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Aristotelian friendship: self-love and moral rivalry.

IN THE FIRST SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS of Nicomachean Ethics 9.8, Aristotle asks "whether a man should love himself most" (NE 1168a28),(1) and asserts that "men say that one ought to love best one's best friend" (1168b1). Yet earlier (1159a27) Aristotle describes loving as more essential to friendship than being loved; furthermore, he emphasizes that a man wishes well to his friend for his friend's sake, not as a means to his own happiness (1155b31). Note also Aristotle's continued emphasis upon man as a political animal. In the Politics as well as the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes the biological, even instinctive tendency of humans to seek each other's company. He considers it absurd for a man even to imagine living alone, since "without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods" (1155a5-6). It is only the human animal, however, who is even capable of that genuine friendship which, although rare (1156b25), Aristotle considers "not only necessary but also noble; for . . . we think it is the same people that are good men and are friends" (1155a28-31); these friends are "alike in their excellence" (1156b7), one loving another "as being the man he is" (1156a11).

We would argue that this implies that in loving a friend men thereby choose what is good for themselves: "for the good man in becoming a friend becomes a good to his friend" (1157b28-31), and, simultaneously, his friend a good to him. Aristotle states that it is the recognition of my friend's good character (known by his actions) that incites me, so to speak, to wish for him whatever is good. The same is true in the other direction. Aristotle adds: "it is mutually known to them that well-wishing of this kind is [also] reciprocated" (1156a3-5).

Just what are we wishing for our friend? If one values the person and his welfare, should one not take care to discern how best to serve him? It seems evident that the well-wisher (and well-doer) in a genuine friendship by definition cannot make serious blunders or be greatly unskilled. A developed sensitivity to needs seems assured. After all, one must know what the friend wants: genuine friendship requires time and familiarity to become established (1156b26). Friends trust not only one another, but also (and especially) each other's ability to recognize and even anticipate what each does in fact need.(2) What each wants--being good, hence consistent (and not weak-willed)--is that which is good for the other. That which is good for him is precisely what is good for the well-wisher, for he is another self. Since one's friend is similarly a good man, one chooses for him what one would wish for oneself.

The Self in Friendship. What kind of "another self" is the good man's friend? It is noteworthy that Aristotle employs the noun "self" (autos) very seldom, and only in his ethical treatises. Moreover, it is only in the chapters on friendship that Aristotle refers to another self (allos autos) or considers self-love (philautia). "Self" for Aristotle uniformly describes the human agent responsible for his choices, the originating source of his own conduct. The term is central to Aristotle's analysis of friendship. "Self," we conclude, underlies the notion of what one is when being a friend of the genuine sort, and what goes on in this friendship, namely, self-loving.

Whenever one friend acts (and desires to act) for his friend's sake, this is definitive of genuine friendship (Rhetoric 1361b35-40). For Aristotle, to be aware of one's friend is in effect to be that friend, by means of one's own activity of knowing him; one thereby knows one's self. In order to be able to know myself as friend, however, I must recognize my self in my friend, becoming identical, so to speak, with him. I thereby become aware that he is another self while recognizing that I am one just like him, another self.

Aristotle's notion of self is not that of an impersonal, objective or transcendent mind; rather, the self is simply the individual who thinks, acts, has affections, wishes, and chooses. We emphasize that it is the whole human individual who is this self, one who knows another and thereby recognizes himself as an individual self. We note furthermore that for Aristotle, a person is related to his friend as he is to himself because the friend is another self (NE 1166a3, 1166a15-17, 1166a30-32). That is, the friend is mirrored by another as friend; he recognizes himself as the friend he is to himself. Therefore a person is related to his friend as he is to himself--as a second self.

An often overlooked but relevant point is that Aristotle only strictly applies the notion of self to humans. Unlike a god the human self needs--cannot do without--another self in order to be able to know himself. For Aristotle it is specifically in genuine friendship that two friends mutually serve as knower and known, as each other's another self, whereas for the divine the two are one: God is immediately both selves at once. Note, however, that Aristotle calls attention to something within the individual that is divine: "It may be even held that this is the true self of each, inasmuch as it is the dominant and better part" (NE 1178a2); "the intellect more than anything else is man" (NE 1178a2); "the intellect more than anything else is man" (NE 1178a7). The "true" human self is somehow divine. Moreover, Aristotle urges men to attend to this true self's divine feature, presenting this as the supreme goal of human life:

We ought as far as possible to . . . do all that man may to live in accordance with the highest thing in him. . . . It would be a strange thing if a man should choose to live not his own life [that is, be most truly his own self] but the life of some other than himself. (1177b31-1178a4)

Aristotle advocates that all human activity should be oriented as much as possible toward this life, but the express condition for possessing it is that the individual remain somehow his own self.(3) That is, if one is to be successful when aiming toward this supreme goal, the individual must be most truly his own self. This in turn requires that self-awareness which can only be had by means of identification with another self that is most truly himself, that is, a genuine friend for whom one also serves as his other self. We know that it is this mutual recognition which Aristotle calls genuine friendship, friendship without qualification (see NE 1156a11, 1156b10, 1157b3).

In all such genuine friendship, this mutual recognition of friends as second selves must obtain. What this implies is that whatever appears good for a man as belonging to himself will also appear good for him, again, when it is possessed by his friend. This includes that self-awareness, or consciousness of being alive, which is desirable to the individual selves (NE 1170b1-5).

