Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pleasure. Utility. Virtue.

Aristotle agreed that there were three types of friendship.  Friendships of utility.  Friendships of pleasure.  And friendships of virtue.  A friend of mine told me about this a few years ago, and I totally agree.  Recently, the difference between these types of friendships has resurfaced.  I found this blog from 2007 that someone wrote, and it's worded far better than I could.  So I'm sharing it.  Because I think it's somewhat profound and true.  So. Here it is:
 "Aristotle describes a friendship of utility as shallow, “easily dissolved” or for the old. He views them as such because this type of friendship is easily broken and based on something that is brought to the relationship by the other person. Aristotle uses the example of trade and argues that friendships of utility are often between opposite people, in order to maximize this trade. A more realistic name for this type of friendship would be an acquaintance and could be described as the relationship between a person and their mailman. They greet each other, discuss the weather and other such petty talk, but when it comes down to it, there is no real relationship present. Aristotle believed that this is exactly why this type of friendship is for the old; Aristotle argued that they “...are at such a time of life pursue not what is pleasant but what is beneficial.” Aristotle also believed that the young would pursue this type of friendship as they seek that which is advantageous to them and would not live with someone they are in this friendship with. This type of friendship is broken when, no matter how small, some part of the relationship changes and it is no longer beneficial to one or both of the individuals in the friendship. For example, say a person visits the same barber shop every month. However, a new barber shop has opened up and provides better service for a cheaper price. The friendship built between the barber and person getting their haircut will likely dissolve, as it is cheaper to use the services of the cheaper barber. Because of this, the friendship of utility has very weak bonds between the individuals in the relationship and in this aspect; it is quite similar to the friendship of pleasure.
Aristotle goes on to describe what he terms as the friendship of pleasure. This type of friendship is normally built between the young as passions and pleasures are great influences in their lives. This type of relationship is characterized by such feelings as passion between lovers, or the feeling of belonging among a likeminded group of friends. It differs from the friendship of utility in that those who seek utility friendships are looking for a business deal or a long term benefit, whereas the friendship of pleasure Aristotle describes is where one seeks something which is pleasant to them presently.  This sort of relationship is built on passion, which among the youth, is constantly changing. Like the friendship of utility, Aristotle views this type of relationship as fleeting and target of constant change. This is precisely why Aristotle argues that the young “...quickly become friends and quickly stop...” and “ and stop loving quickly...” Therefore, Aristotle views both friendship of utility and pleasure as unstable and constantly subject to abrupt change, which in fact dissolves the friendship, however; Aristotle moves on and begins discussing the truest form of friendship: that of virtue.
The highest form of friendship, Aristotle argues, is friendship of virtue. This type of friendship is based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility or pleasure. Aristotle calls it a “...complete sort of friendship between people who are good and alike in virtue...” This type of friendship is long lasting and tough to obtain because these types of people are hard to come by and it takes a lot of work to have a complete virtuous friendship. Aristotle notes that there can not be a large amount of friends in a virtuous friendship because the amount of time and care that a virtuous friendship needs limits the amount of time one can spend with other friends.Aristotle argues that there are similarities between friendship of virtue and that of utility and pleasure, however; it is only the good that can endure in such a friendship.As Aristotle puts it, “it is clear that only the good can be friends for themselves, since the bad do not enjoy their own kind unless some benefit comes from them.”Friendship of virtue is only felt among the good, between few amounts of people, is resistant to slander and is long lasting."