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in. The 3 kinds of friends you will meet. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist born in the Macedonian city of Stagira in B.
Why do we have friends? Are they for our enjoyment? Do they help us fulfill our personal desires? Why do we choose to become involved in relationships that bring us obligations, deep disagreements, and the potential for profound heartache? Why are we so frequently dissatisfied with the friends that we have?
Would people choose not to live if they had to live without friendship? Is it really that important to human life? A friend, therefore, is one who engages us in the activity of love. However, its important to note the limitations of this kind of love. Friendship, then, is a kind of love that is unique to non-familial and non-sexual relationships which are conditional.
So, why would it be so essential?
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In his Nichomachean Ethics Book 8, he contends that there are three kinds of friends we have: friends of utility, friends of pleasure, and friends in nobility or excellence. As with any hierarchy, as one ascends, the members of that category shrink.
He contends that the best form of friendship is exceedingly rare, where most people will only have a very small circle of truly best friends at any point in their life. The otherhowever, will constantly be in flux as our lives continue to be in flux. The bottom group of friends, the ones of utility, are those who we engage through commerce, in classes with one another, in the general public, etc.
These are the interactions of the social network phenomenon that is defining the 21st century. This rung of friendship is only as useful as the connection is for a particular good or outcome. Most human interactions take place on this level.
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Those mutually developed experiences develop memories and become the bedrock for most of the friendships in our lives. This kind of friendship is predicated on mutual affection for virtue. Virtue, here, means excellence of character — in greatness of soul and greatness of action. Here, your friend criticizes you for not living up to the best version of yourself, challenges you to try and be a more excellent human being, and is joyous for your accomplishments over adversity and in being virtuous. This friend is one who loves you, not as a familial brother, but as a brother in virtue, a brother in excellence, a brother in aspiring to do great things in this world — not because you both love doing great things or doing good onto others, but through your affection for one another, you accomplish great things.
Where we go awry today is in confusing what friends fall into which category — far too often we see a friend as being in the highest category when they actually belong in the second one or, with the advent of the social network, the bottom one. Or we have collapsed the highest kind of friendship into our erotic relationships, with our spouse or ificant other, and divest ourselves from creating that higher kind of friendship bereft of sexual activity. By doing these things, we cause ourselves emotional turmoil by confusing how emotionally connected we should be toward any given friend, how much of ourselves to invest in them, and are often profoundly heartbroken when a friendship dramatically ends or lament the dissolution of a once passionate friendship through, what Lincoln called, the silent Enjoyment of a friend of time.
When we confuse our social network as being the same as our friendship network, when we collapse our friends of pleasure with our friends in excellence, we are left bereft. What Aristotle is pointing to in the initial quotation is multi-faceted and really speaks to the great sadness that exists amongst so many people in the modern age. By unplugging from our immediate world, and plugging into a completely artificial one, we are replacing valuable human aptitudes with artificial ones, stunting our ability to create even the most utilitarian connections.
The digital world has allowed us to create instant interest groups across the width and breadth of the Internet — there are as many interest groups as their are interests. In a sense, Enjoyment of a friend has given human beings a greater sense of inclusion than ever in human history.
No longer does anyone have to endure the burden of feeling that they are alone in the world because of what they love to do. But what the digital world cannot do is generate mutual experiences in the same way that physically engaging in the activity does. While you may be able to engage in an activity together through a digital platform, that experience is still one that is a collection of individuals accessing the shared experience through their particular screen.
There is never a sense of being a group beyond the experience via the digital interface. Everyone is together being alone. These are the friends that we often bond with, quite fiercely, through our mutual experience of a particular interest. We now engage in digital protests and digital movements instead of in physical marches and physical demonstrations.
We are substituting a new medium between ourselves, our friends, and our mutual interest.
Sometimes, it may aide in forging closer relationships, but more frequently, it will damper the bonds of affection between those who experience things together, dramatically enhancing the individuals affection for the object of interest but rendering them incapable of using that affection to connect with others who do not share their same level of affection.
He is deeply passionate but struggles with the ability to use that passion to forge meaningful relationships. People have always had passions, some quite deep, about those things that bring them a sense of awe, wonder, and a connection beyond themselves.
What we are losing is the way to use those passions to forge meaningful relationships with one another. Even more problematically, however, is when we confuse the relationships we have made with others who share our interests as being equal to friendships in virtue.
They are not. Friends of pleasure only endure as long as the pleasure endures. Mutual experiences, if not perpetuated constantly by making new mutual experiences, are not enough to preserve a friendship and certainly not enough to elevate it to being a friendship of virtue. This kind of friendship is deeply intimate and profoundly intimidating, especially in an age where we share a great deal of our information with one another with the hopes that we never have to share our true selves. All human beings are mired in doubt, Enjoyment of a friend uncertainty, in fear, and wish nothing more than to ignore this facet of themselves.
They make us see who we are, flaws and all, and yet still recognize that we have some good yet worth fighting for. They challenge us to take that next step forward, not when we are no longer afraid, but when we are the most afraid. They love us for who we are, for what we can become, and for the weaknesses we may perpetually have. They do not become part of your family —they are not your romantic partner — they may not even be the person with whom share the most interests. But they are the person who you know you can make you into a better version of yourself through your mutual love of excellence.
We confuse ourselves today into the notion that our romantic spouse is supposed to fulfill that role, to aide us in raising children, in running the home, in carrying for the extended family, in carrying the burden of the banal facets of life. You will forge a more intense bond with your romantic spouse than with any other human being. But they will not be the same as the friend in virtue. Your romantic spouse will have in common with you experiences your friend in virtue never will. We have confused the idea that trust and love must only be centered around the nuclear family, and cut ourselves Enjoyment of a friend from the understanding that human beings are capable of and perhaps need so much more love than this.
Our lives are defined by who we love and who loves us — our families, our romantic partners, and our friends. Aristotle seemingly is correct when he contends that without our friends, even if we had the others, we would not choose that life.
As we continue to digitize and weave desperate ties together into an artificial intimacy, we must be wary of further collapsing the kinds of relationships we have with one another. Our world today preaches that happiness is acquired through possessions and the pursuit of more possessions. When we define happiness in this way, and we continue to collapse the distinctions between different kinds of friendship, the never ending dissatisfaction with what one has becomes the way one understands the world. If that is reinforced with a growing sense of isolation and alienation from the rest of humanity, is it any surprise that we live in an age of such discontent, of such anxiousness, and of such violence?
As we pull further and further away from one another and into our artificial age defined by radical individualism and consumerism, and we lose the ability to love one another in friendship, we lose the capacity to love one another in family life, in romantic relationships, and, most hearbreakingly, ourselves.
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Political Philosophy PhD candidate. Writes about politics, culture, education, and the private life. in. On Friendship. Stephen Clouse Follow. Student Voices voice is inherent. Student Voices Follow. Written by Stephen Clouse Follow.