather to himself, just as he is not really a friend if he serves him with an eye to profit.

But, generally speaking, well-wishing is grounded upon some kind of excellence or goodness, and arises when a person seems to us beautiful or brave, or endowed with some other good quality, as we said in the case of the athletes.

6.: Friendship and unanimity

Unanimity [or unity of sentiment] also seems to be an element in friendship; and this shows that it is not mere agreement in opinion, for that is possible even between people who know nothing of each other. Nor do we apply the term to those who agree in judgment upon any kind of subject, e.g. upon astronomy (for being of one mind in these matters has nothing to do with friendship); but we say that unanimity prevails in a state when the citizens agree in their judgments about what is for the common interest, and choose the same course, and carry out the decision of the community.

Unanimity, then, seems to be, as it is called, the kind of friendship that prevails in states; for it has to do with what is for the common interest, and with things that have a considerable influence upon life. This kind of unanimity is found in good men; for they are of one mind with themselves and with each other, standing, so to speak, always on the same ground: for the wishes of such people are constant, and do not ebb and flow; they wish what is just and for the common interest, and make united efforts to attain it. But people who are not good cannot be of one mind, just as they cannot be friends except for a little space or to a slight extent, as they strive for more than their share of profit, but take less than their share of labours and public services

7.: Why benefactors love more than they are loved.

Benefactors seem to love those whom they have benefited more than those who have received benefits love those who have conferred them; and as this appears irrational, people seek for the cause of this phenomenon. Most people think the reason is that the one is in the position of a debtor, the other in the position of a creditor; and that, therefore, just as in the case of a loan the debtor wishes his creditor were out of the way, while the lender, on the other hand, is anxious that his debtor may be preserved, so here the benefactor desires the existence of him whom he has benefited in hopes of receiving favours in return, while the other is not at all anxious to repay. But it would seem that the real cause is something that lies deeper in the nature of things, and that the case of creditors does not even resemble this: for creditors have no real affection for their debtors, but only a wish that they may be preserved in order that they may repay; but those who have conferred benefits have a real love and affection for those whom they have benefited, even though they are not, and are never likely to be, of any service.

The same phenomenon may be observed in craftsmen; for every craftsman loves the work of his own hands more than it would love him if it came to life. But perhaps poets carry it furthest; for they love their own poems to excess, and are as fond of them as if they were their children. Now, the case of the benefactors seems to resemble theirs; those whom they have benefited they have made, so to speak: that which they have made, then, they love more than the work loves its maker. And the reason of this is that we all desire existence and love it: but it is in the exercise of our faculties, or in the realization of ourselves, that our existence lies (for it lies in living and doing): but that which a man makes is, in a way, a realization of his self; therefore he loves it, because he loves existence. But this is in accordance with the nature of things; for it is a law of nature that what a thing is as yet potentially is exhibited in realization by that which it makes or does.

Again, we take pleasure in realizing ourselves in the present, in hopes for the future, and in memories of the past; but that in which we are realizing ourselves is the most pleasant, and likewise the most lovable. Now, for the benefactor what he has done endures (for that which is beautiful is lasting), while for him who has received the benefit the advantage soon passes away. Again, the memory of beautiful deeds is pleasant, of profitable actions not at all pleasant, or not so pleasant; but with expectation the reverse seems to be the case. Again, loving seems like doing something, being loved like having something done to you: but those who have the better part in the transaction naturally feel and show more love.

Again, we all have more affection for what we have achieved with toil, as those who have made money love it more than those who have inherited it; but receiving a benefit seems to involve no labour, while conferring one seems to be troublesome. And for this reason mothers have more affection for their children than fathers; for they have more trouble in giving them birth, and fuller assurance that they are their own. But this would seem to be a characteristic of benefactors also.

8.: In what sense it is right to love one’s self.

Another question which is raised is, whether we ought most to love ourselves or others. We blame, it is said, those who love themselves most, and apply the term self-loving to them as a term of reproach: and, again, he who is not good is thought to have regard to himself in everything that he does, and the more so the worse he is; and so we accuse him of doing nothing disinterestedly. The good man on the other hand, it is thought, takes what is noble as his motive, and the better he is the more is he guided by this motive, and by regard for his friend, neglecting his own interest.

But this theory disagrees with facts, nor is it surprising that it should. For it is allowed that we ought to love him most who is most truly a friend, and that he is most truly a friend who, in wishing well to another, wishes well to him for his (the other’s) sake, and even though no one should ever know. But all these characteristics, and all the others which go to make up the definition of a friend, are found in the highest degree in a man’s relations to himself; for we have already seen how it is from our relations to ourselves that all our friendly relations to others are derived and so he must love himself better than any one else.

