Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Book IX


[Sidenote: 1164a] Well, in all the Friendships the parties to which are dissimilar it is the proportionate which equalises and preserves the Friendship, as has been already stated: I mean, in the Social Friendship the cobbler, for instance, gets an equivalent for his shoes after a certain rate; and the weaver, and all others in like manner. Now in this case a common measure has been provided in money, and to this accordingly all things are referred and by this are measured: but in the Friendship of Love the complaint is sometimes from the lover that, though he loves exceedingly, his love is not requited; he having perhaps all the time nothing that can be the object of Friendship: again, oftentimes from the object of love that he who as a suitor promised any and every thing now performs nothing. These cases occur because the Friendship of the lover for the beloved object is based upon pleasure, that of the other for him upon utility, and in one of the parties the requisite quality is not found: for, as these are respectively the grounds of the Friendship, the Friendship comes to be broken up because the motives to it cease to exist: the parties loved not one another but qualities in one another which are not permanent, and so neither are the Friendships: whereas the Friendship based upon the moral character of the parties, being independent and disinterested, is permanent, as we have already stated.

Quarrels arise also when the parties realise different results and not those which they desire; for the not attaining one's special object is all one, in this case, with getting nothing at all: as in the well-known case where a man made promises to a musician, rising in proportion to the excellence of his music; but when, the next morning, the musician claimed the performance of his promises, he said that he had given him pleasure for pleasure: of course, if each party had intended this, it would have been all right: but if the one desires amusement and the other gain, and the one gets his object but the other not, the dealing cannot be fair: because a man fixes his mind upon what he happens to want, and will give so and so for that specific thing.

The question then arises, who is to fix the rate? the man who first gives, or the man who first takes? because, 'prima facie', the man who first gives seems to leave the rate to be fixed by the other party. This, they say, was in fact the practice of Protagoras: when he taught a man anything he would bid the learner estimate the worth of the knowledge gained by his own private opinion; and then he used to take so much from him. In such cases some people adopt the rule,

"With specified reward a friend should be content."

They are certainly fairly found fault with who take the money in advance and then do nothing of what they said they would do, their promises having been so far beyond their ability; for such men do not perform what they agreed, The Sophists, however, are perhaps obliged to take this course, because no one would give a sixpence for their knowledge. These then, I say, are fairly found fault with, because they do not what they have already taken money for doing.

[Sidenote: 1164b] In cases where no stipulation as to the respective services is made they who disinterestedly do the first service will not raise the question (as we have said before), because it is the nature of Friendship, based on mutual goodness to be reference to the intention of the other, the intention being characteristic of the true friend and of goodness.

And it would seem the same rule should be laid down for those who are connected with one another as teachers and learners of philosophy; for here the value of the commodity cannot be measured by money, and, in fact, an exactly equivalent price cannot be set upon it, but perhaps it is sufficient to do what one can, as in the case of the gods or one's parents.

But where the original giving is not upon these terms but avowedly for some return, the most proper course is perhaps for the requital to be such as 'both' shall allow to be proportionate, and, where this cannot be, then for the receiver to fix the value would seem to be not only necessary but also fair: because when the first giver gets that which is equivalent to the advantage received by the other, or to what he would have given to secure the pleasure he has had, then he has the value from him: for not only is this seen to be the course adopted in matters of buying and selling but also in some places the law does not allow of actions upon voluntary dealings; on the principle that when one man has trusted another he must be content to have the obligation discharged in the same spirit as he originally contracted it: that is to say, it is thought fairer for the trusted, than for the trusting, party, to fix the value. For, in general, those who have and those who wish to get things do not set the same value on them: what is their own, and what they give in each case, appears to them worth a great deal: but yet the return is made according to the estimate of those who have received first, it should perhaps be added that the receiver should estimate what he has received, not by the value he sets upon it now that he has it, but by that which he set upon it before he obtained it.


Questions also arise upon such points as the following: Whether one's father has an unlimited claim on one's services and obedience, or whether the sick man is to obey his physician? or, in an election of a general, the warlike qualities of the candidates should be alone regarded?

In like manner whether one should do a service rather to one's friend or to a good man? whether one should rather requite a benefactor or give to one's companion, supposing that both are not within one's power?

[Sidenote: 1165a] Is not the true answer that it is no easy task to determine all such questions accurately, inasmuch as they involve numerous differences of all kinds, in respect of amount and what is honourable and what is necessary? It is obvious, of course, that no one person can unite in himself all claims. Again, the requital of benefits is, in general, a higher duty than doing unsolicited kindnesses to one's companion; in other words, the discharging of a debt is more obligatory upon one than the duty of giving to a companion. And yet this rule may admit of exceptions; for instance, which is the higher duty? for one who has been ransomed out of the hands of robbers to ransom in return his ransomer, be he who he may, or to repay him on his demand though he has not been taken by robbers, or to ransom his own father? for it would seem that a man ought to ransom his father even in preference to himself.

