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Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics on Friendship

Friendship is the main idea in Aristotle’s philosophy. He argued that there exist three types of friendships: friendships of pleasure based on a mutual enjoyment of a shared interest. It is formed among people who share leisure activities or hobbies, and their bond is based on the joy they get from spending time together. Friendship of utility is based on mutual benefit and involves people such as business partners, and their bond is based on what they can offer each other. A friendship of good is found in admiration, shared values, and mutual respect. This friendship is based on deeper connections and formed among people with shared morals and principles who support each other in search of virtuous behavior. Aristotle’s philosophy of friendship is relevant to friendship and marriage as it helps us better understand the nature of these partnerships (Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. e-artnow, 2019). Significantly, the issue of spouses wanting to be friends while also being partners has become a common issue in modern society. This paper explores the three types of friendship according to Aristotle and how they are relevant to friendship and marriage. In this analysis, I will present how a good marriage entails friendship of the good that is based upon respect, shared values, and admiration. Ultimately, I will show how the philosophy of friendship offers an essential structure for understanding the nature of this philosophy and how it can be brought up to encourage deeper connections and significant gratification.

Contemporary issues: Friendship and marriage

Aristotle’s philosophy on friendship and marriage outlines that perfect friendship is presented among two virtuous men in their prime. However, Aristotle grants that marriage entails a particular type of friendship uniting a man and a woman, who are inherently drawn to each other and experience a deep emotional relationship (Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. e-artnow, 2019). Aristotle would argue that a perfect marriage is a friendship of the good whereby partners commit to living a fulfilling and virtuous life together. Such a life involves shared values, mutual respect, and admiration.

In a good relationship, partners are also required to show the highest kind of philia, such as trust and loyalty and the preparedness to sacrifice for each other (Ward et al., pg 156). Although unconditional love (Agape) and romantic love (Eros) can exist in a good marriage, Aristotle asserts that they should not be the only reason to be in the relationship. Preferably, these should be consolidated into a bigger framework of admiration, reciprocal respect, and shared values. Alternatively, if any marriage is only based on pleasure or use, it is probable to be unsteady and susceptible to problems. Aristotle would most likely argue that such relationships do not have the strength necessary for a fulfilling connection and may eventually cause divorce, psychological issues for the children, and single parenting.

Aristotle’s Friendship of Use

In accordance with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (VIII.3), the first type of friendship is based on utility or mutual usefulness and is commonly known as a friendship of use. It is formed when one person benefits from the other person’s capacity such as influence, wealth, or power, while the other person exchanges these benefits for their own benefits. Aristotle argues that this type of friendship is by nature, selfishly motivated short-lived and self regarding as they depend on mutual satisfactory or continued usefulness of the other party (Kristjansson pg 351). If one no longer has what the other needs, the friendship would most likely dissolve. Besides, Aristotle argues that this type of friendship lacks genuine concern or affection for the welfare of the other. Instead, it focuses on what an individual gains from the connection. Although this type of friendship may deliver a practical motive, they fail to provide deeper emotional connections that are the features of true friendships.

Aristotle’s Friendship of Pleasure

In accordance with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (VIII.3), people relate for the sake of sensual pleasure and their friendship is based on the mutual enjoyment of each other’s company. It is formed when people who enjoy each other’s company share common hobbies and interests while enjoying spending time together. According to Aristotle, this type of friendship can either be based on virtuous on non-virtuous pleasure (Kim et al pg., 22). For instance, two people who love music or talking about politics may have a virtuous friendship of pleasure whereas; two individuals who enjoy partying and clubbing have a non-virtuous friendship of pleasure. In addition, Aristotle suggests that this type of friendship is often formed to facilitate one’s pleasure therefore, they are short-lived. This is because, if an individual loses interest and finds pleasure elsewhere, the friendship might be dissolved. Although Aristotle does not fully underestimate friendship of pleasure instead, he argues that this type of friendship can still be beneficial in offering temporary enjoyment and pleasure and can be used to deepen more significant relationships.

Aristotle’s Friendship of Goodness (Virtue)

As stated in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (VIII.3), a friendship grounded in virtue, is the highest form of friendship since it is based on mutual respect and admiration towards each other’s character and virtues. This friendship is based upon the mutual pursuit of moral success and the aspiration for each other’s happiness and welfare. According to Aristotle, these types of friendships are long-lasting because they are based on admiration and appreciation of each other’s moral character (Kim et al., pg 222). He also insinuates that such friendships are rare to find and achieve because they require higher levels of moral values and virtues. In addition, Aristotle implies that friendship of goodness is based on genuine concern about another person’s welfare and not on utility or pleasure. Here, both individuals intend to support each other morally and help each other to better themselves. Furthermore, he argues that this kind of friendship requires trust, mutual understanding and high levels of honesty. Both individuals are required to be vulnerable to the extent of sharing their deep feelings and thoughts with each other. This will help them deepen their connections and foster a mutual admiration and respect. He also argues that friendship of goodness is featured by joy and fulfillment because the individuals find happiness out of each other’s company. Here, both individuals try to find meaning and purpose out of their shared pursuit of virtue and share each other’s accomplishments.

