Aristotle’s Three Types of Friendship
Posted by Orrin Woodward on May 18, 2011
Here is another snippet from the Friendship chapter of a book that I am currently working on. Enjoy. God Bless, Orrin Woodward
True friends begin as companions, but soon go further, developing a love and respect for one another. Author Fred Smith shares a poignant description of love, “Love is willing the ultimate good for the other person.” Only deep friendship will build loving bonds of this magnitude. C.S. Lewis shares the process of discovery from companions into friends, “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one’. . . In this kind of love, as Emerson said, Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’ The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance, can be our Friend. he need not agree with us about the answer.” There is an indescribable joy in the discovery of, and being discovered by, another human being, providing a brief respite from the loneliness of life. Emerson pinpointed the thought, writing, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” Aristotle distinguishes between genuine friendship and two other counterfeit types – one founded upon utility, the other upon pleasure. Friendship based solely upon utility, like the mailman, survive only as long as both parties receive benefit, while a friendship based only upon pleasure, like golfing buddies, end when one party no longer finds the activity pleasurable.
Genuine friendship, on the other hand, is based upon something more enduring, according to Aristotle, “It is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality.” Genuine friendship then, will last as long as both parties remain committed to virtue, since virtue desires good for his friends as much as for himself. But virtue does’t signify lack of fun. The best of friends laugh often and heartily. Just as one can tell a man’s character by his ability to laugh at himself, so in a friendship, one can tell the quality of friends by their ability to laugh at each other. Not a derisive or condescending laughter, but simply one that acknowledges the imperfections inherent in the human condition. Any person or friendship that cannot laugh at itself isn’t real. True friends enjoy one another’s company. When a person finds someone, who can help him become better while enjoying fellowship, he is on his way to developing a true friend. Each person should be this type of friend and seek a friend of this caliber, in order to fully enjoy life’s experiences during his pilgrimage on earth.