Again, human awareness of self(4) can only be satisfactorily obtained for Aristotle through the awareness of a friend and his activities. Aristotle advises us that "we can contemplate our neighbors better than ourselves and their actions better than our own" (NE 1169b34-35); hence friends do help one to know one's self. Thus it is friends who are essential to self-awareness.

Knowing that one's acts are virtuous is not identical with knowing that one is a virtuous man. Specifically, it is only by means of a friend that men know themselves as good men. Examine Aristotle's description of "the unduly humble man" who seems not to know himself, "else he would have desired the things he was worthy of, since these were good" (NE 1125a19-23). By contrast, Aristotle's proud, independent man does in fact desire the goods of which he knows himself to be worthy. This magnanimous man "cares about few things only, and those great" (EE 1232b5; see MM 1192a26-29). Significantly, this great-souled man "must be unable to make his life revolve round another, unless it be a friend" (NE 1125a1); for genuine friendship is the greatest human good.

Further explicit proof that for Aristotle self-recognition does indeed depend upon one's friend is found in the Magna Moralia:

The friend--if we figure a friend of the most intimate sort--will seem to be a kind of second self. . . . Now we are not able to see what we are from ourselves. . . . As then when we wish to see our own face, we do so by looking into the mirror, in the same way when we wish to know ourselves we can obtain that knowledge by looking at our friend. For the friend is, as we assert, a second self. If, then,. . . it is not possible to know this without having someone else for a friend, the self-sufficing man will require friendship in order to know himself. (MM 1213a10-26)

Hence Aristotle does hold self-knowledge to be necessary to the person who is a friend. Aristotle first establishes that all men naturally desire to know; now he adds that all (good) men naturally desire to know themselves. We conclude that it is genuine friendship which is essential to their obtaining this self-knowledge. In short, Aristotelian genuine friendship mandates that one's self be recognized as another self.

It is only by means of his friend, we conclude, that the individual can thus recognize himself, seeing himself reflected as in a mirror--as he is, in his motives, actions, and life. For Aristotle, the very observing of one's friend, his actions, and his life, defines a loving act. We would add that to recognize a friend's motives for actions is to ascribe these same motives to one's own actions. Recognition of an other self thus produces a kind of self-affirmation,(5) what might be termed self-love.

Self-Love and Friendship. Which self is it that one loves in that self-love exhibited by genuine friends? The self is one who is responsible for his own choices, is the source of his conduct, and is one who recognizes himself as responsible, as source. The self is the unique, irreplaceable individual who thinks, acts, has affections, wishes, and chooses. The self is what is befriend and befriends, what is appreciated and appreciates; it is what one is when acting as genuine friend. The self is what is stimulated to win, what is happy, what values and loves. In sum, for Aristotle the self is the completely human person, not a god.(6)

Virtuous actions constitute the best life for man as man. For Aristotle the virtuous life is the best human life, the fullest expression of human nature; even "the irrational passions are thought not less human than reason is" (NE 1111b1-2). Virtuous activity reveals the best state of man's reason-self as dominating the activity, along with the best states of man's feelings and desires as always in harmony with this dominant reason (1178a9-22). Thus whatever a man does that is conducive to this harmony of all best states--feelings and desires included--is an example of self-love. When answering the question whether or not there is friendship toward oneself, Aristotle refers to the whole individual, stating:

Then only will the soul be one, when the reason and the passions are in accord with one another: so when it has become one there will be friendship towards oneself. And this friendship towards oneself will exist in the good man; for in him alone the parts of the soul are in proper relation to one another owing to their not being at variance. (MM 1211a33-38)

We would argue that in fact the friend's feelings--his nonrational desires--play an essential role for Aristotle, even and especially in genuine friendship.

Aristotle does emphasize that it is the men themselves who are dear to one another: "Friendship, we maintain, exists only where there can be a return of affection" (MM 1208b28). To explain how and why this is so, we now examine the impact of man's feelings upon his engendering and maintaining genuine friendship. By doing so we uncover an important piece of evidence seldom discussed by Aristotelian critics.

The Role of Thumos. For Aristotle, the whole gamut of human feelings is involved in virtuous activity. Virtue demands emotional habituation; one's nonrational desires must be properly guided by reason.(7) The good man will give full, measured, and appropriate expression to his feelings, and moreover will enjoy doing so. One caveat is needed: the good man feels like doing what is reasoned e deliberations choose for him to do. He will take pleasure in this harmonious and organized functioning, recognizing why he acts the way he acts (NE 1105a31-32). When nonrational desires are thus trained(8) (never eliminated), the good man will be able to count upon their support and relax his guard, so to speak; he will expect himself to act in his characteristic manner. That is, strictly emotional desires need no longer refer to reasoned thoughts about what is to be done, since a situation has been encountered and dealt with in the past. The controlled desires (orexis, movements of the soul toward or away from action) are divided by Aristotle into three kinds: the reason-based desired (boulesis), appetite (epithumia), and a spirited, competitive impulse (thumos).(9)

