Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 8, Chapter 14 (1163a24-1163b32)

By Aristotle

Book 8, Chapter 14 (1163a24-1163b32)

  • Friendships of superiority also have drama. The superior person will always think he deserves the greater share of everything.
  • The inferior one will complain that he never gets anything, since his superior friend is a hog.
  • And there goes the friendship.
  • But if the superior person gives everything to a frankly useless friend, it's less like a relationship and more like a charity.
  • Aristotle circles back to the regimes here. Those who are useless in relation to the community ought to receive little honor.
  • This citizen who gives so much of his good to the community that he feels it in his bank account should be honored. Not so much for the stingy or corrupt, who contribute nothing.
  • It comes down to this: we all have to give back to relationships, personal or political, what we can.
  • If it's honor, money, or virtue, so be it. Only then can we be stable and equal.
  • Aristotle says that giving in friendship has more to do with what's "possible" rather than with merit.
  • We could not, for instance, ever give back to our parents what they deserve for creating us. And yet we've got to do something to show that we acknowledge their effort.
  • In terms of the parental balance sheet, Aristotle says that a father can renounce his son because he's the one who is owed. A son can't cut dad off, because he's in the red, so to speak.