19 March, 2000
Author: George Irbe
Back to George's Views
ARISTOTLE'S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS
TI- Terence Irwin, Hackett Publishing Co.
DR - David Ross, Oxford University Press 1980
JT - J.A.K. Thomson, Penguin Books 1955
|[DR] With friends men are more able both to think and act.
|The great value of friends.
|[JT] Between friends there is no need for justice, but people who are just still need the quality of friendship; and indeed friendship is considered to be justice in the fullest sense.
|Friendship is akin to justice.
|[DR] But it is not only necessary but also noble; for we praise those who love their friends, and it is thought to be a fine thing to have many friends; and again we think it is the same people that are good men and are friends.
|Friendship is necessary and noble. We think of friends as good men.
|[JT] Is it, then, the Good that people love, or only what is good for them? because sometimes these conflict; and similarly in the case of the pleasant. It seems that each individual loves what is good for himself; i.e. that while the Good is absolutely lovable, it is the good of the individual that is lovable for the individual.
|Individuals love what is good for them, not necessarily always what is the best Good.
|[TI, JT] To a friend you must wish good for his own sake. If you wish things this way, but the same wish is not returned by the other, you would be said to have only goodwill for the other. For friendship is said to be reciprocated goodwill. So friends must be well-disposed towards each other, and recognized as wishing each other's good.
|Friends always wish each other good.
|[DR] Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good in themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of their own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good -- and goodness is an enduring thing.
|Good and virtuous persons are steadfast friends.
|[TI, DR] Equality and similarity, and above all the similarity of those who are similar in being virtuous, is friendship. For virtuous people are enduringly virtuous in themselves, and enduring friends to each other. They neither ask nor give base services, but (one may say) even prevent them; for it is characteristic of good men neither to go wrong themselves nor to let their friends do so. But wicked men have no steadfastness, since they do not even remain similar to what they were, but become friends for a short time, enjoying each other's vice.
|Virtuous persons will seek virtuous friends. Wicked persons only share others' vices.
|[DR] Friendship for utility's sake most easily exists between contraries, e.g. between poor and rich, between ignorant and learned.
|Friendships are struck between persons from dissimilar classes for the sake of advantage and utility.
|[DR] The demands of justice also seem to increase with the intensity of the friendship, which implies that friendship and justice exist between the same persons and have an equal extension.
|A strong sense of justice accompanies strong friendships.
|[TI, DR] All communities would seem to be parts of the political community. For people keep company for some advantage and to supply something contributing to their life. And it is for the sake of advantage that the political community too seems both to have come together originally and to endure, for this is what legislators aim at, and they call just that which is to the common advantage. All the communities, then, seem to be parts of the political community; and the particular kinds of friendship will correspond to the particular kinds of community.
|Men form political societies for certain advantages (see also Locke's Two Treatises). The kind of friendship between them will depend on the political system in the community.
|[TI] There are three species of political system and an equal number of deviations, which are a sort of corruption of them. The first political system is kingship; the second aristocracy; and since the third rests on property it appears proper to call it a timocratic system, though most people usually call it a polity.
|Three political systems: kingship, aristocracy, timocracy.
|[DR] The best of these is monarchy, the worst timocracy. The deviation from monarchy is tyranny. The tyrant looks to his own advantage, the king to that of his subjects. Aristocracy passes over into oligarchy by the badness of the rulers; the rulers are few and are bad men instead of the most worthy. Timocracy passes over into democracy; for these are co-terminous, since it is the ideal even of timocracy to be the rule of the majority, and all who have the property qualifications count as equal. Democracy is the least bad of the deviations; for in its case the form of constitution is but a slight deviation.
|The best system is kingship, the
worst is timocracy. Monarchy can deviate into tyranny, aristocracy
into oligarchy, timocracy into democracy. Democracy is the least bad
|[TI, JT] The friendship of brothers is similar to that of companions, since they are equal in standing and age, and such people are usually similar in their feelings and character. This is the kind of friendship that obtains between the members of a timocracy, because ideally the citizens are equal and good; so they hold office in turn, and on a basis of equality; and consequently their friendship has this basis too. On the other hand, in the perverted constitutions friendship, like justice, is little found, and least in the worst; for in a tyranny there is little or no friendship. For where ruler and ruled have nothing in common, they have no friendship, since they have no justice either. Thus while in tyrannies friendships and justice are little found, they are most commonly found in democracies, because the citizens, being equal, have much in common.
|Citizens in a timocracy share the same virtues and equality; their friendships are brotherly. There is little justice or friendship between men living in a tyranny. There is equality, justice and therefore also many friendships in democratic societies.
|[DR] Between man and wife friendship seems to exist by nature. Human beings live together not only for the sake of reproduction but also for various purposes of life; for from the start the functions are divided, and those of man and woman are different; so they help each other by throwing their peculiar gifts into the common stock. It is for these reasons that both utility and pleasure seem to be found in this kind of friendship. But this friendship may be based also on virtue, if the parties are good; for each has its own virtue and they will delight in the fact. Children are a good common to both and what is common holds them together.
|Friendship between man and wife rests on utility, sexual pleasure and, ideally, on shared virtues. They complement each other in caring for the family. Children are a common good of marriage.
|[DR, JT] Most men, while they wish for what is noble, choose what is advantageous. Now it is a fine thing to confer a benefit without any thought of a return; but the profitable thing is to receive benefits. So one ought, if one can, to repay a kindness at its full value; for one should not make a man one's friend against his will; we must recognize that we were mistaken at the first and took a benefit from a person we should not have taken it from.
|Benefits and kindness of a friend should be repaid in like measure. We should not take a benefit if we cannot reciprocate.
|[DR, TI] Honor is the prize of virtue and of beneficence, while gain is the assistance required by inferiority. This also appears to be true in political systems. For someone who provides nothing for the community receives no honor.
|Honors are granted only to citizens who have contributed to the welfare of the community.
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