We would like to highlight the thumos of the good man, wherein disciplined emotions do effect what is in fact good for man without always "checking" with reasons for the action desired. Reason has long ago persuaded (not coerced) these nonrational desires to obey (NE 1120b31-33). But how does reason thus persuade? Explaining that "there are both conceptual thoughts and (if you like) 'urges' on both sides of Aristotle's distinction between logos and the alogon--reason and the nonrational,"(10) Cooper argues that for reason to persuade nonrational desires, it

is for it to get its own view of what is good to prevail, in the sense that this conception comes to be adopted by the non-rational part itself as well. . . . Reason is not just exercising brute force [but proceeds] . . . by getting it [any nonrational desire] to respond . . . to a wider and more comprehensive view of the facts. . . . Being persuaded thus to feel about the situation as reason, on its own grounds, thinks best, that will mean that your rational thought about the goods and bads in that situation comes to be accepted by the non-rational part. . . . The way you then feel about what has happened and about what should be done about it, is exactly also the way you think, for reasons, about it.(11)

This explains how, for Aristotle, "we are brought to perfection by habits of feeling" (NE 1103a26). Expressing these trained nonrational desires is part of what it means to be a fully functioning human. Unlike the Stoic ideal, Aristotle's psychology calls for a man's feeling the full range of emotions, such as grief, joy, and a competitive spiritedness.

Thumos, for Aristotle, has a natural affinity to reason: it "obeys the argument in a sense" (NE 1149b1).(12) Like reason, thumos "is open" to what are the facts and is not given to "guile-weaving" (NE 1149b15-16. With choice and motive, it is an essential component of courage: one must be spirited to become (through habit) brave (NE 1116b30, 1117a3-4).

Noting that "in the works of Aristotle left to us there does not seem to be any full and thematic analysis of spiritedness, [even though] the word [thumos] is very common in Greek literature,"(13) Laurence Berns nevertheless defines and fully describes Aristotle's use of the term spiritedness:

It is that power of the soul that is activated whenever something threatens or opposes what the soul seeks or cherishes as desirable and good; spirit rises to overcome the difficulty . . . [in] hope. In social and political life it is the indispensable temperamental basis for the fight against injustice. It is indispensable as well for the individual's fight against the vices within himself. The classical equivalent of conscience would seem to be a certain compound of spiritedness and shame. . . . [Spiritedness] implies some kind of rational estimation, or comparison of the behavior with the standard. . . . [Hence it is] the soul's fighting element.(14)

When left unguided by reason (or law), thumos "perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men" (Politics 1287a30-32). For the good man, however, that friend to himself whose reason can be counted upon to dominate, spiritedness "is the quality of the soul which begets friendship and enables us to love" (Politics 1328a1-2).

We are now ready to establish what occurs in self-love. The good man's nonrational desires that are thumos have, as explained earlier, been trained by habituation and persuasion to respond to certain events. The desires of thumos converge with those of reason. When one loves oneself or a friend, therefore, one is moved eagerly, spiritedly, to demonstrate this love. Finally, Aristotle intends the broader sense of self when he describes self-love. Just how does the good man, genuine friend of self and other demonstrate this love? One manifestation is accomplished by the response of thumos, which loves another self as fellow competitor. It is as competitor that man can best promote the welfare both of his friend and of himself.

In order precisely to specify this role of thumos, we piece together from various sources what for Aristotle actually is done in the activity which is friendship, and what in particular is effected by a man's spirited desire, or thumos. Two good (and fortunate) men, alike and with similar taste, befriend one another; what transpires in the befriending process? Because "goodwill seems to be a beginning of friendship" (NE 1167a4), these feelings of well-wishing arise--perhaps suddenly (NE 1166b35)--separately in each man "on account of some excellence and worth, when one man seems to another beautiful or brave or something of the sort, as we pointed out in the case of competitors in a contest" (NE 1167a18-20). Spurred by the recognition that the other is, say, brave, each shares in the other's wish to excel in bravery. But goodwill only becomes friendly feeling when it "involves intensity or desire . . . [and] implies intimacy" (NE 1166b33). There now obtains a mutual feeling of appreciation such that each wishes the other to continue doing brave deeds. Thus far, these sudden feelings--the spurring on to excel, the intense desire, and intimate feelings of appreciation--all involves a responge which is inspired by thumos.

Why this wish for continuation? It is enjoyable for the good man to witness brave deeds being done, whether his own or another's. "Most pleasant is that which depends on activity, and this is most lovable" (NE 1168a14-15); and again, "To each his own activities and others like them are pleasurable, and the actions of the good are the same or like" (NE 1156b15-17). It is precisely this delight that is a prelude to friendship: "Men do not become friends with those in whom they do not delight" (NE 1158a5-6). The wish next becomes desire. One is moved to do whatever it takes to continue witnessing these brave deeds: man's spirited element, thumos, craves this ongoing delight.(15) Thumos, moreover, that element which also desires to win (philonikon), is incited to do for another, for his sake, whatever will further his brave deeds; for such deeds are good and the trained thumos recognizes them as to-be-pursued.

Over time, after repeated brave and virtuous deeds, intimacy becomes friendship: "Good men . . . [gradually come to] trust each other . . . on the basis of their characters" (EE 1243a11-13); "Each has allowed the other to test him, . . . for a friend is not to be had without trial" (EE 1237b25, 1238a1). Again, a friend is "a man who has long been tested by oneself" (NE 1157a21). But of what does this testing consist? Precisely here is the effect of thumos's major role. Testing takes the form of competition: each friend is a moral contestant.