Well then, as has been said already, as a general rule the debt should be discharged, but if in a particular case the giving greatly preponderates as being either honourable or necessary, we must be swayed by these considerations: I mean, in some cases the requital of the obligation previously existing may not be equal; suppose, for instance, that the original benefactor has conferred a kindness on a good man, knowing him to be such, whereas this said good man has to repay it believing him to be a scoundrel.

And again, in certain cases no obligation lies on a man to lend to one who has lent to him; suppose, for instance, that a bad man lent to him, as being a good man, under the notion that he should get repaid, whereas the said good man has no hope of repayment from him being a bad man. Either then the case is really as we have supposed it and then the claim is not equal, or it is not so but supposed to be; and still in so acting people are not to be thought to act wrongly. In short, as has been oftentimes stated before, all statements regarding feelings and actions can be definite only in proportion as their object-matter is so; it is of course quite obvious that all people have not the same claim upon one, nor are the claims of one's father unlimited; just as Jupiter does not claim all kinds of sacrifice without distinction: and since the claims of parents, brothers, companions, and benefactors, are all different, we must give to each what belongs to and befits each.

And this is seen to be the course commonly pursued: to marriages men commonly invite their relatives, because these are from a common stock and therefore all the actions in any way pertaining thereto are common also: and to funerals men think that relatives ought to assemble in preference to other people, for the same reason.

And it would seem that in respect of maintenance it is our duty to assist our parents in preference to all others, as being their debtors, and because it is more honourable to succour in these respects the authors of our existence than ourselves. Honour likewise we ought to pay to our parents just as to the gods, but then, not all kinds of honour: not the same, for instance, to a father as to a mother: nor again to a father the honour due to a scientific man or to a general but that which is a father's due, and in like manner to a mother that which is a mother's.

To all our elders also the honour befitting their age, by rising up in their presence, turning out of the way for them, and all similar marks of respect: to our companions again, or brothers, frankness and free participation in all we have. And to those of the same family, or tribe, or city, with ourselves, and all similarly connected with us, we should constantly try to render their due, and to discriminate what belongs to each in respect of nearness of connection, or goodness, or intimacy: of course in the case of those of the same class the discrimination is easier; in that of those who are in different classes it is a matter of more trouble. This, however, should not be a reason for giving up the attempt, but we must observe the distinctions so far as it is practicable to do so.


A question is also raised as to the propriety of dissolving or not dissolving those Friendships the parties to which do not remain what they were when the connection was formed.

[Sidenote: 1165b] Now surely in respect of those whose motive to Friendship is utility or pleasure there can be nothing wrong in breaking up the connection when they no longer have those qualities; because they were friends [not of one another, but] of those qualities: and, these having failed, it is only reasonable to expect that they should cease to entertain the sentiment.

But a man has reason to find fault if the other party, being really attached to him because of advantage or pleasure, pretended to be so because of his moral character: in fact, as we said at the commencement, the most common source of quarrels between friends is their not being friends on the same grounds as they suppose themselves to be.

Now when a man has been deceived in having supposed himself to excite the sentiment of Friendship by reason of his moral character, the other party doing nothing to indicate he has but himself to blame: but when he has been deceived by the pretence of the other he has a right to find fault with the man who has so deceived him, aye even more than with utterers of false coin, in proportion to the greater preciousness of that which is the object-matter of the villany.

But suppose a man takes up another as being a good man, who turns out, and is found by him, to be a scoundrel, is he bound still to entertain Friendship for him? or may we not say at once it is impossible? since it is not everything which is the object-matter of Friendship, but only that which is good; and so there is no obligation to be a bad man's friend, nor, in fact, ought one to be such: for one ought not to be a lover of evil, nor to be assimilated to what is base; which would be implied, because we have said before, like is friendly to like.

Are we then to break with him instantly? not in all cases; only where our friends are incurably depraved; when there is a chance of amendment we are bound to aid in repairing the moral character of our friends even more than their substance, in proportion as it is better and more closely related to Friendship. Still he who should break off the connection is not to be judged to act wrongly, for he never was a friend to such a character as the other now is, and therefore, since the man is changed and he cannot reduce him to his original state, he backs out of the connection.

To put another case: suppose that one party remains what he was when the Friendship was formed, while the other becomes morally improved and widely different from his friend in goodness; is the improved character to treat the other as a friend?

