In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the first premise he mentions is the idea of Eudaimonia, which is a means to flourish as a human being; a true happiness that lacks nothing. This is a collective idea of a virtuous person, which is someone who feels at the right time, in the reference to the right object, towards the right people, with the right motive. This is a person who has found a balance of the two extremes (excess and deficiency).
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This person is to obtain the true function of man, which is a purpose to this life; by using their intelligence and reason to figure out how the best ways of living are. One of these ways of life that a person must obtain are friends, because a virtuous person cannot understand life with consulting people like true friends. Aristotle believes that to be Eudaimonic, your happiness must be one of a public affair; not private. Which means that those we share happiness with is of great significance and which is why someone who would lack in virtue if they had no friends.
To truly understand how Aristotle believes that friendship is what is most necessary for life and that it would be unthinkable to suggest that true happiness can be found in a person who lives in isolation; Aristotle distinguishes between three types of friends: Pleasure, Useful, and Goodness. According to Aristotle only one of these friendships based on virtue is true. This true friendships must be true if: the two friends are people admire each other for the individuals that they are, who live together (meaning they have to see each other) and friends who are good for the sake of each other. This friendship is rare, because Aristotle believes you can only have one true friend; you cannot have many friends just like you cannot love many people.
A friendship based off of pleasure is short lasting and the shallowest form of friendship, this friendship cannot be true. The best way to understand this friendship is to imagine friendships that children may have. Friendships based on pleasure rise quickly like two children who are both friends just for the enjoyment of being together, like having someone to play with outside on the playground. There is no premise to their friendship other than that moment and the joy they get out of being with each other. They do not take time to admire each other for their individuality, or take time to try and be good for one another.
These friends also do not live together so they cannot spend days together, so it cannot be true. Just how this type of friendship has a quick rise, it also has a faster fall. The two children who are playing with each other will soon have no other thing in common once the playground is taken away. Aristotle captures why a friendship based on pleasure is not true and not one of a virtuous person because this friendship is not rare and can be a friendship that you have with many people. And according to Aristotle you cannot have many friends just like you cannot love many people.
Aristotle then compares a pleasure friendship to a friendship based on usefulness. The friendship is also short lasting and is just based on the mere usefulness of each other. For example, imagine lab partners in a Biology class who only meet up or talk in a academic setting (i.e biology). These friendships might not know much about each other, other than the fact that they both have this one thing (biology) in common and that they can help each other with situation relating to biology. These friendship do not live together and are not good for the sake of each other, but for the sake of themselves. Which is why this form of friendship is not the truest form of friendship. Aristotle, again, captures why a friendship based on usefulness is not true and not one of a virtuous person because this friendship is not rare and can be a friendship that you have with many people.
Aristotle’s truest form of friendship is a friendship based on Goodness. This friendship is of virtuous people who admire each other for the individuals that they are. Not for a single characteristic like the children who like to play together; or just being friends to get biology homework help. But, this friendship is caring about each other and all of the other person’s shortcomings. These friendships, Aristotle believes, are irreplaceable and valuable. Aristotle believes that being you are friends with this person you start to recognize that it is not a feelings but based on character, and because you recognize each other as good; you start to become good for each other; and in the end the you become good.
A person lacking this form of friendship, one based on goodness, is a person who would be lacking in virtue. A truly virtuous person is someone who finds the balance of life, but cannot do it on their own. A friend is needed to help them find the balance between an excess or deficiency. Aristotle concludes that a friendship based on goodness is true and one of a virtuous person because this friendship is rare and cannot be a friendship that you have with many people.
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