Moral Rivalry. Aristotle's agonist differs from the modern antagonist.(16) Today, sports and other contests often resemble battles wherein competitors may act as adversaries, even enemies; an antagonism may develop, and contentious, seemingly hostile foes compete as if in active opposition. (The victor may say, referring to his victim, "I killed him" or "I wiped him out.") In ancient Greece, the agon was likewise a contest of strength or endurance, for a prize, and was a public game. Even though contestants were indeed rivals, however, they could also be friends.(17) And while it is true that similarities between modern and ancient contests may be observed, the Greek emphasis was on the act of competing itself, an act experienced as pleasant by contestant and audience alike.(18) In this context Aristotle notes the following: "Victory also is pleasant, and not merely to the competitive but to everyone. . . . The pleasantness of victory implies of course that combative sports and intellectual contests are [in themselves] pleasant" (Rhetoric 1370b32-1371a1). The testing of friends likewise takes the form of a contest: fellow agonists strive to win what is noble by outdoing each other in virtuous activity.(19) Aristotle says that "as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete, so those who act rightly win the noble and good things in life" (NE 1099a3-5). In another place he proclaims that "that which is the prize and end of virtue seems to be the best thing and something godlike and blessed" (NE 1099b16-17). He is referring to human happiness, which is likewise activity.

Friends, then, spiritedly compete as moral rivals. When asking toward whom it is that we feel friendship, shame, envy, and emulation, Aristotle answers in part for each category, "our rivals." These rivals he describes as "those before whom we should be ashamed to do anything really wrong" (Rhetoric 1381b20), and "those who take us as their models or other people, it may be, like ourselves, whose rivals we are. For there are many things that shame before such people makes us do or leave undone" (1385a6-8). He also says that we feel envy toward our equals and

also our fellow-competitors . . . --we do not compete with . . .those whom . . . we take to be far below us or far above us. So too we compete with those who follow the same ends as ourselves: we compete with our rivals in sport or in love, and generally with those who are after the same things. (Rhetoric 1388a9-14)

Moral rivals, in sum, by their very existence server both to prevent one another from "doing anything really wrong" and to cause one another to "make do or leave undone." The friends are thus goaded, Aristotle tells us, because they "follow the same ends," "are after the same things." Each "desires the same things with all his soul" (NE 1166a14).

These trials and tests completed, genuine friendship is produced. Genuine friendship is sustained, moreover, by more of the same; each friend now expects the other to serve as spur: "It is characteristic of good men neither to go wrong themselves not to let their friends do so" (NE 1159b6). The friend can be counted upon to help his friend hold fast and avoid base services. This is precisely the comparison Aristotle makes between the behavior of the self-lover, that good man who is said to be his own best friend (because guarantor of his good actions), and the behavior of genuine friends. Each is reliable, constant, and can count upon the other to sustain the relationship.

We need to clarify and further explore the connection between genuine friends' moral competition--which is engendered, maintained, and spurred on by each good man's thumos or spiritedness--and and these ongoing trials and tests. It is important to highlight why for friends who are good men the trials and tests cannot be understood merely as part of ordinary living. Each friend aims, in cooperative rivalry, for the other as well as himself not just to live ordinarily but to live well. To live well, as we emphasized earlier, a man must give full, measured, and appropriate expression to such human feelings as spiritedness, and enjoy doing so.

The claim that the spirited moral rivalry which involves these trials and tests does facilitate genuine friends' living well demands further evidence. The basis for this evidence appears in part in Aristotle's account of the character of citizens in the best polis. Preceding his appraisal of this state as "not a community of living beings only, but a community of equals, aiming at the best possible life" (Politics 1328a37-38), and arguably therefore as a community of genuine friends (as we shall later affirm), Aristotle stresses the importance of spiritedness.(20)

Here the corroborating evidence for the importance of genuine friends' moral competition becomes clear: What happens when an alleged friend decides no longer to engage in the trial-and-testing rivalry? What if he somehow becomes satisfied with a certain level of virtuous activity and hence no longer strains every nerve to excel and outdo his friend by performing ever more noble deeds? Aristotle would have to answer that his friend's well-trained thumos, which recognizes without recourse to reason that the good is to be pursued, reacts by fighting, as if invincible, to maintain this good which is genuine friendship and which aims at the best life possible for each good man. In fact, Aristotle does give such a reply:

A lofty spirit is not fierce by nature, but only when excited against evildoers. And this, as I was saying before, is a feeling which men show most strongly towards their friends if they think they have received a wrong at their hands: as indeed is reasonable; for, besides the actual injury, they seem to be deprived of a benefit by those who owe them one. (Politics 1328a9-15)

As earlier explained, it is incumbent upon the good man and friend to be counted upon to continue to act as competitive spur. The friendship requires it; it is owed. This owed benefit, of which the errant friend deprives another, is the ability to live well by means of the moral rivalry. Hence the thumos of the wronged friend, described here as exhibiting "the power of command," is fiercely motivated to reestablish the friendship. "The soul's fighting element," as we depicted spiritedness earlier, that which "enables us to love," is incited because threatened. This spirited reaction, what Aristotle calls loving, "seems to be the characteristic virtue of friends, so that it is only those in whom this is found in due measure that are lasting friends, and [it is] only their friendship that endures" (NE 1159a34-38). The intensity of the friend's spirited reaction, like that of Archilochus (Politics 1328a3-4), is not only justified but is even virtuous. For Aristotle this is what it means to be a good-tempered man: he is angry at the right person, when he ought and as he ought (NE 1125b32-33), and for the sake of their noble friendship.(21) Without this spirited drive which makes it possible both to care to compete and to challenge one's moral rival to continue to act virtuously through mutually imposed tests and trials, there could then never obtain the abiding friendship of good men.

