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3) , where both people admire the other’s goodness and help one another strive for goodness.Friendships of the good are ones where both friends enjoy each other’s characters.
This seems to me a fascinating thesis, calling for a level of careful introspection seen very rarely, as in Augustine’s Confessions, for instance, which has so many rich commonalities with Aristotle’s thought in this regard.
One way this thesis would seem to work is negatively, allowing us to do retrospective work based on failed relationships: what do my failures and weaknesses as a friend tell me about the failures and weaknesses of my friendship with myself?
This week I had the opportunity to spend 12 hours discussing the topic of friendship with my students, guided by Aristotle’s work on the subject.
While we found much that he says to be rich and helpful, one particular insight led to hours of fruitful discussion.
While Jesus may mean this, he might also mean to push us towards loving ourselves better, for we once again find our love or friendship for ourselves to be the root of our outward relationships—of how we love our neighbors.
The root, of both friendship and a full Christian life, seems to be loving ourselves well.
The claim is as follows: “The defining features of friendship that are found in friendships to one’s neighbours would seem to be derived from features of friendship towards oneself.” (Ethics, 1166a) Before discussing this passage, I had asked for stories about my students’ best friends, and amid a banquet of reminiscences and qualities shared about past and present friends, no one ventured to speak about themselves.
However, this is precisely what I take Aristotle’s insight to be: that to be a good friend to others requires first and foremost that we be our own best friends.
For someone who has experienced significant pain in friendships and relationships this would seem to offer an important avenue for self-understanding and growth in self-friendship and self-love.
On the other hand, this thesis opens a variety of more purely constructive opportunities.