Season on Flourishing – Friendship

This is week eighteen of the Season on Flourishing.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle enumerates three kinds of friendship. First, he tells us of the friendships of use. These are the relationships we have with people from whom we need something. We engage in them because we have to. Our relationships with co-workers or landlords are friendships of use. They are nice. They are cordial. But they depend for their existence on mutual advantage in a straightforward and immediate way.

Second, Aristotle tells us that there are friendships of pleasure. These are the relationships we have with people we enjoy spending time with. We engage in them because they make us happy. These are what most friendships are. These too depend for their existence on mutual advantage, though in a more subtle and longer-term way.

The third type of friendship Aristotle covers is friendships of goodness. These are the friendships we have with people we think of as good people (or at least people who endeavor to be good). Canonically, we engage in them for their own sake. That is to say, we recognize and love the good and so are naturally drawn to these kinds of friendships. As a corollary to this idea, I want to point out that friendships of goodness make us better. These are the relationships in which all parties are striving for the good and mutually supporting each other in that great endeavor. Whereas friendships of pleasure produce a comfortable stasis, friendships of goodness produce progress.

These three types obviously form a hierarchy, but to say that friendships of goodness are best is not to say that the others are bad. They are smaller goods. More importantly, they are a step on the way to higher forms. Rejoice in them. But think also about how you might move a relationship to a higher form.

Want to learn more about Aristotle’s view of friendship? Read books VIII and IX of the Nicomachean Ethics.

Care for your friendships, whatever their level. Take some time out to do something nice for a friend. Remember to support your good friends in their efforts to be good. Remember to hang out with your pleasant friends. Even just make a point of saying hello to a co-worker. Those relationships are important too and they need looking after.

Remind yourself of all of the good times with your friends by reviewing old pictures and making a scrapbook/album. Even if it’s just ten minutes of looking at Facebook, take this opportunity to remember your friends and reflect on your relationships with them. If you have more time, make an album of your favorite pictures and share it with your friends, or get hard copies and make a scrapbook/collage to give to your friend(s) as a gift.

Check out the official Friendship Day website for more ideas.

Make an effort to progress a relationship. You could ask a co-worker out for drinks, or have a long talk with a drinking buddy about your values. Don’t be discouraged if it does not work. Strong friendships are not built overnight. Try again. Or try with a different person.

Make new friends! It is not nearly as hard as you think it is.

Have other ideas for how to celebrate Friendship Week? Let us know!


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