Additional evidence of the connection between genuine friends' moral competitiveness and their acting for the sake of the other's well-being appears again in Aristotle's description of a citizen's character. Because "every member [of the polis] ought to grow in proportion, that symmetry may be preserved" (Politics 1302b36-37), since it is important to maintain the polis's security. Aristotle notes that "the argument in favor of ostracism is based upon a kind of political justice" (Politics 1284b16-17). Noteworthy here is Aristotle's limited list of those whom it is just to banish: those who seem "to predominate too much through their wealth, or the number of their friends, or through any other political influence" (Politics 1284a21-24). Excluded from banishment is

some one person . . . whose virtue is so preeminent that the virtues or political capacity of all the rest admit of no comparison with his. . . .Such a one may truly be deemed a god among men. . . . For men of preeminent virtue there is no law--they are themselves a law. (Politics 1284a3-14)

Aristotle continues to extol this preeminently virtuous citizen, adding that "mankind will not say that such a one is to be expelled and exiled. . . . [Rather,] all should joyfully obey such a ruler, according to what seems to be the order of nature. (Politics 1284b8-34).

Ostracism therefore is justifiable "when the mass of the people are of the high-spirited kind" (Politics 1306b29), and when they decide to banish for a time only "him who greatly excels in beauty, strength, birth, wealth" (Politics 1295b6-7) or political power. This is because a city should be composed "of equals and similars"; otherwise, those who greatly excel naturally engender envy, and "nothing can be more fatal to friendship and good fellowship in states than this" (Politics 1295b22, 26).

The case of genuine friendship is analogous to this state composed of equal and similar--and high-spirited--citizens. We know that "equality and likeness are friendship, and especially the likeness of those who are like in virtue" (NE 1159b2-3). One friend cannot endure the other's consistently far outstripping him in virtue. Aristotle asks, "Should the latter treat the former as a friend?" and answers unequivocally, "Surely he cannot" (NE 1165b23-25). Realizing that a "great interval is respect of virtue" is unbearable because it means that "then they are no longer friends" (NE 1158b33-34), each friend will be goaded by this very fact to keep pace with his friend in their moral rivalry. The recognition of the possibility of being surpassed is part of what characterizes the self-awareness of a genuine friend.

The analogy with ostracism is now evident. We have noted that friendship for utility's sake exists between contraries, but in genuine friendship "like is dear to like" (NE 1165b17). In the former case, "what a man actually lacks he aims at" (NE 1159b14), but in the latter case, he aims for more of what he already has. That is, the genuine friend may lack wealth or beauty or strength, but since these are not his aims as genuine friend, their excessive presence in another can never incite envy. Whom, then, will he ostracize? To preserve the friendship--to keep it, like the polis, secure--he cannot entertain the possibility of his friend's future preeminence in virtue, since this will effect that outstripping and great interval, and nothing can be more fatal to friendship. Like can be dear only to what remains like. Hence Aristotle's argument that it is unjust to banish the preeminently virtuous citizen--that god among men-is not consistent with his allegation that it is quite reasonable not to expect "friends really [to] wish for their friends the greatest goods, for example, that of being gods; since in that case their friends will no longer be friends to them" (NE 1159a6-8).

Is it really inconsistent though? Perhaps the answer, and our evidence, lies in the connection between the friend's spirited urge to keep the contest running and his reasoned desire to aspire always to the noble. That is, the thumos of the good man, recognizing what is good as to-be-pursued, cannot help but be driven by the fact that "friends are good things" (NE 1159a8); hence it "wishes" or desires for the good man "most of all . . . what is good" (NE 1159a13). Says thumos, "His friend must remain the sort of being he is" (NE 1159a10). Reason counters that friends, being good, must so far as they can make themselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in them (NE 1177b34-1178a1); that is, they must become godlike. For Aristotle there obtains no inconsistency here. Reason, the authoritative element, continues to act to secure for one's friend the greatest good, for the sake of the friend's well-being, even if this means he will have godlike preeminence in virtue, or become a god among men. As demonstrated earlier, the views of the friend's reason prevail: thumos responds appropriately. It can only have been this spirited competitiveness that urged the ostracizing of a preeminently virtuous friend, one who would "admit of no comparison" and who could hence no longer serve as moral rival. So long as each friend continues to inspire and stimulate the other to strive toward excellence, his spirited urge to ostracize a possibly far better friend will prove unrealistic. Not only will their friendship continue to be "augmented by their companionship," but each will persist in spurring the other to become better by his activities and by improving the other (NE 1172a12-14).

