Aristotelian’s Normative Concept of Friendship Essay

Aristotelian’s Normative Concept of Friendship Essay

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In Books VIII and IX of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the normative concept of friendship is precisely defined and separated into various categories of which Socrates’ and Alcibiades’ relationship can be ascribed to. To achieve this endeavor, one will need to understand Aristotle’s notion of perfect friendship based on reciprocal goodwill and virtue, and imperfect friendship based on utility and pleasure. By applying these evaluative aspects according to Socrates’ and Alcibiades’ characteristics and disposition in pursuing a friendship, the categories of their friendships are well elucidated. The friendship that Alcibiades seeks to obtain is that of erotic pleasure, while Socrates shows qualities that reflect a perfect kind, allowing this relationship to be asymmetrical.
In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates, an important figure in Greek philosophy, is depicted as one who possesses great virtue and the embodiment of one who has attained the idea of beauty by successfully climbing the ladder of love described by Diotima. Although possessing an ugly appearance, Socrates is divinely attractive inside because, by logic, wisdom is beauty. In the introduction, the author explains, “Socrates, [Alcibiades] says, is like the statues of Silenus – far from beautiful on the outside but full of lovely little figures of the gods inside” (Plato, xxiv). On the other hand, Alcibiades, an attractive and young politician, is portrayed through his ostentatious entrance to the feast as someone who is egotistic and lacking self-control and decorum. Alcibiades and Socrates’ relationship is revealed as the former conducts an encomium describing latter’s superiority over him. Based on the information in the speech and the introduction section of the book, one...


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...more superior to one that is constructed upon pleasure or utility. It is also highly reasonable that the three qualities - goodness, pleasure, and, utility – can be overlapped. In most imperfect relationships, there lies a good share of ‘good’ and action based on goodwill towards each other, because according to Aristotle, friendship solely for pleasure or utility can only be formed by wicked men (Aristotle 1159a).
As Aristotle says, friendship is a virtue that men cannot choose to live without, whether it is Alcibiades, Socrates or any other human beings. And there are various types and category of friendship that can be used to define such social phenomenon in different society and periods of history. Due to the fact the two books were not written long apart, we were able to apply the Aristotelian’s normative concept of friendship on Socrates and Alcibiades.

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