May we not say it is impossible? The case of course is clearest where there is a great difference, as in the Friendships of boys: for suppose that of two boyish friends the one still continues a boy in mind and the other becomes a man of the highest character, how can they be friends? since they neither are pleased with the same objects nor like and dislike the same things: for these points will not belong to them as regards one another, and without them it was assumed they cannot be friends because they cannot live in intimacy: and of the case of those who cannot do so we have spoken before.

Well then, is the improved party to bear himself towards his former friend in no way differently to what he would have done had the connection never existed?

Surely he ought to bear in mind the intimacy of past times, and just as we think ourselves bound to do favours for our friends in preference to strangers, so to those who have been friends and are so no longer we should allow somewhat on the score of previous Friendship, whenever the cause of severance is not excessive depravity on their part.


[Sidenote: II66a] Now the friendly feelings which are exhibited towards our friends, and by which Friendships are characterised, seem to have sprung out of those which we entertain toward ourselves. I mean, people define a friend to be "one who intends and does what is good (or what he believes to be good) to another for that other's sake," or "one who wishes his friend to be and to live for that friend's own sake" (which is the feeling of mothers towards their children, and of friends who have come into collision). Others again, "one who lives with another and chooses the same objects," or "one who sympathises with his friend in his sorrows and in his joys" (this too is especially the case with mothers).

Well, by some one of these marks people generally characterise Friendship: and each of these the good man has towards himself, and all others have them in so far as they suppose themselves to be good. (For, as has been said before, goodness, that is the good man, seems to be a measure to every one else.)

For he is at unity in himself, and with every part of his soul he desires the same objects; and he wishes for himself both what is, and what he believes to be, good; and he does it (it being characteristic of the good man to work at what is good), and for the sake of himself, inasmuch as he does it for the sake of his Intellectual Principle which is generally thought to be a man's Self. Again, he wishes himself And specially this Principle whereby he is an intelligent being, to live and be preserved in life, because existence is a good to him that is a good man.

But it is to himself that each individual wishes what is good, and no man, conceiving the possibility of his becoming other than he now is, chooses that that New Self should have all things indiscriminately: a god, for instance, has at the present moment the Chief Good, but he has it in right of being whatever he actually now is: and the Intelligent Principle must be judged to be each man's Self, or at least eminently so [though other Principles help, of course, to constitute him the man he is]. Furthermore, the good man wishes to continue to live with himself; for he can do it with pleasure, in that his memories of past actions are full of delight and his anticipations of the future are good and such are pleasurable. Then, again, he has good store of matter for his Intellect to contemplate, and he most especially sympathises with his Self in its griefs and joys, because the objects which give him pain and pleasure are at all times the same, not one thing to-day and a different one to-morrow: because he is not given to repentance, if one may so speak. It is then because each of these feelings are entertained by the good man towards his own Self and a friend feels towards a friend as towards himself (a friend being in fact another Self), that Friendship is thought to be some one of these things and they are accounted friends in whom they are found. Whether or no there can really be Friendship between a man and his Self is a question we will not at present entertain: there may be thought to be Friendship, in so far as there are two or more of the aforesaid requisites, and because the highest degree of Friendship, in the usual acceptation of that term, resembles the feeling entertained by a man towards himself.

[Sidenote: 1166b] But it may be urged that the aforesaid requisites are to all appearance found in the common run of men, though they are men of a low stamp.

May it not be answered, that they share in them only in so far as they please themselves, and conceive themselves to be good? for certainly, they are not either really, or even apparently, found in any one of those who are very depraved and villainous; we may almost say not even in those who are bad men at all: for they are at variance with themselves and lust after different things from those which in cool reason they wish for, just as men who fail of Self-Control: I mean, they choose things which, though hurtful, are pleasurable, in preference to those which in their own minds they believe to be good: others again, from cowardice and indolence, decline to do what still they are convinced is best for them: while they who from their depravity have actually done many dreadful actions hate and avoid life, and accordingly kill themselves: and the wicked seek others in whose company to spend their time, but fly from themselves because they have many unpleasant subjects of memory, and can only look forward to others like them when in solitude but drown their remorse in the company of others: and as they have nothing to raise the sentiment of Friendship so they never feel it towards themselves.

Neither, in fact, can they who are of this character sympathise with their Selves in their joys and sorrows, because their soul is, as it were, rent by faction, and the one principle, by reason of the depravity in them, is grieved at abstaining from certain things, while the other and better principle is pleased thereat; and the one drags them this way and the other that way, as though actually tearing them asunder. And though it is impossible actually to have at the same time the sensations of pain and pleasure; yet after a little time the man is sorry for having been pleased, and he could wish that those objects had not given him pleasure; for the wicked are full of remorse.

