Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship by Lorraine Smith Pangle

By Lorraine Smith Pangle

This entire account of the foremost philosophical works on friendship and its dating to self-love emphasizes Aristotle's exam of friendship within the Nicomachean Ethics. Lorraine Pangle argues that the problems surrounding this dialogue are dispelled once one is aware the aim of the Ethics as either a resource of functional suggestions for all times and a profound, theoretical research into human nature. The booklet offers interpretations of works on friendship by way of Plato, Cicero, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne and Bacon.

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17 All of these concessions are no doubt true. I think Bolotin’s book is on the right track, however, in trying to see why Socrates might wish not only to refrain from identifying our ultimate concern as self-love but even to characterize the self that is our ultimate concern as somehow an enemy because of its defectiveness. Ordinary neediness and defectiveness are not enough to make one consider oneself an enemy. But the exaggerated defectiveness Socrates here attributes to human beings, in characterizing them as beings who love and seek nothing except cures for their ills and for whom life has no other positive content, would make the self who acts consider the needy, longing being for the sake of whom he acts to be nothing but an enemy.

In keeping with his customary denigration of eros and his elevation of sober, gentlemanly virtue, Aristotle here portrays eros as based only on emotion and impulse and the pleasures of the senses, in contrast to the finest friendships, which rest on virtue and rational choice. He also criticizes love affairs on the grounds that they always consist somehow in the attraction of opposites, whereas he says the best friendships involve partners who are virtuous and equal and who give and receive from each other something identical or similar (1156b7–8, 33–35).

Granted that such affection always involves a desire to be loved in return, why should it necessarily cease when it ceases to be returned? If genuine goodwill is possible at all, then it should be possible to befriend one who does not love us, or to remain a friend to one who has turned against us. Second, how exactly is goodwill related to the affection that arises in response to the three lovable qualities? Does goodwill produce an attraction to and affection for another, or do desire and need for another produce goodwill?

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Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship by Lorraine Smith Pangle
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