FRIENDSHIP IN ARISTOTLE VIS-À-VIS MODERN DAY CONCEPTION OF FRIENDSHIP
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Quite a number of things are fanciful to human being; wealth, prestige, power, good health and host of others. However, all these things make more meaning only when shared with others. Therefore, friends are “sine qua non” to human existence. It is on this ground that Aristotle would say, “for man is a social being, and designed by nature to live with others”.1 Every human being needs the other to live a fulfilled life. No man is an Island. No man can boast of living well in a place alone, he needs the other person. As regards friendship, there are different conceptions as there are scholars who philosophize on that. Each expresses his or her own notion of friendship. Though there are different notions among scholars about friendship, most of the differences perhaps are as a result of cultural differences and background. It is an obvious fact that not all types of friendship seek to the development of both the individual and the entire society. This, I believe is the major fact why friendship as a term has been misconstrued and misconceived. Sequel to this, some regard friendship as a thing to be avoided because of the negative connotations that often go with it.
1.1 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
Over the years, people (including philosophers) have looked at the concept of friendship from various perspectives. Such people include Plato, Cicero, Epicureans, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Aristotle, etc., each of these philosophers has his view of friendship. However, the purpose of this work is to discuss how modern day people understand friendship using Aristotle’s conception of friendship as a paradigm. This work will investigate why people make friends. In the same vein, it has as its purpose to find out whether friendship is intrinsically good or bad.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM.
In spite of the fact that friendship is a “sine qua non” to human existence, it has over the years passed through different hardships. Even the early Greeks and Romans were victims of this. Thus Aristotle laments over the failure of friendship with, “O my friend, there is no friend”.2 Empedocles on his side, contrasts friendship with strife. This motivated Aristotle to exalt friendship in his ‘Nicomacheaan Ethics’. The Stoics and Cynics place friendship upon the most complete “abundance” and generosity of spirit. For the Christian writers, friendship is synonymous with love. This love must be grounded in God and thus spurs one to channel the same love to another person.
On the other hand, the decline of friendship to its lowest level came in the modern day. Among the modern people, there is too much exultation of romantic love as friendship. Others see friendship as a business where one sees profit making as the primary aim. With this in mind, friendship, like a rolling stone that carries a lot of dust, carries to itself many negative connotations. This makes people to regard friendship as something to be avoided. They see it as something that is intrinsically bad.
1.3 METHOD OF RESEARCH.
The method applied in this research is mainly expository. It is expository because it shows in great detail what friendship was in the olden days. Also it exposes what is obtainable now as friendship with its benefits, problems and possible solutions.
1.4 SCOPE OF THE WORK.
Since time immemorial, one of the problems of human beings is how to relate well with people around him. There is an innate derive in human beings that pulls them together. Each of them has his or her unique way of behaviour. But the problem remains, how can people of different behaviour, culture, belief, etc., relate? It is to tackle this problem that motivated several scholars and leaders of thought to have various speculations on friendship. Among these scholars is a Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Aristotle’s conception of friendship seems to be more famous than that of other philosophers. Therefore, the limitation of this work will be on how the modern people conceive friendship, bearing Aristotle’s conception in mind. This is whether or not the modern day conception of friendship is in line with that of Aristotle.
1.5 DIVISION OF WORK
This work is divided into five chapters for easy grasping. Chapter one is the general introduction, purpose of study, statement of problem, method of research, scope of the work and division of work. In chapter two, the researcher gives an overview of some philosophers’ view on friendship. Chapter three is the heart of the work. It treats both the Aristotelian conception and modern day conception of friendship. Chapter four handles the importance of friendship, the problems of friendship and possible solution to the problems of friendship. Finally, chapter five sums up the research by evaluating and summarizing the whole work.
1 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Translated with introduction and notes by Martin Ostwald, (The bobs – Merrill Company Inc., 1962). IX, ix, 1169a, 3.
2 R. White, “Friendship: Ancient and modern”(, International philosophical quarterly, vol. Xxxix,) no. 1.