Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Chapter 9 (1169b3-1170b19)

By Aristotle

Book 9, Chapter 9 (1169b3-1170b19)

  • Does a happy person need friends? Or are they totally self-sufficient?
  • Aristotle thinks it's weird to suppose that a person could be happy without the companionship of friends.
  • First of all, how would the good person have anyone to do good deeds for, if he had no friends? (Recall: happy person = good person).
  • And why would you want to have so many good things without having someone to share them with?
  • Human beings are political: they live in community. A happy human couldn't be solitary.
  • And hey, things are always better with friends. So yes, happy dudes still need friends.
  • Sure, a happy person doesn't need anyone to be useful to him—but then again, useful "friendships" aren't really friendships at all.
  • He also doesn't need friends to amuse him (his life is already totally awesome).
  • But he does need friends who are good around him so he can contemplate their good works and find pleasure in them.
  • There is also happiness in activity, and it is hard to be active without friends to motivate.
  • It's natural for a serious or virtuous person to seek out like-minded people to spend time with. And it's always good to go with nature.
  • Good, happy people also take pleasure simply in existing. Because hey, life is great (but it's also part of human nature to love being alive).
  • Aristotle gets all "We think, therefore we are" in order to say that we're capable of perceiving that existence is a good thing.
  • And since a friend is a second self, we learn to value their existence as much as our own.
  • To sum up: a friend is a choiceworthy thing simply because they exist. And existence is pleasant and good.
  • It is especially good when a friend acknowledges your existence and wants to spend time with you.