Those who beyond other men set their hearts on noble deeds are welcomed and praised by all; but if all men were viewing with each other in the pursuit of what is noble, and were straining every nerve to act in the noblest possible manner, the result would be that both the wants of the community would be perfectly satisfied, and at the same time each individually would win the greatest of all good things—for virtue is that. The good man, therefore, ought to be self-loving; for by doing what is noble he will at once benefit himself and assist others: but the bad man ought not; for he will injure both himself and his neighbours by following passions that are not good. With the bad man there is a discrepancy between what he ought to do and what he does: but with the good man what he ought to do is what he does; for reason always chooses that which is best for itself; and the good man obeys the voice of reason.

Again, it is quite true to say of the good man that he does many things for the sake of his friends and of his country, and will, if need be, even die for them. He will throw away money and honour, and, in a word, all the good things for which men compete, claiming for himself that which is noble; for he will prefer a brief period of intense pleasure to a long period of mild pleasure, one year of noble life to many years of ordinary life, one great and noble action to many little ones. This, we may perhaps say, is what he gets who gives his life for others: and so he chooses for himself something that is noble on a grand scale. Such a man will surrender wealth to enrich his friend: for while his friend gets the money, he gets what is noble; so he takes the greater good for himself.

His conduct will be the same with regard to honours and offices: he will give up all to his friend; for this he deems noble and praiseworthy. Such a man, then, is not unreasonably considered good, as he chooses what is noble in preference to everything else. But, again, it is possible to give up to your friend an opportunity for action, and it may be nobler to cause your friend to do a deed than to do it yourself.

It is plain, then, that in all cases in which he is praised the good man takes for himself a larger share of what is noble. And in this sense, as we have said, a man ought to be self-loving, but not in the sense in which the generality of men are self-loving. The latter means addresses those who take more than their due of money, and honour, and bodily pleasures; and set their hearts upon them as the best things in the world, those who grasp at more than their share of these things, and indulge their animal appetites and their passions generally—in a word, the irrational part of their nature.

9.: Why a happy man needs friends.

It is said that those who are blessed and self-sufficient have no need of friends; for they are already supplied with good things: as self-sufficient, then they need nothing more, while a friend is an alter ego who procures for you what you cannot procure yourself; whence the saying—“When the god favours you, what need of friends?”

But it seems strange, while endowing the happy man with all good things, to deny him friends, which are thought to be the greatest of all external goods. And if it is more characteristic of a friend to confer than to receive benefits, and if it is characteristic of a good man and a virtuous character to do good to others, and if it is nobler to confer benefits on friends than on strangers, the good man will need friends to receive benefits from him. And so people ask whether friends are more needed in prosperity or adversity, considering that in adversity we want some one to help us, and in prosperity some one that we may help.

Again, it is surely absurd to make the happy man a solitary being: for no one would choose to have all conceivable good things on condition of being alone; for man is a social being, and by nature adapted to share his life with others. The happy man, then, must have this good, since he has whatever is naturally good for man. But it is obvious that it is better to live with friends and good people, than with strangers and casual persons. The happy man, then, must have friends.

Again, it is thought that the happy man’s life must be pleasant. Now, if he is solitary, life is hard for him; for it is very difficult to be continuously active by one’s self, but not so difficult along with others, and in relation to others. With friends, then, the exercise of his faculties will be more continuous, being pleasant in itself. And this is what ought to be the case with the blessed man; for the good man, as such, delights in acts of virtue and is vexed by acts of vice, just as a musician is pleased by good music and pained by bad.

But the good man stands in the same relation to his friend as to himself, for his friend is another self: just as his own existence, then, is desirable to each, so, or nearly so, is his friend’s existence desirable. But existence, we found, is desirable because of the consciousness that one’s self is good, such a consciousness being pleasant in itself. The good man, then, should be conscious of the existence of his friend also, and this consciousness will be given by living with him and by rational converse with him (for this would seem to be the proper meaning of living together, when applied to man, and not merely feeding in the same place, which it means when applied to beasts). Putting all this together, then, if his own existence is desirable in itself to the good man, being naturally good and pleasant, and if his friend’s existence is also desirable to him in nearly the same way, it follows that a friend is a desirable thing for him. But that which is desirable for him he ought to have, or in that respect he will be incomplete. Our conclusion, therefore, is that he who is to be happy must have good friends.

10.: Of the proper number of friends.

Are we to make as many friends as possible? Shall we say that in the case of friendship also it is best neither to be friendless nor yet to have too many friends? With regard to friends who are chosen with a view to being useful, the saying would seem to be perfectly appropriate; for it would be troublesome to repay the services of a large number, and indeed life is not long enough to enable us to do it. Of such friends, therefore, a larger number than is sufficient for one’s own life would be superfluous and a hindrance to noble living; so we do not want more than that number, as a small proportion of sweets is enough in our diet.