The Effects of Competition upon Friends. We find that problems do arise in the practical sphere of cooperative competition. Thumos's effects again are central to their resolution. First, although virtue is synonymous with excellence, Aristotle admits that there are degrees: the mean for each virtue is itself an extreme (NE 1107a23). That is, one can strive to act ever more perfectly. Friends, being rivals, guarantee that competitive "cooperation in well-doing means practice and perfection of the well-doing of each."(22) Second, pleasures wane, even those derived from virtuous activity. Aristotle speaks of pleasure heightening the activity (NE 1175a3-10). After a time, however, as the freshness wears off, we do experience less satisfaction. For the requisite pleasure to be sustained, then, novelty must be provided. But genuine friends are enterprising; noble actions, as ever new objects of competition, are intensely desired, are thumos inspired. Hence the friends not only "strain every nerve to avoid wickedness" (NE 1166b27), but also "busy themselves in an exceptional degree with noble actions . . . and strain every nerve to do the noblest deeds" (NE 1169a6-9). The friend who is a moral rival will "do what he can . . . to the utmost of his power" (1163b15-17).

Third, like the athletic contestant,(23) the good man must maintain a regimen of training; we see again that "a certain training in excellence arises also from the company of the good" (NE 1170a11). In order to "stay in shape," friends who are moral rivals cannot afford to lose the inspiration whose source is the other's very existence. Thumos stays energized by continued education, habituation, and persuasion; for Aristotle this spur often takes the form of emulation: ". . . for those who are friends on the ground of excellence are anxious to do well by each other (since that is a mark of excellence and of friendship), and between men who are emulating each other in this [virtuous activity] there cannot be complaints; . . . he takes his revenge by doing well by the other" (NE 1162b6-10).

Fourth, since the good man's appetite necessarily converges with the desires of reason and of thumos, continued virtuous acts must be experienced as naturally pleasant to perform. Because of one's friend who serves as catalyst,(24) pleasure does obtain: "By oneself it is not easy to be continuously active, but with others and towards others it is easier. With others therefore his activity will be more continuous, being in itself pleasant" (NE 1170a5-7).

Finally, it is impossible to compete against oneself. Sustained motivation requires the encouragement of the friend. Now since it is natural and necessary for the human animal to group together,(25) in part for continued sustenance, that animal who alone can deliberate and choose needs renewed intellectual sustenance as well.(26) Regarding friendship Aristotle states, "Those in the prime of life it stimulates to noble actions--'two going together'--for with friends men are more able both to think and to act" (NE 1155a15-16). The spirited impulse which is thumos, we are able to conclude, helping effect this stimulation, consistently assists reason to ensure that noble actions will continue to be produced unabated by the friends to whom it responds in rivalry.

Richard Kraut corroborates our analysis when he examines the manner in which friends can be said to compete:

In moral competition, as Aristotle conceives it, each individual is striving to be best of all. . . . Even if the specific goal of the competition cannot be achieved by all, it is nonetheless possible, as in tennis, for each to be better off than he would have been had he not competed.(27)

We concur with Kraut's conclusion: each friend is better off for having competed, and our analysis has specifically demonstrated why and how friends are thus better off. But in our analysis, each friend has also walked off with the trophy.

Julia Annas, like Kraut's also emphasizes the benefits of moral competition: "Each gains by being more virtuous than she would have been without competition, and this matters far more than the fact of not being the most virtuous."(28) Annas infers that Aristotle "reinterprets and redefines" the notions both of competition and of self-love, and "as a result, competition among true self-lovers is also reinterpreted."(29) Hence,

when people compete to be virtuous, what they do is not at the others' expense, since each person gets the greatest good;... so true competition, like true self-love, does not take anything away from others, or conflict with their interests, or do them down. Aristotle is saying of virtue something like what Shelley said of love: "True love in this differs from gold and clay/That to divide is not to take away..." This kind of competition is like what we think of as co-operation; true competition is not really competition at all.(30)

It seems that problems posed by Kraut and Annas--whether moral rivals compete at each other's expense, whether their interests conflict, and whether limitations constrain the competitors' efforts and achievement--should dissolve when one considers Aristotle's distinction among goods. Claiming that "some goods are in the soul--for instance, the virtues; some in the body...and some outside of us" (MM 1184b2-3), Aristotle proceeds to explain that it is the nature of the first group to be capable of being shared without anyone's share lessening. In fact, it is for the noble--a good of the soul--that friends do compete (NE 1169a8) by performing virtuous acts. This is why "the winner...will not complain about his friend: for each is aiming at the good" (NE 1162b11-12). But to achieve the noble, the absolute good, which can be shared, friends must make use of the advantageous, of goods which restrict one and do not admit of being shared even though the good man "does many noble deeds by reason of them (EE 1249a14). Hence, although psychic goods are comparable to Shelley's vision of love in which to divide is not to take away, other goods must have nobility conferred upon them, so to speak. These goods are made absolutely good, since "to the noble and good man the naturally good is noble" (EE 1249a6). It is only genuine friends who, being good men, can effect this.

In sum, cooperative competition, or the moral rivalry of genuine friends, yields mutual victory: winning does not suggest losing, hence neither contestant is deemed selfish or unselfish. Annas agrees with this conclusion.(31) Both friends who are good men benefit equally by each serving as a spur to the other's ever more noble, always novel, mutually training, continuous, pleasant, and stimulating activity.

