Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

The Complexity of Love and Friendship College

Both Plato’s Symposium and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics introduce provocative ideas about love and friendship and how best to attain them. They make it clear that, without love and friendship, life would be a miserable existence. Each figure in Symposium highlights a different aspect of love, how it manifests itself in the world, and specific steps we can take to obtain it. The relationship between Socrates and Alcibiades illustrates a particularly specific example: unrequited love. Alcibiades’ very existence embodies the theme of wanting more than we have without putting in the appropriate amount of work to obtain it, whereas Socrates represents a person who has achieved the most coveted level of both love and friendship but has no one to share it with.

To understand Alcibiades more deeply, some historical background must be established. During the time period of Symposium, Alcibiades was a young war-hero, politician, and dedicated student of Socrates who committed treason. He enters the text as a drunken man who is obsessed with Socrates and is frustrated about their complicated relationship. He complains about how, regardless of his many efforts, Socrates will not love him back in a romantic way. Alcibiades is foolish...

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