Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 8, Chapter 3 (1156a6-1156b32)

By Aristotle

Book 8, Chapter 3 (1156a6-1156b32)

  • Aristotle says there are three types of friendship: 1) those who love because they are useful to each other; 2) friends who love each other because of pleasure; 3) complete friendships.
  • The first two are really not lasting friendships. These types of friends only hang around if their friend's useful or pleasant to them.
  • Once it isn't, they drop that friendship like a hot potato.
  • It's possible for the old, young and middle-aged to deal in these friendships of utility, since everybody seeks advantage.
  • Such friends don't often spend time together as companions. Mostly, you only hear from them when they need something. They may not even particularly like each other.
  • Young people base friendships on pleasure or in hopes of hooking up—at least generally.
  • Their friends come and go quickly because their desires change quickly as well.
  • On the plus side, young people do like to hang out with each other all day, which Aristotle believes is crucial to true friendships.
  • Complete or true friendships can only happen between like people who are good.
  • They have to be good, because people can only wish for good things for their friends if they themselves are good.
  • Good (i.e. virtuous) people are both stable and pleasant, which makes them excellent friend material.
  • Aristotle emphasizes how compatible friends are in a complete friendship. They each wish the best for each other and find the good (in the general and particular sense) in each other.
  • This kind of relationship has it all, but it's rare. Why? First, good people are rare.
  • But also, true friends have to be able to "live together"—spend quality time with each other. They can't live a continent away (remember that Aristotle couldn't Skype).
  • True friends have to live together to become truly lovable to each other and to gain trust and similar habits.