But are we to have as many good men for friends as we can, or is there any limit of numbers in friendship, as there is in a state? For you could not make a state out of ten men, and if you had a hundred thousand your state would cease to be a state. But perhaps the right number of citizens is not one fixed number, but any number within certain limits. And so with friends there is a limit to their number, and that is, we may say, the largest number that one can live with (for living together is, as we saw, one of the most essential characteristics of friendship); but it is quite evident that it is impossible to live with and spread one’s self abroad among a large number. Moreover, a man’s friends must be friends with one another, if all are to spend their time together; but this is difficult with a large number.

Again, it becomes hard for him to sympathize duly with the joys and sorrows of a large number; for then he is likely to have at the same time to rejoice with one and to grieve with another. And the man of many friends, who is hail-fellow-well-met with everybody, seems to be really friends with no one (in any other way than as fellow-citizens are friends).…And, for the same reason, it is impossible to be in love with many persons at once; for it seems that love is a sort of superlative friendship, and that this is only possible towards one person, and an ardent friendship towards a few only.

11.: Friends needed both in prosperity and adversity.

Is it in prosperity or adversity that we most need friends? For under both circumstances we have recourse to them: in misfortune we need help, in prosperity we need people to live with and to do good to; for we wish to do good. In adversity, it may be answered, the need is more pressing; we then require useful friends: but friendship is a nobler thing in prosperity; we then seek out good men for friends; for it is more desirable to do good to and to live with such people.

The mere presence of friends is sweet, even in misfortune; for our grief is lightened when our friends share it. And so it might be asked whether they literally take a share of it as of a weight, or whether it is not so, but rather that their presence, which is sweet, and the consciousness of their sympathy, make our grief less. But whether this or something else be the cause of the relief, we need not further inquire; the fact is evidently as we said. But their presence seems to be complex in its effects. On the one hand, the mere sight of friends is pleasant, especially when we are in adversity, and contributes something to assuage our grief; for a friend can do much to comfort us both by sight and speech, if he has tact: he knows our character, and what pleases and what pains us. But, on the other hand, to see another grieving over our misfortunes is a painful thing; for every one dislikes to be the cause of sorrow to his friends. For this reason he who is of a manly nature takes care not to impart his grief to his friends, shrinking from the pain that would give them, unless this is quite outweighed by the relief it would give him; and generally he does not allow others to lament with him, as he is not given to lamentations himself; but weak women and effeminate men delight in those who lament with them, and love them as friends and sympathizers.

In prosperity, again, the presence of friends not only makes the time pass pleasantly, but also brings the consciousness that our friends are pleased at our good fortune. And for this reason it would seem that we should be eager to invite our friends to share our prosperity, for it is noble to be ready to confer benefits,—but slow to summon them to us in adversity, for we ought to be loth to give others a share of our evil things.

But, on the other hand, when our friends are in trouble, we should, I think, go to them unsummoned and readily (for it is a friend’s office to serve his friend, and especially when he is in need and does not claim assistance, for then it is nobler and pleasanter to both): when they are in prosperity, we should go readily to help them (for this is one of the uses of a friend), but not so readily to share their good things; for it is not a noble thing to be very ready to receive a benefit. But we may add that we ought to be careful that our refusal shall not seem ungracious, as sometimes happens. The presence of friends, then, in conclusion, is manifestly desirable on all occasions.

12.: Friendship is realized in living together.

Lovers delight above all things in the sight of each other, and prefer the gratification of this sense to that of all the others, as this sense is more concerned than any other in the being and origin of love. In like manner, we may venture to say, do friends find living together more desirable than anything else; for friendship is essentially community, and a man stands to his friend in the same relation in which he stands to himself; but with regard to himself the consciousness of existence is desirable; therefore the same consciousness with regard to his friend is desirable; but it is in a common life that they attain this consciousness; therefore they naturally desire a life in common.

Again, whatever that be which a man holds to constitute existence, or for the sake of which he chooses to live, in that he wishes to pass his time together with his friends; and thus some drink together, others gamble, others practise gymnastics, or hunt, or study philosophy together—in each case spending their time together in that which they love most of all things in life; for, wishing to live in common with their friends, they do those things and take part together in those things which, as they think, constitute life in common.

Thus the friendship of those who are not good comes to be positively bad; for, having no stability of character, they confirm each other in things that are not good, and thus become positively bad as they become more like one another. But the friendship of good men is good, and grows with their intercourse; and they seem to become better as they exercise their faculties and correct each other’s deficiencies: for each moulds himself to the likeness of that which he approves in the other.