Nicomachean Ethics

by

Aristotle

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Aristotle defines friendship as “reciprocated goodwill.” While it involves affection for another person, the best kind of friendship is especially characterized by the desire for the other person’s good, for that person’s own sake, and not for any benefit or pleasure one might derive from their friendship. Such friendship occurs between those who are of similar virtue. Aristotle discusses friendship at length in Nicomachean Ethics because he sees it as critical for the cultivation of virtue and thus important for happiness and the wellbeing of society.

Friendship Quotes in Nicomachean Ethics

The Nicomachean Ethics quotes below are all either spoken by Friendship or refer to Friendship. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hackett edition of Nicomachean Ethics published in 1999.
Book 8 Quotes

Moreover, friendship would seem to hold cities together, and legislators would seem to be more concerned about it than about justice. For concord would seem to be similar to friendship, and they aim at concord among all, while they try above all to expel civil conflict, which is enmity. Further, if people are friends, they have no need of justice, but if they are just they need friendship in addition; and the justice that is most just seems to belong to friendship.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Related Symbols: The City
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

But complete friendship is the friendship of good people similar in virtue; for they wish goods in the same way to each other insofar as they are good, and they are good in their own right. Now those who wish goods to their friend for the friend’s own sake are friends most of all; for they have this attitude because of the friend himself, not coincidentally. Hence these people’s friendship lasts as long as they are good; and virtue is enduring.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 9 Quotes

[…] [I]t is good not to seek as many friends as possible, and good to have no more than enough for living together; indeed it even seems impossible to be an extremely close friend to many people. […] This would seem to be borne out in what people actually do. For the friendship of companions is not found in groups of many people, and the friendships celebrated in song are always between two people. By contrast, those who have many friends and treat everyone as close them seem to be friends to no one […] Certainly it is possible to have a fellow citizen’s friendship for many people, and still to be a truly decent person, not ingratiating; but it is impossible to be many people’s friend for their virtue and for themselves. We have reason to be satisfied if we can find even a few such friends.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] [W]hat friends find most choiceworthy is living together. For friendship is community, and we are related to our friend as we are related to ourselves. […] Whatever someone [regards as] his being, or the end for which he chooses to be alive, that is the activity he wishes to pursue in his friend’s company. Hence some friends drink together, others play dice, while others do gymnastics and go hunting, or do philosophy. They spend their days together on whichever pursuit in life they like most; for since they want to live with their friends, they share the actions in which they find their common life.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
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Friendship Term Timeline in Nicomachean Ethics

The timeline below shows where the term Friendship appears in Nicomachean Ethics. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 8
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Book 8, Chapter 1. Aristotle turns to a discussion of friendship, which is itself a virtue, or at least involves virtue. It’s also a necessity for... (full context)
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Friendship holds cities together, and legislators seem to be even more concerned about friendship than about... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 2. Aristotle defines friendship as “reciprocated goodwill,” of which there are three types. The first is friendship for utility... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 3. The second type of friendship that Aristotle describes is friendship for pleasure. This type is especially common among young people,... (full context)
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The third type of friendship that Aristotle outlines is “complete” friendship, which occurs between people who are similar in virtue.... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 4. Aristotle acknowledges that “incomplete” friendships bear some resemblance to “complete” friendships. For  example, mutual pleasure and usefulness are still present... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 5-6. Aristotle also clarifies that while loving is a feeling, friendship is a state. Friendship requires decision, which comes from a state; and a virtuous person... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 7. Aristotle says that a different type of friendship is that which “rests on superiority”—like, for instance, the relationship between a father and son,... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 8. Friendship, then, is more about loving than being loved, and “loving is the virtue of friends.”... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapter 9. To Aristotle, Friendship and justice are about the same things and are found in the same people. Because... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapters 11-12. Friendship appears in the three political systems as long as these systems are just. A king’s... (full context)
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Book 8, Chapters 13-14. Aristotle notes that disputes are most common in friendships for utility, because people are inclined to want more and to think they’re getting less... (full context)
Book 9
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Book 9, Chapter 1. In friendships with dissimilar aims, Aristotle says, there has to be an equalizer of some sort; for... (full context)
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Book 9, Chapter 3. Aristotle points out that there is also the question of dissolving friendships when a friend proves to have changed. Friends are at odds when they are not... (full context)
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Book 9, Chapter 4. Aristotle adds that the best qualities of friendship are also found in the decent person’s relationship with himself. After all, he desires good... (full context)
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Book 9, Chapter 5. Goodwill isn’t the same thing as friendship, Aristotle claims, because it arises even toward people we don’t know. It is more superficial... (full context)
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Book 9, Chapter 6-7. Concord is another feature of friendship. Concord applies more specifically to political friendship—like among citizens of a city—because it’s concerned with... (full context)
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...with his friend, whether that’s drinking, hunting, or philosophy. This shows, once again, why the friendship of base people only increases their vice, and why the connection of virtuous people only... (full context)