Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Chapter 1 (1163a34-1164b21)

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Book 9, Chapter 1 (1163a34-1164b21)

  • Aristotle describes "heterogeneous" friendships—relationships in which the parties are after different things.
  • In commercial friendships, money's the great equalizer. It's so that a shoemaker can buy a house even if the builder doesn't need a thousand pairs of shoes.
  • In erotic relationships, people get disappointed and feel played all the time. Promises are broken, expectations aren't met.
  • This happens when each person loves the other at cross-purposes (i.e. one for pleasure, the other for usefulness) and neither can deliver.
  • When we love a person not for who they are (their virtues) but for something that can change, we are in for a whole lot of heartache.
  • And when we wish for what we don't have, there's dissatisfaction. In order to right this and to get what we want, we're often willing to "pay" in some way.
  • But who gets to determine the value of what's being offered or received in a relationship? The giver or the receiver?
  • Aristotle says that common wisdom sides with the receiver. It's up to him to judge the worth of the gift.
  • But sometimes the one receiving the "gift" can be seriously flawed in judgment—which causes more problems.
  • In a proper friendship, a giver who takes into account his friend's needs will do it right. And the person who receives a good does well when he considers the thought put into the gift.
  • In that way, there's equity in giving.
  • In more business-like relationships, both parties should agree on the worth of things to be exchanged.
  • If this can't happen, the receiver should determine the worth, since it's the benefit that should be repaid.
  • Two further difficulties: givers often value what they offer more than it's actually worth; receivers might value a gift less once they have it.

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