It is plain then that the wicked man cannot be in the position of a friend even towards himself, because he has in himself nothing which can excite the sentiment of Friendship. If then to be thus is exceedingly wretched it is a man's duty to flee from wickedness with all his might and to strive to be good, because thus may he be friends with himself and may come to be a friend to another.

[Sidenote: V] Kindly Feeling, though resembling Friendship, is not identical with it, because it may exist in reference to those whom we do not know and without the object of it being aware of its existence, which Friendship cannot. (This, by the way, has also been said before.) And further, it is not even Affection because it does not imply intensity nor yearning, which are both consequences of Affection. Again Affection requires intimacy but Kindly Feeling may arise quite suddenly, as happens sometimes in respect of men against whom people are matched in any way, I mean they come to be kindly disposed to them and sympathise in their wishes, but still they would not join them in any action, because, as we said, they conceive this feeling of kindness suddenly and so have but a superficial liking.

What it does seem to be is the starting point of a Friendship; just as pleasure, received through the sight, is the commencement of Love: for no one falls in love without being first pleased with the personal appearance of the beloved object, and yet he who takes pleasure in it does not therefore necessarily love, but when he wearies for the object in its absence and desires its presence. Exactly in the same way men cannot be friends without having passed through the stage of Kindly Feeling, and yet they who are in that stage do not necessarily advance to Friendship: they merely have an inert wish for the good of those toward whom they entertain the feeling, but would not join them in any action, nor put themselves out of the way for them. So that, in a metaphorical way of speaking, one might say that it is dormant Friendship, and when it has endured for a space and ripened into intimacy comes to be real Friendship; but not that whose object is advantage or pleasure, because such motives cannot produce even Kindly Feeling.

I mean, he who has received a kindness requites it by Kindly Feeling towards his benefactor, and is right in so doing: but he who wishes another to be prosperous, because he has hope of advantage through his instrumentality, does not seem to be kindly disposed to that person but rather to himself; just as neither is he his friend if he pays court to him for any interested purpose.

Kindly Feeling always arises by reason of goodness and a certain amiability, when one man gives another the notion of being a fine fellow, or brave man, etc., as we said was the case sometimes with those matched against one another.

[Sidenote: VI] Unity of Sentiment is also plainly connected with Friendship, and therefore is not the same as Unity of Opinion, because this might exist even between people unacquainted with one another.

Nor do men usually say people are united in sentiment merely because they agree in opinion on 'any' point, as, for instance, on points of astronomical science (Unity of Sentiment herein not having any connection with Friendship), but they say that Communities have Unity of Sentiment when they agree respecting points of expediency and take the same line and carry out what has been determined in common consultation.

Thus we see that Unity of Sentiment has for its object matters of action, and such of these as are of importance, and of mutual, or, in the case of single States, common, interest: when, for instance, all agree in the choice of magistrates, or forming alliance with the Lacedæmonians, or appointing Pittacus ruler (that is to say, supposing he himself was willing). [Sidenote: 1167'b'] But when each wishes himself to be in power (as the brothers in the Phoenissæ), they quarrel and form parties: for, plainly, Unity of Sentiment does not merely imply that each entertains the same idea be it what it may, but that they do so in respect of the same object, as when both the populace and the sensible men of a State desire that the best men should be in office, because then all attain their object.

Thus Unity of Sentiment is plainly a social Friendship, as it is also said to be: since it has for its object-matter things expedient and relating to life.

And this Unity exists among the good: for they have it towards themselves and towards one another, being, if I may be allowed the expression, in the same position: I mean, the wishes of such men are steady and do not ebb and flow like the Euripus, and they wish what is just and expedient and aim at these things in common.

The bad, on the contrary, can as little have Unity of Sentiment as they can be real friends, except to a very slight extent, desiring as they do unfair advantage in things profitable while they shirk labour and service for the common good: and while each man wishes for these things for himself he is jealous of and hinders his neighbour: and as they do not watch over the common good it is lost. The result is that they quarrel while they are for keeping one another to work but are not willing to perform their just share.

[Sidenote: VII] Benefactors are commonly held to have more Friendship for the objects of their kindness than these for them: and the fact is made a subject of discussion and inquiry, as being contrary to reasonable expectation.

The account of the matter which satisfies most persons is that the one are debtors and the others creditors: and therefore that, as in the case of actual loans the debtors wish their creditors out of the way while the creditors are anxious for the preservation of their debtors, so those who have done kindnesses desire the continued existence of the people they have done them to, under the notion of getting a return of their good offices, while these are not particularly anxious about requital.

Epicharmus, I suspect, would very probably say that they who give this solution judge from their own baseness; yet it certainly is like human nature, for the generality of men have short memories on these points, and aim rather at receiving than conferring benefits.

