Philosophical Point of View on Friends and Friendship: Ideas of Plato, Aristotle and Augustine


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Friendship in Plato

Plato asserts that the soul, “our home” is composed of three inner parts; we learn with one, become spirited with another, and desire the pleasure with a third. These parts being reason, courage, and appetites. There is a hierarchy, the reason, which is the commanding part, directs its auxiliary part- courage and the appetitive parts to achieve the best ends, resulting in the maximal benefits for each of these parts and the human being. If the soul is not properly ordered, this being the result of either the appetitive or spirited part of the soul seizing command over the rational part then an unjust individual evolves. The three parts should “sing the same chant together,” while there is a moderation-an agreement over which parts should rule. Most importantly, Plato emphasized the importance of a just man becoming his own friend, and for his good, he maintains his home in order.

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Aristotle’s Excellent Person

A friend does not overwhelm, on the contrary, it keeps in check, making sure the soul is properly ordered. Moreover, a true friendship forms between virtuous souls according to Aristotle. Like Plato, Aristotle believes we must be oneself friend to be a virtuous person and a friend to others. A virtuous man has harmonious thoughts, the parts of his soul are in concord, and he wishes for himself what is good and acts to achieve them himself. He is integrated unlike the base person, who is conflicted by the pleasures of the world. A virtuous person knows himself and maintenance the same state in which reason is the commanding part. The excellent person is a self-lover, someone who both help himself and benefit others by doing fine actions; never wishing even to be a more fortunate person or other than he is. He does virtuous actions for his good and understanding, for who he is in his core.

Relationship With God

On the contrary, Augustine sees friendship from a deeply spiritual perspective, first there is friendship with God, and then with men. It is through a relationship with God how we become most enlightened. God is the intermediary of all friendships and only those whose hearts are filled with God’s love can form true friendships on earth. As men, one must love oneself through God, and through God-self one will be loved.

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