Based upon the foregoing demonstration of the major role played by thumos in genuine friends' cooperative competition, we can now defend the proposition that for Aristotle the thumos of the good man--calling to mind Plato's philonikon, that element which desires to win--can only be that spirited impulse which converges with the motive of his reason. That is, as friend, the good man must be moved energetically to spare no effort in spurring on his moral rival-friend. Their shared motive is mutual self-enhancement, and the role of thumos is to strain every nerve to excel in virtuous acts. The friendship is sustained precisely because each friend will incite the other to continue existing as a good man and therefore a good for the other: "The man who excels...gets what he aims at; for each man desires what is good" (NE 1162b11). It is because each friend will therefore be a good for the other--as a consequence of, but not motive for, each one's activity--that no egoism can be imputed to either. The friend's welfare is as important as one's own. The friendship is effectively a symbiotic relationship, for if they were not friends neither good man could serve as fellow competitor. Hence the converging desires of thumos and of reason ensure that each friend is counted upon to serve as another self, as guarantor of continued virtuous activity. We now appreciate the significance of Aristotle's description of the thumos of the good man as "the quality of the soul which begets friendship and enables us to love" (Politics 1328a1).

In summary, we have highlighted the important role of thumos and have analyzed why thumos is necessary both to produce and to sustain genuine friendship. Beginning with the reciprocity of goodwill, which leads to the mutual recognition and appreciation of this feeling, to the desire to act to maintain this pleasure, to well-doing over time, to intimacy, and thus to a loving commitment to compete in virtue, the two good men continue to act together in the enjoyment of one another's presence. These competitively spirited friends serve as mutual stimuli, as catalysts, and as guarantors of a striving to perform the noblest of deeds. Moreover, insofar as friendship "implies passion and affection" (NE 1126b23), as we have amply demonstrated is the case, the whole individual is being referred to when Aristotle describes self-love as paradigmatic for friendship. Hence we cannot limit Aristotle's notion of the self to reason, to that divine element which is man's true self, when defining the friend as another self. We have conclusively established that Aristotle centers his portrayal of self-love upon the broader meaning of self, the completely human person, the unique, irreplaceable individual. Friendship implies a shared history of mutual testing over time.

The good man loves himself. His "best states" are consistently in harmony, with his reason always dominating: reason and passions accord with one another, are in proper relation to one another (see MM 1211a33-37). As we have pointed out, actions conducive to strengthening this harmony or cooperation of states are instances of self-love. So too actions which motivate and stimulate the love between friends, who each serve as other selves, likewise enhance this competitive co-operation. Both types of self-love therefore--that toward oneself and that which obtains toward one's other self--have as their aim the same prize. And each friend effects each aspect of self-love "with all his soul" (NE 1166a14). We have thus shown that the friend best loves himself at the same time as and in the same manner as he best loves his friend.

(*) "Aristotelian Friendship: Self-Love and Moral Rivalry" has been selected as the winner for 1991 of the Dissertation Essay Competition, which is sponsored by The Philosophy Education Society, Incorporated, publisher of the Review of Metaphysics. Details of the Competition will be listed in the September 1993 issue.

(1) The following abbreviations will appear in the text: NE for Nicomachean Ethics, EE for Eudemian Ethics, MM for Magna Moralia

(2) Friends are in fact so solicitous on each other's behalf that they display "foresight in a special degree respecting one another" by vividly dreaming about each other (which some interpret as having predictive value); see Aristotle, On Divination in Sleep 464a27-29.

(3) See NE 1159a8-12, 1178a2-3

(4) Where the Nicomachean Ethnics mentions self-awareness, the Magna Moralia emphasizes self-knowledge. "It is only or best in character-friendship that one can come to know oneself--to know the objective quality of one's own actions, character, and life"; John M. Cooper, "Aristotle on Friendship," in Essays on Aristotle's Ethnics, ed. Amelie O. Rorty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 324.

(5) The good man, choosing to live a good life, the best possible life, knows that he does so. We note that he must affirm his living thus in order consciously to live an ever more virtuous life; that is, he must always be aware of what actually motivates his virtuous actions. The friend, in recognizing another as oneself, thereby affirms himself, as he likewise serves as source of affirmation for his friend. In the summary of his defense of altruism Cooper decides that for Aristotle egoism is overcome in the activity that defines genuine friendship: "Aristotle's argument, in short, is that in loving and valuing [affirming] the other person for his own sake one becomes able to love and value [affirm] oneself. . . . There is no reduction here of friendship to narrow self-love"; Cooper, "Aristotle on Friendship," 333.

(6) Here we differ from critics such as Julia Annas, who maintain that for Aristotle, "when we are considering self-love and treating a friend as another self, the self at issue is really the person's reasoning part"; Julia Annas, "Self-Love in Aristotle," Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 (suppl.) (1988): 3. Annas also claims that the self one loves "is his developed capacity for practical reasoning" (p. 13).

(7) "Nor indeed is the irrational part praised, except in so far as it is capable of subserving or actually subserves the rational part"; MM 1185b11-12.

(8) "'Character' derives from 'custom' . . . because it is the result of accustoming. Whereby it is evident that no one of the excellences of the irrational part springs up in us by nature"; MM 1186a1-3.

(9) See EE 1223a26-27, 1225b24-26; MM 1187b37

(10) John M. Cooper, "Some Remarks on Aristotle's Moral Psychology," Southern Journal of Philosophy. 27 (suppl.) (1988): 32. He adds the following: "Aristotle's distinction, then, between rational and non-rational parts of the soul has nothing to do with the modern distinction between reason (regarded as the faculty of concept-formation and the manipulation of concepts), on the one hand, and desire (regarded on its own as a concept-free faculty of urges), on the other hand" (p. 32).

