Chris Ptak A Virtuous Friendship Aristotle’s definition of a virtuous friendship can be easily contradicted. It is easy to say that a virtuous friendship is to will the good of another for their own sake, but can we as human beings be capable of doing a completely unselfish act? Can we truthfully say that we are friends with one another, not for our own sake but for the sake of our friends? To answer this question let us begin to discuss the different types of friendships according to Aristotle.
Let us begin with the friendship of utility. According to Aristotle in book (VI”, i), a friendship of utility is based on people who are useful to each other because they benefit each other in what they offer and how they offer it. A good example ofa friendship of utility might be the relationship between a car salesman and a car buyer. The car salesman needs the buyer because he has to make a living and the buyer needs the salesman because he needs a car. Both have something the other wants.
These friendships do not last very long as once he buyer is no longer useful to the salesman, or visa versa, the connection is severed and the friendship ceases to be. The second type of friendship is the friend ship of pleasure. According to Aristotle in book (VI”, it), Friendships of pleasure are based on the amount of pleasure the people get from being in the relationship. People who go to football matches together, or who go to the pub together might be in this type of relationship. They are friends for their own sake, because the friendship brings them pleasure and enjoyment, not for their friend’s sake.
And thirdly in book (VIII, iii), Aristotle speaks of a friendship based on virtue Friendships of virtue, unlike friendships of utility and pleasure, these types of friendships can only occur between two people of the same virtues and both persons have to be virtuous. One can only become virtuous through wisdom and age. It is a relationship of mutual respect and love. The persons in this type of relationship are not in it because they gain something from the relationship, they are not friends because they find each other seful or bring each other pleasure, but because they see virtues in each other that they see in themselves.
They wish well for their friends for their friend’s sake. It is not surprising that such relationships are rare according to Aristotle. It can be argued that Aristotle is wrong when he distinguishes between friendships of utility or pleasure and friendships of virtue. Are we as human beings capable of doing a completely unselfish act? Can we truthfully say that we are friends with someone not for our own sake but for the sake of the friends? Personally I disagree with Aristotle on this.
Take an example of two people, how about Matthew and Lavinia. Matthew gives Lavinia gift, let’s say a ring. Is he giving Lavinia this gift because he knows Lavinia will like it, or because Lavinia will think better of Matthew? Or because Matthew hopes that Lavinia will get him a nice gift sometime? There can be any number of reasons why Matthew would give Lavinia a ring but in my opinion the most practical reasons would be ones where Matthew expects to get some form of ompensation, even if that is only Lavinia liking Matthew as a person more.