But the real cause, it would seem, rests upon nature, and the case is not parallel to that of creditors; because in this there is no affection to the persons, but merely a wish for their preservation with a view to the return: whereas, in point of fact, they who have done kindnesses feel friendship and love for those to whom they have done them, even though they neither are, nor can by possibility hereafter be, in a position to serve their benefactors.

[Sidenote: 1168'a'] And this is the case also with artisans; every one, I mean, feels more affection for his own work than that work possibly could for him if it were animate. It is perhaps specially the case with poets: for these entertain very great affection for their poems, loving them as their own children. It is to this kind of thing I should be inclined to compare the case of benefactors: for the object of their kindness is their own work, and so they love this more than this loves its creator.

And the account of this is that existence is to all a thing choiceworthy and an object of affection; now we exist by acts of working, that is, by living and acting; he then that has created a given work exists, it may be said, by his act of working: therefore he loves his work because he loves existence. And this is natural, for the work produced displays in act what existed before potentially.

Then again, the benefactor has a sense of honour in right of his action, so that he may well take pleasure in him in whom this resides; but to him who has received the benefit there is nothing honourable in respect of his benefactor, only something advantageous which is both less pleasant and less the object of Friendship.

Again, pleasure is derived from the actual working out of a present action, from the anticipation of a future one, and from the recollection of a past one: but the highest pleasure and special object of affection is that which attends on the actual working. Now the benefactor's work abides (for the honourable is enduring), but the advantage of him who has received the kindness passes away.

Again, there is pleasure in recollecting honourable actions, but in recollecting advantageous ones there is none at all or much less (by the way though, the contrary is true of the expectation of advantage).

Further, the entertaining the feeling of Friendship is like acting on another; but being the object of the feeling is like being acted upon.

So then, entertaining the sentiment of Friendship, and all feelings connected with it, attend on those who, in the given case of a benefaction, are the superior party.

Once more: all people value most what has cost them much labour in the production; for instance, people who have themselves made their money are fonder of it than those who have inherited it: and receiving kindness is, it seems, unlaborious, but doing it is laborious. And this is the reason why the female parents are most fond of their offspring; for their part in producing them is attended with most labour, and they know more certainly that they are theirs. This feeling would seem also to belong to benefactors.

[Sidenote: VIII] A question is also raised as to whether it is right to love one's Self best, or some one else: because men find fault with those who love themselves best, and call them in a disparaging way lovers of Self; and the bad man is thought to do everything he does for his own sake merely, and the more so the more depraved he is; accordingly men reproach him with never doing anything unselfish: whereas the good man acts from a sense of honour (and the more so the better man he is), and for his friend's sake, and is careless of his own interest.

[Sidenote: 1168'b'] But with these theories facts are at variance, and not unnaturally: for it is commonly said also that a man is to love most him who is most his friend, and he is most a friend who wishes good to him to whom he wishes it for that man's sake even though no one knows. Now these conditions, and in fact all the rest by which a friend is characterised, belong specially to each individual in respect of his Self: for we have said before that all the friendly feelings are derived to others from those which have Self primarily for their object. And all the current proverbs support this view; for instance, "one soul," "the goods of friends are common," "equality is a tie of Friendship," "the knee is nearer than the shin." For all these things exist specially with reference to a man's own Self: he is specially a friend to himself and so he is bound to love himself the most.

It is with good reason questioned which of the two parties one should follow, both having plausibility on their side. Perhaps then, in respect of theories of this kind, the proper course is to distinguish and define how far each is true, and in what way. If we could ascertain the sense in which each uses the term "Self-loving," this point might be cleared up.

Well now, they who use it disparagingly give the name to those who, in respect of wealth, and honours, and pleasures of the body, give to themselves the larger share: because the mass of mankind grasp after these and are earnest about them as being the best things; which is the reason why they are matters of contention. They who are covetous in regard to these gratify their lusts and passions in general, that is to say the irrational part of their soul: now the mass of mankind are so disposed, for which reason the appellation has taken its rise from that mass which is low and bad. Of course they are justly reproached who are Self-loving in this sense.

And that the generality of men are accustomed to apply the term to denominate those who do give such things to themselves is quite plain: suppose, for instance, that a man were anxious to do, more than other men, acts of justice, or self-mastery, or any other virtuous acts, and, in general, were to secure to himself that which is abstractedly noble and honourable, no one would call him Self-loving, nor blame him.

Yet might such an one be judged to be more truly Self-loving: certainly he gives to himself the things which are most noble and most good, and gratifies that Principle of his nature which is most rightfully authoritative, and obeys it in everything: and just as that which possesses the highest authority is thought to constitute a Community or any other system, so also in the case of Man: and so he is most truly Self-loving who loves and gratifies this Principle.

