Saturday, September 1, 2012

What is Friendship? Some Criteria from Aristotle

Obviously after two seasons, the Mane Six had plenty of time to bond after their rather rushed friendship-making in the first two episodes

According to Joshua W. Schulz's article "Kierkegaard's Tragic and Comic Lovers" in the Spring 2012 ACPQ, Aristotle considers a relationship to be a friendship only if it meets the following five conditions:

1. Each person recognizes some excellence in the other person.

2. Each person wishes well (some good) to the other person, for the other's sake, in respect of the excellence recognized in (1).

3. Both (1) and (2) are reciprocally known.

4. The relationship has developed over a sufficient period of time.

5. The friends have become familiar with each other, i.e., have been found lovable and trustworthy.

As I've written before, friendship requires a mutuality of love, of wishing and doing well by another, in addition to an equality of virtue (a common recognition and pursuit of the good), as can be seen in conditions 1-3. However, friendship requires some time for potential friends to get to know each other, for familiarity. As Aristotle says, a friend "lives with another and has the same tastes, or shares the same sorrows and joys with his friend" (NE, IX, 4). To know another person's character, whether their tastes match yours, is not usually something you can do with mere acquaintances you run into at school, work, or Facebook (where physical proximity usually doesn't enter the picture). Potential friends are in it for the long haul in order to build loyalty and trust.

Update: Of course, as Kevin Rossiter of the Facebook Thomistic Discussion Group reminds me, friendships of virtue contain elements from the other two kinds of friendship, utility and pleasure. Therefore, in the "perfect" friendship of virtue, friends are good (virtuous), useful and pleasant to be around.         

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