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Essay about Aristotle's Three Motivations For Friendship

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Aristotle identifies three motivations for friendship: usefulness, pleasure and good. He postulates that when people seek friendship, they look for someone who is worthy of their affection based on one of those three motives. Whether his argument is true is debatable. Many might object to this simplification of such a complex topic. However, his theory holds weight within the context of Book VIII.
Friendships based on two people’s usefulness to each other are considered by Aristotle to be the lowest form of friendship (Aristotle 220). Such friendships are based on each receiving something from the other, whether it is material, such as money, or intangible, such as knowledge. They seek out those who seem good for them (i.e. people who can help further their own goals) (Aristotle 217). Because the friendships are based only on what they each receive from the other, the relationship ends when they are no longer mutually beneficial to one another (Aristotle 219). This type of friendship is readily seen today. For example, two business people partner to create a company together. One provides technical skills needed, while the other offers a large based of networking contacts. They form a friendship, believing that each can help further the growth (a.k.a. profit) of the company. However, should one no longer contribute to the health of the company, the partnership will end. Some might argue that this type of relationship is not a friendship at all, since the affection they hold for each other is in actuality for what that person provides.
The second type of friendship is based on pleasure. Aristotle claims that the “friendship of young people seems to be based on pleasure” (Aristotle 219). These relationships are ephemeral. What i...


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... a relationship to study together. By Aristotle’s definition, they would be in a friendship based on usefulness. However, such people might better be described as acquaintances, unless they have a relationship that goes beyond studying for that class. The same is true for coworkers. Under Aristotle’s definition, the people you work with would be considered your friends, because you maintain a relationship based on your usefulness to one another. However, the relationship between coworkers rarely continues outside of work, and so cannot be considered friendship. Aristotle’s theory of three types of friendship is acceptable as a working definition of what friendship is, but the depth and complexity of emotion contained in friendship goes beyond his definition.



Works Cited

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Martin Ostwald. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1999.


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