Again, men are said to have, or to fail of having, self-control, according as the Intellect controls or not, it being plainly implied thereby that this Principle constitutes each individual; and people are thought to have done of themselves, and voluntarily, those things specially which are done with Reason. [Sidenote: 1169'a']

It is plain, therefore, that this Principle does, either entirely or specially constitute the individual man, and that the good man specially loves this. For this reason then he must be specially Self-loving, in a kind other than that which is reproached, and as far superior to it as living in accordance with Reason is to living at the beck and call of passion, and aiming at the truly noble to aiming at apparent advantage.

Now all approve and commend those who are eminently earnest about honourable actions, and if all would vie with one another in respect of the [Greek: kalhon], and be intent upon doing what is most truly noble and honourable, society at large would have all that is proper while each individual in particular would have the greatest of goods, Virtue being assumed to be such.

And so the good man ought to be Self-loving: because by doing what is noble he will have advantage himself and will do good to others: but the bad man ought not to be, because he will harm himself and his neighbours by following low and evil passions. In the case of the bad man, what he ought to do and what he does are at variance, but the good man does what he ought to do, because all Intellect chooses what is best for itself and the good man puts himself under the direction of Intellect.

Of the good man it is true likewise that he does many things for the sake of his friends and his country, even to the extent of dying for them, if need be: for money and honours, and, in short, all the good things which others fight for, he will throw away while eager to secure to himself the [Greek: kalhon]: he will prefer a brief and great joy to a tame and enduring one, and to live nobly for one year rather than ordinarily for many, and one great and noble action to many trifling ones. And this is perhaps that which befals men who die for their country and friends; they choose great glory for themselves: and they will lavish their own money that their friends may receive more, for hereby the friend gets the money but the man himself the [Greek: kalhon]; so, in fact he gives to himself the greater good. It is the same with honours and offices; all these things he will give up to his friend, because this reflects honour and praise on himself: and so with good reason is he esteemed a fine character since he chooses the honourable before all things else. It is possible also to give up the opportunities of action to a friend; and to have caused a friend's doing a thing may be more noble than having done it one's self.

In short, in all praiseworthy things the good man does plainly give to himself a larger share of the honourable. [Sidenote: 1169'b'] In this sense it is right to be Self-loving, in the vulgar acceptation of the term it is not.

[Sidenote: IX] A question is raised also respecting the Happy man, whether he will want Friends, or no?

Some say that they who are blessed and independent have no need of Friends, for they already have all that is good, and so, as being independent, want nothing further: whereas the notion of a friend's office is to be as it were a second Self and procure for a man what he cannot get by himself: hence the saying,

"When Fortune gives us good, what need we Friends?"

On the other hand, it looks absurd, while we are assigning to the Happy man all other good things, not to give him Friends, which are, after all, thought to be the greatest of external goods.

Again, if it is more characteristic of a friend to confer than to receive kindnesses, and if to be beneficent belongs to the good man and to the character of virtue, and if it is more noble to confer kindnesses on friends than strangers, the good man will need objects for his benefactions. And out of this last consideration springs a question whether the need of Friends be greater in prosperity or adversity, since the unfortunate man wants people to do him kindnesses and they who are fortunate want objects for their kind acts.

Again, it is perhaps absurd to make our Happy man a solitary, because no man would choose the possession of all goods in the world on the condition of solitariness, man being a social animal and formed by nature for living with others: of course the Happy man has this qualification since he has all those things which are good by nature: and it is obvious that the society of friends and good men must be preferable to that of strangers and ordinary people, and we conclude, therefore, that the Happy man does need Friends.

But then, what do they mean whom we quoted first, and how are they right? Is it not that the mass of mankind mean by Friends those who are useful? and of course the Happy man will not need such because he has all good things already; neither will he need such as are Friends with a view to the pleasurable, or at least only to a slight extent; because his life, being already pleasurable, does not want pleasure imported from without; and so, since the Happy man does not need Friends of these kinds, he is thought not to need any at all.

But it may be, this is not true: for it was stated originally, that Happiness is a kind of Working; now Working plainly is something that must come into being, not be already there like a mere piece of property.

[Sidenote: 1170'a'] If then the being happy consists in living and working, and the good man's working is in itself excellent and pleasurable (as we said at the commencement of the treatise), and if what is our own reckons among things pleasurable, and if we can view our neighbours better than ourselves and their actions better than we can our own, then the actions of their Friends who are good men are pleasurable to the good; inasmuch as they have both the requisites which are naturally pleasant. So the man in the highest state of happiness will need Friends of this kind, since he desires to contemplate good actions, and actions of his own, which those of his friend, being a good man, are. Again, common opinion requires that the Happy man live with pleasure to himself: now life is burthensome to a man in solitude, for it is not easy to work continuously by one's self, but in company with, and in regard to others, it is easier, and therefore the working, being pleasurable in itself will be more continuous (a thing which should be in respect of the Happy man); for the good man, in that he is good takes pleasure in the actions which accord with Virtue and is annoyed at those which spring from Vice, just as a musical man is pleased with beautiful music and annoyed by bad. And besides, as Theognis says, Virtue itself may be improved by practice, from living with the good.