(11) Cooper, "Some Remarks on Aristotle's Moral Psychology," 33-4.

(12) See also De Anima 432b5-7; Metaphysics 1072a26-28.

(13) Laurence Berns, "Spiritedness in Ethnics and Politics: A Study in Aristotelian Psychology," Interpretation 12 (1984): 345.

(14) Berns, "Spiritedness in Ethics and Politics," 345-6.

(15) Remember that the genuine friend must be a good man; his emotional attitude therefore is constituted by appropriate feelings. For example, he is not self-indulgent; he loves himself enough not to be distracted from enhancing his own rational activity. Thus the good man's behavior will be determined by his desires, and his desires by his character.

(16) See Michael B. Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). Contrasting the Greek with the modern notion of athletic contest, Poliakoff defends the notion that "the agon played a more significant role in Hellenic culture than in the cultures of other ancient peoples. Sports were serious activities that brought honor and status; athletic victory and defeat were momentously important; Greek sports were almost always individual rather than team competitions" (p. 107). He later provides many examples to document his belief that the "distinctive features of sport in historical Greek times" soon deteriorated to approximate today's contests: "Looking over the athletic scene in later antiquity, one encounters many signs of a full-blown professional world of sport: subsidies for athletes, slaves competing, massive numbers of festivals" (p. 132). Poliakoff concludes that the world of sport after the Greeks was far less "ennobling."

(17) See Donald G. Kyle, Athletics in Ancient Athens (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1987). Kyle's focus on the cultural significance of athletics challenges the conventional wisdom that Greek sport was primarily guided by military needs. He highlights the major political importance of the Greek agon, arguing that "athletics were a public, integral, and potentially unifying element in the civic experience of the Athenians" (p. 177). Noteworthy is Kyle's description, in Appendix 2, of Lysis--known from Plato's dialogue on friendship--who was in fact an Athenian athlete.

(18) See also David Sansone, Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988). Sansone defines not only early Greek athletic contests but all sport as "the ritual sacrifice of physical energy" (p.37). Arguing that all sport has a singular, fundamental nature (p. 14), he first defends the idea that it "redirects aggression and helps form human bonds" (p. 31). He then substantiates his claim that in a cultured society such as ancient Greece (as well as America), sport assumes a "pattern of behavior that has acquired a new, communicative function" (p. 43). Arguing that "the Greeks were capable of experiencing what is at the root of human feeling and consciousness, and [that] they communicated it to us in terms that are familiar to us" (p. 76), Sansone presents the Olympic athlete as "both the dedicator and the dedication" (p. 115), as sacrificer as well as sacrificial victim. Sansone illustrates clearly how races began as races to an altar, and how competition often obtained among willing victims in order only to select the best offering for sacrifice (always an Athenian citizen). Relevant to our thesis are Sansone's arguments that, first, these athletes compete primarily to select the best victims (p. 64). Second, contests need not be participatory: both activities of performing and of watching athletes share in the fundamental nature of sport (p. 70). Third, the prize-sacrifice is held in universal regard: whether the Stanley Cup, or, in ancient Greece, the best athlete-sacrifice himself, the goal was always considered noble.

(19) Elijah Millgram employs a fanciful metaphor: "One's friends are the teammates one needs to play the game of a virtuous life"; Elijah Millgram, "Aristotle on Making Other Selves," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 17 (1987): 369.

(20) Aristotle notes that "the natives of Asia are intelligent and inventive, but they are wanting in spirit, and therefore they are always in a state of subjection and slavery"; Politics 1327b27-28. Not exhibiting this "one-sided nature," however, is the Hellenic race: "Being high-spirited and also intelligent. . . it continues free, and is the best governed of any nation and, if it could be formed into one state, would be able to rule the world"; Politics 1327b30-33. His fellow spirited and intelligent Greeks are "those whom the legislator will most easily lead to virtue"; Politics 1327b37. Aristotle depicts the ideal state as similarly comprised of those citizens who, because spirited, exhibit "the power of command and the love of freedom [which] are in all men based upon this quality" which is "commanding and invincible"; Politics 1328a6-7.

(21) Perhaps this is in part why Aristotle claims that, possibly as much for philia as for eros, "not without reason, it seems, did the first mythologer yoke Ares together with Aphrodite"; Politics 1269b27-28.

(22) Harold H. Joachim, Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics: A Commentary ed. D. A. Rees (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 258.

(23) Aristotle himself often employs this simile, for example in NE 1106b5-6.

(24) "It will intensify the action. For the pleasure is an incentive to increased action, if it comes from the action itself"; MM 1206a9-10.

(25) See Politics 1280b29-31; NE 1169b30-1170a4.

(26) One's friend may thus be regarded as "a renewable energy source."

(27) Richard Kraut, "Comments on 'Self-Love in Aristotle' by Julia Annas," Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 (suppl.) (1988): 20. See also Richard Kraut, "The Importance of Love in Aristotle's Ethics," Philosophy Research Archives 1 (1975): 47.

(28) Annas, "Self-Love in Aristotle," 7.

(29) Ibid., 8.

(30) Annas, "Self-Love in Aristotle," 8. Later, Annas again quotes Shelley's Epipsychidion: "If you divide pleasure and love and thought/Each part exceeds the whole" (p. 17, n. 12).

(31) Ibid., 8, 11.
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Author:Dziob, Anne Marie
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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