The Perfect Happiness of Virtuous Friends: The Nature and Place of Perfect Friendship in the Happy Life of the Virtuous in Aristotle's Practical Philosophy

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1999)
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One part of Aristotle's overall philosophy is his study of ethics and politics which together form what Aristotle calls a 'philosophy of human concerns'. This practical philosophy has as its subject the human good of happiness, which, for the virtuous man, is a life of virtuous activity. In Book X of his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle appears to divide this life in two with the life of contemplation described as 'final' or 'perfect' happiness and a life of virtuous action as 'secondary'. In the first chapter of this thesis I argue that in doing this Aristotle is understanding the human good of the virtuous man as a focal homonym. That is, the term 'good' and indeed ultimately the term 'happiness' signify two different kinds of lives united in a focal connection of one to the other as the one is desired ultimately for the sake of the other. The happiness of the virtuous man's life of virtuous activity is a life of virtuous action in focal connection to the life of contemplation as the former is a good and final end desired ultimately for the latter as the supreme good and most final end. ;In the second chapter I argue that the virtuous man for whom this life is happy is a man who is wise, practically intelligent, and ethically virtuous, someone, in other words, who actualizes the complete human function with all its intellectual and appetitive faculties and virtues in his activity. ;But if the happiness of the virtuous man consists in this life of virtuous activity as a life of virtuous action in focal connection to a life of contemplation, that happiness is enhanced when shared with others like himself in friendship. A friendship of the virtuous Aristotle calls a 'perfect' friendship. In the third chapter of the thesis I argue that in a perfect friendship, the friends are better able to live the happiness of a life of virtuous activity than if they were to live alone. By their mutual sharing of goods in justice out of love for each other's virtuous character, the friends are not only able to live a life of virtuous action better than if they were alone but by their mutual sharing of knowledge in conversation they are able to engage in the contemplative life more continuously and therefore better than if they were to engage in contemplative activity alone. As the friends are better able to practice virtue and engage in contemplation together than if they were to do these things alone, their happiness is better, or more complete, than the happiness of the virtuous man alone. ;Finally in chapter four I argue that from what we can gather from Aristotle's treatment of civic friendship in the Ethics and the Politics, and from the sketch Aristotle gives us of what he considers the best polis in Book VIII of the Politics, civic friendship in this best polis is a perfect friendship of its citizens



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