And, upon the following considerations more purely metaphysical, it will probably appear that the good friend is naturally choiceworthy to the good man. We have said before, that whatever is naturally good is also in itself good and pleasant to the good man; now the fact of living, so far as animals are concerned, is characterised generally by the power of sentience, in man it is characterised by that of sentience, or of rationality (the faculty of course being referred to the actual operation of the faculty, certainly the main point is the actual operation of it); so that living seems mainly to consist in the act of sentience or exerting rationality: now the fact of living is in itself one of the things that are good and pleasant (for it is a definite totality, and whatever is such belongs to the nature of good), but what is naturally good is good to the good man: for which reason it seems to be pleasant to all. (Of course one must not suppose a life which is depraved and corrupted, nor one spent in pain, for that which is such is indefinite as are its inherent qualities: however, what is to be said of pain will be clearer in what is to follow.)

If then the fact of living is in itself good and pleasant (and this appears from the fact that all desire it, and specially those who are good and in high happiness; their course of life being most choiceworthy and their existence most choiceworthy likewise), then also he that sees perceives that he sees; and he that hears perceives that he hears; and he that walks perceives that he walks; and in all the other instances in like manner there is a faculty which reflects upon and perceives the fact that we are working, so that we can perceive that we perceive and intellectually know that we intellectually know: but to perceive that we perceive or that we intellectually know is to perceive that we exist, since existence was defined to be perceiving or intellectually knowing. [Sidenote: 1170'b' Now to perceive that one lives is a thing pleasant in itself, life being a thing naturally good, and the perceiving of the presence in ourselves of things naturally good being pleasant.]

Therefore the fact of living is choiceworthy, and to the good specially so since existence is good and pleasant to them: for they receive pleasure from the internal consciousness of that which in itself is good.

But the good man is to his friend as to himself, friend being but a name for a second Self; therefore as his own existence is choiceworthy to each so too, or similarly at least, is his friend's existence. But the ground of one's own existence being choiceworthy is the perceiving of one's self being good, any such perception being in itself pleasant. Therefore one ought to be thoroughly conscious of one's friend's existence, which will result from living with him, that is sharing in his words and thoughts: for this is the meaning of the term as applied to the human species, not mere feeding together as in the case of brutes.

If then to the man in a high state of happiness existence is in itself choiceworthy, being naturally good and pleasant, and so too a friend's existence, then the friend also must be among things choiceworthy. But whatever is choiceworthy to a man he should have or else he will be in this point deficient. The man therefore who is to come up to our notion "Happy" will need good Friends. Are we then to make our friends as numerous as possible? or, as in respect of acquaintance it is thought to have been well said "have not thou many acquaintances yet be not without;" so too in respect of Friendship may we adopt the precept, and say that a man should not be without friends, nor again have exceeding many friends?

Now as for friends who are intended for use, the maxim I have quoted will, it seems, fit in exceedingly well, because to requite the services of many is a matter of labour, and a whole life would not be long enough to do this for them. So that, if more numerous than what will suffice for one's own life, they become officious, and are hindrances in respect of living well: and so we do not want them. And again of those who are to be for pleasure a few are quite enough, just like sweetening in our food.


But of the good are we to make as many as ever we can, or is there any measure of the number of friends, as there is of the number to constitute a Political Community? I mean, you cannot make one out of ten men, and if you increase the number to one hundred thousand it is not any longer a Community. However, the number is not perhaps some one definite number but any between certain extreme limits.

[Sidenote: 1171'a'] Well, of friends likewise there is a limited number, which perhaps may be laid down to be the greatest number with whom it would be possible to keep up intimacy; this being thought to be one of the greatest marks of Friendship, and it being quite obvious that it is not possible to be intimate with many, in other words, to part one's self among many. And besides it must be remembered that they also are to be friends to one another if they are all to live together: but it is a matter of difficulty to find this in many men at once.

It comes likewise to be difficult to bring home to one's self the joys and sorrows of many: because in all probability one would have to sympathise at the same time with the joys of this one and the sorrows of that other.

Perhaps then it is well not to endeavour to have very many friends but so many as are enough for intimacy: because, in fact, it would seem not to be possible to be very much a friend to many at the same time: and, for the same reason, not to be in love with many objects at the same time: love being a kind of excessive Friendship which implies but one object: and all strong emotions must be limited in the number towards whom they are felt.