Aristotle views on Friendship to One Contemporary Issue on Friendship (Social Media)

The impact of friendship on social media has gained much attention of late. Social media has transformed how we interact with each other and has become an essential part of our lives. However, there have been rising concerns about the impact of social media on friendships and if it is useful in developing genuine friendships. When we apply Aristotle’s views of friendship on this issue, it is clear that social media fosters primarily friendships of pleasure and utility (Turp et al., pg 270). Platforms on social media such as Instagram and Facebook allow users to interconnect with other friends based on their hobbies or interests. This kind of friendship is based on mutual enjoyment and benefit in place of shared pursuits of moral excellence and the aspiration for each other’s welfare. In addition, social media stirs up the development of online relationships instead of real-life connections. This is because people can hide their true-self behind screens and instead present a curated account of themselves. This eventually creates a false sense of intimacy that is not based on genuine appreciation of the other party’s virtues and characters. On the contrary, Aristotle argues that genuine and long-lasting friendships requires mutual pursuit of moral excellence and the yearning for each other’s welfare. This friendship is developed on deep appreciation and admiration of the other party’s character and virtue and is found on trust and honesty.

Personal Responsibility

This is the notion that people are accountable for their behavior and actions and decisions. It is an important aspect of an individual’s professional and personal development, and if one fails to take responsibility, it might lead to negative results. First, personal responsibility needs an individual to claim their actions and decisions despite of the circumstances (Frey et al., pg 650). For example in marriage or friendship, it means accepting mistakes and making changes. Secondly, when one fails to take responsibility for their actions, it can lead to failure in their lives. For example, if an individual neglects their responsibility in marriage, it may cause harm to their union and ultimately lead to divorce. Also, if an individual is not responsible in their profession, it can lead to unemployment. Lastly, personal beliefs and values play a critical role in how people perceive personal responsibility. Individuals who value integrity and honesty are likely to uphold personal responsibility in their decisions. On the contrary, people who prefer self-interest over others are less likely to be responsible for their actions.

For instance in marriage, a personal dilemma that might stem can be high divorce rates. Some individuals argue that personal responsibility entails facing these challenges in marriage and address them while some people prefer to prioritize their happiness over their relationship, which ultimately leads to divorce. Predictable results that might stem from an individual’s decision about marriage include financial strains, emotional pain, and troubles with co-parenting. Also, if an individual prioritizes their happiness over being committed to their marriage, they most likely miss out the long-lasting advantages of a fulfilling and healthy relationship. Some of the personal values and beliefs that might lead to an individual’s choice with respect to marriage are selflessness, commitment and the desire to have a long-lasting relationship (Frey et al., pg 648). In contrast, people who prioritize personal happiness over commitment in their relationships, may value self-interests more.

Bias against People with Disability in Education

In the U.S. people with disability often face bias and discrimination in education (Dammeyer et al., pg 3). According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended or drop out of school than the others. In addition, they are less likely to graduate and attend secondary education because of the lack of accommodation and the support given to students with disabilities and also the high levels of negative attitudes towards them. On the contrary, in Japan, there exists a cultural bias on collectivism leading to a greater focus on inclusion for students with disabilities in their education. The government of Japan has put up measures to ensure these students access the support needed. For instance, the Special Needs Education Act directs that students with disabilities access special education and the government offers funding for support and other resources (Amor et al., pg 1278). Another example of a cultural bias relating to education is the bias towards women in STEM fields, especially in the Middle Eastern countries. These women face societal barriers whenever they try to pursue careers in engineering, science or mathematics (Green et al., pg 82). This is due to the gender stereotypes that limit opportunities for women by prioritizing traditional gender roles. On the contrary, in Sweden, programs and policies to tackle gender equality in the STEM fields have been put in place (Green et al., pg 80). The government of Sweden aims to encourage women to pursue STEM careers by offering scholarships and mentoring women. In addition, every company in Sweden is required by the law to put in place gender equality plans and make reports about their progress in achieving equality.

In conclusion, the Aristotle’s three types of friendships; utility, pleasure and value offers a structure to understand the various motivations that propels human relationships such as marriage and friendships. Utility and pleasure friendships are based on personal satisfaction. However, Aristotle highly valued virtual friendship and regarded it as the highest form of all as it is grounded in respect in life. Nevertheless, societal norms and cultural prejudices influence the maintenance of friendships, especially among people with disabilities and the women in STEM fields. If we recognize and address such prejudice, we can work towards achieving an inclusive and equitable society. Eventually, Aristotle’s notions on friendship and the essence of building strong relationships contribute to our welfare and happiness overall.


Amor, Antonio M., et al. “International perspectives and trends in research on inclusive education: A systematic review.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 23.12 (2019): 1277-1295.

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. e-artnow, 2019

Dammeyer, Jesper, and Madeleine Chapman. “A national survey on violence and discrimination among people with disabilities.” BMC public health 18.1 (2018): 1-9.

Green, A., & Sanderson, D. (2018). The roots of STEM achievement: An analysis of persistence and attainment in STEM majors. The American Economist63(1), 79-93.

Kristjánsson, Kristján. “Aristotelian character friendship as a ‘method’of moral education.” Studies in Philosophy and Education 39 (2020): 349-364.

Turp, Michael-John. “Social media, interpersonal relations and the objective attitude.” Ethics and Information Technology 22.3 (2020): 269-279..

Ward, Julie K. “Aristotle on Philia: The Beginning of a Feminist Ideal of Friendship?.” Feminism and Ancient Philosophy. Routledge, 2019. 155-172.


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