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Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics VII-VIII. Philosophy of Love and Sex. Exhaustiveness?. Do all kinds of friendship fall into this? What about a friendship between three Nazis, dedicated to the purity of the Aryan race? What kind of friendship is it?. Imperfect cases?.

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Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics VII-VIII

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Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics VII-VIII

Philosophy of Love and Sex


  • Do all kinds of friendship fall into this?

  • What about a friendship between three Nazis, dedicated to the purity of the Aryan race? What kind of friendship is it?

Imperfect cases?

  • We are not virtuous. Can we have character friendship?

  • Without virtue, can we recognize virtue?

  • Maybe it does take virtue to recognize virtue, but it doesn’t take the same virtue.

  • A lazy person can recognize the value of Thomas Edison’s hard work—but only because she has some virtues (practical wisdom — “prudence”?)


  • Friendship involves equality

  • Justice requires proportionality to merit

  • If too much inequality, friendship is impossible (humans and gods?)

  • There can be unequal friendships:

    • Parents and children

    • Spouses (unequal but complementary according to Aristotle)

  • These don’t seem to be friendships of utility and pleasure, so they are friendships of character.

  • So there seems to be hope for us imperfect people


  • Vicious people don’t agree with themselves—conflicting desires

  • Good person satisfies all the conditions for friendship:

    • she lives with herself

    • she appreciates her own virtue

    • she is in agreement with herself

    • she acts in ways that benefit her (by acting virtuously)

What can someone who has everything else get out of friendship? (IX.9)

  • The person who has it all may not need friendships of pleasure and utility—but needs friendship of character

  • Happiness is an activity—need opportunities to exercise virtues like generosity

    • Why is this better with friends?

  • It’s our nature to live in community, to “live together”

  • Happiness includes enjoyment and study of virtuous actions that belong to one—but it’s easier to see them in someone else, and a friend is “another self”

  • Cooperation: doing things through another self

  • Furthering our own virtue

  • Happiness includes appreciation of good things, including living—living in an orderly, well-defined way. Perceiving the life of a friend—the good life of a friend—is pleasant.

Differences from Plato

  • Ultimate object of friendship: persons, not Forms

  • Interpersonal friendship is not a means to anything further—it is a constitutive part of happiness

Miscellaneous questions

  • How many friends should we have?

  • Only so many as we can “live with” (share lives with).

  • When should we spend time with our friends?

  • Mainly when we can do good for them. But…

  • …we should not be kill-joys and deprive them of opportunities to help us.

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