And if we look to facts this seems to be so: for not many at a time become friends in the way of companionship, all the famous Friendships of the kind are between 'two' persons: whereas they who have many friends, and meet everybody on the footing of intimacy, seem to be friends really to no one except in the way of general society; I mean the characters denominated as over-complaisant.

To be sure, in the way merely of society, a man may be a friend to many without being necessarily over-complaisant, but being truly good: but one cannot be a friend to many because of their virtue, and for the persons' own sake; in fact, it is a matter for contentment to find even a few such.


Again: are friends most needed in prosperity or in adversity? they are required, we know, in both states, because the unfortunate need help and the prosperous want people to live with and to do kindnesses to: for they have a desire to act kindly to some one.

To have friends is more necessary in adversity, and therefore in this case useful ones are wanted; and to have them in prosperity is more honourable, and this is why the prosperous want good men for friends, it being preferable to confer benefits on, and to live with, these. For the very presence of friends is pleasant even in adversity: since men when grieved are comforted by the sympathy of their friends.

And from this, by the way, the question might be raised, whether it is that they do in a manner take part of the weight of calamities, or only that their presence, being pleasurable, and the consciousness of their sympathy, make the pain of the sufferer less. However, we will not further discuss whether these which have been suggested or some other causes produce the relief, at least the effect we speak of is a matter of plain fact.

[Sidenote: '1171b'] But their presence has probably a mixed effect: I mean, not only is the very seeing friends pleasant, especially to one in misfortune, and actual help towards lessening the grief is afforded (the natural tendency of a friend, if he is gifted with tact, being to comfort by look and word, because he is well acquainted with the sufferer's temper and disposition and therefore knows what things give him pleasure and pain), but also the perceiving a friend to be grieved at his misfortunes causes the sufferer pain, because every one avoids being cause of pain to his friends. And for this reason they who are of a manly nature are cautious not to implicate their friends in their pain; and unless a man is exceedingly callous to the pain of others he cannot bear the pain which is thus caused to his friends: in short, he does not admit men to wail with him, not being given to wail at all: women, it is true, and men who resemble women, like to have others to groan with them, and love such as friends and sympathisers. But it is plain that it is our duty in all things to imitate the highest character.

On the other hand, the advantages of friends in our prosperity are the pleasurable intercourse and the consciousness that they are pleased at our good fortune.

It would seem, therefore, that we ought to call in friends readily on occasion of good fortune, because it is noble to be ready to do good to others: but on occasion of bad fortune, we should do so with reluctance; for we should as little as possible make others share in our ills; on which principle goes the saying, "I am unfortunate, let that suffice." The most proper occasion for calling them in is when with small trouble or annoyance to themselves they can be of very great use to the person who needs them.

But, on the contrary, it is fitting perhaps to go to one's friends in their misfortunes unasked and with alacrity (because kindness is the friend's office and specially towards those who are in need and who do not demand it as a right, this being more creditable and more pleasant to both); and on occasion of their good fortune to go readily, if we can forward it in any way (because men need their friends for this likewise), but to be backward in sharing it, any great eagerness to receive advantage not being creditable.

One should perhaps be cautious not to present the appearance of sullenness in declining the sympathy or help of friends, for this happens occasionally.

It appears then that the presence of friends is, under all circumstances, choiceworthy.

May we not say then that, as seeing the beloved object is most prized by lovers and they choose this sense rather than any of the others because Love

"Is engendered in the eyes, With gazing fed,"

in like manner intimacy is to friends most choiceworthy, Friendship being communion? Again, as a man is to himself so is he to his friend; now with respect to himself the perception of his own existence is choiceworthy, therefore is it also in respect of his friend.

And besides, their Friendship is acted out in intimacy, and so with good reason they desire this. And whatever in each man's opinion constitutes existence, or whatsoever it is for the sake of which they choose life, herein they wish their friends to join with them; and so some men drink together, others gamble, others join in gymnastic exercises or hunting, others study philosophy together: in each case spending their days together in that which they like best of all things in life, for since they wish to be intimate with their friends they do and partake in those things whereby they think to attain this object.

Therefore the Friendship of the wicked comes to be depraved; for, being unstable, they share in what is bad and become depraved in being made like to one another: but the Friendship of the good is good, growing with their intercourse; they improve also, as it seems, by repeated acts, and by mutual correction, for they receive impress from one another in the points which give them pleasure; whence says the poet,

"Thou from the good, good things shalt surely learn."

Here then we will terminate our discourse of Friendship. The next thing is to go into the subject of Pleasure.