Nicomachean Ethics - Book IX Summary & Analysis

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Book IX Summary and Analysis

Aristotle continues his description of friendship, spelling out several attributes of friendship and examining the proper actions in relation to friendship. He first describes friendships where each person has a different type of friendship with the other. If, for instance, a person has a friendship based on pleasure with a lover, but the lover is basing the friendship on usefulness. These friendships cannot last. They are based on each person expecting something and not receiving it.

There are also conflicts that arise between a person and his friends in his other relations. Aristotle asks if a person, when presented with the possibility to do a good turn to someone, should choose his friend over someone else who is perhaps more deserving. He adds another puzzle asking whether, if we have the money to repay a debt, it is better to pay back our debt or give the money to someone who needs the money even more. Aristotle concludes that while it is good to pay what is owed or to do a good turn for a friend, it is even better to do good to one who is more deserving or in need.

Aristotle notes that people often change over the course of their lives, and that friendships may dissolve based on these changes. He asks if this is proper. Two people may be equal friends at one stage in their life, but one may become "vicious" or the other may begin to exceed his friend in virtue. Aristotle concludes that if a friend becomes so base that he cannot be saved, it is proper to dissolve the friendship. Likewise, if one friend becomes far more virtuous than the other, it is proper to dissolve the friendship. In this case, however, it is good to remember the friend and the friendship.

The next feature of friendship Aristotle addresses is self-love. He asks if there is such a thing as friendship with oneself, but puts the question aside. People who are good friends tend to be comfortable with themselves, he remarks, and do not mind being alone because they have a clear conscience. Base people are uncomfortable with themselves, however. They seek the company of others to distract themselves from their own regret for their actions. They cannot be good friends. Therefore, Aristotle reasons, people must have a level of "friendly attitude" toward themselves to be good friends.

Aristotle returns to the notion of goodwill. It is part of friendship, he states, but it is different in that it exists only in one direction, is not as strong a feeling as friendship, and can be shown toward strangers. Nevertheless, goodwill is a sign of a person who has virtue and is decent.

Concord is a feature of friendship as well, Aristotle writes, but only the proper sort. It is not enough that everyone wishes the same thing, for their wishes might be selfish and thus contradict one another. Rather, concord results from good people wishing together for what is best for all. It is a political feature for this reason.

Aristotle addresses the relations between a benefactor and beneficiary. Benefactors seem to love the recipients of their giving more than the recipients love their benefactors, he notes. This is probably human nature, he concludes. The benefactor receives something for his gift in the form of honor, where the recipient gains only the gift, which is not as fine. The relation is like the one between a craftsman and his product, Aristotle remarks.

Returning to the idea of self-love, Aristotle takes up the question of whether one should love oneself more than others. He notes that people who seem always to put themselves before others are commonly criticized, while those who seem to put others first are praised. He then distinguishes these observations by agreeing that base people do overreach in putting themselves before others, but also points out that some who seem to put others first are actually seeking some advantage or themselves and are simply being ingratiating. Furthermore, those that seem to put others first but are not being ingratiating actually receive high honor for their actions, which is something that good people love. Thus, he concludes, putting others first is actually a form of self-love that is good.

Aristotle next asks if good people need friends at all. For several reasons, he argues that it is. For one thing, it is better to be good to one's friends than to strangers, so a good person needs friends to be good to. Good friends are something worthy in and of themselves, he adds, and since a truly good person will choose to pursue what is good, he will pursue friendship. It is not good to have too many friends, however, Aristotle adds. Emphasizing the link between friendship and family and community, Aristotle concludes that one should have no more friends than one can live with comfortably.

Aristotle concludes his lengthy section on friendship adding that it is good to have friends in both fortunate and misfortunate conditions and not that they are better to have in one condition or the other. He does add, however, that it is especially good for a friend to help another friend in misfortune without first being asked for help. Finally, Aristotle notes that friends often enjoy participating in the same activities together. This mutual activity has the effect of strengthening friendships.

This section contains 907 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Nicomachean Ethics from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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